Reviews

Nick Odorizzi

Homeless Cadaver Champale Wishes and Cadaviar Dreams EP

Fun and gross punk rock stripped right down to the KBD garage essentials that fits in well with ERIK NERVOUS or the SPITS. “Cadaviar” adds some squiggling synth and tambourine jingles as finishing touches on a great rock opener that tastefully beeps out the curse words. “Baloney Hands” is like a lost WEIRD AL punk experiment with nasally vocals about snacking on (behold the conceptual genius) hands made of baloney. It’s dumb and awesome. “Emergency Circumcision” features call-and-response vocals and fulfills the promise of the song title. It’s also dumb and awesome. Really, the whole record is—if you want to turn off your brain and get loose for a few minutes, HOMELESS CADAVER has you covered.

The Scenics New Part in Town LP

Some 1976 recordings from Toronto teens who managed to knit together the scrappy pop of the KINKS with the freewheeling storytelling and raw edges of the VELVET UNDERGROUND into something new and exciting. The mood here is fun and loose; strummed, harmonized odes to Jonathan Richman meet the proto-garage punk of the title track. The songwriting confidence, which weaves classic suburban wasteland observations with odd cultural touchstones, is incredible. Take the ROLLING STONES-style ballad “O Charlotte”: “Your mama is a swinger she’s a party doll / She said son you better take good care of my little girl / Mama don’t you worry about your teenage girl / She was in good hands with Allstate / She’s in better hands now.” It’s kind of sweet, kind of grimy, and all rock’n’roll. The band’s ability is on full display as well, even though the production is clearly DIY. Thoughtful arrangements are flush with arpeggiated guitar and three-part vocal harmonies. “In the Summer” touches on TELEVISION-esque guitar interplay that nears sonic perfection. Check out this first entry in a series of SCENICS rarities and reissues for excellent, forward-thinking proto-punk.

Kiégett Föld Kiégett Föld cassette

Anarcho-punk from Budapest that throws everything at the wall with mixed results. This recording might be a new level of lo-fi. Bandcamp indicates that this was recorded in a bedroom; now imagine walking down the street about a block away from said bedroom and hearing the band through the window. That is the level of fidelity on display here, but it doesn’t necessarily take away from the echoing vocals and guitar and the dribbling basketball bass. Several of the tracks have an ear-catching surf twang that recalls the quirkiness of SHADOWY MEN FROM A SHADOWY PLANET. However, once the chorus to “Élelmiszer” kicks in, KIÉGETT FÖLD rips through fast punk rhythms and reveals a tightness and ability to rage. Three out of the nine tracks are short instrumental pieces that incorporate sound collage, field recordings of a farm, and strummed acoustic guitar. While they sound interesting enough, they come across more as undercooked sketches of songs not yet fully materialized than meaningful interludes. Not bad overall.

Unabomb Cabin Fever cassette

Ripping hardcore from Michigan that goes hard from start to finish. These five tracks blast by with lyrics commenting on corruption, organized religion, racist punks, and martial law. I have a feeling the members of UNABOMB have some classic thrash records in their collections because they have riffs, and when the Big-Four-style, palm-muted, galloping power chug starts up on songs like “Blind Patriot” and “Old,” the songwriting arrangement soars past the confines of your everyday one-minute HC song. The vocals surge into a blackened holler at times, and the drumming is locked-in and super tight with a high-pitched snare tone that blazes through the buzzing guitars and ups the intensity. Also cool is the simple line-drawing cover art, which looks like the background setting for an EXTORTION record.

Total Sham Total Sham LP

I like “capital A” Art and experimentation as much as the next music nerd, but sometimes you just want a band to kick your ass. TOTAL SHAM is just the group. No-frills, no-bullshit hardcore that recalls the best of ’80s Midwest punk like NEGATIVE APPROACH and DIE KREUZEN with their shredded power chords, raw vocals, and stark album art and logo. Every song is a punch in the teeth: urgent, fast, and vital. “Mind/Matter” and “Murder on My Mind” are straight-up classics (we even get a “one, two, fuck you!” count off on the latter), and distill everything powerful about punk into potent audio cyanide capsules. The rest of the record is as strong, with arrangements as ear-catching as they are piercing. If you like hardcore punk of any era, it comes highly recommended.

Brute Spring Turquoise Window LP

Solo synth punk project in the tradition of “Hot on the Heels of Love”-style THROBBING GRISTLE and the slinkier moments of EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN. Songs like “Blood on Sand” and “The Crash” mechanically churn with propulsive beats, electro-funk bass, and catchy, lo-fi keyboard lines. It sounds thickly analog and scratchy but also forward-thinking. Long-distance vocals call out through an echo tunnel to deliver barely intelligible communiqués to all the punks on the dance floor. The collection nears traditional industrial in moments, like on “Through the Window” and “Engines of Hate,” but the harder stuttering beats, guitar leads, and vocals still retain the melodicism of the surrounding songs to keep the record cohesive. Imagine your favorite vintage coldwave single left outside overnight exposed to the elements. The resulting sound, cracked, weathered, and slightly decayed, is BRUTE SPRING at its best.

Pork Belly I’m Okay You’re Okay Everything is Okay 12″

The jazzy, free-rock “Intro” felt pointless and self-indulgent at first, like a noise band warming up, but made perfect sense after listening to the rest of PORK BELLY’s new EP, like an appetizer for the no-wave-influenced indie punk to follow. The six tracks here fit together with syncopated drums, complex interlocking trebly guitar leads, and co-ed vocals that exchange deadpan spoken missives with more urgent sung ones. It works so well together, in the same quasi-experimental but still accessible way that the best moments of ERASE ERRATA or DEERHOOF records do. Closer “Superstar” is the standout here, a lush and woozy wall of tremolo-bending guitars that lays down blankets of chiming sublimity over melodic vocals, like a collab between TERRY and MY BLOODY VALENTINE at their most concise. PORK BELLY has beauty, they have grace, they have art-damaged noise punk that finds the sweet spot between atonal challenge and heart-swelling beauty.

Poison Idea Tribute to G.I.S.M. EP

The mighty POISON IDEA pays tribute to the mighty G.I.S.M. and their legendary frontman Sakevi Yokoyama with a 7” of two covers recorded in 1992 and a newly composed noise piece. The covers, the timeless “Endless Blockades for the Pussyfooter” and “Death Agonies and Screams” (the first two tracks off G.I.S.M.’s essential Detestation) are faithful renditions of the originals: fast and weird, one foot in hardcore and one foot in ’80s speed metal. Jerry A manages to capture Sakevi’s bewildering layered vocal attack (no easy feat), and the band rips through the tracks with the required high voltage. The main difference is the tone— POISON IDEA’s thick, warm sound is a departure from the original tin-can distortion, and it sounds awesome. “Pig Scream” is a short experiment with reversed vocals and sound collage screams that recalls G.I.S.M.’s more adventurous forays into extreme sound. The stark cut-and-paste artwork folds out into a perfect mix of both bands’ aesthetics, making a fitting and earnest tribute from one side of the punk underground to the other.

Squid Pisser Vaporize a Tadpole CD

Day-glo LOCUST-core technical grind with gurgling synths make this a wild ride from start to finish. Featuring Tommy Meehan of CANCER CHRIST and GWAR on guitar and Seth Carolina of STARCRAWLER on drums, this release collects a previous album, EP, and some demo tracks in preparation for their Skin Graft debut. And it’s weird. Give it ten seconds, and you’ll know if it’s for you or not: blistering blastbeats, start/stop guitar bursts, and unhinged vocals with no space to breathe. Many songs feature guest vocalists that vary in sound and approach, from the straightforward grind of “Violence Forever” with Megan O’Neil of PUNCH, to the noisier experimental punk of “My Tadpole Legion” featuring Yako of MELT BANANA. Less successful are the forays into nu-metal riffing on tracks like the CRUCIFUCKS cover “Marching for Trash,” or “Everlasting Bloat.” They don’t match the neon sliminess of the surrounding work for me, but I could see metalheads digging them. Fun and grimy collection for aficionados of monster masks and brightly colored fluids.

Fashion Change Seattle WA cassette

Four tracks of relentlessly negative intense hardcore for fans of HOLOGRAM or GAOLED. Each track (three originals and a feral 10 MINUTE WARNING cover) is pure pounding chaos with filthy riffing and reverbed, crusty vocals that are so grimy and guttural they border on death metal. “Pressure” repeats the lines “Grasping for attention / Grasping at straws” until it becomes a noise collage over strangulated guitar shrieking. Mysterious, debased, and super nasty, this is the real deal if you touch darkness. Only 100 copies, so act fast.

Olexi Rock N’ Roll Paint Job cassette

Fun, scrappy solo project from Buffalo, New York that runs through alt/rock and garage punk with wild creative abandon. OLEXI’s shouted/spoken vocals sound like a mix of URANIUM CLUB and BIG BLACK, dripping with world-weary cynicism and humor. There is a freewheeling spirit to these songs, with sarcastic lyrics touching on issues of both small importance (“This is a song in A / This is a song in A” in “A,” and “Fuck cops / Go Bills!” in the fist-pumping anthem “Buffalo Fight Song”) and large (the rejection of false allyship and tokenism in “I’m Not Your Queer”). This collection is not especially rooted down to any one punk subgenre, with some tracks, like the multi-textured “Four Letter Word,” sounding like peak ’90s above-ground SONIC YOUTH, while others like “I Remember” take cues from the intricate rhythms of the MINUTEMEN. Enjoyable listen with personality to spare. According to OLEXI’s Bandcamp page, there will be a release every month, and with this amount of ideas and energy, count me in.

Hyper Gal Pure CD

Osaka two-piece that uses drums, keyboards, and vocals to blend elements of noise, no wave, pop, and blistering punk to create something remarkable and new. “Charm バイブル” opens the album with dueling fire-alarm synths that, through repetition and mellow vocal accompaniment, turn from irritating into shimmeringly beautiful. Repetition is an important part of HYPER GAL’s musical vocabulary, and they often follow a locked-in, krautrock-style groove to its logical extension. This is used to great effect on “Domestic Utopia ランド,” a seven-minute exercise in restraint and release that volleys between an isolated hi-hat/snare pattern and short bursts of noisy spoken/rapped vocals. As an album centerpiece, it captures everything great about this band: tension is maintained despite simplistic instrumentation, and there is a careful balance between experimentation and rhythmic familiarity. As wild as the noise gets, the drums ground the sound (even if it’s with blastbeats). When the drums pound out blown-out rudiments on jagged bizarro-universe J-pop excursions like “Tropical トロピカル” and “Wedding Ring 指 輪,” the pleasant vocals (especially on the harmonized latter track) keep them accessible. They are loud and abrasive without sounding aggressive, in the same vein as BLACK PUS or the 8-bit era of HELLA. Endlessly inventive and challenging, this is a great record.

Thirsty Giants Thirst and Misery CD

Seven-song EP from this Minnesota garage punk band that was a drag to get through. The songs vary from rudimentary three-chord hardcore to crawling, lo-fi slow-mo punk, but none of it really sticks. The vocalist uses a snotty affect, delivering lyrics that court shock value but come across as juvenile. It really seems like a younger brother’s punk band. Take “Butthole Skater” for example—through thick flange amid a distorted bass solo, we get the lines, “I ain’t no surfer, I said it before / But I wanna skate the dunes of a whore / I just can’t skate for shit / I wiped out and got an abortion / I’m a butthole skater.” Yeah, okay. If you want skate rock, it has been done better. If you want shocking, it has been done better. If you are twelve years old and need an entry into punk rock, try something else.

Tiger Helicide Desensitized CD

Bonehead punk from Alabama made by bonehead punks. Repetitive riffs and simplistic songwriting that is composed of exact-rhyme quatrains gets old fast. The subject matter runs the gamut from axe murderers to punk scene fantasies to the Zodiac Killer, but none of it is captivating enough to keep interest for very long. Even “Jerkin’ Off,” at 39 seconds, feels too long, since it’s basically the title sung over and over again. TIGER HELICIDE stretches out a bit with the slow, dirge-like “I’ll Be Your Failure,” and the nearly six-minute, organ-driven “I Gotta Headache,” which would be a welcome change if the songs had more to them and were a third of the playing time. I did like the lyrics to “Zodiac Killer” because they are so random: “Zodiac Killer / Did he die of cancer? / Was he hit by a Ford Taurus? / Zodiac Killer.” Why a Taurus, the beigest of family cars? If your band is on the road and needs an opener in rural Alabama, check these folks out. Otherwise, you are probably okay without them.

Muell Kunde cassette

This rips. MUELL is a Berlin duo that blasts through six brief tracks of buzzing, super high-energy noise punk on this tape. It’s hard to tell at times which parts are guitar and which are synth because each song is a blown-out exercise in musical economy and maximum volume, but it flows perfectly and deserves a replay right after it ends. “Kunde” starts off the tape with pounding drums paired with bass pulses and hollered vocals that sound equal parts exhilarated and exhausted. “Markt” gallops with D-beats and tangling trebly guitar lines, while the next track, “Weiss, Reich,” just fuckin smokes with speed and a verbal attack on racism and nationalism. Great tape, with one complaint: these jokers made their Bandcamp page all red text on a red background, so you have to highlight each section to see anything. Nice one, you rascals.

Dez Dare A Billion Goats. A Billion Sparks. Fin. CD

Solo project from Australia that sounds like MONSTER MAGNET and DEVO caught in a drug bust. Heavy groove riffs and psych experimentation nestle up to chirping 8-bit synths and crunchy beats, accompanied by spoken/barked vocals. The production is perfect: DIY, open-room sound with big drums and bigger guitars and vocals slightly low in the mix. It sounds live, but it also sounds meticulously crafted at the same time. “Got a Fire in my Socket” opens the album with new wave keys and buzzing bass, while the next few tracks, “Matter Vs Matter” and “10,000 Monkeys + An Argument with Time,” bring out the super riffs. It’s an unusual combination of dorky guitar hero power, but it flows so well and comes across so naturally that you’ll question why this isn’t a regular genre blueprint. “Entangled Entropy” features swelling synths and a post-punk bouncing bass line with a vocal melody that recalls the mellower moments of TOTAL CONTROL. Highly unique and highly recommended.

Parallel Worlds In the Comet’s Path LP

Heavy, rocking, full-throated hardcore with former members of VOORHEES and IMBALANCE. The earnest shouted vocals and mostly mid-tempo clean production recall a mix of B’LAST and FUCKED UP; carefully arranged heavy guitar music with enough grit to appeal to metalheads as well as punks. The title track has a three-way guitar and bass call-and-response pattern that adds texture and gives slight post-punk vibes. This is continued in the six-minute-plus “End Song” with JOY DIVISION bass and sung vocals that builds into a loud climax. Solid, straightforward hardcore worth checking out.

Cold Cream Cold Cream II CD

Carrboro, NC band of scene veterans that plays SUPERCHUNK-style indie punk with some fuzz-psych and hardcore sprinkles. Tracks like “Cactus Wife” and “North Pole South” are catchy, likeable noisy pop that you could throw on at a backyard BBQ with no complaints. “Fast Fash Treasure Island” branches out with some Kim Gordon-esque vocals and a sneaky lead line that gives a hint of what’s to come. “Fixedair” and “Penelope” are swirling psych excursions with fuzz tunnels and submerged cave-in vocals. Then, as a surprise, COLD CREAM goes hardcore for the last two, channeling the melodic end of HÜSKER DÜ. Upbeat and enjoyable CD with enough experimentation for repeat listening.

Surplus 1980 Illusion of Consistency LP

Quarantine project led by Moe Staiano of SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM that uses an exquisite corpse technique to form a loose and expansive post-punk record with fun, low-stakes results. Ideas, no matter how initially goofy they may seem, are given space to breathe in proggy exercises that still adhere enough to post-punk’s angular rhythms and jerky vocals to maintain interest. For example, “Some Few Facts (And One False One) About Birds” has a lot of semi-interesting facts about birds and includes the lines “I like to look at the birds—tweet! / Humans are a bunch of turds—cheap!” It sounds completely dumb on paper, but it’s a rollicking good time with upbeat TALKING HEADS energy. More poignant is “Last,” which runs through the last instances of mundane events in life, like “This will be the last day to have regrets / No turning back now.” It’s a sobering reminder delivered over off-kilter syncopated drums (the drums are amazing on the whole album) and vocals reminiscent of URANIUM CLUB. If we have to walk towards the light, at least we can dance a little.

Zerodent Human Races LP

Third LP from these Perth rockers that mixes the scrappy guitars and melodic vocals of early punk like the SAINTS and the SCIENTISTS with the slippery post-punk bass lines and serpentine guitar of WIRE. “Better Believe Me” is a truly great song: it sounds classic but fresh, all bouncing bass line, catchy vocals, and dynamically played guitar. “Feeling Alright Again” ends the record with clean arpeggiated guitar that bleeds into jangly C86 pop without losing the urgency of the earlier tracks. No wheels are reinvented here, but it is all done very, very well. Highly enjoyable and recommended.

Laughing Corpse Demented Thoughts Posed as Dark Comedy cassette

DC hardcore that sounds like the best of that city’s punk pedigree. Four short songs in about five minutes that rip with tight bass/drums, solid guitar work, and intelligible vocals. The first three tracks sound like well-made DCHC that could have been on an ’80s Dischord comp, while the final track “Demented Thoughts” stretches out with textural, flanged-out, overlapping solos and screams, lending itself to a much darker sound. Strong release for traditional hardcore hounds.

Pure Sport Bigger Business cassette

Las Vegas band whose music barely fits under the punk umbrella, but here we are. Bigger Business sounds radio-ready; QUEEN OF THE STONE AGE-leaning boogie crunch with clean production, frequent wah-wah solos, and “oh yeeeaaah!”s. This is a generous comparison, but “Waterboy” has fast spoken-sung verses that remind of MCLUSKY’s freewheeling vocal style. The music itself, though, is predictable, neutered modern rock. “One Too Much” sounds like that band JET blues-screaming through a plodding song about beer. Catch these folks at your local corporate radio station’s Summer Jam second stage. They will probably be huge.

Knowso Pulsating Gore LP

This may not be for everyone, but KNOWSO’s blend of jerky post-punk rhythms with spoken lyrics is unique and instantly interesting. It’s almost like the words and music are separate entities: the angular guitars pounding away to the propulsive drums, while the deadpan vocals deliver deranged free-association poetry from endless observation that become near-chants with repetition. If you are willing to receive the Pulsating Gore, it rules—short blasts describing snapshots of life in all its glory, equal parts trivial and grotesque. Singer/guitarist Nathan Ward’s job as a trucker is evident in the journalistic depictions of life in transit; interesting birds, accidents, trucks jackknifing, heavy loads—it’s all here because it all plays a part. “Last of the Punks” documents the decaying landscape with lines like “There’s satisfaction / If you want it” and “America / Land of the Free, Mark of the Beast / Those aren’t track marks / That’s the Mark of the Beast.” It’s a compelling listen, and as disconcerting as it is on first listen, it becomes more and more relatable on repeat. Highly recommended.

Wageslave Human Terror CD

Crust punk from Fukishima, Japan that delivers classic metallic noise with complexity and texture. While most of the tracks tick all the right microgenre boxes (shredded guttural vocals, low-end riffing, lo-fi distorted everything, frequent guitar leads à la LIFE), songs like “Total End” and “Remote Control” soak in doomy ambiance with short phrases of clean guitars and textual figures that recall atmospheric black metal. These passages take nothing away from the crusty pummeling power of the faster tracks, and in fact make the whole experience even grimmer. “Micro,” “Majority,” and “Fall Down” deliver the no-frills chugging that fans of FRAMTID will appreciate. Expertly-made bad vibes punk.

Hellco Hellco LP

Debut release of freewheeling and frequently funny punk featuring Dave from F.O.D. on vocals. There is a mix of styles on this LP, but when they rip, they rip in the best classic hardcore fashion—snotty hollered vocals, buzzing guitar, and fast beats that recall vintage CIRCLE JERKS. What sets HELLCO apart is their willingness to indulge in humor; for instance, “Just Stop Singing Like That” starts with a BLUE ÖYSTER CULT-aping riff with a melodramatic croon before launching into fast punk. It’s weird and unexpected, and they do it again at the next chorus, and then they bring it back in an echo-y goth version for “Just Stop Singing Like That Reprise.” Because the band is tight and the humor lands, it works and reminds me of bands like BIG BOYS and M.D.C. who weren’t afraid to inject some weirdness and inside jokes into their otherwise serious music. Similarly, “Swiss Cheese Brain” moves from atonal hardcore into a cowpunk bridge complete with whistling. Good record with tons of personality.

$ollar$ $ollar$ LP

Solo experimental/psych bedroom project recorded during 2020–2021. Raise your hand if you made home recordings during the COVID lockdowns (I am raising my hand). Now keep your hand up if they are worth listening to now (putting my hand down, and I hope most of you are doing the same). $OLLAR$ is proud of his, to the point that there are seven record-plus-merch options for this release available on Bandcamp, including a $300 option that includes a blanket of some sort. Pass. The music itself is a mix of written and improvised bluesy dirges about that era, sounding like a no-fi Homestead Records release or something Lou Barlow would have cooked up in the early ’90s. Slow strumming, slurred vocals, and songs like “Amazon” (it’s about Amazon), “Block Chain” (it’s about cryptocurrency), “Vaccine” (it’s about the Covid-19 vaccine), and “2020 Election Night Eve” (this one’s actually an instrumental, but you get the idea) are too on-the-nose and over with to be interesting. Creating art in times of fear and uncertainty is healthy. This one would have been better kept private.

Egzoz Smoking Jacket LP

Simple and effective guitar/drums garage rock band featuring members from the US and Turkey. Stripped-down, flanged-out guitar lines and catchy vocals make this an enjoyable, conceptual romp through Beyoğlu, Turkey. The track “SlightlyDelic” stands out from the rather primitive garage stompers on the record with a fast and funky post-punk approach, complemented by commanding spoken word vocals. Several songs center on themes of late nights in the city’s streets and include sound clips and Turkish lyrics mixed with English that give the record a cool, culture-straddling flair. One of the band’s vocalists, Chris Sollars, recently released a solo project called $OLLAR$, which I mention because this release contains three of those songs in more polished, upbeat versions.

Achterlicht Demo II cassette

High-energy, lo-fi garage punk from the Netherlands that sounds a lot like the SPITS. That’s not a bad thing—the five rockers here (plus one sound collage interlude) have a familiar “crunchy guitar with synth lead” formula, and the songs bounce with infectious melodies and personality. Recommended for switched-on garage freaks.

Meat Shirt Army of Dolphins EP

French punks who take the risky approach of throwing different styles at the wall to see what sticks, with surprisingly strong results. The first few tracks have a straight-ahead USHC sound with shouted vocals and chord progressions that sound like early BLACK FLAG. There are hints of other things going on as well though, such as gang vocals on “Sugar” and “Watching You!” that evoke the melodic youth crew of INSTED. Layers of guitars build into alt/psych walls on “Burning Bilderburg” and the ending of “Watching You!,” and “Army of Dolphins” is a flanged-out psych swirl that is as satisfying as it is bewildering among the surrounding hardcore. I am usually wary of bands incorporating too much into their sound to the point that it thins out the overall effect, but MEAT SHIRT does it right and delivers a compelling EP.

Northern Liberties Self-Dissolving Abandoned Universe LP

This band is the best kind of weird. Philly three-piece consisting of drums, percussion (photos online show a member playing one of those strap-on marching band tom sets), and bass that delivers a psych blast of crunchy, heavy tunes oozing with experimentation and noise. The drums are ridiculously good, constantly rolling and lurching the songs forward, accompanied by fuzzy bass and overlapping, reverbed vocals that recall a more lysergic LIGHTNING BOLT. “Drowned Out” sounds like a chugging BLACK SABBATH march turned inside out. Check out the beautiful, visionary artwork and sing along to lyrics about the cosmos, consciousness, and other freaky shit. Oh, and Steve Albini recorded it, so it sounds amazing.

Battra// 2014–2017 LP

German bass-and-drums powerviolence that sounds like a cross between SPAZZ and GODSTOMPER. The songs have enough variety to sound fresh, often moving from blastbeats to heavy breakdowns and back again. You will be rewarded if you speak German because there are plenty of samples from what sounds like news reports, films, and even Alpine folk songs—this is a release full of personality. The vocal stylings are…unique. The lead vocals are traditional multi-syllable-per-second hollered PV fare, but the backing vocals sound like a guttural “OohoOohOoh.” Imagine a drunken Frankenstein’s monster wearing a Tankcrimes hat, and you get the idea. At first, I was like “WTF is this?” but then it actually started to grow on me and rip pretty hard. Caveman-core one-upped? There are plenty of highlights on this compilation of tracks, including a heavy psych groove on “You Only Lobotomize Once” that sounds like prime LIGHTNING BOLT, tongue-in-cheek autotuned vocals on “Kräftemethen,” and filthy jet noise distortion on “Blümeranz.” Check it out from one of the million labels that helped with the release.

Rozkrock Tche Best Jee Panko Polo 2xLP

I imagine there is an audience for this Czech band’s 1999 album, but it’s not me. The tracks are more dance than punk, with repetitive, skittery techno beats and tinny, distorted guitar on top. It sounds very dated, and with some of the songs running past the five and six-minute mark, they become tiresome. The lyrics may be amazing (I don’t know—I don’t have a copy of them to translate), but the music is pretty bad. If you told me this had a low-level major label distro deal in 1999 and the band made a mark at outdoor European festivals, I would totally believe you. ROZKROCK fans only for this one.

Nowaves Good for Health Bad for Education cassette

Moody post-punk meets warbly new wave on this Dresden band’s first album from 2019. The ten mid-tempo tracks don’t break any new ground, but they maintain an atmosphere that is gloomy without feeling hopeless. Imagine the disaffected vocals of INTERPOL and the coldwave spirit of NORMA LOY with bits of exotica (“89/90”), woozy synths, and co-ed vocal interplay (“Dark Side (of the Moon)”) for good measure. A low-key, consistent album with enough variety to keep it interesting all the way through.

The Rough Touch Between Your Mind LP

Bluesy psych punk that reeks of cigarette smoke and late-night dive stumbles. Evoking legends like the BIRTHDAY PARTY and LAUGHING HYENAS, the ROUGH TOUCH plays simple blues figures that grow into psycho-strummed beasts, especially when accompanied with the dialed-in howling vocals. Think Jon Spencer without the schtick. “Death of a Preacher” has a dragging, noirish feel to it, and “Pigeon Stain” stomps with the urgency of classic garage punk, complete with effective backing vocals. Strong release if dirty, punk-adjacent bar rock is your sound of choice.

Subsonics Subsonics LP

Vinyl issue of Atlanta garage rockers’ debut album from 1992. Classic garage that has more in common with the SONICS or even CARL PERKINS than it does with their contemporaries like NEW BOMB TURKS or DEAD MOON. These sixteen tracks are built around clean strummed guitars with surfy leads and ’50s-style affected rockabilly vocals. If it weren’t for songs about Charles Manson (“I’m Charly, I’m Jesus”) and heroin (“Heron Addict’s Beach Party”), I would have dated this as a much earlier release. The songs are all competently performed—twangy leads and yelpy crooning—and are recommended if you are a rock’n’roll classicist. There’s even a surfy, reverbed instrumental (“Red Roses”) that would fit nicely next to LINK WRAY on an early rock compilation. I like a little more grit to my garage, but this is well-done if the older old school is your jam.

Adulkt Life There is No Desire LP

Excellent LP from this London band featuring Chris Rowley of HUGGY BEAR on vocals. There is a lived-in world-weariness to this music, a pull between remaining relevant and revolutionary amid a life of overabundance, as evidenced in opening track “Relationship Studies”: “And I see everything on these streets / I suffer from too much to eat.” Mid-tempo, chilly post-punk bass lines meet thick power chords on tracks like “Liberation Tags.” Pulsing with punk energy, the song edges into heavy alt/rock like HUM, with guitars that deliver both crunching crush and beautiful chiming textures. “4:33” is another standout that gallops for the first half before spacing into a swirling psych slow-down that fades into a field recording of bustling, honking street life. Rowley’s vocals sound like an exhausted exhale of frustration that matches the lyrics and downtrodden vibes. “Art of Boxing” suggests a person fed up with the drag of modern life and its constant churning change: “These kids got no boundaries / ‘Cause their folks got no boundaries / It’s not the same around here like it used to be.” It evokes a disconnect with the kids as well as an ironic throwback to the previous generation who undoubtedly said the exact same thing. The cycle continues—youth is a thrill until it’s over and the new crop gets under your skin. This focus on aging and growing makes so much more sense to me than the wallet-chain bands who sing about skateboarding and breakups well past middle age. ADULKT LIFE is vital grown-up punk that is highly recommended.

Vicio / Wirkstoff P split LP

Split between two bands from Osnabrück, Germany. VICIO plays melodic hardcore somewhere between vintage BAD RELIGION and Midwest classics like DIE KREUZEN. The clear winner is “Hass,” with its shouted vocals and a SLAYER-esque mini-riff in the chorus that made my hand involuntarily grip the invisible orange. “Future is Now” somehow meshes system-smashing lyrics and the refrain from NEIL YOUNG’s “Heart of Gold,” complete with backing vocals. And “Eat the Rich” is a rowdy singalong that repeats “You are rich / We are poor / We will eat you, sure.” WIRKSTOFF P sounds remarkably similar and seems to share a vocalist with VICIO. Their side is a touch more melodic, featuring some sung vocals that turn the dial more to skate punk. “Venner Feengesänge und Elfentanz” is a mid-tempo jam with heart-tugging minor chord melodies that wouldn’t be out of place on one of those ’90s Epitaph comps. Check it out If you ever had a cargo shorts era.

White Wire Crack Up LP

French noise-rock-adjacent punk that resembles MCLUSKY and labelmates USA NAILS. While this record is a fine, serviceable slab of dissonant guitar rock with precise playing, it lacks the personalities of the aforementioned bands. The songs, mostly running between three and four minutes, run together without making much of an impression. This is the local band that plays for a full hour before the touring headliner. I know if I wound up at their show, I would step outside and work on my Duolingo (got a pretty good streak going), or maybe call my mom. Check it out if you are really dialed into this genre of clever/sarcastic lyrics shouted over mid-tempo rock, but this LP didn’t do it for me.

Chronic Disease The Lost Recordings 1992 LP

I was not familiar with CHRONIC DISEASE, but they were a Belgian band active from 1986–1992 who showed up on quite a few gig posters of the day, sharing the stage with the likes of NAUSEA and SPERMBIRDS. The band plays a tight blend of D-beat and near-crossover hardcore with some tasty riffs and intricate, snare-heavy drum fills. The guitar tone sounds like ANTI-CIMEX, with a mix of chorus and distortion, and the bass is frequently dirty as well. When they kick into a song like “Tomorrow Looks Grim,” or standout “Sacrilege,” it’s really good. Precise D-beat mayhem with infinite tech fills and some thrash chugging that is fist-in-the-air great. Where CHRONIC DISEASE loses me is the vocals—they just don’t match the speed and power of the music. The vocalist’s voice is perfect, raspy and haggard,  but I can only imagine him reading the lyrics in a booth while the band rages together in a different room. The energy just does not match. I looked up some live footage to see if it was any better, and it was—ripping and passionate on all fronts. If you’re a history punk and love digging into geographically diverse scenes and time periods, give it a listen. This particular recording didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

Volk Soup Incompetent Hits: The Singles, Vol. 1 LP

Eight tracks of exuberantly original post-punk from this Leeds band. Beautiful production highlights thick bass lines, trebly guitar, and vocals that range from a hyper-vocal Mark E. Smith on speed to Nick Cave’s deranged carnival barker era. The songs take many unexpected twists and go from twangy swamp guitar to angular atonal stings to blissful chiming indie layers with ease. The minute-and-a-half blast “Wiping Arse Blues” moves quickly from a dissonant sideways guitar riff into a downward chromatic structure with staccato vocals delivered so quickly they verge on rap. “I Shot Him and I Ran” begins with a flash of 2-Tone ska that steadily builds into joyous chaos. The clever lyrics take pointed shots at grotesque wealth in “Billionaire”: I wanna be a billionaire / With that same self-satisfied, glassy-eyed stare / As Jeff Bezos that wonky-eyed fuck,” and the British royal family in “Beware an Ancient Door”: “We all have our needs and our wants / I said, ‘But Andrew, a nonce is a nonce, is a nonce, is a nonce’.” The latter constructs a danceable beat over the worst keyboard pattern of all time before slowing into a pastoral indie guitar strum that is surprisingly beautiful. The record ends with “Limeade,” an acoustic campfire sing-along that manages to come off as a charming finale. VOLK SOUP is a uniquely original band with personality to spare, and is worth your time.

Pyrex Struck Down / Staying Alive 7″

Two-song hot shit alert from this Brooklyn band. A-side “Struck Down” layers cracked amp post-punk over disco beats that are heavy on the hi-hat. Ultra-ragged vocals rip around sneaky, catchy guitar lines, creating a song that unbelievably ends up melodic and danceable. Then the chorus comes, and the song collapses into screaming noise rock, only to stumble back to its feet and embrace the upbeat rhythm again. Give it a spin—it rules. B-side “Staying Alive” is—you guessed it—a cover of the BEE GEES classic. But this is no Punk Goes Pop novelty, PYREX burns it down and does snow angels in the ashes, organizes a dance battle with two broken legs, and still does the original more justice than necessary for noise punk derelicts. Check it out.

Malicious Algorithm Gorgon Stare CD

Dizzying mix of powerviolence, hardcore, and grind from this California band. They have a split with AGATHOCLES (but, I mean, so does everyone), and they blend mean-ass PV like DESPISE YOU with precisely played grindcore à la INSECT WARFARE. It rips and sounds great. The drums, particularly the blasting, are so crisp that I thought they were digital at first, but no, just first-rate battery smashing. Many of the songs center on anti-capitalist subjects, like “Corporate Gaslighting,” with the lines, “I’ve dealt with robbers, I’ve dealt with crooks / I won’t forgive you for the hours you took / I’ve been a liar, I’ve been a cheat / But you’re the biggest one I’ll ever fucking meet,” but there are also tracks about drug abuse, doomsday cults, and MK Ultra mind control. All the good stuff. Full-tilt shredder from start to finish.

Skill Issue Total Doom cassette

Blistering hardcore centered around themes of advocating for human rights and defense against societal abuse. This tape is five minutes of righteous fury, delivered in a throat-ripping roar that steals the show, although the band is tight and plays with a filthy tone that fits perfectly. Opening track “Total Doom” starts the tape out strong with a gay rights archival sound clip that leads into a slow feedback crawl and lyrics like “Always knew it from the start / Hatred heals my burning heart / Slice a bigot in his neck / Total Doom / Fucking mess.” “Pitbull in a Basement” features savage call-and-response vocals and rips hard. You’re telling me they have two raw-as-fuck vocalists in the same band? That’s the best kind of rare. The whole tape is solid, furious hardcore about fighting against intolerance. What’s not to like?

Barrows Discord and Society CD

Blown-out D-beat hardcore from Japan with songs about war, society, and “devastated futures.” Their Bandcamp namechecks DISCLOSE, DISCHARGE, and ANTI-CIMEX, so you know what you’re getting here: aggressive, poorly recorded, fast D-beat with shouted vocals. Really, the only surprising thing about this release is that they didn’t name the band DISBARROWS. There is a lot to like here if this genre appeals to you, though—it’s tightly-played, earnest punk with no frills, just speed and volume. The last four tracks sound like boombox demos, recommended if you want your rawness even rawer.

Still Missing Still Missing LP

Desert-baked boogie crunch from California, reminiscent of KYUSS or KVERLERTAK. The songs feature quality heavy rock riffs, sludgy start/stop sections, and sung, hooky vocals with back-ups. Good-time heavy tunes for the roadtrips or campfires in your life. The production is beautiful, with big drums and immaculate guitar tones. The lyrics are not especially sophisticated; take “Think About It” for example: “She said to go for it, go for it / I want to go for it / She said to wait for it, wait for it / I don’t want to wait for it, wait for it.” Similarly, “AOC” contains the lines, “She makes me feel right / She makes me feel white.” There is not much more context to give than that, so make of it what you will. Like the kids say, it gives me the ick for a few different reasons.

Them’uns This is Rave Punk cassette

When I saw “rave punk” on the cover of this British duo’s tape, I wasn’t sure what to expect— maybe a mix of beats and hardcore like L.O.T.I.O.N. Instead, THEM’UNS sound a lot like ATARI TEENAGE RIOT, though less intense and noisy. Opener “Soylent Blueblood (Ethical Cannibalism)” takes eating the rich literally, with lines like, “Who could have guessed that when the bills began to soar / It would result in this delicious class war? / Even vegans and vegetarians are down / Feasting upon the flesh of those in high renown.” This is shouted in call-and-response over 808 kicks and synth leads. There is a fine line between fun and cringe, and these folks trample down the middle of it. Similarly, “Fuck Cars (Gary Numan on Yer Bike Mate)” is a reworked cover of the new wave classic changed to favor bicycles over cars. Imagine an anarchist WEIRD AL track, but not as clever. If you like electronic club music, this punk play on it might be a worthy spin, just know that it’s over-the-top and textbook anti-authoritarian.

Mage Commander Moon Worship cassette

I remember this one-man-band’s demo tape for two things: the rad anarchist frog, and Rotten Ron absolutely roasting it. Have you ever walked into a Guitar Center during one of their big sales events? Shredders from all walks of life and every subgenre creep out of the sewers to show off their technical prowess (usually by playing the intro to “One” by METALLICA). Imagine that sound on a tape, and you’d have MAGE COMMANDER. Rudimentary, angry hardcore with constant thrash leads. Not crossover, or thrash itself, or blackened punk—three-chord USHC with intertwining solos, bent notes, and finger-tapped phrases tangling around very simple punk. It’s just an odd mix that is never compelling enough to rise above to being an odd mix in a good way. I admire the tenacity of sending in a full-length when the demo was not well-received, but it’s unfortunately destined to stay in the bedroom studio. The frog is cool, though.

Guile Guile cassette

Solid hardcore with blackened vocals from this Vancouver band. Similar negative vibes, if not quite as unhinged, as GEHENNA or TRAP THEM, with the death metal-leaning vocals stealing the show. Four tracks of nihilistic punk taking aim at religion, hypocrisy, prejudice, and humans in general. Warm, thick recording of bad attitudes in action. Strong first release.

Black Button Rejoice LP

Filthy bummer-punk from this Richmond band, for fans of NO TREND and FLIPPER. Caustic guitars carry misanthropic vocals, some shouted, some long-form spoken word. Songs like “Again and Again” and “Forever in Time” have simple guitar and bass interplay that dirge into the ground before speeding to hardcore tempos. Several lyrical diatribes concern a complicated relationship with religion and faith. “Testimony” is a self-aware examination of a person’s experience with Christianity that leaves them with more questions than answers: “The Lord is my shepherd / But all sheep will meet the executioner’s hand / We are sinners in the hands of a vengeful, angry, and distrustful God / And to live a good life / We must recognize the consequences of each action we take.” The theme returns several times throughout the record, adding heft to the Rejoice title. Gnarled, introspective noise for desolation punks.

Pat and the Pissers Growth EP

A set of five new rockers from Indianapolis punks PAT AND THE PISSERS. What’s not to like? Unpretentious Midwestern hardcore that is instantly enjoyable while sounding fresh. Opener “Breaking Free” has a heavy breakdown that showcases everything good about this tape: snotty vocals that can turn vicious in a beat, razor guitars, and a fat bass line that occasionally does a sneaky, funk-dabbling scale run. “Context” has a classic, crunchy riff in the chorus that is so good it would fit in any guitar-based music genre, from country to metal. “Grow” features sung vocals over bluesy clean guitar that explodes into familiar punk sounds; the stretching out and quality playing is appreciated. Every track is a winner.

Slutavverkning Levande Charader LP

Their Bandcamp description reads “Swedish anti-capitalist jazz-punk fury!,” which is pretty accurate. With playing that hovers between jazz-rock fusion and bass-heavy noise rock with exploratory sax and clarinet soloing, SLUTAVERKNING has a unique sound and vision, held together by the deranged screamed/sung vocals concerning a pig farmer. The album opens with rolling drums and skronky sax, setting up the expectation for exploratory noise-jazz à la JOHN ZORN, but becomes much more structured and even funky on tracks like “Psykisk terror” and “Om Natten.” “Längtans Törst” features a warm, beautiful sax solo, raging vocals, and even nonsensical BOREDOMS-style vocalizing before its end. Instrumental “Attika” is a churning exercise in tension with a looming clarinet hanging over distorted bass and drums like a smoky neo-noir scene. Seeing as punk and jazz have both been anti-corporate, revolutionary forces in their best forms, the melding of genres makes sense and works well here. Recommended for noise rockers and freaky jazz nerds alike.

C57BL/6 LP1 cassette

The name C57BL/6 comes from the scientific designation for the most commonly used research lab mouse. It’s a cool name, but it’s also one I will forget right away. “Have you heard that lab mouse band? C-something?” I’ve only listened to the first track so far, and I pressed pause to write about it. It rules. “Open World” is a seven-minute (!) DIY hardcore song with a basic two-chord structure that rarely alters, other than two short breakdown/chorus sections. Impassioned, shouted vocals fly over the steady, lurching chords. Near mechanical simplicity almost like something NEU! would do, building tension from bare-bones rock music through unwavering repetition. If you make it to the end, you’re in, transfixed and aghast at how the other music you listen to does so little with so much more. Totally recommended already, but let me listen to the rest. No surprises, it’s awesome. After the opening juggernaut, the rest of the album consists of shorter blasts with drum-machine and synth backing the guitar and bass with vocals that sound like RUDIMENTARY PENI. “Deep Fake” has a great two-note synth lead and “Basement” is unhinged enough to keep me the hell out of their basement. Killer release, invigorating in its economy. Highly recommended.

Piss Me Off 2 Much Power LP

Shredding, solo-heavy hardcore from Cleveland that brings to mind classic skate rock and crossover in its no-frills approach to punk. These ten tracks rip, straight up, and the entire package (including the artwork) could have come out anytime from the mid-’80s to now, with its focus on chugging rhythm guitars, wailing solos, crowd-killing breakdowns, and shouted vocals. If you like carving bowls (or smoking them) to the SHRINE, the FACTION, or SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, you’ll like this. Conversion van, sweatpants hardcore (CVSPHC) in 2023—let’s go!

The Steves Making Time / Mechanical Friend 7″ reissue

Iron Lung presents a reissue of this long-forgotten 1980 7” record from Boston’s the STEVES, a synth punk duo that was definitely of their time sonically but has enough to separate them from other punk/new wave groups. The drums and synth set-up was not especially fresh in 1980, what with bands like DEVO getting MTV play and cult heroes like the SCREAMERS and LOS MICROWAVES employing a similar approach, if not attitude. Underground music has come full circle enough that the electronic whooshes and electro-bass sound as contemporary now as they did back then, but what strikes me the most about “Making Time” is its economical, straightforward songwriting and vocal delivery. It’s a short, well-written song that is performed without the affect or provocation of much of that era’s punk. When the chorus of “Making time for making time” hits, it’s a perfect melodic moment, reminiscent of ’60s pop as much as a robotic KBD curiosity. “Mechanical Friend” is the first-person account of a “robot lover” describing itself and how it’s “here to serve you” over slow, ESQUIVEL-leaning instrumentation. So, it’s weird, but the melodic, earnest vocal performance wins again. If the early days of synth punk or new wave get you moving, check out this unusual disc, and keep an eye out for two more STEVES reissues from Iron Lung.

Retirement Buyer’s Remorse LP

RETIREMENT plays fractured BLACK FLAG meets PAPRIKA negative hardcore that rips. From the pounding drum cadence of opener “No More” to the repeated chant of “No Refund” that closes the record, the band creates an intimidating and feedback-laden atmosphere that never dips below fully exciting. The guitar chugs out dissonant chord progressions and spits atonal noise solos as good as Greg Ginn at his most relevant. The drums (which sound great, full and front in the mix) move from galloping fast beats to mid-tempo stomps and back again. “Pull the Shades” is a great example of this, with a rhythm that moves from near-crossover speeds to creepy-crawl, backing one of the few intelligible vocal lines: “I pull the shades / I lock the door.” The raspy, almost blackened and reverbed vocals are perfect for the band and drip with malice and contempt. “DD.MM.YYYY” adds a harsh noise dimension to the sound with a minute of grinding guitar drone. If you like noisy, in-the-shadows hardcore like HOLOGRAM or FASHION CHANGE, check this out immediately.

Big Clown Beatdown EP

Freaky clown party from this group of Memphis friends that continues their run of short and direct punk bombs. Sometimes fun and sometimes deadly serious, these eight tracks all center around a big, lizard-brain-tickling rock riff and vocalist Lucy’s distinctive and enthusiastic yelps. Every one of them is a hit. We get the instant fun punk jams like future dance classics “Frogman” and “Teeth” (“More sugar, more plaque / Please teeth come back”), hearkening back to BIG CLOWN’s excellent Gonerfest sets. However, these joyous moments are tempered with earnest and impactful songs about issues like consent (“Always Knew”) and water contamination (“I’m Thirsty”). The record is great throughout, but the last line takes the cake: “So when I drink your blood / Don’t beg me for mercy / Motherfucker / I’m thirsty.” These are honestly the only clowns I like.

Moat Cobra DCxPC Live & Dead, Vol. 1 LP

This is a cool idea from label DCxPC: record and release live shows on vinyl, and in MOAT COBRA’S case, back it with a “dead” or studio recorded version on the B-side. MOAT COBRA is an Orlando hardcore band that specializes in sludgy, BOTCH-y riffs and gruff vocals. The live recordings are great—you can clearly hear the guitar textures, nasty bass tones, and feel the overall tightness of the band. “Singularity” has interlocking stoner riffs that would make any RED FANG-loving van-dweller or algebra-core nerd swoon. Ripping track “Soffo Cone” chugs with a fast punk beat that gives way to dueling fretboard equations. The studio recordings reveal guitar subtleties and offer some atmospheric qualities, but since the live recordings are so good, you are essentially hearing five of the songs twice. That’s my only real critique here—Side A and Side B work best as separate listening experiences due to the overlapping tracks. Overall though, it’s a good band and cool idea executed well.

Natural End Natural End cassette

Five traditional hardcore anthems from this Raleigh band. Their sound and energy deliver DIY NYHC energy, like a non-corny MADBALL, with lyrics about life’s injustices and the current state of the US. The band frequently switches from fast punk to mid-tempo, fuzz-bass crawls with a few measures of blastbeats powering the intelligible, shouted vocals. “New American Age” finishes out the tape with, “Anger, rage, hatred, malaise / This is now the new American age,” so, yeah, that checks out. Is NATURAL END especially original? Nah, but this well-produced and energetically performed collection might be just the thing if you like your hardcore with some tough-guy vibes.

Nasty World Nasty World demo cassette

Spooky synth punk from Oakland, centered around bass, drums, and sci-fi organ. It’s a mixed bag for me—there are a few great punk jams on here like “What’s on Your Mind?” and “The Mercy of the Law” that blend the gothic keys with gritty melody, sounding like the SPITS riding by a cemetery. “Stranger Walking Through” is the best track here— it’s got dirty, driving bass, vocal attitude, and just the right amount of creepy-crawl organ. NASTY WORLD occasionally reaches a little too far into the nether realms, like on “I Can Have/You Can Have” and “Nasty World.” While the vocals evoke “Cough/Cool” vibes, the organ and theremin trills end up sounding closer to Scooby Doo than post-punk or deathrock intended. There is enough here for me to look forward to their next release though, and I know that I’ll be pulling this tape out in October.

Cutup Cutup cassette

Quick and solid tape from this Cleveland band that sounds like classic ’80s USHC but reveals layers of weirdness right below the surface. Vocalist Mark has a vocal approach that mixes the unhinged power-slur of John Brannon with the wavering croon of David Yow. It’s pretty great. Once the fast HC battering ram effect wears off a little, subtle details like the fat, fuzzed-out bass and melodic breakdowns weaving through the five short songs become apparent. This is fast hardcore with texture, depth, and personality. Tracks like “Last Man Laughing” and “Can’t Eat a Condo” expertly veer between punk and noise rock lanes, greeting traditionalism with sneering experimentation. Check it out—it’s definitely worth six minutes of your time.

Trigger Cut Soot LP

German noise rockers TRIGGER CUT have really gone through it during the last few years. First, a devastating fire at their rehearsal space destroyed all their equipment and the early recordings for this album. Through determination and the aid of six (!) community-organized benefit compilations, they finished Soot, their third record. The band then hit another snag when starting their UK tour. Due to post-Brexit bureaucratic red-tape bullshit, they were turned away at the border, sparking international concern about the treatment of foreign touring bands, even appearing in mainstream publications like The Guardian. So, it has been a lot for a small touring band, but how is the album? It’s really good. “Water Fukkery” kicks it off with a mathy, DON CAB-style riff that explodes into trebly, sandpaper guitar and spoken/shrieked vocals like SHELLAC. “Soot Song” begins with fire alarm guitars that then run through several movements of hold-and-release tension that end in a quiet, chiming outro. “Slipstream” might be the perfect TRIGGER CUT song: it opens with a catchy figure and rolling drums, moves from textured guitar and hollered vocals down to near silence, and then takes off again into full-rocking mode. The songs are complex and emotional, and while not necessarily melodic, there is a compositional arrangement that is always interesting. A compelling and exciting record throughout, and a testament to tenacity. I’m glad they stuck it out.

Quinn Rash Death Devotion cassette

A solo release from the singer of Charlotte noise-poppers ACNE that revels in scruffy, romantic pop gems with noisy punk edges. Like a mix of the best parts of GUIDED BY VOICES, early NO AGE, and maybe even the CURE, QUINN RASH captures an intangible feeling of nostalgic emotion perfectly with these four tracks. “Reincarnate” opens the tape with gruff but melodic vocals, woozy, shoegaze-y guitars, and carefully layered production. “Me and Van Gogh” dips into SST-era SONIC YOUTH dissonant guitar lines, layered and laced with melody. Every song is a heart-tugging hit. I recently saw QUINN play live, and it was a fairly confrontational affair, heavy on noisy electronics. So, this tape comes highly recommended, but I am also curious about what he does next.

Spitting Image Full Sun LP

Great collection of snaky, noisy post-punk jams from this Reno, NV band. Instrumental opener “Intro” gives a table of contents of sorts with strummed indie guitars that build with shimmering distortion and chiming, atonal layers à la SST-era SONIC YOUTH. This is punk, but it’s been soaking in psych, desert-dirge country, and deathrock, and left in the sun to bake. “Spirit Trouble Flash” builds and releases heavy guitars along syncopated drum beats until the chorus hits, and it really hits. Tracks like “Not This, Not This” and “Devil’s Bloom” pound a menacing bass and drums cadence until serpentine post-everything guitar lines creep in and hover over the sound like dripping icicles. “In Menace Meadow” takes us to the dunes with clean strums and slide guitar twang. Check this out when you’re in the mood for expertly produced dark, knotty punk.

Ass Life 3 LP Discography CD

I’m not sure if I fully get this L.A. band’s mix of D-beat, stoner riffs, and surreal humor, but maybe I’m not supposed to. This CD compiles three ASS LIFE tapes into a thirty-one-song endurance test. The tracks (especially the older ones) are heavy—mostly blistering D-beat assaults with occasional forays into MELVINS-esque sludgecore, with lyrics that often read like inside jokes without a punchline. For instance, “Sildenafil Penis” links Viagra with the war-torn city of Aleppo (I think), and I’ll leave “Shapeshifting Lizard People,” “Gape It,” and “Boofing w/ Chris Farley’s Ghost” up to you to investigate. But then, there are other moments that seem almost sincere, like the lines, “I used to party / I don’t do cocaine / My son is my drug / My son is my drug” in “My Son is My Drug.” In “Serious Man,” we have “I’m a serious man / And we’re a serious band.” So, who’s to say what is irony, or if it even matters. The songs all rip pretty hard with full-throated hardcore and borderline metalcore chugging. The playing, thick production, and fat distortion tones are all top-notch, and the vocals, as disconcerting as the lyrics can be, fit perfectly. Near the end of the most recent collection, there are some interesting left turns. “Vomitive Hues” opens with a distorted, monotone rendition of the BEACH BOYS’ “Barbara Ann,” and “Really Cool Cars” surprises with clean guitars and sung vocals about “Pretty cool cars / Dependable, safe cars” that highlight L.A.’s economic disparities that allow some people to flex Lambos while others must use their cars as shelter. It goes from BILLY BRAGG folk to heavy alt-rock like FAILURE without sounding contrived. Weird and recommended.

Global Thermonuclear War Seeking Mastery cassette

Based on the band name and cover art, Portland’s GLOBAL THERMONUCLEAR WAR had me thinking D-beat/crossover, and was I ever right. If you like that particular strain of super-fast hardcore with thrash riffs and clean-ish vocals, check this out immediately. This relentless seven-track bombing raid starts with the slow, crusty intro to “The Rich,” shifts into pounding one-two-one-two drums, and doesn’t let up until it’s over. “Violent Settlements” increases the pace with deliriously fast blastbeats and killer, everything-turned-to-eleven production that creates a wall of pissed-off anti-government, anti-war, anti-meat sound that is staggering. I don’t think it could get any faster without a drum machine or something, and it harkens back to the glory days of D.R.I. and CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER. Just fucking in-your-face hardcore punk that demands your full attention. “Industrialized Meat Production” wouldn’t sound out of place on SLAYER’s Reign in Blood in its ferocity and riffs. Final track “B.T.H.A.T.A.” has a racing D-beat that leads the band into prime raw DISCHARGE mode. Highly recommended, but I need a breather after this one.

Optic Nerve Angel Numbers LP

Impressive debut LP from this Sydney band that mixes elements of post-punk, deathrock, and classic country instrumentation into a great punk record. Songs like “Bird Bath,” “Gargoyle,” and “Bead Shop” pulse with energetic bass, stabbing guitars, and vocalist Gigi De Lacy’s poetically cut-up (and cavernously reverbed) lyrics. The record would be a worthy listen if it stopped there, but the band crosses into cowpunk-inspired lands with twangy, bent-note guitar lines and rolling, snare-led drum beats reminiscent of the GUN CLUB and ICEAGE that give the songs a rollicking “tight but loose” sound. “Tonic” surprises with acoustic strumming and blues riffs like country-fried deathrock. “Trap Door” adds heavy-distortion alt/rock vibes for an even thicker sound. Imagine Factory Records existing in the American South, and you get the idea. Always engaging with unexpected influences and diversions from genre expectations, OPTIC NERVE is a band to watch.

Nubot555 No Way Back cassette

Okay, this one tested my patience, but hear me out because some of the freakiest among you egg-punks might dig it. NUBOT555 is an Antwerp, Belgium-based sci-fi punk band with a vocal approach unlike anything I have ever heard. The synth-based tracks bubble along with bouncy bass, buzzing keys, and a tinny electronic drum sound. Not bad, but nothing new—until the vocals kick in. Each song is a duet between two voices: one like a vintage Speak & Spell delivering platitudes about resurrection and human life, and one that sounds like what you would make a sock puppet say to a child, but pitch-shifted. Think about it for a second. Computer voice plus silly puppet voice doing call-and-response vocals over thrift store electronics. You’re either in or you’re out; consider this the line in the sand.

Martø Martø cassette

Ripping fast powerviolence from Lille, France that sounds like the best of the microgenre. This is a great twelve-song demo, full of full-throttle guitar/bass assault, machine-gun blastbeats, and dual vocalists: one shrieker and one graduate of the Chris Dodge school of caveman-core. It’s all top-tier intense hardcore, and there is enough variety to keep it from being a power blur. For instance, “Baton” opens with a heavy bass-led groove, “Enclume” has classic hardcore riffing, and “Pointe” features crunchy metal chugging before exploding back into furious PV. Place this next to your CAVE STATE and NO COMPLY records and let it blast.

Dez Dare Perseus War CD

Garage punk meets psych-damaged hard rock on this Brighton band’s latest. Classic rock riffing lives on in the stompy, all-downbeats rock‘n’rock of “Bozo” and “Myopic Tropic” with fuzzed-out guitar fills and spoken/sung vocals, some about society’s ills, some nonsensical. “Beach!” is catchy in its rocking immediacy, rolling toms, and laser-gun guitar tone. Final track “STOP. STOP. STOP TALKING.” is an eight-minute opus of distorted bass, chiming keys, and bubbling electronics that rocks the whole time. Recommended for fans of KING GIZZARD, fuzz pedals, and maybe those rad conversion vans with wizards painted on the side.

The Eurosuite Sorry LP

It’s not an easy feat to create music that is both shimmeringly beautiful and unnervingly chaotic, but the EUROSUITE does just that on Sorry. Culling from post-punk, post-hardcore, glitched-out electronics, and noise rock, these ten tracks never linger in one moment too long, carefully layering a collage out of punk’s fringes. Opener “I Thought Your Hand Was a Cup of Water” begins with feedback, disembodied vocals, and synth, then charges into DIÄT-style Berliner ice-punk two minutes in. “B.O.D.Y.” turns snare rolls into electro-glitch malfunctions with screamed vocals placed on top—think SWING KIDS meets early LIARS meets MOUSE ON MARS. Most impressive are the gorgeous swirls of distortion that couple with punishing noise rock on songs like “Pull Back.” Thick, vacuum cleaner guitar churns against sputtered and shrieked vocals like Kevin Shields playing with MCLUSKY. If you hear a beat, it will eventually syncopate, a note will stretch and compound into a synth flutter, bass will decay into uneasy synth squelches. Such is the nature of Sorry, a punk record that experiments and frequently finds greatness in its meticulous chaos.

Dan Melchior Band Welcome to Redacted City LP

Instantly likable collection of post-punk-seasoned indie rock tunes from UK-born, TX-based DAN MELCHIOR. Songs like “Going Outside” and “Watching TV” conjure the carefully-written but loose energy of PARQUET COURTS or TERRY with strummed guitars, PIXIES-style surf licks (like on “The Right Influencer”), and the occasional warbly synth note. The only issue is that the pleasant music and wry, clever lyrics can fade into background music if you are looking for something more energetic. The whole affair is pretty low-key and relaxed, but that could be your perfect Sunday morning jam. Twenty-one songs is a lot though, and with some of them nearly crossing the seven-minute mark, like the repetitive “Incel Country,” the same effect could have been achieved in half the time. Maybe listen to one side at a time, but recommended for smarty-pants indie rockers.

Bad Jesus Experience Ovat Muistojemme Lehdet Kuolleet LP

I’m no Finnish hardcore expert (I barely know my RATTUS from my KAOSS), but this shit rules. Each one of the ten short tracks is a total shredder: fast—like really fast—pounding drums, heavy dissonant guitars, and raspy, hyperspeed vocals that use every second to scream a desperate message. “OK HK” relentlessly blasts out and invigorates everything in me that loves hardcore. “Maa Palaa” opens with atonal strumming that is immediately backed with furious punk that sounds awesome. “Pohjalaiset Sikamafiat” takes a short, contemplative breather in the bridge that allows the band to stretch out for a few seconds before returning to rage mode. It actually makes you realize how intense and fast the rest of the record is. “Ruumiinpolttaja” starts with a blastbeat before the one-syllable-per-snare-hit vocals enter, sounding for a second like vintage NAPALM DEATH in its ferocity. Check out this record right now.

Speck Speck cassette

Equation-core complexity meets feedback-riddled, no wave drone jazz on this eleven-song release. Imagine the bewildering instrumentation of BOTCH or DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN (without the tough guy affect) accompanied by CONTORTIONS-style sax riffing. That sounds like a mess, but it’s cool. The vocals are strained and desperate, buried just deep enough in the mix that, although unintelligible, they occasionally offer melody if you mine deep enough. “Dead Beach Boy” is head-bobbing, stop/start dirge-punk that propels forward into noisy chaos. “Blab Eye Chops” has a repetitive bass groove that creates a rhythmic backbone to atonal guitar and sax squall that sounds like NAKED CITY playing on a falling elevator. Eclectic and innovative, punk at its core, SPECK experiments with the form to our benefit.

Gutter Oil IX cassette

Six tracks of gross hardcore in the MEATMEN vein from this Perth, Australia band. The track list is probably the best litmus test for whether you will be into this or not; if you think songs like “Bomb the Hospitals” or “Small Hands Make the Best Clothes” are funny, you will like this. Their Bandcamp promises that “proceeds of sales will be donated to the ‘Second Chance Foundation’ to help re-home ugly children.” I’m sure the band finds all this hilarious. The music itself is thick, heavy hardcore with pounded floor tom beats, power-strummed chords, and slimy raw vocals, all interspersed with odd sound collages of crackling VHS tapes, patriotic songs decaying into noise, and self-help financial seminars. Standout tracks are “Drunk Fuck,” with the catchiest part of the tape in the refrain, “He only sucks when he’s drunk,” and the heavy bass groove that moves “Over the Hill” from mid-tempo chug to speedy D-beat. If well-produced, transgressively humorous punk is your thing, you could definitely do worse than GUTTER OIL.

Buen Destino Buen Destino LP

Excellent debut LP from this Barcelona band that deftly melds full-throated hardcore with math, metal, and even post-rock influences. The record immediately smacks you in the head with opener “Morir de Asco,” orbiting through the same universe as CONVERGE and BOTCH; serpentine guitar figures piercing through raw hardcore. “Los Creyentes” features multiple time changes that reveal the band’s musical chops while escalating an epic build-up that rivals any heavy post-rock band, tempering beauty with ultimate audio violence. It’s awe-inspiring. “Futuro Final” layers pounding, noise rock kick drums with algebraic guitar that becomes near-catchy despite its intricacy, like a flashing knot of Christmas lights. Final track “Bajo el Mismo Sol” constructs a staggering wall of sound with all elements turned up to maximum volume and intensity that is a staggering end to a great record. Intelligent, consistently experimental, and extremely heavy, this is an exciting introduction to a band worth watching.

Stiff Richards Stiff Richards LP reissue

The latest reissue of STIFF RICHARDS’ debut LP from 2017, delivering melodic garage rock with hooks for days. Like a mix of the SAINTS, PAINT FUMES, and BLACK LIPS, this record is a non-stop, classic-sounding jam with punk energy. For instance, “Brainwashed” has raspy, smoke-ruined vocals and guitar-hero riffs, but then lifts the “I’m seein’ red” refrain from the canonical MINOR THREAT song, “Seeing Red.” Other standouts are the earworm “Layla,” the psych-tinged “Bustin’ Out,” and the naughty pseudo-ballad “Ride on Me.” If this type of high octane, no-frills grime rock is your jam, check it out.

Brain Tourniquet …An Expression in Pain LP

Crushing debut LP from DC’s BRAIN TOURNIQUET. Although this record is most easily categorized as powerviolence, there is so much innovation here that it tramples micro-genre labels. These are epics in bursts, blasts of fury with the intricate structure of much longer songs. Take “Mental Tomb” for example: there is the fast and extreme hardcore, which rolls into a bridge of dissonant guitar noise and rolling drums, then back to the hardcore. The song is 1:17 long. Many of the tracks have this level of careful intricacy that make repeated listens a treat. There is definite influence from classic West Coast bands like MAN IS THE BASTARD and CROSSED OUT, but I also hear CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER-style crossover (especially the amazing drums) in songs like “Deny.” “Little Children Working” and “Behind My Eyes” are feedback-laden, dangerously creepy instrumentals that keep the record’s urgent and unsettling tone intact, while “…An Expression in Pain” has a slow-crawl intro that erupts into relentless fast PV and back to the doomy slow crunch. This goes back and forth over ten minutes, and it rules. This record is fresh and exciting, bold and risky without being pretentious. It’s early in the year, but I’m bookmarking this one for my year-end top ten.

No Comply East Coast Powerviolence LP

Holy shit, this fucking shreds. This 42-song collection gathers tracks from the Florida band’s storied history. Like GODSTOMPER, this is bass-heavy powerviolence with noise interludes, threatening samples, and absolutely unhinged shrieking vocals. I don’t have a lyric sheet, but the songs have a meanness to them that can’t really be translated anyway. The production varies a little from track to track due to the different source materials, but all the tracks sound thick, blown-out, and filthy. Some of the songs venture into near grind/noisecore with brief bursts of screech, while others stretch out into doomy breakdowns, and we even get a few STIKKY and SPAZZ covers. “The Noise Set (9 Songs)” is like a Whitman’s Sampler of the band with furious PV, emoviolence passages, and jazzy bass. It all rules, and if you like powerviolence, consider this essential.

RAN Atrabil​ä​r LP

Fast, crusty hardcore/PV from this Lyon, France band. First off, this record sounds amazing. Recorded and mixed by the band, these fourteen songs sound so nasty, so heavy and distorted, that you’ll immediately know if this is for you. RAN’s sound is so good: syncopated drums that frequently lurch into breathless blastbeats, super heavy bass tones, thick guitars that skew dissonant, and screams. While this is a punk record, there is enough chugging and chaos here to appeal to mathcore and death metal fans, too. Every song rips hard, and I especially like “Why Don’t You Stick Your Head Up Your Ass…See If It Fits” for its ridiculous title, and “Funky Crusty Rambling” for the classic ’50s-style rock’n’roll riff that starts it off. Actually, I recommend you just press play and then repeat it as soon as it ends. Highly recommended.

Unruly Boys Too Hard Livin’ cassette

Scorching new tape from these Charlotte bruisers. I’m a little biased because I have seen this band’s live power many times, but this tape captures the intensity with five UK82 and Oi-inspired tracks of intense, classic hardcore. Imagine ARMS RACE and RIXE playing together, but extra pissed-off. Opening track “Take Your Shot” pummels with a mid-tempo chug and gruff vocals, which lead into a pit-killing breakdown accompanied by haunted house keys that give it a sinister crawl. “Path of Fools” and “Too Hard Livin’” feature abrupt time changes with blasting and furious D-beats driving the anger. The production is great, too—thick, clearly defined, but still completely aggressive. This is tough-as-fuck, mirror-punching, fighting music and totally recommended for your worst days.

Capric​ö​rn Sink in Tears LP

French D-beat punk that sounds a whole lot like MOTÖRHEAD. The production on this record sounds great—thick bass lines, drums straight up front, and clear vocals. A “Road Warrior” clip starts us off, and then it’s ten fast and earnest rockers about goats, Satan, beer, and Satan again. There’s an OZZY clip at the beginning of “Sober is Bullshit,” who is either the best or worst spokesperson for the cause. Gang choruses and some call-and-response vocals give the album a fun, live feel throughout. If this kind of speed-punk/metal mix is your jam, you’ll like this.

Celebrity Handshake Final Education LP

Attention, weirdos. Portland, Maine’s CELEBRITY HANDSHAKE has released the newest in a long line of shattered, no-fi blues-noise records. Read their other MRR reviews to see how divisive this band can be (and it’s not hard to hear why) with their room-clearing take on art-punk. They sound like a blues band falling down the stairs, every player clinging on to their last strangled pattern. The vocalist is the grouch behind you in line who talks to himself about how long everything takes these days, and how back in his day, kids had respect, etc. Imagine the energy of HARRY PUSSY mixed with U.S. MAPLE mixed with your uncle, and you get the idea. That’s not to say it’s terrible (well, it is terrible, but I think that’s the point); the spoken non-sequitur lyrics like “A dictator without a mustache? / That’s no dictator” and “Take your lunch to work / Flush it down the toilet / You can eat next week / Blame it on the cigarette snake,” sputtered out against the band all trying to solo at the same time, is interesting. If you’re into heavy skronk, check it out. If you like it, you’re in for a treat, because they have released a whole bunch of this stuff.

Psychrophore Why Should We Care? LP

Melodic punk from this Lille, France band that really doesn’t do it for me. The band is tight enough, as mostly uninspired three-chord punk goes, but the vocals are distracting, and the lyrics are sincere and simplistic to the point of amateurishness. Imagine a husky-voiced, femme Axl Rose fronting TILT. The vocal delivery is just not a fit. The lyrics rhyme so precisely that I stopped reading them out of secondhand embarrassment. For example: “There was this boy / He wasn’t interested in school / He didn’t care about what was deemed cool / He didn’t mind being taken for a fool / All he wanted was to play music on his stool.” That’s some rough-draft songwriting there. I will say that the tracks were self-recorded, and the production sounds great; nice and thick. But this is something I will not listen to again.

Fatal Wound Fatal Wound demo cassette

Mean-as-fuck brutal hardcore that rules. If you like CITY HUNTER, or GAOLED’s excellent demo from last year, get on this. Most of the tracks are blistering fast punk with distorted bass and full-throated roaring vocals. There are enough dynamic shifts to keep it fresh, like the occasional thrashy divebomb solos and the creepy-crawl pummeling of “Senseless Slaughter.” In addition to some of the metallic guitarwork, FATAL WOUND takes some underground metal cues with the grim artwork and hard-ass photocopied Gothic font on the back. Check out the track names: “Pathetic Worm,” “Merciless Despair,” and the best, “Skinned for Sport.” Fuckin’ “Skinned for Sport.” What a stone-cold Grim Reaper title! If you are having a bad day, give it power and make it terrible with this absolute ripper of a demo.

Ready Armed System Ready Armed System demo cassette

Abrasive hardcore demo from these Austin punks. Blazing fast right from the start, these nine tracks feature raw vocals and a classic USHC attack approach, reminiscent of MINOR THREAT or S.O.A. While they don’t necessarily break any new ground here, this tape rrrips. The unhinged scream at the end of “Kill Someone,” the “Straight-Edge” (the song, not the movement) attitude of “Hair of the Dog,” and the instant banger anthem of “Cease to Exist” make this one to play again and again. Solid.

Electrika Agonia EP

Oof—this is a good one. Super-pissed, lead-heavy hardcore from Mexico City that mixes elements of crust, D-beat, Japanese hardcore, and even a little crossover in some of the drum patterns. Imagine H.H.H., GAUZE, maybe a sprinkle of HIS HERO IS GONE. It all adds up to a short, nasty treat that is perfectly accentuated by the throat-shredding shrieks of vocalist Diana. The first two tracks have pounding, mid-tempo, rolling drums and distorted bass that give them a crusty feel, while “Tormenta” speeds with D-beats and double-kicks. The effect is like a punch right in the middle of the chest—it knocks you back and takes your breath. I wish I had the Spanish-language lyrics to translate, and I also wish this EP were longer. Check it out.

Heavy Metal IV: Counter Electrode Iron Mono 2xLP

Is HEAVY METAL heavy metal? Nope, but that’s old news. They’re not really punk either, except that they totally are. I don’t even want to ruin the breadth of surprises on this 2xLP vinyl pressing by describing the tracks. Spurts of perfect lo-fi garage punk meld into and stomp through dance pop, experimental electronic, post-punk, shambling C86 pop, and hip hop, all peppered with found-sound non-sequiturs. It shouldn’t work, but it flows so well, like a mixtape from a cultured and weird friend who gets to everything just a little sooner than you do. I was sold from the first ten seconds of the funky, BS2000-style drum break of opener “Savagely Beaten by Funk” and rewarded for the next hour. HEAVY METAL throws all popular music and sick modern culture into a blender, and we are fortunate to drink from its nectar. Get into it—Total Punk is only doing one pressing.

Werewolf Jones Rot Away LP

Grimy garage punk slithering out of Detroit’s streets. WEREWOLF JONES deliver thirteen tracks of bad attitude with fast punk that interestingly uses a surf-style drum beat, all double snare hits and rolls. I imagine the drummer holds his sticks sideways like a jazz player, but my search for live pics didn’t confirm it. It totally works though, and gives the songs a rollicking propulsion that makes them seem even faster than they are. On a few tracks, the band veers into sludgy noise rock territory, sounding like TONGUE PARTY or WHORES. “Bigmouth,” for instance, has a plodding caveman riff that works like a shovel breaking through rocks. Among the faster garage-influenced songs, “Lock the Door” reminds me of ZEKE with a hilarious non-solo where the bass and drums play and the lead guitar just emits a distortion feedback tone. It’s this kind of tongue-in-cheek casualness that makes this such a fun, albeit heavy, record. Similarly, “Eating Life Shitting Skulls” is over four minutes of that surf beat with shrieked vocals and clean, reverbed surf licks played at half-speed. It’s weird and wonderful. Loud, slimy, with speed and humor to spare, this is a great punk record.

Cacogens Flesh in Hell cassette

Cool synth punk side-project from one of the members of WEREWOLF JONES. Check out the cover art—I wanted a shirt of it before I pressed play, and now I want one even more. “Flesh in Hell” begins with detuned guitars and synths like a demented orchestra warming up and then delivers eight keyboard-addled garage punk dirges with raw vocals. The whole tape is solid, but “Facehugger” and “The Garden” are clear standouts. “Facehugger” is a dark and woozy post-punk hit with a jagged guitar line that sticks in your brain. If goth sounded like this, I would commit to the darkness. “The Garden” starts off with bizarre vomit-sung vocals that end up being pretty catchy after a few repetitions, and ends with a grandiose instrumental buildup that lands somewhere between COWS and freaky labelmate SPACE DANISH. Keep an eye on CACOGENS and keep an eye on Tetryon because they have released some under-the-radar weirdo gems like this tape lately.

Warhawk Pray for War LP

Sweaty, denim-vest hard rock from Sweden. Like MOTÖRHEAD meets the HELLACOPTERS, WARHAWK mixes classic NWOBHM and psych-influenced guitar leads with fist-pumping riffs. While this record could have come out any time in the last 40 years, it sounds fresh and raucous. “Watch Out” lays down a pummeling D-beat with relentless riffing. “Devils Dust” conjures Lemmy’s immortal energy and does him justice. Really, there’s not a dud in the mix, as long as you like this particular mode of full-speed greasy rockin’. I feel like you already know if this is for you. If you’re into conversion vans with airbrushed wizards, choppers, and raw rock‘n’roll, you’ll dig this.

Double Me / VIOLENCIA split EP

Heavy split between Padua, Italy’s DOUBLE ME and Tijuana, Mexico’s VIOLENCIA. DOUBLE ME gives us five powerviolence slammers in about two minutes. Blastbeats dominate the mix, but there is interesting guitar work and call-and-response caveman vocals à la SPAZZ. This side could have been mixed better. I like the songs, but they sound trebly and lack low-end heaviness, through no fault of the band. Meanwhile, VIOLENCIA shreds with a mix of powerviolence, hardcore, metal chugging, and doomy interludes. Their four songs are heavy and distinctively varied. “Frenesi” opens their side with ripping powerviolence, featuring super-pissed co-ed vocals like the best parts of DESPISE YOU. “Requiem Por Mi Existencia” is straightforward D-beat hardcore done extremely well, and just to round out the genre explorations, the side ends with an instrumental doom metal song. All heavy, all memorable, VIOLENCIA is a band to watch.

Cromosoma Fuera Plutón / Medicina Fantástica 7″

Two short synth punk jammers from this Spanish band. Veering away from the eggy DEVO-worship that is so common with synth projects, CROMOSOMA reaches back a little further for influences, sounding like a blend of LOS MICROWAVES and OG Spanish synth punks AVIADOR DRO. The two tracks here have clean keyboard lines and crisp drum machine beats with group vocals on top. “Medicina Fantástica” drips with icy new wave atmosphere, all driving bass pulse and echoes. Worth checking out.

Cosme Demo No. 2 cassette

Short synth punk demo from Mexico that often sounds like Tim Armstrong singing karaoke. The first track has Nintendo keyboards with gruff Spanish-language vocals. It’s way too slick and toothless for me. The third track, named as the Cancer zodiac symbol, is the turning point from keyboard oddity to punk. It’s a heartfelt street-punk song that doesn’t sound too far from RANCID’s best, with sparkling keys on top. The repeated line “Time heals, some might say all those years that are gone now” gives it a wistful, nostalgic feeling, and is worth repeat plays. “Cosme,” the last track, is the most traditional, fast punk song here and ends the tape on an anthemic, fist-pumping high. I would listen to another tape from COSME, but I definitely prefer the second half to the first.

Hägöl 진공 EP

Effective mix of pop and savage hardcore from this Adelaide band. Featuring distorted bass, drums, and crystal-clear keyboards, the songs are immediate ear candy while still retaining a punk edge. The band effortlessly switches from pop-leaning femme gang vocals to raw hardcore hollers, all under classic rock’n’roll keys. The lyrical themes cover inequality, nationalism, colonialism (the band makes a point that the EP was recorded on stolen Aboriginal land), and personal thoughts on homelife. The Korean-language track “Goyangi” has the line (through a translator on my part), “the best of the best is a Cuddle Sandwich Skeleton cat sleeping in my arms forever.” I can get down with that. Serious and catchy, cute not cutesy; this was a treat.

Power Flower Electric Drug Fuck Up EP

Hungarian synth punk that is equal parts fun and gross. These five tracks double-dribble with punk energy, errant sine waves, and unintelligible vocals. The title track sounds like CHERRY CHEEKS layered with an ’80s War on Drugs PSA sound collage. “Get Off My Ass!” captures the catchy joy of the SPITS with rougher vocals, and “N.SZ.K.O.” has some serious pop hooks under the hood, like a bubblegum hit played at 78 RPM. “Whippit” delivers POWER FLOWER’s version of a ballad with noisy chimes, battling electronics, and a rubber ball bass line. I accidentally did a whippit a few days ago—I’m not into inhalants, but I love whipped cream. Be careful when sucking on that can! This is a cool rip through crunchy synth land with infectious results.

Neocons EP cassette

Industrial dance punk from L.A. Skittery tech beats, slogan lyrics, chirping synths, and news clips about war and societal collapse put this somewhere between a DIY MINISTRY and a less brutal L.O.T.I.O.N. These five churning tracks would work on a club floor or a punk dive equally well, and sound like a call-back to the ’80s Wax Trax! sound with their earnest lyrics and everything-to-the-front production. The lyric and delivery of “Who’s laughing now? / That’s what I thought” from “Perleche” would fit a vintage NINE INCH NAILS song. It’s a very particular era and sound to base your band around, but NEOCONS do it well. Check it out if you’re pissed but still wanna dance.

GG King Evoker Tape 12″

I am super late to the GG KING party. I liked the CARBONAS but just never followed up on singer Greg King’s projects afterwards. My loss. If you are not a genre purist, get on this right now. GG KING takes the basic template of garage punk and cosmically melds it with the far reaches of the rock umbrella to create a delicious mix. Each song is basically an exercise in a new subgenre, and against all odds, it flows perfectly. Good songwriting is good songwriting. “Evoker 1 (Hellslime Radiating from the Basement)” opens the record with menacing bass, chopped windchime samples, dub drums, and ominous German spoken word, which leads right into “Evoker 2 (Circling Starmount),” a blistering, WEAKLING-style black metal assault, complete with blastbeats and shrieked vocals. “Trudging Towards Twilight” delivers a perfect stoner riff, which leads to the crypt-crawling deathrock of “Evoker 3 (Wotever Happens Next).” And so on, all incredible. The final track, “Leigh’s Castle,” stands out as a strong point, with gauzy guitars and keyboard arpeggios that sound like the dreamiest moments of DEERHUNTER meeting the looping shoegaze of MY BLOODY VALENTINE. Unbridled experimentation that pays off with a very weird, satisfying listen. I am going to make up for lost time and check out GG KING’s other records, and I recommend you do the same.

Why Bother? Lacerated Nights LP

High-energy, synth-laced melodic punk from Iowa. They sound like the SPITS, but that’s not a bad thing. Classic punk chord progressions, catchy, slightly-detached vocals, and clean keyboard tones to hold everything in place. “Bent Spoon Blues” is a pop treasure, as much new wave as punk. “Clouds” slows down and veers into post-punk with a buzzing electronic cloud circling a moody four-note guitar pattern. “Oh Jodi” is a garage punk murder ballad from the perspective of a male killer watching news reports about his female victim. Creepsville. Similarly, “The Stalker” is from a stalker’s point of view and has lines like, “Do you know I can see you? / Do you know that I’m there? / I make sure that you’re alone / I breathe heavy as you blow dry your hair,” ending with the speaker entering his victim’s room with a rope. I like the record overall, but the lyrics of those two tracks will probably prevent a future listen.

Tension Span The Future Died Yesterday LP

Debut LP from this pandemic collaboration featuring members of NEUROSIS and DYSTOPIA, among others. It won’t be a surprise to fans of those bands, but TENSION SPAN pulls from punk, goth-leaning darkness, metal, and straightforward hard rock to deliver a collection that expresses the frustration and exhaustion of the difficult last few years. The production sounds cavernous and expensive, like a big-budget rock record that captures every echo and atmospheric swirl. “Cracked Society” features chanted backing gang vocals that shroud its propulsive beat in dread. “The Crate Song” has NWOBHM low-end chug with a deliberate, dirge-y pace that sounds like the slower moments on recent NAPALM DEATH records. Themes of media manipulation, evangelical attacks on science, and the virus itself are captured in the tracks “Covered in His Blood” and “I Can’t Stop This Process” that play out like apocalyptic street preacher sound collages. News clips are looped and layered over punk riffs, creating a grim snapshot of America’s underbelly. The clear jaw-dropping standout is the title track that grows from a buzzy synth line into a multilayered groove of chants, angry punk scorn, and snaky guitar. It shimmers and rages, shaking with defiance. Consider it a dystopian time capsule or a harbinger; this is a dense, knotty, heavy guitar record, effective as it is disheartening.

Intensive Care Antibodies LP

Apocalyptic nightmare soundscapes from the mighty INTENSIVE CARE. Expanding further beyond hardcore into beat-driven industrial noise, this collection features a cohesive vocabulary of crumbling electronics, loops, and distorted vocals that sound genuinely unnerving. I stopped taking notes after the woozy swirl of the third track because it all flows so perfectly together, with the closest reference point being BASTARD NOISE with steady rhythms. When the vocals hit, usually as a distorted blast, they offer such a release from the bubbling tension that they hit hard. Some standout passages (although seriously, just listen to the whole thing in sequence) are the eerie strings and pounding of “Closure” that sound like the best parts of the HAXAN CLOAK and the BODY, and a dread-inducing knocking sound that emerges from the audio miasma of “Visible Distance.” This is innovative, menacing noise built from the charred bones of hardcore.

Long Knife Curb Stomp Earth LP

Crucial release from this Portland band that melds the perfect combination of POISON IDEA and early FUCKED UP to kick major ass. This record shreds from start to finish and adds unusual elements that keep it fresh the whole time. It is straight-up exciting. Opener “Modern Fatigue” starts with a goddamn full church choir that matches the epic, grandiose nature of the songwriting and riffs with divine power. Sounding like a gimmick at first, LONG KNIFE brings back the choir amidst the blitz-fast hardcore to awesome effect. The energy never slows from that moment and often uses intricate crossover riffing, time changes, and full-cheese thrash solos on songs like “Blue Rose” and “The Curse.” The thing is, it rules instead of feeling corny or overproduced. Take “Scum” for instance: Castlevania organs underpin the punk and later solo like there is a bat-winged candelabra on the guitar amp. It sounds like MURDER CITY DEVILS meets, forgive me, GHOST, but it rules. Essential, innovative hardcore that never lets up. If you don’t like this, your idea of punk may differ from mine.

Slytter Et Slytter Liv cassette

Live Tascam tape from this Danish band that rides between garage punk and flanged-out grunge. It’s a messy affair with false starts, occasional silly vocal takes, and segues into cover songs like “House of the Rising Sun,” the bane of Guitar Center employees everywhere. SLYTTER works best when they go raw and let the feedback swirl, like on the screamed “Viktoria” and droney, noise-rock-aping “Neglene Gror.” The rest sounds like a rehearsal tape— in this case, a warts-and-all time skip to 1990 Seattle. Check it out if that’s your thing. Their Bandcamp says there is a vinyl pressing coming soon, and I have to ask, do we need that?

The Hammer Party Earth Abides CD

Jagged noise rock EP from this Providence band. Presumably named after the BIG BLACK record, the HAMMER PARTY has some pretty big shoes to fill, and does an admirable job holding the grimy torch. These four songs adhere to the “find a groove and play it into the ground” side of the genre in the vein of 400 BLOWS and MELT DOWNER, and they do it well. “Sterilize” opens with instantly gratifying snare pounds, a dissonant guitar lead, and raspy repetitive vocals. “Federal Reserve Blues” pairs a syncopated guitar riff over a skiffling jazz beat to great effect, always feeling slightly off and unpredictable. Final track “Walk the Walk,” featuring Rick Pelletier of SIX FINGER SATELLITE on wailing no wave sax, centers a hollow, loping bass line with growly, TOM WAITS-style vocals that build into a strange bluesy jam. It’s weird, but it’s good weird. If you worship at the scabby AmRep altar, this is worth your time.

Ismatic Guru II cassette

Treble-punk meets synthwave on this short and fun tape. Imagine the top-of-the-neck guitar lines of CONEHEADS with the bright and bouncy keys of CHERRY CHEEKS and you’ll get the idea. The bio describes the vocals as “goblin ELVIS,” and I can’t do better than that. Every song is a perfect bouncy rocker with interlocking guitar and keyboard elements that are catchy and danceable, with a warm bass (or maybe organ?) sound that is mixed perfectly. The last song is called “Hey, Little Fucker,” which is an A+ title. If you’re on team egg, check this one out.

Binge Kings 25-Song Demo cassette

BINGE KINGS announce their arrival with a 25-song collection of shit-fi garage punk tunes consisting of tinny guitar, drums, and snotty shouted vocals. Upon further listening, I think the drums are just one snare drum. It might actually be a bucket. In addition to the songs, there are seven skit tracks taken from movies, mostly centered around beer. The talent on display here is lacking—primitive power chord progressions with simple snare pounds could be great, but the songwriting is never that interesting. The vocals are by far the best part, and the confident full-throated yell works well over the high-tone practice amp aesthetic. It sounds like they were going for CARBONAS-style straight-ahead punk, but you gotta have the songs, man. “Windsor” stands out as a rough little gem with a melody that shines through the fuzz like the best LIQUIDS tracks. I know demos can be rough around the edges; the rawness and spontaneity are often an exciting statement of purpose. This one was a bit of a slog to get through.

Attic Ted 13 Select Home Recordings cassette

Collection of songs from this Texas duo, recorded over a twenty(!!)-year span. I don’t know how to accurately describe this—the closest reference points would be circus or carnival music with post-punk vocals. Imagine the weirdness of the MYSTIC KNIGHTS OF THE OINGO BOINGO with the delayed and pitch-shifted vocals of vintage WEEN. Opening track “Hyperbole” is a good introduction to the organ-grinding surrealness. “Either Way” has a slight MADNESS ska beat with backing vocals, swirling noise, and bicycle bells. “Texas Trip” takes us into satirical cowpunk territory. What’s surprising is how well-composed and carefully constructed these tracks are. This is not low-effort experimentation; it is very odd and inspired creativity. True story: I fell asleep while listening to this (from my own circumstances, it’s not boring or anything), and I had strange-ass dreams. If you want to sample some unique and playful avant-garde music, click on over to their Bandcamp.

Flash Flash LP

High-energy punk blasts from Basque Country. FLASH sounds like the classic American HC of ZERO BOYS and ARTICLES OF FAITH mixed with blown-out production and raspy, sore-throat vocals. There are leads on leads with string-bending solos that dial up the melodicism and live, electric feelings of these songs to very high levels. “Bihotz Gorrak” (Basque for “Deaf Hearts”) is a classic sub-two-minute anthem full of riffs, gang choruses, and fist-pumping melodies. Instant classic, and I don’t even have the lyrics. “Harri Hau” (“This Stone”) is another winner that sounds timeless and brand new at the same time. I listened to final track “Querrido Punk” (“Dear Punk”) several times in a row. It’s a perfect blend of pounding snare, fuzzed-out riffs, and passionate vocals. Great ending to a great record.

Infra Combo Exsanguinated by Punk cassette

Experimental guitar album that approaches punk through textural noise and rhythmic loops, like TELEVISION by way of the DEAD C. “Exsanguinated by Punk” appears as three movements with JOHN COLTRANE-style parenthetical descriptions: “Acknowledgement,” “Empathy,” and “Ascension,” painting a theme with seemingly improvised passages that meld the vocabulary of punk and jazz. The beautiful opener “Eulogy for Jean-Luc Godard” combines droning chords with exploratory noodling over stumbling drums. And while we’re on the subject of Godard, he was punk as fuck. Keep your Repo Man and give me his film Weekend, where consumer culture literally crashes and burns, as the ultimate punk movie any day. Similarly, INFRA COMBO stomps through genre conventions and treads on our sacred traditions with the second and third iterations of the title track. “Empathy” contains the lines, “When all the spikes have gone limp / And the chains have lost their chrome / When my leather jacket has gone back to the earth / We pack up and go home,” while “Ascension” builds into a detuned march that Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo would happily put their names on, with the lyrics “If this is all there is / Then my heart breaks / If this is all there is / Then the style isn’t worth the space.” It’s a challenging album that rejects the staid conformity that comes with this territory we inhabit while embracing the radical experimentation that brought us here in the first place.

The Sheaves Excess Death Cult Time cassette

Take a drunken somersault through your lo-fi ’90s records with a graduate of the Mark E. Smith Vocal School. Mixing angular, dissonant, chiming guitars with slurred, flat-affected vocals, the SHEAVES carve a very particular niche from influences like the early eras of GUIDED BY VOICES and PAVEMENT with likable results. “Lariat Slung” has a mysterious guitar line that brings some subtle post-punk menace. While definitely listenable, some of the tracks seem to lack a focus and build untuned strumming on top of itself over curious non-sequitur lyrics until the song ends. “Hit Silly,” the final and by far best track, does the opposite with a propulsive beat and repetitive riff that sounds like the FALL in the best way. If slightly shambolic, noisy nuggets are your jam, check it out.

Maniac Maniac cassette

I was not feeling this one at first, but this collection of off-kilter new wave slow-dancers won me over in the end. First of all, MANIAC: change your name. Discogs lists 27 bands with the same name, several of them well-established and long-running. Also, this music is not maniacal, although the vocals do slightly veer into SAMHAIN-era Danzig on “Good Friends” and “Last Breath.” The rest of the songs sound more like basement-recorded MODERN ENGLISH or GARY NUMAN with thick synths, mid-tempo drum machine beats, and detached crooning. I was ready to pack it in and move on when “Queen” came on. It’s the kind of song that sounds so instantly classic that you wonder if it’s a cover. I checked and I couldn’t tell—is it a cover? It’s catchy, nostalgic, romantic, and danceable. If word gets out, it’ll end up in a Sofia Coppola film. “Take Me Home” works the same way with a perfect NEW ORDER tribute that will swell the hearts of any aging waver. Pop it on, guaranteed make-out sesh.

The Scientists Negativity LP

Australian post-punk legends return with their first full-length since 1987. Fuzz on fuzz on fuzz in these rockers, combining swampy leads, proto-grunge freakouts, feedback, and Kim Salmon’s inimitable voice. Standout tracks abound, but here are a few: “Outsider” has an awesomely nasty guitar tone and a punk-blues riff that Jack White would pay a few of his millions for. “Naysayer” takes us through the slime with a track that would pair nicely with their contemporaries, the GUN CLUB. “Safe” has hand-claps and call-and-response vocals that call back to the earliest, rawest rock’n’roll and pulls the rug out from under Jon Spencer’s whole shtick. “Magic Pants” begins with a gorgeously warm distortion that cycles over a rolling 6/8 rhythm. “Moth Eaten Velvet” slows it down with a quasi-ballad complete with slide guitar and strings. Salmon suavely intones, “Faded glory / Still has stories / No one cares for history.” Negativity proves him wrong with a record that rides the classic/fresh groove and is a welcome return. If you like dirty rock’n’roll, this is wholly enjoyable. Dear SCIENTISTS, please don’t wait so long for the next record.

Iron Lung Mental Distancing flexi EP

Three-song flexi that was culled from material the band recorded before the pandemic began. Okay, it’s IRON LUNG. I knew it was going to be good, but it’s really fucking good. “The Psychology of Quarantine” (how’s that for a pre-COVID omen, Jesus) opens the EP with a noisy soundscape and then delivers the absolutely pummeling guitar/drums powerviolence we know and love. The lyrics, “Their power / Fueled by depression / Granted access first to the mind / And then to its declining vessel / During crisis there is insatiable hunger / And an endless food source” encapsulates the chaos, confusion, and downward cultural spiral of the last two years in a 45-second invective. “Everything is a Void” is another grenade blast that has a stuttering, glitched-out guitar phrase before the blasting begins. “Our brains know what sickness tastes like,” indeed. The third track, “Only Human,” is a RUDIMENTARY PENI cover, and I was excited to hear what IRON LUNG would do with the original’s rolling drum cadence. My expectations were dashed, reconfigured, and handed back to me in a stunning way—they go industrial-influenced hardcore like a mix of GODFLESH-style booming low-end noise-bass and the filthiness of PIG HEART TRANSPLANT. It’s nasty and unique in the best way a punk cover can be. Even the best powerviolence records can run together a bit because of the fast blur of songs, but IRON LUNG, as usual, makes every track an innovative, distinct, unnerving experience. Can a stopgap, album-teasing flexi be one of the best punk releases of the year? Essential listening.

Refedex The Top of Off LP

Australian post-punk/noise rockers with an approach somewhere between US MAPLE and the JESUS LIZARD. Thick, bobbing bass lines meet snaky, mysterious guitar lines with build-ups that build and build and build with no release. Tension abounds, harmonics chime, and floor toms pound. Restraint meets desperation with the tight rhythm section, led by erratic, exasperated vocals. Every song here is a sneaky, smoky killer, making its way into your unconscious mind. Great release that could have come out on Touch and Go back in the good old days. Recommended.

Distancia Distancia cassette

Nine short, fast songs from this Spanish duo. Recorded with a warm, cavernous sound, the drums are front and center in the mix with pounding D-beats and rolls, while the guitar is curiously cleanly strummed most of the time. Consider it the least raw D-beat possible, with surprisingly melodic vocals that channel Pete Shelley more than Kawakami. I don’t have the lyrics, but the translated tape description mentions a mix of anti-consumerist, anti-prison, anarchist slogans. The melodies here are catchy enough for sing-along choruses (especially the track “Distancia”) and have just a touch of that Fat Records melodic hardcore sound while still retaining enough DIY grit to sound authentic and vital. Cool tape.

Flexï Nothing cassette

Seven solid songs from this New York band that form a heady brew made from RUDIMENTARY PENI-style propulsive bass and drums, the exasperated vocals of METZ, and guitars that go from punk to atonal sheets of noise like early SONIC YOUTH. These ingredients work together well, and this tape sounds great with fat drums, tinny shards of guitar that stab and slash, and vocals set back in the mix for some slight noise rock distance. The drummer-boy roll of “Nothing” is attention-grabbing, as is the shattered strumming under the refrain “Is this even ethical?” on “Ethical.” I would gladly listen to a full-length from these folks.

Space Danish & the Sewer Diamonds Six Dungeons cassette

This slime punk from Michigan is definitely not for everyone, but if you want something truly fucking weird and gross, you’re in for a rancid treat. These six tracks are built around three-to-four-note detuned synth lines, programmed drums, and bluesy barf vocals ranting about germs and grease. I can imagine a rat climbing out of a sewer and singing these songs. Or maybe the ROCK-A-FIRE EXPLOSION on bad drugs. While this tape sounds like a mix between WESLEY WILLIS and an 8-bit BRAINBOMBS (for the repetitive dum-dum riffs, not the misogyny), I have never heard anything quite like it, and once I got over the discomfort of the first few songs, I got into it. Recommended for the real outsider greasy grimies.

ÖPNV Deutsch Funk Revolte LP

It’s really all there in the album title. This Berlin band delivers a solid collection of cold post-punk songs with early industrial elements, and it’s pretty great. Several tracks have spoken word intros, and most all begin with heavy, distorted bass grooves and electronic drums. The vocals and production sound like EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN with some THROBBING GRISTLE at their most “Hot on the Heels of Love,” and several tracks feature a dying no wave trumpet twisted in the swirling synths. “Einzeltäter” dips into Euro techno but never loses its cool, perfect for a Berlin dorm room or a dancefloor. “Blockiert” is the closest to traditional punk, via the SUICIDE synth-and-drums route. Its crackling three-note riff and pounding kick drums combo is as economical as it is heavy. A simple and effective stomper to end a strong album. Sehr gut!

Chalk Neophobia LP

For listeners with experimental tastes and open minds, there is something for everyone from this Houston solo project. Sounding like a perfect mixtape of obscured beauty, warm found sounds, music concrète, knotty indie rock, and imploding disco karaoke beats, CHALK gently strolls across genre lines in a way that makes you question genre distinctions in the first place. The album opens with gorgeous gamelan rhythms played over sound collages that sound like SUN CITY GIRLS or Aaron Dilloway at their most introspective. “What is Tot Cannot” features meditative guitar, chiptunes, and tape decay that seamlessly flows into “Sambe Death Now,” a goth exploration with sampled (I think?) operatic vocals. “Slackjaw” and “Root by Root” are twisty, swirling indie rock jams that evoke UNWOUND. Often unironically beautiful, occasionally confounding (“Pig Song” is an odd children’s rhyme sung over junk electronics), accept this as an expert mix of sounds from carefully curated influences.

Eel Men Live at New River Studios cassette

Short collection of excellent power pop/mod revival from this British band. If you like the JAM or even the KINKS, this tape will be up your alley. Catchy, melodic vocals with clean strummed guitars and basketball basslines, EEL MEN use the classic vocabulary of British rock music but create something fresh and immediately enjoyable. It sounds polished and DIY at the same time, carefully arranged but still drawn from punk around the edges. All four songs are jams (get it?) and I look forward to more. And if this was really recorded live, EEL MEN are a band to check out, because the performance is flawless.

Lexan Lexan cassette

This one is good. Demo from this Ohio hardcore band that pulls from UK82 and Oi! influences and delivers four pummeling songs with raw vocals and great two-guitar riffs. If I have this correct, the songs center around a creature called Lexan, reduced by the grind of daily life into a walking plastic environmental disaster. I’m picturing the Incredible Melting Man with liberty spikes. Working class anthems times sci-fi body horror makes for a great tape. Take the lyrics to “Man Made Ultra”: “Polycarbonate fused to the hate / Now I’m a carcass even Earth wouldn’t eat / I’m man-made, ultra, plastic monster.” Now imagine it shouted as a fist-pumping, kill-your-boss sing-along. It rules. If you ever thought CHUBBY AND THE GANG needed more monsters, listen to this now.

Older Siblings Unfinished Basement cassette

Debut release from this Canadian brother/sister guitar/drums duo that sounds just like the WHITE STRIPES. Just kidding, they don’t. Where that band pulled from blues and garage rock, OLDER SIBLINGS conjure tones from ’90s grunge into their simple, straightforward rock songs. Think NIRVANA’s Bleach without the feedback or angst; mid-tempo beginner riffs with earnest vocals and BEAT HAPPENING-style drums. I love that siblings made these songs in their basement together, but this collection feels undercooked. It is unsophisticated, but not in an intentional, artistically reductive way. It honestly sounds like someone’s first band and just isn’t all that interesting. On a positive note, “Mediocre Tendencies” (an appropriate title, but I’m trying not to be mean) has a call-and-response vocal interplay that sounds good, and the surfy “Wood Panelled Walls” is a fun instrumental break. Best of luck to them, but this one wasn’t for me.

Big Clown Big Clown cassette

Excellent blast of high-speed screech-punk from this Memphis band, collecting two previously released tapes and a live set from Gonerfest. The band lays down fast and freaky riffs while vocalist Lucy sings in a pitch and style nestled somewhere between Poly Styrene and Carrie Brownstein. I thought there were dual vocalists until I heard the live tracks and read the liner notes, since many songs have them overdubbed an octave apart. It sounds awesome—immediate, frenetic, and intense. Not that the songs or band sound particularly angry. Take “Freaky,” a bubblegum pop tune enveloped in distortion and dirt that stands out as a little capsule of joy. Lucy sings “You don’t have to be nice to me / You don’t have to be nice to me / You don’t have to be nice to me / I know that you think I’m freaky” as a one-minute declaration of independence from the normies of the world. “Burger Salad” is another fun one that swirls with dissonant guitar lines, handclaps, and a sing-along chorus of “I wanna eat my burger salad.” Although frequently a joyous bounce, there are heavy moments of fast, churning punk like opener “Smell a Rat,” the raucous and atonal scream duet on “Hissy Fit,” and the chaotic blastbeat outro on “Big Girl.” The Gonerfest set sounds amazing, with the band jamming in absolute pro-mode. The only thing I don’t understand is the lack of audience sound. BIG CLOWN deserves a crowd into this as much as the band is. Recommended!

Paranoise / X-Acto split EP

Split 7” from two synth-addled punk collectives. X-ACTO layers lo-fi insect synths over garage hardcore with goofy lyrics. “Smell Like Beef” sounds like a malfunctioning Speak & Spell holding its own with the punks. The chorus is “What’s that smell? I smell like beef.” Kinda gross. During the bridge on “Blastbeats,” the buzzing electronics and drums evoke the LOCUST, but not quite as heavy. For fans of RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION. PARANOISE’s side is, and I don’t particularly like this word, wackier. One of the first records I ever bought was a MAN OR ASTRO-MAN? 7”, and when I got it home, I played it at the wrong speed and sat there like, “What the fuck is this? It sounds like cartoons.” PARANOISE gives me the same feeling, like everything is sped up and just a little off. What I do like is the chromatic riffing they do and the relentless downbeat drumming on “Sixth Kind.” Try as hard as they might to be eggy dorks, it’s a hardcore ripper. Recommended if you thought the CONEHEADS played it a little too seriously.

DeStructos Blast! The Remixes cassette

This release comprises the DESTRUCTOS demo and some fun remixes in a new package. The band mixes classic rock’n’roll with no wave danger and dancefloor action. Imagine the B-52’S fronted by Lydia Lunch, and you have the sound of the first few songs. “The Sight” has the line, “We got your baby / We ain’t giving it back!” It’s catchy and a little scary. The last two songs before the remixes begin are a little more mellow—the intro to “She’s Got the Master Plan” sounds like a BEDHEAD/SLEATER-KINNEY mashup before garage rock 1-2-1-2 drums back the call-and-response vocals and strummed indie rock progressions. It’s all good, but I prefer the dynamics of these later songs. The remixes are fun reworkings that emphasize the hip-shaking catchiness of the originals. The “Gabber Mix” of “The Sight” goes full-bore ALEC EMPIRE digital hardcore with relentless 808 bass drum mayhem. The “Mr. Policeman Mix” of “Neutron” could have been released on Grand Royal in the ’90s; all crackling vinyl, dubby bass and vocals, and big beat choruses. “She’s Got the Master Plan (Flanafi Mix)” bubbles with rattling techno drums and a hyper-pop approach to the vocals. It accentuates the beauty of the original while becoming something entirely new sounding. Punk remixes are pretty rare, but this tape is a perfectly realized great idea. Rockers on the A-side, party mix on the B-side. Why not?

Invertebrates Invertebrates demo cassette

Super solid demo from this Richmond, VA, band. Four songs of UK82-inspired hardcore with raw production, fast, catchy songs, and shouted DISCHARGE-style vocals. “Red Lake Earth” starts with a great three-note lead that burrows in your brain as it turns into a three-chord blast. “Shit Pit” has some classic, single bent note hooks and a dissonant solo that push all the classic HC buttons in the right order. Loud, fast, and raging punk for fans of the FIX and UNRULY BOYS.

Bzdet Atom cassette

Nice mix of post-punk and coldwave from this Polish band. The genre hallmarks of bouncy, loping basslines, angular guitar lines, and detached, depressive vocals are all here. But BZDET is not afraid of the dancefloor, like on “Niewola,” which is driven by crispy drum machine handclaps. Similarly, “Nadzieja” builds an ominous atmosphere around a bass-led dance beat and guitar swells. Other standouts are “Sukcesy (Pozory),” which features an oppressive, atonal din interspersed with trebly synth wiggles, minimal electronics, and spoken vocals, and “Okazejszyn,” the closest that the band comes to NEW ORDER-style pop, albeit with slurred/reverbed singing. Moody dance jams covered in sheets of ice for fans of SIEKIERA and LEBANON HANOVER.

Gaoled Bestial Hardcore demo cassette

Fucking. Nasty. Pronounced “jailed,” this Perth band’s demo is a raw and filthy mix of powerviolence, furious hardcore, feedback damage, and paranoid atmosphere that is an instant classic. This tape is my perfect mix of extreme underground music: the basic skeleton is crusty PV, but there are touches of first-wave black metal, underground death metal (check out the lo-fi solo on “Lined”), and sludge (the slow crawl through slime on “Voices”) etched on its bones. Imagine IRON LUNG wearing CELTIC FROST shirts doing bong hits out of human skulls. Really, really raw and excellent. Let’s go ahead and make “bestial hardcore” a genre and use this as the blueprint. Highly recommended.

OK Satán Expanded Horizon cassette

Debut release from this Danish band that actually came out in early 2021. I reviewed the follow-up to this release a few months ago, but here is where it started with these folks. Trebly, frenetic weird punk over rudimentary Volca beats for fans of LUMPY or labelmates BIG CHUNGUS. Most of the songs fall under very dumb, very straight-forward punk, which is not a diss. There is a time for everything, like songs “Looks Like Shit” (“I don’t want to see your face / Looks like shit”), “Can I Fix It,” “Going Downstairs,” and “I Wanna Be Danish.” Most of the lyrics for these songs are the titles shouted over and over in a snotty, nasally tone. If you want a direct hit to your lizard brain pleasure center, you can certainly do worse than these short jams. What impressed me though about this tape was when the band experimented and slowed down a little on songs like “It Is Today Not Yesterday,” with a repeated, hollered refrain of “believe it.” “It Is Too Much” shimmers with some post-punk guitar icicles dripping over the vocalist screaming “I don’t get it / Shit’s too much.” It’s effective and sounds like a better, more thoughtful band than the shorter tracks would suggest. “Mona” has a mutant country riff and ballad-style vocals like ICEAGE locked in a tiny bathroom. Cool band worth checking out, and one that I hope leans into their more serious, vulnerable side.

Güiña Atake Psicotronico demo cassette

Demo release from this Spanish-language DIY punk band. I couldn’t find much in the way of a bio, but I did read that this is a product of communal squat living, and it shows in the lived-in confidence of the recording. The one-mic-in-an-empty-room production gives the songs an intimacy and immediacy that works really well on songs like opener “Atake Psciotronico.” Messy indie guitar lines not far removed from peak GUIDED BY VOICES lead into fast and frantic punk vocals, sounding like a mix of heart-tugging REPLACEMENTS minor chords with classic hardcore. I kept trying to place what it sounds like, and it’s “Made to Be Broken” by POISON IDEA. It’s so good. Second track “Nada Con El Estado” continues the perfect blend of tinny indie-punk with a great call-and-response chorus. I was so stoked to hear the rest, but the remaining songs unfortunately are unremarkable power-chord hardcore. Not bad, but not as hooky and interesting as the tape’s beginning. Click on over to GÜIÑA’s Bandcamp for that first track—maybe one amazing song is all you need?

Print Head Change cassette

Brief eleven-song (none of them longer than a minute) tape from this Canadian punk band. The skittery drums and intertwining trebly guitar lines in “-Theme-” had me expecting an eggy CONEHEADS-core clone, but I was pleasantly surprised at the rest of the tape. With a vocalist that sounds like David Byrne on Adderall, PRINT HEAD buries new wave-y pop gems in bursting 78 RPM capsule form. Kind of like how LIQUIDS and BOOJI BOYS do it, these songs, especially standouts like “1,000,000 Opinions” and “What I Be,” are serious hits under the fuzz and hiss. Final track “Wanna Change” has a JAY REATARD sound, all fast-strumming, pure gold vocal melody, and it’s over before you can click the replay button. I really liked this.

Milquetoast Caterwaul CD

Have you heard the song “Milquetoast” by HELMET? It’s from their “weird” album Betty, and not a bad starting point for understanding MILQUETOAST’s influences. This CD is a mix of noise rock, stoner riffs, and occasional punk blasts about our crumbling world, as well as goofy shit about space missions, “psycho tweakers,” and a Spanish-language song about “ghoul cops.” It seems like the band has a good time with these songs, many of which drag on past the four-minute mark with comic operatic vocal touches and lots of guitar solos. This might have an audience, but it isn’t me. The whole thing comes across as tedious and silly— especially songs like “Space Force,” with lyrics like “(Space force) / Hey man, did you tie that down? / Fuckin’ (space force) / Then why’s it floatin’ around? / Oh no (spaaaaace).” There are some good stoner riffs, like on “Step Off,” but the whole thing sounds very “local bar band” to me. Their bio describes them as “punked-up party sludge,” but really, bands like TORCHE have been doing this better for years. A positive I can mention is that the limited cassette run is held together with sealing wax. That’s cool.

Ogro Ogro cassette

First things first, check out the rad packaging from this Basque punk band: a cassette nestled inside a tiny burlap sack, like some kind of dungeon treasure. Love it. The songs are super raw hardcore with primitive, blackened vocals. This is filthy, knuckle-dragging, cave-dwelling orc-core of the finest kind. The band is tight, and the mix sounds perfect for this kind of savagery. I don’t know the words, but there are some subtle differences that keep things interesting, like a heavy, palm-muted bridge during “Primitivo,” some attention-grabbing time changes in “Venganza,” and gang vocals in “731.” Recommended for fans of RASPBERRY BULBS and BONE AWL.

Zero Zeroes Mirrors / Dreamcrawler 7″

A good, old-fashioned two-song 45 from these German punks. Both songs are mid-tempo, two-guitar crunchers with gruff, melodic vocals and plenty of great guitar leads. With anthemic refrains perfect for singing along, especially on “Dreamcrawler,” both songs are catchy but definitely not pop, and would fit in nicely on a playlist with early JAWBREAKER and LEATHERFACE. Good release if you like traditional, heartfelt punk rock.

Antibodies LP 2021 EP

Straight-up, no-frills hardcore from this Canadian band. Fast and instantly likeable, with simple riffs pounded down into the dirt and vocals that go from rabies to a sarcastic sing-song quality that sounds like DOLLHOUSE (especially on “No Pension”). Feedback creeps in around all the edges, making it sound like the whole thing will crash apart at any second, but it never does cuz it’s just so tight. Every song rips, but some standouts are “Neuro Crutch,” where the vocals turn into a near-blackened thrash attack, and “Rent-a-Cop,” which adds a saxophone for texture but never lets up the punk battering ram. Great record for those times when you just want to punch, punch, punch the air.

Ultras Ultras cassette

Not to be confused with the great Spanish band ULTRA, this Oakland crew rips through four sinister, crushing hardcore stompers in about as many minutes. Pummeling, no-frills, no-fills brutality with relentless drums and vocal-cord shredding, all bookended by bleeding shards of feedback. This is fighting music, and I would cross the street if I saw this tape coming my way. Every track is strong, but let’s take the lyrics to “One and the Same”: “Problem made flesh / Each breath a regret / Wake up, same shit / Life counterfeit.” Nihilism you can smash your head on. Featuring members from WORLD PEACE and FENTANYL, and for fans of mean-ass punk like VACCINE and CITY HUNTER.

Reality P.R.O.M.O. cassette

Cool tape with two long tracks from this Israel-based solo project that opens with a great GOBLIN-style synth dirge, all digital bells and deep, bubbling atmosphere. Then it gets really weird, with a truly unique vocal approach that sounds unlike anything I have heard before. The closest thing I can compare the down-tuned, altered vocals is maybe DJ SCREW’s productions, but imagine that over snaky post-punk/indie guitars and electronic drums. It sounds like a Speak & Spell left between melted JOY DIVISION and SONIC YOUTH tapes. There are many great, chiming call-and-response guitar lines that are both dissonant and shimmering with beauty. While disconcerting at first, I found this very listenable and interesting all the way through. Recommended.

CB 550 demo cassette

Fucking great. Classic American-style hardcore with Rollins-esque exhausted vocals hollered over blown-out, fast punk riffs, and non-stop drum attacks. Four songs recorded as one track in under five minutes. First track “Mee Bee” has start/stop, fast beat slam breaks that rule. “Ignite” starts with a creepy-crawl beat and then slows it waaay down to a nasty caveman stomp. I can only imagine how hard the elbows must fly at this part. True broken-nose, pit-crush music. “Wife” has a simple bass riff, driven by tom rolls. It all turns into a furious D-beat rager and doesn’t let up until it’s over. “Pee” finishes out the tape with another fast rager. If this tape came out in 1980, we would all know about it—it’s that good. Check out that cover too—perfect. This is exactly my jam and it comes highly recommended. I’m gonna go listen to it again.

 

Liquid Face II EP

These Australian synth punks may have created the first treaty between the chains and the eggs with this record. Imagine the awkward handshake. You know the chains would squeeze too hard. Quirky synths zig and zag over loud punk guitars, drum machines, and gruff vocals. The shouted, reverbed hardcore vocals are what really set these folks apart from most current synth punk projects—the music is still bouncy, but this is most definitely a punk record. “Levitation” is a jam where the keyboards complement the guitars perfectly into a solid driving, ominous force. “Conflicted Interest” works equally well and reminds me of ANNO OMEGA (who put out one of my favorite releases last year). Good record for bruisers as well as those guys who do somersaults through the pit.

Web Web demo cassette

Decent hardcore from this Atlanta band. “Judgement” opens with gross, echoed vocals over crisply recorded HC/D-beat. “Hesher Fuck” stands out because of that great title. It gets repeated a lot over about two minutes of mid-tempo hardcore, which is a positive. “Grind Set” is the best song here due to some nimble rolls and blastbeats that fit the music and vocal attitude nicely. A full tape of faster, harsher songs like this one would be a treat. I would definitely listen to the next WEB release, although this one is a little by-the-numbers for me.

Tunic Quitter LP

Mean-spirited and frequently atonal noise rock from these Winnipeg crushers. For fans of TRIGGER CUT and TONGUE PARTY, this record features extremely tight rhythms with frequent time changes, filthy bass tones, and math-inspired dissonant guitars. The vocals veer from sardonic spoken verses to screamed parts. There is quite a bit of instrumental complexity happening in these tracks, and TUNIC creates an unending sense of tension and unease. Take the alternating feedback tones of “Stuck,” or the plodding start/stop bass lines of “Fake Interest.” The refrain of “Pattern Fixation” probably says it best: “This is filth / This is filth.” If you like unpleasant, pessimistic noise punk, you’ll be into this.

Meat Thump Under the Bridge cassette

Supremely shambolic live-in-2011 tape from these Brisbane jangle punks. With the gross band name and Mike Diana-style cover art, I was bracing myself for something disgusting, but was pleasantly surprised to hear music closer to SWELL MAPS or maybe the VASELINES. With out-of-tune clean guitars, laconic, slurred vocals, and a performance that could politely be called messy, MEAT THUMP has a charm that comes from the joy of creating music for themselves. The lyrics are barely decipherable and sound like streams of consciousness, but they work and frequently match the vibe so well that the drunken-Lou Reed ramblings sound meaningful and tug at your heartstrings (especially “Box of Wine” and “Wish”). Does the band begin and end each song at the same time? Nope. Does this tape occasionally sound like complete shit? Yep. Do they incorporate a verse of EAZY-E’s “Boyz-n-the-Hood” in a really unfortunate way? Yeah, they do. Would I recommend this to anyone looking for earnest punk-inspired DIY creation? Absolutely. Postscript: As I was finishing up this review, I read that singer/guitarist Brendon Annesley passed away in 2012. That discovery had a sobering effect on what was a relatively light listen. Hug your friends and do stuff now instead of waiting for the future.

Los Microwaves The Birth of Techno LP

This is not the birth of techno, but it is an interesting collection of studio outtakes and live tracks recorded between 1980–1983 by this unique Jose band. Nestled somewhere between post-punk and synth pop, LOS MICROWAVES consisted of bass, drums, and analog synths, and created music that was made for the dance floor as much as the punk club. The first five tracks are studio recordings that didn’t make it on the band’s sole LP, 1981’s Life After Breakfast. These are all pretty slick recordings, two of them instrumental dance tracks. The synths are bright and bouncy, foretelling chiptunes and well, big beat techno, in their playfulness. “I Can’t Say” is the standout here, with a perfect pop chorus. The live tracks on side two are much more interesting, leaving behind the pop sheen of bands like EURYTHMICS and HUMAN LEAGUE for new wave/post-punk sounds in the realm of BLONDIE or the B-52’S. The latter reference is especially true on “Sniper,” with exotica synths, call-and-response vocals, and a general weirdness that makes it an odd treat. “My Baby Tried to Kill Me” is another highlight, with what I can only describe as organ-grinder- meets-breakbeat production behind vocalist Meg Brazill’s wail. The looseness of the live tracks shows a band that was willing to experiment and have fun. I can imagine the audience split between dancers and cross-armed mopers, enjoying themselves equally. I wouldn’t call this collection essential, but it is a compelling look at an innovative and underheard band.

See-Saw At Any Time / Just Want to Be Free 7″

Two caffeinated rock’n’roll hits from this Kyoto, Japan band that is named after a song by the JAM. Both sides have a bouncy, infectious song that rides the line between punk and pub rock, like CHUBBY AND THE GANG or a sped-up UNDERTONES. “Just Want to Be Free” has all the elements for a melodic good time: palm-muted guitars with a simple chorus, classic guitar fills, and backing vocals. I was expecting hand-claps somewhere in the mix, but I guess you can just add your own at home. Fun and catchy record that could have come out any time in the last 40 years, but still sounds fresh.

Oops Out of Pictures EP

Interesting record from this Osaka band. Half of the EP has short, proggy punk blasts, while the other half sounds like a slickly-produced indie rock band. The first track has a raging fast beat with screamed female vocals and guitar swells that bring to mind OTOBOKE BEAVER or maybe early BOREDOMS. Track two is a totally different sound, with thick, reverbed guitars and an extended bluesy solo that sounds like ICEAGE. Other than the vocals occasionally going in the red, it sounds like a pretty traditional rock song. The third track follows suit with a slick, melodic indie song with a pleasant refrain of “Just like the cinema / Just like the cinema.” “Tight Tight” brings back the spirit of the first song with a twenty-second MELT BANANA-esque screamer. I’m not sure what to think—I prefer the ragers, but all four songs are compelling enough for me to listen to their next release.

Shove Chopper EP

Killer EP from this Brisbane, Australia band. This is basement punk of the very highest order. Thick, nasty guitars power fast classic hardcore with commanding, confident vocals. Feedback bleeds into every rest, and there is unceasing tension created from how taut the rhythms are. Opening track “Chopper” is such a ripper. Vocalist Bella sounds like a born frontperson, ranting with such energy that a minute and a half is just not enough. “Eddie” has a four-note guitar line that creeps under the directives of “Sort it out / Check it out.” It’s catchy and fast and perfect. Have you ever been to a house show and thought, “What absolute legends?” This is it. SHOVE, please come strike lightning in my basement if/when you visit the States. Highly recommended.

Evinspragg Precognitive Dreams cassette

Solo new wave/post-punk project from Eric Mayer of TENEMENT. This is a solid collection of syncopated beats, woozy synths, constant zig-zag guitar lines, and spoken/sung vocals that will speak to fans of URANIUM CLUB. There are a few short tracks that sound like electronic sketches, but most of these songs are just that: fully-realized songs with quite a bit of complexity and obvious talent, some of which pass the three-minute mark. The beats and guitar constantly change rhythm, giving each song a busy, off-kilter quality that is never not interesting. For instance, “The Magnetic Kind” changes time signatures several times before ending in a mini blastbeat eruption. The lyrics are also interesting, sounding like journal musings about everything from emotional introspection to the very nature of time. “Nothing is Real” has the following killer line: “I feel lonely / All the while craving neglect / Tapping the pencil / Will only break the lead.” This was a pleasant surprise of thoughtful, angular punk and is recommended for both eggheads and rockers.

Credit Bureau Credit Bureau cassette

Four tracks of lo-fi, drum machine punk in about four minutes from this Los Angeles band. They sound like NWI-inspired nerdcore pointed in the direction of the DEVO lodestar, especially apparent on “The Man You Want,” which lifts the vocal melody and paraphrases the hook of that band’s “Girl U Want.” “I Don’t Want It” glitches the drum patterns and vocals in a few spots to add a little extra chaos to what is already a shambolic fun time. “Double Wide” sounds like ERIK NERVOUS singing over a nice, fat distorted bass line. Cool tape if you like this kind of stuff. Also, let’s talk about Deluxe Bias—a tape label out of Wyoming? How rad is that?

Nervous Tick and the Zipper Lips / Ricky Hell The Covid Collaborations: Vol. II cassette

Part two in NERVOUS TICK’s collaboration series, where the project teams up with another band to play an original song, cover the other band, and collaborate on a song. Cool idea with great execution. NERVOUS TICK has a synth-tinged garage punk sound with gruff vocals. RICKY HELL delivers romantic synth-pop gems like “She’s My Angel” that deserve a spot on a crush’s mix tape or a spin at your prom. “Roadmaster” is a perfect mix of the two, with nostalgic heart-string-yanking guitar and a mix of the two different vocal styles. This is a cool tape, as well as a document of friendship and creative collaboration. We need that. Keep your anger—gimme friendship any day. I’m not sure why I’m hearing this now since it came out in 2020, but Vol. III was just released and it looks good, too.

Mr. Node I Don’t Go Out / Vaccinate Me flexi 7″

Two originals (plus a cover of DISCHARGE’s “I Don’t Care” with the digital version) from this freaky Brooklyn project. After a weird, French-accented appeal for MR. NODES’s help, “I Don’t Go Out,” starts with sloppy, snotty vocals gagging and choking over drum machine beats and fierce hardcore guitar. What sounds like straight chaos at first turns out to be a well-written, traditionally structured rock song. The chorus of “I don’t go out / They don’t come in” accentuates the feelings of isolation and loneliness the pandemic has brought on for a lot of us. The four-note guitar hook makes the whole thing catchier than the subject material would suggest. “Vaccinate Me!” is a fun synth punk anthem about COVID vaccines that should be a PSA. Imagine everyone chanting, “I want to go on a ride / I want to eat inside / I want to cheer on my team / I want to wet my dream.” Maybe MR. NODE really is here to save us. Oh, and the deranged, mega-reverbed DISCHARGE cover rules.

Crispy Newspaper Ой Дуораан LP

Cool release from Siberian band CRISPY NEWSPAPER, who write songs in their native Sakha, a Siberian Turkic language. The songs are short blasts of politically-charged righteous anger that are sonically rooted in US hardcore but energetic and passionate enough to stand out on their own. Lyrical themes range from traditional punk fare like trouble with authority and personal freedom to political violence like the Charlie Hebdo killings. Most interesting are the moments of insight into local issues, like the desecration of Sakha land detailed in “Алроса,” and standing up against a rich and disconnected political regime in “Тобурах.” It’s fascinating to hear from members of a culture that is so geographically remote but still experiencing many of the same issues that punks everywhere can relate to. Great release that is highly recommended.

Fashion Change Coward cassette

Nasty collection of raw punk scabs from this Seattle band, recommended for fans of VILE GASH and HOLOGRAM. As soon as you push play, the fast 1-2-1-2 beats start with harsh, almost blackened vocals and blistering, relentless guitar right in your face/ears. “Medicine” slows it way down with a crawling menace of a beat, shrouded in feedback before it speeds up again and ends with a textural sheet metal guitar “solo.” A short intermission comes in the form of “***** *******,” a warbly, non-English language classic thrift store ballad wrapped in Tascam hiss. It’s a mysterious breather before the ripping starts again. Final track “Coward” is a pounding hate crush with lyrics like, “You’re just another coward” and “Detestable—a waste of human life.” Oof, I would hate to be on the receiving end of that one. Misanthropes, check this one out.

Reiz Das Kind wird ein Erfolg LP

Catchy melodic hardcore from this Mannheim, Germany band. Most of these songs have that Fat Wreck/Epitaph sound: bouncing bass, fast punk, and call-and-response vocals (in German). If you like LAGWAGON or WIZO, you’ll probably like this fun and well-produced record. Stand-out track, “Öffentlich und Daheim,” has a great pop punk melody with harmonized vocals. REIZ would fit right in on one of those ’90s skate rock comps and are definitely recommended if sunny, upbeat punk is your jam.

Cold Brats Punk in the Digital Age Extended LP

Solid collection of negative hardcore from this Bucharest, Romania band. This LP is a compilation of tracks recorded over several years, and it shows because the sound and direction change a bit from song to song. What COLD BRATS do well is raw vocals over mid-tempo chugs, like HOAX with occasional sinister organ backing. “Split Saber” and “Republic of Dust” are great spooky bummer blasts. “Hollow Point” works in the same mode with a dissonant guitar figure that empowers the bad vibes into real bad vibes. Where the band loses me a bit are on tracks where they get silly with the vocals. “Life, and Nothing More” has a goofy spoken part with someone describing how a knock at the door interrupted them watching “Finding Nemo.” It’s Mike Muir-demanding-a-Pepsi silly and halts the momentum that the first few tracks build up. A skronky no wave sax wail and the return of screamed vocals in the chorus help it, but barely. “Banana” tries it again with a mostly instrumental, noisy surf-inspired song with the only lyric being the song title. It’s a weird shift in tone for those two tracks and would surely get the skip if this were a CD. Other than those two weirdo outliers, this is a good soundtrack for bad days.

Comunione Comunione cassette

Hazy, wounded punk from this Milanese solo project. These seven tracks work perfectly together as one extended piece and all have a similar sound: empty-room guitar and drums with echoey vocals howling for a better tomorrow. There is a distinct spirituality to the lyrics, a seeking of reassurance. “Fantasma” repeats (according to an online translation of the Italian lyrics) “And the most serene good / And the most serene good / And the most serene good will live again.” Likewise, “Salvati” has a theme of salvation with the lines “Save yourself / From the emotions that annihilate you / From dreams that blind you.” This is clearly a personal work, a missive seeking a more positive future while reckoning with the present. COMUNIONE has a simple sound with shrouded, goth-leaning production, and a profundity that makes this tape a repeat listen.

Hologram No Longer Human LP

This is good. Like, really good. Ferocious, high-speed hardcore with cryptic, reverb-shrouded vocals over hammering drums. The guitars frequently go atonal like on “Humiliation Drills” and “Bite the Smoke,” adding an uneasy tension to the battering-ram punk. “Untitled” provides a brief interlude of bubbling synths wafting from melted VHS tapes before the frenzy starts again. Final track “I See a Pale Light” gives SWANS vibes with a dread-inducing, extended guitar/drum build-up and feedbacked hate vocals. Even more amazing is that this all comes from one person. I like the mystery—I don’t want to know anything else about who it is or how they made this. I just want more.

Alien Nosejob Paint It Clear LP

I reviewed this Australian band’s HC45-2 EP early this year and expected this LP to contain the same kind of manic, freaky garage hardcore. Nope, totally wrong. Paint It Clear sounds like a whole different band, one fed on NEW ORDER and BUGGLES records instead of trashy KBD tapes. Whatever inspired this record, it works—this is a bouncy, fun collection of super catchy pop, complete with crispy drum machine beats, 808 claps, and infectious guitar lines. Paint It Clear is full of charm, with tracks like “Leather Gunn” and “Duplicating Satan” that are pure ’80s Euro-leaning synth-pop. I didn’t think I would be making this reference today, but the loping piano and keyboard ballad, “The Butcher,” sounds like it could have been written by George Harrison with lines like “It is hard to see the sun here / It’s hard to hear the sea here.” If you like power pop or miss the days of acid wash and crunchy bangs, check it out immediately. If you are a rocker with a sweet tooth, give it a listen for something different.

Mutant Strain Epic Punk Shit cassette

Charlotte, North Carolina’s MUTANT STRAIN has returned with a teaser tape to satisfy the slime hordes until their next LP is recorded. If you haven’t heard their self-titled LP released last year on Sorry State, it is an essential slab of high-speed slime-core with frenzied vocals, constant punk’n’roll riffs, and furious octopus-arm drumming. Go get it. They are by far one of the best freaky outsider hardcore bands around, and a fearsome live act. This tape sounds like it was recorded live and captures the intensity of the band’s performances in all their frantic, blown-out glory. The tracks aren’t listed here, but it sounds like a batch of several in a row like how they appear on the LP and when played at shows. It’s about as close to being at one of their gigs as can be. Near the end of the tape is an interesting sound collage with what sounds like looped conversations and drone-y guitar with super harsh vocals on top. It’s disconcerting and menacing in the best way. Whether that is a new direction for the band, I don’t know, but I’m here for it. Epic punk shit, indeed.

Billiam Billiam Cassingles Club 2020 cassette

Goofy synth punk fun from this Melbourne solo project. This tape collects the twelve cassingles BILLIAM released in 2020, which is a pretty impressive run for such a crappy year. Most of the tracks are pretty straightforward mixes of lo-fi synth, garage guitar, and cheapo electronic drums. There is enough personality here to keep things interesting, and the vibe here is laid-back and good-natured with songs called “Flemwad,” “Crocodile Sandwich,” and “I Need a Robot.” They are all about exactly what the titles suggest. BILLIAM fits in nicely with labelmates RESEARCH REACTOR CORP. and GEE TEE, as well as vintage ATOM AND HIS PACKAGE. For egg-punk nonbelievers, this won’t change your mind because I could see it coming across as annoying. But if you are in the right frame of mind for some simple DIY fun that sounds like a guy making novelty songs with a keyboard, BILLIAM is a good time.

Penetrode Penetrode cassette

First full-length release from these Philly hardcore freaks. The more I listen to this, the more I like it. While all rooted in noisy, dark hardcore, the songs are all very distinct from each other and occasionally go from fast punk to slow dirges, like on “Psychic Death.” There are some sonic similarities to bands like GAG and NERVOSAS, but the real stand-out here is vocalist/artist Bootsie. The vocals go from sung to shrieked to spoken and back again, with a distinctive yelp at the end of many lines. They’re great and sound confident, passionate, and exciting. Every song is a banger, but I keep going back to “Ebb & Flow.” It’s got layers of negative bummer punk distortion with a catchy opening riff, time changes, dissonant vocals, and lyrics like (I think), “Pick me up and spit me out.” It’s basically everything I want in a punk song. Check it out—this is a killer tape from a killer band.

Asalto / Atropello! split EP

Split lathe-cut 7″ with two sonically different Brazilian hardcore bands. ASALO brings mid-tempo punk with clear production. While not necessarily catchy due to shouted vocals, the melodic major chords and bouncy bass sound like they could be on Fat Records, and I could see ASALTO fitting in on the Warped Tour. ATROPELLO! has the more interesting side to me, with three short blitzes of shrieking, blazing fast hardcore that sounds like a Brazilian 97A. They rip through three songs in about a minute and a half and leave me wanting more. Interesting pairing on this split, although I’m not sure the same listener would be into both bands. As of this writing, there is one remaining copy so snag it if you want it!

Spleen Spleen cassette

Noisy, female-fronted hardcore from Leipzig, Germany that absolutely rips. The tape opens with howling feedback and a nasty noise rock riff and just gets better from there. They are in good company with MUTANT STRAIN and LEBENDEN TOTEN in that the songs are 100% exciting and take unexpected turns at every opportunity. The vocals are a high-pitched staccato holler that fits the music perfectly. Just when the band settles into a creepy crawl plod, like on “Routine,” they do a time change into D-beat mayhem. This is all following a filthy, spidery post-punk guitar line that rules. Similarly, “Flower Basket” abruptly changes gears and speeds like a nervous student driver, always keeping you guessing and hanging on for dear life. I also award it for the only non-corny use of wah pedal in a hardcore song. Every song kills—seven tracks of furious, crazed splendor. If you like noisy, frenetic hardcore, check this out right now.

Normal People Normal People cassette

I don’t see much online about this band (except that several bands have the same name), but this is a solid four-song tape that sounds like the NWI weirdo punk of CONEHEADS and LIQUIDS. These short songs have tinny guitar with frequent guitar hero leads, bouncy bass, busy drums, and sung nerd vocals. I have heard similar bands do similar things, but I like it. Each lo-fi track has enough distinction to separate it from the others, like the snare rolls in “Hatched” and the two-chord chug in “Shaking” that brings to mind the MISFITS’ “Green Hell.” Pretty good first impression from NORMAL PEOPLE.

User Unauthorized Watch Them Fall EP

Five tracks of very serious, very pissed hardcore from this Austin band that sounds like it could have been released in 1984. This is USHC 101-style punk, modeled after the greats like BLACK FLAG (I hear similarities to “Police Story” in “F.O.S.” and “A.P.D.”), MDC, and MINOR THREAT (there is a distinct Ian vocal approach on “Full Speed Ahead”). So, these folks have their hearts in the right place and follow the standard punk protocol: they hate cops, Nazis, racists, the rich, etc. If this classic hardcore sound is your jam, check this out and stop reading this review. Still with me? I love classic USHC, but I have heard this well-intentioned, passionate record a hundred times. There is nothing new going on here, but to purists, maybe that’s okay. I wince a little at some of the lyrics, though. Check out the spoken interlude on “F.O.S.”: “All of you with your shit taste and your shit fake accents / You don’t give a shit about us / You just care that we’re going somewhere now / You just care about making yourself look all quirky and special / but you’re not fucking special / You’re all the fucking same.” Now, there is a time in my life (a long time ago) when that may have spoken to me, but it just comes across as immature and unsophisticated now. God bless them for keeping the traditional hardcore flag flying, but the genre and songwriting have really progressed beyond this.

Slimex Slimex demo cassette

Portland robo-punk for fans of ERIK NERVOUS and RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION. “Big Drag” is an absolute winner. It sounds like the SPITS, with classic catchy rock’n’roll melodies layered in keyboards set on the flute setting. I just listened to it three times in a row. “Blood Circus” is more synth-heavy with jerky rhythms that bring to mind our lords and saviors of this type of shit, DEVO. “No Clue” is another solid tune with heavy vocal reverb. No clue pertains to the lyrics too, since they are echoed beyond comprehension, but it doesn’t really matter because it sounds good. “Pressure” breaks off the reverb knob on the vocals, all delivered over manic keys and bass. We’re talking Baby Jessica-down-the-well levels of echo, but it fits well here. Cool band with a great name and killer opening track. Recommended. Also, if you like this brand of lo-fi synth punk, check out Richter Scale’s other releases—they have as many releases as you have buttons on your broken Casiotone.

Don Howland Endgame LP

Punk-blues solo record from this long-standing member of the BASSHOLES. With one foot in the garage and one in a hazy after-hours bar, this collection of lo-fi creepy crawlers builds and maintains an aura of murder ballad dread and Southern gothic menace. “Half Off” brings to mind the MURDER CITY DEVILS with sinister organ casting a spooky shadow over everything. “Party in Hell” evokes the bluesier moments of DEAD MOON with its repeated vocal melody and lived-in atmosphere. “Sleep in Cars” has a snaky guitar lead that slithered out of a swamp to make a guest appearance on this record. “Thank the CIA” is a sing-along anti-authority blast that calls back to vintage fun-not-funny indie jams like “Take the Skinheads Bowling” or “Gimme Indie Rock.” An interesting stand-out is “How Now (Brown Cow),” a Farfisa-led instrumental that sounds like a slow-dance at a hockey rink. Its unhurried melody, repeating structure and heavy organ tone sounds dark, romantic, and classic. If a greasy, smoky blend of punk rock spirit and blues malaise is your jam, Endgame is worth your time.

Vonbrigði Hanagal 2xLP

I’m only four songs into this, and I’m going to file it under essential listening. This collection of Icelandic post-punk and hardcore was recorded in 1982—83 and sounds immediately vital and current. VONBRIGÁI is new to me, and apparently was not very well-known outside of ReykjavÁ­k’s punk scene, and that is a shame for the ages. The recording sounds fantastic: warm and full like it was recorded in a studio this week. The drums and bass sound especially great. As for the songs, they teem with post-punk unease and tension but drive with hardcore energy. The band comes across as super confident and tight. What a gem, seriously. The guitars are frequently dissonant and feedback-laden with flanger swirls around arpeggiated structures that predate noisy indie rock and post-hardcore by years. Syncopated beats lock in perfectly with driving bass lines that will make you bob your head and also scratch it because these folks are not a household name. If I’m making comparisons, it sounds like the first few ICEAGE records meshed with End Hits FUGAZI, but that’s not doing this album justice. Just go listen to it now and love it—it’s on Bandcamp. It looks like the double-LP is sold out, but hold out hope for a repress. Highly recommended.

Anno Omega Magia cassette

Space-punk from Milan, Italy that sounds like GEZA X battling ZOLAR X battling 8-bit monsters. I love this tape. According to their bio, these folks are in a long-standing punk collective that also dabbles in dungeon synth, and it shows in how adroitly the electronics are used with the traditional instruments. These anthems are punk-first blasts with synths and theremin accompaniment that sound upbeat, hopeful, and fun. “Centro Sociale” has bouncy-ball bass with a unique echoey male/female vocal approach full of character and trills. “Fascita” is fast punk backed with what sounds like a chiptune symphony that gives the proceedings an epic, grand feeling. It takes us on a side quest for glory and righteousness that just happens to finish up in under two minutes. The spooky B-movie theremin on “La Nazione è Pronta” and the shout-along chorus “Troppi Sbirri” hammer home how distinct each track sounds. The whole package is well-composed and arranged and avoids the eggy nerdiness that a lot of synth punk bands skew toward. And check out the rad underground comix-meets-Commodore 64 cover art. Rules. This is a super limited tape release, so act fast if you want a physical copy.

Krieg Kopf War on Terrorism LP

First vinyl collection from this early 80s NYHC group, comprised of re-recorded songs from two cassette releases and a live track. Although this is most recommended to folks who were there at the time, War on Terror offers an interesting time capsule of regional punk full of influences from the era’s luminaries. Most of the songs are straight-ahead hardcore with a fast part, a slow breakdown, and a fast part again. Sonically, they sound similar to Victim in Pain-era AGNOSTIC FRONT, and I definitely hear MINOR THREAT, especially on songs like “Hasty Ambush,” where vocalist Jason Deranged adopts an Ian-style holler. While the template is familiar, the speed, tightness, and punchy bass of the band makes me wonder why they don’t have a higher historical profile. There are some West Coast fingerprints on this album too though, such as the frequent Greg Ginn-esque atonal psych guitar fills, Fresh Fruit snaky spy guitar lines, and a pronounced Jello-affected warble on “Immortal.” Short bursts like “Terrorism,” “Warhead,” “Gun Power,” and the great sing-along chorus of “The Work Song” (the standout from the album for me) are all quality, vintage adrenaline hits. The band stretches out on a few songs, over the three-minute mark with one track, with forays into spoken-word lyrics, funky bass, and guitar solos that, frankly, did not age well. Paranoia about Cold War-era nuclear proliferation in “The Atom Bomb” makes total sense for the time, but the quasi-rap in “Violent Reaction” with the line “I’ve got to break loose on the dance floor” about fighting at shows is tiresome. Check it out if you have a soft spot for classic NYHC.

Precipice Precipice demo cassette

Mixed bag four-song demo from this Nantes, France crew. It definitely has its ups, with tracks like opener “One Customary Behavior in One Particular Situation,” delivering noisy, stompy hardcore with tinny guitars, bouncing bass, and gruff vocals. “Circus” follows this template well and adds dissonant guitar leads that produce some extra grime, like the ones MYSTIC INANE did so well. “In the Depth of Well” lost me a bit because the vocals are buried deep under the bass and guitar. It sounds like it was all recorded live in the same room, which is unfortunate, because the song sounds cool otherwise. Closing track “4” is a low-effort noise jam of someone lazily strumming open guitar strings and some backward vocals. At a little over a minute, it’s not a big deal, but when it comprises a quarter of your demo’s runtime, it becomes a statement. Of what, I’m not sure. The first few songs are enough for me to keep PRECIPICE in mind, though.

Prison Affair / Research Reactor Corp. split EP

Frantic collision of energetic scrambled egg-punk from these two bands. First up is RESEARCH REACTOR CORP., who sound like mad scientists in the middle of an experiment going terribly wrong. I like their garage-punk-meets-oscillator terror sound and their teenage basement songwriting aesthetic. This sounds like a neon poster collection and a stack of fourth generation VHS sci-fi dubs on shag carpet. There is some definite CONEHEADS influence, although the vocals are harsher and howled over the tight, trebly arrangements. And “Human to Raisin” is a great song title. So the first side is a winner. Side Two features Spain’s PRISON AFFAIR, who also rule, but in a totally different way. These three songs are super-melodic jammers that sound like trashy ’50s rock’n’roll sped up with drum machines. Each track has constant guitar leads and catchy melodies for days. “Encerrado Contigo” is a blast of high-volume, nostalgia-inducing pop that sounds like the best parts of being a teenager. It’s so good. These are the kinds of splits I like: two bands who don’t necessarily sound that similar but fit together in spirit. Definitely a fun listen.

Ford’s Fuzz Inferno Deniers of Fuzz Will Be Executed EP

This Dutch drums-and-guitar duo bashes out five garage punk bangers in about five minutes. This is immediately catchy and likeable, proving you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make something great. “Neon Sky” sounds like the SPITS and demands to be played at max volume. “What Do You Feel?” has Johnny Ramone power chords and a JAY REATARD-style chorus breakdown. The title track is an instrumental with surf rock drums that sounds like the soundtrack to something incredible. Every track is stripped-down, no-bullshit rock’n’roll, and it rules. There is a timeless quality to these songs, and each concentrated capsule of punk joy sounds like it could have been written any time during the last 50 years. Highly recommended.

OK Satán Fatal Insomniac cassette

The first thing I noticed about this Danish two-piece was the drums, or lack thereof. It sounds like someone pressed the default percussion button on a Casio keyboard and then played mostly mid-tempo hardcore over it. If they’re taking it seriously, I guess I should too, because this tape pleasantly surprised me. The cheapo drums are accompanied by heavy punk chords and damaged, LUMPY-with-a-sore-throat vocals. There is an occasional tinny solo and some feedback screech that make songs like “People are People” (especially with its sarcastic  spoken vocals) sound like SACCHARINE TRUST-style weirdo HC. Throw in fast ragers like “Stay on Drugs” (“Stay on drugs / And don’t do school”) and “I Don’t Care,” and you have a solid band worth keeping an eye on. Oh, and I like the cover art. Those tigers look cool.

WWW Mundo Virtual cassette

Five short tracks of sci-fi punk/DEVO worship from Argentina. You want egg-punk? Here’s the egg. This has to be the logical extension of the nerdiest music associated with the genre. The first four tracks all open with various forms of technology firing up (phones ringing, dial-up modems, etc.), followed by crunchy synth overload. The vocals are run through some sort of warbly, distorted insect effect and mixed really high so they override everything else. The cumulative listening experience is over-the-top and unpleasant. Forget egg-punk—this is irritant punk. The lyrics are in Spanish, so I’m not sure what they say, but the band’s description describes them as being about the harmful relationship between humans and electronics. Take this tape as an example. The final song, “Placer Artificial,” is much better and sounds like it had more effort involved (and they ditch the vocal effect). There’s some CONEHEADS influence on the vocals and several layers of catchy synth lines. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come for any future WWW releases.

Melt Downer III cassette

Heavy rocking release from this Austrian band that nestles somewhere between post-hardcore and noise rock. Initially sounding like METZ and PISSED JEANS, these eight songs take so many interesting left turns that I never could guess what was coming next. “Gross White” has hardcore riffing with hollered reverbed vocals but quickly jettisons that for shimmering, atonal passages reminiscent of vintage SONIC YOUTH. “Corporate Identity” is built around such a massive doom riff that it sounds like the Earth cracking open to swallow lesser bands. Mike Pike wishes he wrote this; it’s that good. It then shifts through multiple time changes with spoken vocals before bringing the heaviness back. “Earth 2″ brings us shout-along, non-melodic hardcore/bummer punk, which leads into “Massive,” a song with an extended polyrhythmic drum exercise and long feedback solo. There is some gnarled start/stop action here that spoke sweet nothings to my inner metalhead. Final track “Kind” is almost twelve minutes of what these folks do best, while the vocalist intones “Get to the point” over and over. Kind of a troll, maybe? Doesn’t matter—it’s worth the noisy punishment. Great release and highly recommended.

Nehann TEC / Ending Song 7″

Japan’s NEHANN delivers a 7″ of carefully constructed, goth-leaning post-punk. The first song starts with a bouncing bass line and clean guitar riff out of the JOY DIVISION handbook, followed by a slightly distorted guitar line that interplays with the first. Then, a third guitar enters to join the fun. That is what initially struck me about this release: the amount of effort and technique put into these two tracks is admirable. They both build atmosphere and boast thoughtful production so they sound like they were recorded in a cave, but a nice one with lamps and like a chair to sit in and read postmodern poetry. I also appreciate vocalist Hirotaka’s willingness to really go there with his vocals. He reaches for the high notes in a hair/glam metal fashion that might be off-putting in a record less earnest than this one. Likewise, there is a finger-tapping guitar solo near the end that works well, despite finger-tapping and solos being kind of ridiculous in general. NEHANN pulls it off though, and the song is a jam. “Ending Song” is a dreamy slow dance track with a flanged guitar opening over keyboards that sounds like FAILURE. A repeating catchy guitar riff carries through the entire song, and Hirotaka does his best BOWIE impression (it’s really pretty good, though). It’s a crush-worthy mixtape track for sure.

Big Bopper Introducing Big Bopper cassette

Solid nerd punk from Texas for fans of ERIK NERVOUS and URANIUM CLUB. Bookended by a chiptune opening and closing, the rest of the tape is trebly garage punk with fairly technical drums and guitar lines and sarcastic spoken/sung vocals. The constant start/stop rhythms and busy fretwork show some prowess that is welcome and give the band a slight noise rock feel on songs like the mathy “Generation of Plagues” and sardonic “Rat Race.” Where BIG BOPPER shines the most is when they pour on the sugar with catchy gems like “Boys Club” and “Partners in Slime.” The latter is a lo-fi power pop hit with a mutant PAVEMENT guitar line and bright major chord progressions. I love it. The tape is worth checking out for that golden nugget alone, but the rest is good, too. I look forward to hearing more.

Skeleton Glove Skeleton Glove LP

I wanted to like this German blackened hardcore punk band. I’m down with the sinister feeling of shrieked/howled vocals over reverbed punk, and the artwork is cool. A skeleton hand hammering a nail into a bleeding Earth is perfect visual mayhem. And while I get the feeling they were going for a BONE AWL or FUNERAL CHIC or even DEVIL MASTER vibe with these short songs, they miss the mark. They run together a bit, mostly fast with pretty basic punk chord changes and the wraith vocals on top. I never quite feel the menacing black metal attack enough with the music, and definitely not with the lyrics. If your band puts on the blackened armor, I want to hear about some demons or violence or end-times prophesying. Not “Gimme Chocolate,” which starts out, “Gimme all your chocolate, 1, 2, 3, 4!” Lyrics and songs like this (and “Gimme All Your Money” and “Booze Ghoul”) make the whole thing feel like a joke or gimmick, more spooky than evil. Without the grimness this music calls for, it’s a pass for me.

Luz De Gas Luz De Gas cassette

Great Chilean punk with piercing female vocals and a no-frills approach that sounds like it was recorded live in a spacious empty room. From the instrumental intro to each of the songs, the fairly simple, straightforward arrangements find their groove quickly and stick with it, jamming while the vocalist Muriel delivers high-pitched, high-intensity messages about empowerment, consent, sexual harassment, and fighting the ever-present threat of the male gaze. From the mysterious artwork to the urgent, personal lyrics (thanks to an online translator since I don’t know Spanish), this is a killer demo definitely worth checking out.

QWOM Q demo cassette

Super raw demo from this Indiana hardcore band. This sounds like a lo-fi boombox recording of a band playing in a closet. Everything is blown-out and extremely loud, with the drums and vocals slightly overshadowing everything else in the mix. I actually checked my headphones to make sure they were plugged in all the way. This reminds me of those shows where a band is just ripping so fast and loud that your clothes shake and the walls drip with humidity because of the concentrated energy. These four songs offer about two minutes of frenzied, early BLACK FLAG-inspired hardcore, and sometimes that’s all you need. I would go and see them for sure.

Grout Grout cassette

Four songs and a DEVO cover from this Australian band that sounds like a mix of FRIED EGG and GAG. The songs are mostly mid-tempo, noisy hardcore with gruff shouted vocals and the occasional stompy breakdown. Nothing revolutionary here, but very solid nonetheless. “Caged Pigs” has a 1-2 beat that could get a circle pit going in no time. And who can say no to a heavy, shouted DEVO cover? Not me. Check it out if you’re angry and want to throw your elbows around.

The Neos Fight With Donald EP reissue

Here it is! The first of two official reissues from the legendary Canadian band. Before fastcore or powerviolence were hardcore subgenre touchstones, these three teenagers were playing blisteringly fast punk with lyrics full of social commentary and their own inside jokes. Recorded in 1982—1983, that puts this record right around the first DEEP WOUND demo and before the SIEGE demo. Way early for this kind of lightspeed HC, and it blows my mind that NEOS are not quite the punk household name that they deserve to be. Hopefully this eighteen-song 7″ and the recent discography release will change that. Enough history, how does it sound? Fast and raw with the frenzied syllable-per-beat vocal delivery I mistakenly associate with ’90s Slap-a-Ham releases. This EP sounds like it was recorded live, and the energy is palpable. It’s passionate punk, turned up to maximum speed—pure energy bursts of righteous youthful spirit. Essential listening as a historical artifact and as a total face-melting 7″.

Stella Research Committee A Proposed Method for Determining Sanding Fitness LP

File under difficult listening. Imagine the sardonic noise rock of CHERUBS with the wild No Wave of DNA with the destructo synth of THROBBING GRISTLE, all played at the same time. Let’s throw some free jazz drumming in the mix too, just for funsies. Never not interesting, these tracks feature stuttering drum machine patterns with syncopated live drums on top, atonal strumming, and an ever-present synth whine. The tracks occasionally fall all the way apart, like opener “Murdurd,” but in a seemingly intentional way. They could honestly be dropping their instruments over and over, and I wouldn’t know the difference, but that’s not a criticism at all. “Dustkop” surprises by beginning with Krautrock rhythms that move into techno in a way that works but shouldn’t. What could come across as self-indulgent, inaccessible skronk worship is enjoyable in a “what the hell are they doing, now?” kind of way. I thought I was going to hate this, but I respect these folks for fighting the good fight with this brand of anything-goes freakery. If you have open ears for the really weird, check it out. Play it for that friend who is always like “I listen to everything,” and see what they say.

Repo Fam Whipped Cream EP

I liked this mix of sugary indie pop confections wrapped in gauzy distortion from Baltimore’s REPO FAM. “King of Marvin Gardens” sounds like SONIC YOUTH’S “Beauty Lies in the Eye” with its echoing spoken vocals and hazy strumming. If you’re going to nick the style, go for the best, so no hard feelings here. It’s a great song from a perfect influence. “Psycho Bombs” is a short noise-pop gem with simple catchy melodies and warm lo-fi production. “Whipped Cream” has a slightly atonal guitar/vocal interplay that gives a little art school scrappiness to the bedroom pop. “Here We Come” is a simple and effective garage stomper with the words “Here we come / Join the fun.” It sounds spooky and has some howling (from synth or werewolf, I don’t know) in the background. It’s fun in a stripped-down ’60s garage rock-meets-’90s indie way. If you have a sweet tooth for pop that’s rough around the edges, definitely check out REPO FAM.

Dollhouse The First Day of Spring EP

I had the good fortune of reviewing this New York City hardcore band’s self-titled demo a few months back, and this debut 7″ picks right up where that excellent release left off. This is a great band. Raw, ripping punk with personal, vulnerable lyrics about mental health and abuse; heavy in both delivery and concept. First track “The Shadow Baby” was on the demo, but this version has rougher vocals and a killer riff that immediately creeps into your brain and nestles in. “This is Heaven” starts with a fast, dense vocal delivery that is spoken at first and then screamed. Like much of DOLLHOUSE’s lyrical content, the words are a candid and unsettling description of self-harm and sexual abuse. The song ends with “I was destined for fame at such a young age / But it was taken away by some pervert / And no one knows what really happened / I can’t remember a thing before eleven / This is heaven.” That is some heavy shit. The writing on this record comes across as someone grappling with trauma rather than just being shocking or exploitative, which cannot be an easy thing to do. Earnestness to this degree without some obfuscation of meaning or the distance of irony is rare and moving. “Die So Pretty” is a raw punk rager that has some references to angels, another repeated symbol on this and the previous release. “The First Day of Spring” is surprising for ending with acoustic guitar strumming with the punk mayhem. Tremendous record if you are okay with the emotional heft. Highly, highly recommended.

Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice Remember the Future? Vol. 1 EP

Solid EP from this group of Melbourne nerds. This four-song EP has two distinct sounds: two songs sound like DEVO-inspired new wave pop hits, and two sound like math-y post-punk jams. It doesn’t seem like they would fit together, but they do. “Super Speedy Zippy Whipper” has buzzing synths, call-and-response vocals, and slightly wacky lyrics that combine into a fun, breezy jammer. Third track “Stitch Up” has a similar energy with keyboard lines and background “la-la-la-las.” The other two songs sound like FUGAZI with David Byrne doing vocals. “Collapse” has some slightly atonal guitar work with a bobbing bass line, while “Temperature Talk” has intertwining guitars dueling skewered arpeggios. Combine these elements with the aforementioned vocal style, and you get an odd mix. Synth-laden egg-punk with minor key noodling seems like a terrible combination, like ketchup and gravy, but it sounds good here. The band has the songwriting and personality to pull it off. They sound like PARQUET COURTS in parts, but they are unique enough to stand on their own. Worth checking out!

THIRDFACE Do It With a Smile cassette

Super harsh, blasting hardcore from Nashville that brings in elements of powerviolence, psych, and a little metal. First track “Local” is a good indicator of things to come, with start/stop rhythms, blastbeats, and mini math-y breakdowns. The raw, shredded vocals are immediately arresting and have to leave the singer looking for a cough drop after shows. “Ally” is a good mix of everything THIRDFACE does well, with fast blasting, creepy-crawl breakdowns with sinister feedback, those awesome filthy vocals, and a noisy outro. It rules. They remind me of DESPISE YOU in parts because of how fucking thick and nasty everything is, but they are not afraid to get weird and stretch out with some spacy psych feedback jams like “Interlude.” Sounding like GASP, these moments are a perfect mix of heavy and experimental. We get some great thrash riffing on “Villains!” and “No Hope” that give glimpses of raw hardcore meets crossover for a few seconds at a time. Great release and highly recommended!

Carthiefschool Carthiefschool CD

Hailing from Sapporo, Japan, CARTHIEFSCHOOL delivers a unique blend of jazz, math rock, and screaming post-hardcore on their debut LP. The band’s three members immediately sound like technically adept musicians on the first track, with syncopated hi-hat rhythms and silky smooth bass lines. Vocalist/guitarist Tomoya alternates between a spoken vocal delivery style and a throat-shredding raw holler, sometimes changing back and forth on a dime. Their approach to music reminds me some of RUINS, in that jazz instrumentation and musical vocabulary is used to explore more traditionally aggressive genres. However, where that band creates cacophonous prog-noise, CARTHIEFSCHOOL mainly adheres to post-hardcore with occasional forays into noodly experimental territory. I prefer when the band goes full-tilt aggro, such as on opening track “蜜柑 (Mikan)” and “油 (Abura).” The shift from jazz fusion to raging hardcore is awesome. My only critique is that these moments are not incredibly plentiful. Many of the tracks stay in the jazz-rock lane, although they are definitely interesting in their own right. There is a playful musicality to many of these songs, like on “House” when the band plays through what is called in classical music circles, “the Tetris theme song.” The musicianship and willingness to experiment is admirable and worth checking out if you like a little jazz with your punk.

Alien Nosejob HC45-2 EP

Australia’s ALIEN NOSEJOB gives us a quick dose of freaky hardcore with this collection of six rippers in eight minutes. Check out the cover art for a visual preview of what’s inside: colorful gore delivered via box-cutter surgery. Egg punks, but real ones. Blood everywhere. Likewise, these short bursts of hardcore frenzy have a lot of moving parts and seem to be on the edge of breaking apart at any second. But they don’t, and that’s the exciting thing. These tracks have a lot of USHC influence like early BLACK FLAG, CIRCLE JERKS, etc., but with added trebly guitar fills and near-constant drum rolls that reveal hidden complexities upon further listening. Listen to this and enjoy a modern take on the classic hardcore blueprint: very fast, snotty, and great.

Portabella Return to the Fountain of Olives cassette

Experimental, psych-tinged indie rock from this Spartanburg, SC duo. This collection contains frequently likeable lo-fi pop songs with whimsical journeys into synth exploration and nonsensical, lysergic lyrics. “The Wrong Way” sounds like a lost GUIDED BY VOICES gem in the best way: a jangly guitar confection with just enough bite in the refrain. Similarly, there are about six more enjoyable indie pop jams on this tape that hit the home-recorded indie sweet spot, even if they sound pretty close to their influences. For instance, the guitar solo on “Nothing Left” might as well be credited to J. Mascis for how close it sounds to DINOSAUR JR. And “Valley of Imploding Cups” sounds a whole lot like Slanted and Enchanted-era PAVEMENT. Now for the rest of the tape, I wrote the same note next to seven songs: “Sebadoh III outtake.” I like SEBADOH, and I like that particular album, but it has its share of shambolic, half-baked audio sketches that would be better left as demos. PORTABELLA seems to love this aspect of SEBADOH so much that half of this album sounds like a tribute to it. The vocals sound like Lou Barlow, the thrown-together, first-take approach to songwriting, the weird, left-field acoustic interludes, the occasional faux-angry moments. What is skippable on Sebadoh III is skippable here. PORTABELLA definitely has talent and ideas to spare. I am interested in seeing what happens when they step away from their record collections.

Stinkhole Mold Encrusted Egg EP

Behold STINKHOLE, the unwanted baby of LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS and MYSTIC INANE, left behind in a Berlin dumpster. This is some of the slimiest slime-punk around, with seven tracks of noisy, rudimentary outsider hardcore with a vocal delivery that sounds like a choke/slur/vomit combination. I honestly don’t know if the lyrics are in English or not because the dry heave singing is pretty hard to crack. This EP sounds like it was recorded in the basement of the building next door and is so lo-fi that it seems like the band taped over a random mixtape. Snippets of woozy easy listening and jazz sounds bookend some of these audio scabs. It’s not all just gross-out punk though: I distinctly heard a synth once on “Orange Juice,” and the credits list a trumpet. Final track “Slippin’ on Slug Slime” (let’s pause for a moment and appreciate the poetry of that title) has a cool one-bent-note guitar lead that gives it just the slightest amount of post-punk spice. I loved it. Just make sure to sanitize your hands after playing.

Voice Imitator Plaza LP

Cool release from this group made up of Australian underground luminaries. VOICE IMITATOR has a few modes, but the songs are mostly based around taut WIRE-style post-punk rhythms, with sustained sheets of guitar and feedback like vintage SONIC YOUTH for good measure. There is a frequent high-pitched layer of synth noise that adds to the creeping build-up on tracks like “Chinese Hoax” and “Vilification Brunch.” The vocals on these rocking tracks come across as gruff and reverbed disaffected noise rock diatribes. There are also few unexpected surprises on this record, though. On three songs, the instrumentation is stripped down to slow, distorted electronics with spoken vocals on top, like a dread-inducing poetry reading. These tracks maintain the building tension that the more traditional rock songs have and sound like the quieter moments on a PRURIENT record. The final two tracks are remixes with heavier electronic instrumentation and work just as well as the rock originals. Strong album of serious, mature experimental punk.

 

Chron Turbine Yoga Injury: Discomfort in Seven Movements cassette

Eight jams from stoner and noise rock influences on this release. The tape starts strong with a tightly-wound instrumental song that sounds like a HELMET demo. Two vocalists, one of whom sounds like a mix of David Yow from the JESUS LIZARD and Aaron Beam from RED FANG, and one of whom sounds like bad Jon Spencer karaoke, sing separately on the rest. When the band gets into a propulsive groove, it’s good in the crunchy ’90s rock way. “Dying Elephant” has a catchy, repetitive refrain that got my foot tapping and head bobbing. I was then able to place the sound historically: this sounds like the bands that got swept up in the major label, post-Nevermind feeding frenzy of the early ’90s. Clean vocals, a little distorted chugging but not too heavy, and pop sensibility? Yeah, this sounds as familiar as any other second-tier band on a Geffen label sampler back in the day. A few of these tracks could fit in on modern rock radio, no disrespect intended. Full disrespect, however, to the songs “Hipster Taxidermy Fetish” and “Wet Look.” The vocals are a comical Jon Spencer impression with all the blues affectations that can only be handled by Mr. Spencer himself. I cringed through those two tracks and wondered what kind of band friendship or financial obligation got that guy the job. Other than those two tracks, decent if unremarkable release of what I guess is still called alternative rock.

Electric Chair Social Capital EP

Crucial hardcore in the form of a 7″ hand grenade. If you like classic USHC, get this immediately. Six songs of fast, super-pissed punk with lyrics reflecting our current dystopia. Anti-police, anti-scenester, anti-human, anti-fascist diatribes against this modern life. Check out “Life is Hell”: “Birth is violence / Life is hell / You sell your baby on the black market / I hate the way they smell.” Tough! If you have stick-and-poke BLACK FLAG bars or the DEAD KENNEDYS logo, you may want to consider a future patch of skin for a little electric chair. Have you bought this yet?

Big Hog / The Resource Network split EP

Indianapolis punks BIG HOG and the RESOURCE NETWORK team up for a noisy split worth your time. BIG HOG starts their side with math-y guitar lines and a bouncing bass sound with LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS-style vocals on top. They would have been at home on Load Records with short capsules of frenzied hardcore skronk, giving me some ARAB ON RADAR vibes with the dial turned more to hardcore than noise rock. There is quite a bit of guitar/bass interplay going on under the snotty hollering with an occasional laser gun noise blast that gives these songs an unpredictable and good weird quality. The RESOURCE NETWORK’S side is not quite as frantic, but it’s definitely interesting, too. These three tunes blend elements of hardcore and new wave with anti-consumerist lyrics that sound like spoken poetry in the verses. “Artificial Flavors” sounds like URANIUM CLUB with the spoken vocals over busy, tinny guitar lines and clean bass. The final track has more of a traditional American hardcore sound like mid-era HÜSKER DÜ with busy bass and guitar work and an anthemic refrain. Check this split out for two cool bands doing their thing confidently.

Tums Old Perverts and Horse Fuckers cassette

Fun tape from Chicago hardcore weirdos TUMS. These eleven tracks are bookended by what I can only describe as punk vaudeville routines, opening with grandma one-liners over a Casio beat and ending with “Yer Auntie Grizelda,” which sounds like a punk band covering an elementary school sing-along. It’s an odd frame that holds in the unexpected raging hardcore of the rest of the songs. The main tunes are short, lo-fi hardcore basement bangers with an emphasis on fun. These energetic bursts have sung, melodic vocals over the musical aggression that are really catchy (almost sing-songy in parts) despite sounding so raw upon first listen. From what I can tell without lyrics, the content is pretty light on the seriousness scale with songs about girls’ trips, beaches, and drugs (the track “TAQN” stands for “Take a Quaalude Now”). It’s telling that the angriest song centers its rage on a certain video-streaming app (“HBO GO”). Listening to this is like overhearing inside jokes among friends that are frequently pretty funny, even if you don’t fully get the context. I’m here for it—this type of lighthearted hardcore is a welcome break during these dark times.

Nervous Tick and the Zipper Lips / Science Man The COVID Collaborations: Vol. I cassette

Cool split between Buffalo’s NERVOUS TICK AND THE ZIPPER LIPS and SCIENCE MAN where each band contributes one original song, a cover of the other band, and two collaborative tracks. The groups have a pretty different sound and energy, but this tape works and is a hopeful document that the spirit of artistic collaboration can thrive in this time of isolation. The first three tracks show off SCIENCE MAN’s no-frills/no bullshit rock’n’roll with sleazy vocals and meaty STOOGES instrumentation. “The Mask” is three minutes of slow churn proto-punk with a full-ass guitar solo. The next two from them are a little faster but still have OG hard rock vibes with a throaty menace. Tough! The three NERVOUS TICK songs are forged in jerky new wave rhythms, complete with a drum machine under the trebly guitar work. “Don’t Know Where to Go” has stiff, robotic vocals that sound like GARY NUMAN on punk. This tape is a great idea done well, and I look forward to future volumes (hopefully after COVID).

Trigger Cut Rogo LP

TRIGGER CUT is a German noise rock band that takes several pages from the SHELLAC playbook, but goddamn, they do it well. Steve Albini’s influence is definitely all over this record, from the trebly dissonant guitar to the slightly distorted bass production to the detached shouted/shrieked vocals. So they didn’t invent this particular template, but TRIGGER CUT may have perfected it. Each track comes out pummeling with heart-pounding, head-bobbing hit after hit of noisy, muscular grit. The relentless energy and super-crisp recording is as good as this genre gets and pairs excellently with the classic Touch and Go or AmRep bands of the ’80s and ’90s. This shit is exciting. When vocalist Ralph moves from a half-spoken/half-shouted verse to a voice-cracking shriek like in “Coffin Digger” or “Regular Funk,” the effect is arresting and awesome. “Fireworks” manages to get even heavier with the sturm und drang of a drop-tuned doomy bass riff with explosive full-band response that absolutely rips. The rest of the record never slows or weakens the full-tilt destructive onslaught. Highly recommended!

Dollhouse Summer Love demo cassette

NYC’s DOLLHOUSE fucking knocks it out with this excellent demo. First of all, the haunted Blythe doll artwork makes me uneasy and fits the music perfectly. These songs definitely fit under the hardcore umbrella but with darker, post-punk guitar leads that are simple and effective. The first song “Summer Love” starts out with an aggressive 1-2-1-2 stompy beat and two-chord attack pattern but is tempered by a six-note guitar line that turns the fury into creepiness. The rest of the tape follows suit with a level of consistency and continuity that sounds like an established band’s proper LP. The lyrics are frequently introspective and vulnerable and are delivered with the higher-pitched screams of someone on the verge of losing it. These songs cover some seriously dark territory like self-harm, drug abuse, and suicide, but they are written in such a poetic way that doesn’t glamorize or sensationalize them but rather give insight from a voice that sounds like they have seen it firsthand. For example, “The Shadow Baby” has the lines, “You’re dumb if you trust a friend / Dumb if you trust a lover / The whole world is meant to make you live in the shadow of another / If my mother was dead I would have joined her by now.” There are moments like this in every song that give me pause because they sound so emotionally raw and heavy. Definitely check this out for some excellent tense and affecting hardcore with lyrical depth. I look forward to their next release.

Lip Commodity cassette

Solid seven-song release from these Baltimore post-punks. The clean op art cover of some kind of hazy temple building gives a good indication of the tape’s contents. There is a sturdy structure holding up the buzzy energy within. Each track has a fairly traditional rock format with distorted bass, snaky guitar leads, and detached vocals that are shouted but never sound angry. LIP channels the noisier aspects of JOY DIVISION and the non-electronic sounds of TOTAL CONTROL but does so in a way that still sounds distinct enough to set them apart. “Morse Code” starts off with a syncopated bass line that creates a welcome hook under the guitar squall. Final track “Obstacles” is the best song here: a near-perfect post-punk chiller with a catchy melodic guitar line and paranoid lyrics that could bear the Factory Records logo. Worth checking out if disaffected post-punk is your jam.

Education Culture LP

EDUCATION is an Italian band that incorporates elements of post-punk and goth into their hardcore. Culture is eight slabs of reverb-drenched raw vocals with heavy-flange bass and spacy guitar lines. Think maybe RUDIMENTARY PENI and GAG hanging out? The amount of echo on everything makes me think this was recorded in a dungeon or maybe a well. There was definitely a skeleton in the studio. There is a deathrock sound on “Walls” that fits in well with the mysterious vibes overall. All the songs are mid-tempo and tend to run together a bit, but this is  worth checking out if you pair eyeliner with your studs.

Traps Funny Thing EP

Four energetic rock’n’roll songs from this Quebec City band. Channeling classic ’77 riffs with bouncy bass lines lifted from pop punk, TRAPS deliver a completely fine, recognizable sound in a familiar package. I was ready to move on when the last song, “Don’t Do It,” came on and lifted my spirits. Did you have a Lookout! phase in the ’90s? Remember that sweet mix of punchy power chords with heartfelt lyrics (think MTX or WYNONA RIDERS) that would extend roots into your brainpan? “Don’t Do It” brings that feeling back for all of us who have an audio sweet tooth. While listening, I started thinking about high school and skateboards and those little folded paper football things. I thought about hating everyone who wore the shirts of that one pop punk band that got really popular, but going home and listening to them anyway. And I think this would have made a really great one-song single.

Big Chungus Diarrhea Dog cassette

Take a look at the band name and tape title. Does the Bugs Bunny meme-name on a faux-feces-smeared cassette make you smile or roll your eyes? That’s all you need to know to tell whether you will be into this or not. This mutant collective from New Jersey plays rudimentary, snotty synth-punk about crusty underbelly topics like long pees, vomiting sandwiches, spiders—you get the idea. Sounding like a mix between an 8-bit LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS and ATOM AND HIS PACKAGE, these six songs are gross slabs of slime punk that are kind of catchy if you are in the mood to receive what they are offering. “Toothpaste” in particular sounds like an intense NES boss battle that repeats “I’m gonna squeeze ya!” over and over. It’s ten minutes of dumb fun, so check it out if you’re a diarrhea dog.

The Lost Jobs Good Boy EP

German garage punk that comes out swinging with instant riffs, drum fills, dueling surf lines, and gruff vocals. Sounds like the HELLACOPTERS with a mix of German and English lyrics and frequent fretboard gymnastics. This EP would have been at home on Kozik’s Man’s Ruin label back in the day. Nothing Earth-shattering here, but it is solid, straight-up rock’n’roll if you are into double denim and motorcycles.

Clear Channel Hell LP

Supremely funky debut LP from this D.C. group of dance-punks. Made up of bass, drums, bongos, and two vocalists, CLEAR CHANNEL combines the best ingredients of funk, post-punk, and new wave into a unique, irresistible mix. “Hello Disko” sounds like Lydia Lunch fronting the B-52’S in the best way, all moaning vocals, bobbing bass, and disco beats. “B.B.I.” is a dubby exploration with soulful singing that reminds me of TV ON THE RADIO in the falsetto parts. “Maria” could be a ’60s R&B classic re-recorded by a punk band. It’s great. Then comes “Hot Fruit,” a funky, kinda dirty jam that deserves a place in the novelty song history books. If you want people to get up and move at your next party, put on “Hot Fruit.” I’m planning a mix tape around it as I write this. The record ends with the title track that turns up the drama with theatrical call-and-response vocals and the same grimy disco vibe from the opening. This is dance music by punks, kind of like DUB NARCOTIC SOUND SYSTEM, in attitude at least. Check it out—the most purely enjoyable record I have heard in a while.

Warm Drag Butch Things / Your Thunder and Your Lightning 7″

Very good single comprised of two cover songs from this L.A. band. WARM DRAG is made up of vocals and two samplers, but the two tracks here sound like lush, full-band affairs despite having only two members. “Butch Things” is a smoky, post-punk crawl that summons Siouxsie Sioux fronting the BAD SEEDS. “Your Thunder and Your Lightning” brings some darkwave texture with a static-tinged bass pulse and classic reverb-drenched psych guitar. This record hits the sweet spot between familiar and fresh. I want to hear more.

USA Nails Character Stop LP

USA NAILS deliver a new LP of noise-rock-inspired bummer punk. They have played with IDLES and METZ, and did a split 7″ with TONGUE PARTY. If you like those bands, it’s a pretty safe bet that you will like this, too. The songs are stripped down to muscular distorted bass, dissonant guitar stabs, pounding drums, and shouted working-class sloganeering. “I Don’t Own Anything” starts out with the very relatable line “This is modern life / And it is full of heartache,” and ends with “I experience everything / I don’t own anything.” It’s not as moving as “Merchandise,” but it’s a potent anti-commercialism anthem for our times. The last two tracks caught my attention in how they step a few feet away from the post-hardcore pummeling into post-punk with syncopated drumbeats and disaffected vocals that sound like a slower WIRE or GANG OF FOUR. The recording sounds great: clear and crisply produced. That’s the only negative aspect of this for me—I like a good speaker-ripper and this is a bit clean. Worth checking out.

Bondage 2010—2019 cassette

BONDAGE is a solo noise garage project from Peru, and this tape collects about a decade’s worth of demo releases. The first track starts out with a drum machine and distorted bass groove that gives off “Cough / Cool” vibes with spoken-sung vocals. Then comes the haunted house keyboards. Yikes. The rest of the tape more or less follows this pattern: fast drum beat, repetitive bass lines, reverbed guitar with tons of flange, and spoken or screamed vocals. To be fair, there is enough decent feedback damage to call this noise or maybe industrial, but I never really feel the menace that I expect from those genres. There is a SUICIDE cover, which I can hear as a major inspiration (I’ll stick with the original, though). There is some CHRISTIAN DEATH energy here as well. I don’t know about the lyrical content, as the singing is in Spanish, but the cover art and accompanying zine feature cut-and-paste artwork of wild animals, explicit gay imagery, and blood. Many of these tracks stretch past the four-minute mark, which tests my patience for what seems like a well-intentioned bedroom project. Maybe check it out if you are into deathrock or industrial, but it’s a pass for me.

I Am the Fly Axolotl EP

Debut EP from this two-piece German synth punk band named after the classic WIRE track. Hiding their identities behind fly masks, this duo produces chilly post-punk with dirty bass, buzzing organ, and a vintage drum machine. Sounding like a familiar blend of old and new, I hear WIRE (obviously), SUICIDE, GRAUZONE, and maybe some COLD CAVE. These three songs sound full with layered keys and melodic, dispassionate singing. The clear production and upfront vocal delivery put an emphasis on the keyboard and bass interplay, where the minor chord progressions create tension and a feeling of unease. This would fit nicely on a post-punk or darkwave mixtape. Worth checking out!

Mystic Inane Natural Beauty EP

MYSTIC INANE give us a posthumous collection of four songs that were recorded prior to them disbanding a few years ago. If you are late to this group of New Orleans weirdos, they sound like RUDIMENTARY PENI meets SACCHARINE TRUST in a dumpster. Their essential EP’s of M/I collection is always in rotation around these parts. This EP fits in perfectly with their three previous 7″ releases of off-kilter outsider hardcore. The basement spy riffs are here, as are the deranged, always slightly off-beat vocals that make this band so recognizable and endearing. “Death of Disco Spiv” starts off slowly with a beginner’s level guitar line that is met about 30 seconds later with full-band hardcore stomp. “My Life as a Fish” reminds me of their previous trash anthem “I Believe in UFOs” with a similar vocal delivery in the chorus of “I’m a fish, and I want sleep” (at least, I think that’s what he says). “Mystic Ignorance” is as good an introduction to the band as it gets, and we even get a brief guitar solo! Generous! “Peckerwood Nero” has such a catchy repeated vocal line and bouncy bass melody that it could be a new wave hit in a freakier universe. The final track fades out and then slowly comes back in, creating a fitting parting gift from a great punk band. My expectations were exceeded, and I was bummed when it ended.

Bathouse Bathouse LP

Debut record from Sweden’s BATHOUSE, featuring ten noise rock pounders, drenched in feedback and fuzz. The tracks blast with tinny guitars, blown-out distorted bass, and that familiar AmRep-inspired crunch. The shouted vocals and fairly traditional rock structures place this in pleasant company with MCLUSKY and PART CHIMP. Through the filth and slime, there are some melodic vocal lines and major key chord progressions that have one dirty shoe in garage rock (maybe even grunge) territory. “Hell” sounds like a lost NIRVANA In Utero B-side with a downtempo refrain of “I bore you / You know I adore you,” while “Ghostly Figurine” has some “la la la la’s” in the mix. These anthems of frustration aren’t breaking any new ground, but they are definitely worth a listen on your way to that job you hate.

Lebenden Toten Synaptic Noise Dissociation LP

The mighty Iron Lung Records has bestowed a gift upon us with this release, a live set from Portland’s LEBENDEN TOTEN, recorded during a tenth anniversary event for the label. Twenty-five minutes of absolute raging hardcore with blur-fast D-beats, constant sheets of swirling feedback, and shredded vocals pummeling the listener (and that lucky live audience) into submission. At first, it was a little overwhelming—noise chaos to the point of breaking apart—until I realized how tight the band is. What seems disorienting takes on an almost psych feel the more you listen to it and hear the layers of noise coming together. I hear some slight CONFUSE influence here and there, but this is its own manic beast. Standout tracks for me are “Inferno,” “Static #1,” and “Vampires,” but they are honestly all standouts. I can’t imagine not listening to this as a whole album, anyway. The artwork is cool too (looks like a ’70s Italian horror/sci-fi mashup), and it comes with a die-cut Halloween decoration. Get this, crank it, and blow your speakers out— it will be worth it.

Erik Nervous and the Beta Blockers Erik Nervous and the Beta Blockers LP

ERIK NERVOUS returns with a collection of twelve garage punk bashers, now backed with a full band, the UK’s BETA BLOCKERS. Simple and dumb in the very best way, these tracks buzz along with a mix of classic garage punk and post-punk that reminds me of the SAINTS, SUBURBAN LAWNS, and maybe fellow Indiana weirdos CCTV. Despite very catchy songs, this is still a scrappy punk record with sung/shouted vocals that bring to mind JAY REATARD or maybe the MUMMIES with clearer production. I was already digging this when “Blasted Heath” surprised me with a squiggly synth underneath the rockin’ that takes ERIK and Co. into DEVO territory. Then the next track, “Want To Not Wanna,“ completely brings the mutant freak funk party that rivals the stupid joy of “Jocko Homo.” If you have any dorkiness in your heart, you will be bouncing in your seat. The rest of the record follows with a huge emphasis on fun, something I can definitely use more of in my life.

Adulkt Life Book of Curses LP

Debut LP from ADULKT LIFE, a new London band featuring Chris Rowley from HUGGY BEAR and several members of MALE BONDING. Book of Curses is a chilly collection of post-punk unease that charts the banal stresses and miseries of modern life, including aging, parenthood, and ennui over mid-tempo distorted bass and icy guitar lines. The vocals are the main draw here; they are sung/spoken with a certain feeling of frustration, exhaustion, and discomfort that expresses our current zeitgeist quite effectively. Sample lyric: “I’m taking hits, taking hits / I don’t know what I’m for / Unless I’m against it.” I feel that. This record will fit in nicely next to your DIÄT and BÖRN records for harbingers of nagging, everyday dread.

Shrinkwrap Killers Feral Rats Have Become Our Only Pets LP

Based on the band name and cover, I was expecting some gross horror punk or maybe crossover thrash, and boy, was I wrong. SHRINKWRAP KILLERS is the solo project of Greg Wilkinson of BRAINOIL playing a bizarro new wave/synth-pop/garage punk mix. Imagine GARY NUMAN, the SPITS, and maybe DICK DALE camping out in a squalid punk squat with only dystopian novels to keep them busy, and you get the idea. With song titles like “Stolen Electronics to Shove Up Your Ass,” “Hive Robotics at the Human Zoo,” and the title track, the vibe is definitely jokey, but the grooves are too good to be a joke. There are some real, albeit goofy, earworms here. This record mixes some straight-ahead garage sing-alongs with a few lo-fi woozy synth dirges that wouldn’t sound out of place on a TOBACCO record. Do you have a quarantine anthem? “Shotgunning O’Doul’s and Kicking Dicks,” where the title is a good portion of the song’s lyrics, has you covered. Very weird fun if you are experiencing paranoia, boredom, or enjoy shoving stolen electronics up your ass.