Tim Janchar

The Battlebeats Meet Your Maker LP

A one-man garage rock tour de force from Bandung, Indonesia, Andresa Nugraha has been putting out records under the BATTLEBEATS moniker since 2019. His last full-length was the pre-pandemic album Search and Destroy. which was released by Alien Snatch. There is the speed and precision of TEENGENERATE with the power of GUITAR WOLF throughout the dozen tracks here. Lyrically, there’s the humor, wit, and self-awareness of some of Paul Caporino’s best work with M.O.T.O. With all of this, Nugraha has created his own sound and style which keeps evolving and improving with every release.

Faulty Cognitions Faulty Cognitions demo cassette

I have always been drawn to the sound of bands’ demos, or their first album when it’s a mish-mash of the singles and bedroom recordings, more so than polished formal studio albums. Think of the BANANAS’ collection The First Ten Years of… having way more guts and heart than the albums which followed. Maybe it’s that bit of feedback, out-of-tune vocal, or bass flub that gets left in. Often the songs are played off-speed or faster than the album that follows. Don’t get me wrong, FAULTY COGNITIONS stellar album Somehow, Here We Are is already on a lot of top album lists for 2024, but the preceding demo has a gritty charm all its own. The opener “Las Cruces” has the anthemic heart-on-sleeve spirit of SHANG-A-LANG. The only track not included on the full-length, “Thin Blue Line,” bottles the anger of the DICKS as if it’s an homage to the recent passing of Gary Floyd. “Center of the World” shifts to a proto-punk pace like the ONLY ONES. The closer, “Let the Kids Have the Scene,” laments elder statesmen observations in a MENZINGERS-like style. All of this, packaged with cassette art reminiscent of Pettibon’s work on Nervous Breakdown.

Teini-Pää Mietin Minne Meet EP

Female-fronted power pop from Helsinki, drawing the cuddlecore vibe from Mint Records circa the mid-’90s (CUB, MAOW) through a Finnish filter to make it their own sound. There are also strong ’80s twee vibes here, thinking of BLACK TAMBOURINE, SHOP ASSISTANTS, and TALULAH GOSH. All lyrics are in Finnish, which amplifies the dreamy and atmospheric spirit of the music. The short four-song EP had me rewardingly search out the rest of their discography.

Los Retumbes Y De Postre, Komtessa cassette

If I had to imagine a garage band from the Basque Country in Spain releasing an album on a punk label out of Nashville, Tennessee, this is exactly what I would want to hear. Fast, driving, distorted guitars leading punk-tinged garage bangers with lyrics in Spanish, reminiscent of DIRTBOMBS and early MARKED MEN. Extra plus is album art that looks something William Hanna and Joseph Barbera would illustrate if they had worked for Adult Swim.

The Manky Melters One More Round! CD

Female-fronted Celtic folk punk from Sélestat, France. In a male-dominated scene, it’s refreshing to hear a female vocalist in this genre. Plus, with the grit and delivery of Agent M from TSUNAMI BOMB, Giada gives this record that extra oomph of energy to separate it from its peers. The only other female-fronted Celtic punk band I’ve come across is seeing DADDY O RADIO playing an inspired, sweaty, hectic set in a basement bar in South Korea, and this brings the same spastic feeling. Inspired lyrics about taking a focused, defiant path against corrupt authority, embracing the life lived, and of course, there’s alcohol-inspired tunes. Giada’s vocals are bolstered by a driving backing rhythm section, and the occasional fiddle and banjo round out this solid release.

No Loves Jimbo’s House LP

Nashville’s NO LOVES play the melodic, gruff kind of punk that the CRUMBS and JON COUGAR CONCENTRATION CAMP brought in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Throaty vocals, crunchy guitars, and melodic choruses. With song titles like “I’m naked” and “I wanna fuck your mom” they’re borrowing from the Joe Queer and Blag Dahlia book of lyrics, which is befitting to the overall vibe.

The Bellrays Ball of Confusion EP

Anchored by Lisa Kekaula’s singularly powerful vocals, the BELLRAYS have been belting out punk/garage/blues for the last three decades. Here they are covering the TEMPTATIONS’ ’70s hit “Ball of Confusion.” The original was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong and echoed the political tensions at the time. The song’s repeating refrain “And the band played on” was used as the title of Randy Shilts’s book about the Reagan administration’s apathy in addressing the AIDS epidemic. Here, the lyrics are refocused on modern times addressing mass shootings, pharma corruption, and venomous political ideologies. Kekaula belts out the message with the backing band sounding Detroit STOOGES and MC5-inspired. The flipside “I Fall Down” is equally as impactful and a stand-alone single in its own right.

Jumpstarted Plowhards Round Two LP

This is the second edition of a collaboration between two San Pedro legends, Mike Watt and Todd Congelliere. Watt contributes his prototypical bass lines and meanderings like the elder Zen advisor, accenting and moving parallel to Congelliere’s guitar work and vocals. Part of the collaboration is to bring in a different drummer for each track, and it’s quite the entourage ranging from old school legends to the local San Pedro scene: Stephan Perkins (JANE’S ADDICTION), Steve Reed (SACCHARINE TRUST), Russell Simins (JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION), Raymond Terrones (A LOVELY SORT OF DEATH), Mindee Jorgenson (MOD PODS), Derek Blook (FROM FIRST TO LAST), Kim Schifino (MATT & KIM), and Ryan Davidson (COMA TWINS). There are elements of Congelliere’s other bands here—the obtuse lyrical delivery of TOYS THAT KILL, the jangly scrappiness of UNDERGROUND RAILROAD TO CANDYLAND, and the humor of F.Y.P. But it’s Watt’s bass playing that gives this band a unique voice different from all the members prior collective projects.

Somerset Meadows Recycle Your Dreams LP

An album from this Portland, Oregon-based band that was stalled by the pandemic lockdown finally makes it out on vinyl. The album is split into a “studio side” and “live side,” giving a special raw looseness to the latter half. The band’s anthemic mid-tempo sound feels equally influenced by garage rock, power pop, and an early ’90s college radio lineage. The lyrics and vocal delivery are what set the band apart from its peers, with a mumbled hesitant optimism for an increasingly dysfunctional existence.

Shotwell Shotwell LP

Shotwell Street runs through the heart of the Mission District. The infamous Jenn Cobb, one of the original members of the Gilman collective and former MRR shitworker, lived there, as did Tommy Strange of STRAWMAN and a slew of other people crucial to the formative years of the DIY Bay Area sound. The appropriately named SHOTWELL, formed by Jimmy Broutis, Paul Curran, and Aaron Cometbus, started playing renegade shows there back in 1994. Jimmy remains the constant member with a notable rotating crew backing him up over the last 25 years, committed to playing smaller, untraditional DIY venues.  Steve Moriarty of the GITS, who took over for Cometbus on drums back in 1995, returns in this incarnation as a producer and arranger. The eponymous release burns through 21 urgently melodic and politically conscious songs in under 45 minutes. Its scrappy and brutally authentic sound with rough, hazy guitars, steady drums, and lyrics shouted through raw vocal chords is reminiscent of SEXY and RADON. It can be difficult for an album to be both cautionary and optimistic at the same time, but I think that mindset is the impetus for punk creativity—the feeling that shit is fucked up but possibly could be different. At best, we can be the nidus for that change, and at least, we can lean a shoulder against the tide and kick rocks at the castle. This album and Broutis’s unfaltering vision serve simultaneously as both a history lesson and a modern-day survival guide.

Red Herrings Zax Armoire LP

Hailing from the Western Mass town of Holyoke, this solid debut album has the mid-tempo gut-punch of the STOOGES and DEAD BOYS—the kind of punk that doesn’t need to speed through the songs or pull some Epi-Fat double bass drum fills and is comfortable pulling back and letting the songwriting and a little attitude bring the message. There’s also a tinge of post-punk here à la WIPERS or HURRY UP.

Mongo Mongo EP

About a decade ago, Tina “Boom Boom” Lucchesi from the TRASHWOMEN and her life partner Jonny Cat were a two-piece garage rock tour de force called CYCLOPS, playing short, simple brutal punk songs dressed as, well, cyclopes. MONGO has the same raw energy and a similar aesthetic with songs like “I’m Dumb,” “Mongo,” and the monosyllabic “Ugh,” which has an accompanying video that is as beautifully provisional as the music. This is the kind of release that Slovenly would have put out, but it is equally at home on the legendary Die Slaughterhaus label.

The Cyber Bullies The Cyber Bullies LP

Juvenile, scathingly fun pop punk out of Sacto that sounds influenced by anything in Dr. Frank’s back catalog from mid-career MR. T. EXPERIENCE circa Love is Dead. Lyrically, they are pulling from Cheshire Cat-era BLINK-182, or a more mature Buddha. Musically, it’s very adept and well-executed in that mid-tempo punk style of the PARASITES or SCREECHING WEASEL.

Big Mess Cleaning Up With Big Mess LP

BIG MESS has that hooky sing-along style that manages to melodically link the ’77 sound with Oi! while still sounding fresh. This Copenhagen band brings twelve tracks in twenty-two minutes with not a single dud, blistering relentlessly onward from the first song. This sounds like the full-length album that ONE MAN ARMY could have made right after Rumors and Headlines.

Red Dons East / West Collection LP

Early ’00s Portland, Oregon was a fertile and dynamic time and place for punk. The hazy, jaded eyes of nostalgia might call it a high-water mark. House shows and venues were plenty, and the scene was filled with a talented, incestuous group of misfits. Following the breakup of the OBSERVERS, Doug Burns connected with Hajji Husayn to form the RED DONS. The rotating group of collaborators who joined later included members of CLOROX GIRLS, CHEMICALS, TRIGGERS, SUSPECT PARTS, and the STOPS. Their melodic, minor chord post-punk political anthems became an important soundtrack in both the Pacific Northwest and across the globe. With Doug Burns’s painting and artistic visions crafting the look and style of the band, they became one of most popular and important groups in the circuit, with a sound that bridged both the garage rock and hardcore scenes at the time. RED DONS toured extensively in South America and Europe, continuing to do so with a recent tour back to Germany this year. This collection of songs spans the RED DONS catalog for well over the last decade. There’s “Independent” and “This City” from their debut LP Death to Idealism. The epic song “Ausländer” from the Dirtnap Records 7” clocks in at nearly five minutes, but never loses its earnest energy. “West Bank” and “Room 322” are included from the early Escaping Amman EP, and songs from the Fake Meets Failure LP and other releases round out the fourteen tracks. Unlike some retrospective collections that fluctuate in style, sound, and substance, this plays cohesively and strongly throughout in a testament to the band’s consistent vision and delivery. It’s a great starting point for those new to the RED DONS, and a welcome reprise for those there from the start.

Ferriday Strangers / All Roads 7″

Two solid new songs from this quartet out of Albany, New York. With the shambling earnestness of mid-career REPLACEMENTS and the restrained bravado of HÜSKER DÜ in their Candy Apple Grey period, these songs would be equally at home on a ’90s college radio station or a present-day dive bar in an Elk’s Lodge. The singer’s voice brings to mind the NATIONAL’s Matt Berninger possessed by the lyrical spirit of David Lowery circa CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN.

1000s of Cats Next of Cat LP

The first LP for this female-fronted two-piece from Japan, with Sonoko Nebashi writing, singing, and playing guitar and Dave Gatchell of the SELBY TIGERS on drums. The songs have the stripped-down, straightforward guitar playing and earnest vocal delivery of P.S. ELIOT or early BRATMOBILE and witty, observant lyrics that verge on the slightly dark side of unrequited love like the ones that bands such as CUB or BUCK would sing. If it was released twenty years ago, it would have found a home on Sympathy for the Record Industry, but fortunately MPLS Ltd picked it up, which means US fans won’t have to pay exorbitant shipping fees.

Riverhead Cancer LP

This album starts like a bomb going off and doesn’t let up for ten blistering tracks clocking in under a half hour. The furious energy is amplified by the exceptional musicianship of the Copenhagen-based members, pulling influences from punk, metal, and post-punk into a hardcore coup that pulls no punches. The precise bass lines dodge serpentine between heavy emotive guitar riffs and rapid-fire drumming. The gruff delivery of the lyrical content circling around self-doubt, world angst, and the absurdity of life brings it all together into a Camus-like concept album with poignant cover art by Liz Corso.

Bad Bad Men Messed Up LP

A gritty, hard-rocking slew of songs from the veteran old guard of the Omaha scene. A brutally honest swagger that comes with years of putting in the Midwestern reps, akin to Austin’s SONS OF HERCULES. It’s the kind of swagger and self-pummeling sludge that’s reminiscent of the STOOGES, MUDHONEY, and MOTÖRHEAD.

Shawnis and the Shimmers Shimmer Shake EP

A three-song 7” from a shambling five-piece out of Richmond, VA. At first listen, the lo-fi garage-abilly sound brings to mind the ghost of HASIL ADKINS and the early ’00s bands out of Oakland like NOBUNNY, CUM STAIN, and PINK SLIME. But repeated listens (which are pretty much unavoidable, as this stuff is catchy as hell) bring to mind queercore vibes in the vein of HUNX AND HIS PUNX or PANSY DIVISION, and also the humor that riot grrrl bands could bring. I’m thinking of the first track “Eat A Dick” and BIKINI KILL’s songs “Suck My Left One” and “Carnival” at the same time (“I’ll win that MOTLEY CRÜE mirror if it fucking kills me!”).

Lazertits Lazertits Are Cancelled 12″

A three-song LP from a four-piece, all-female band from Melbourne, in the spirit of the COATHANGERS and the earlier, rougher version of SLEATER-KINNEY circa Dig Me Out. All the tracks have a tough, self-assured riot grrrl presence, with the masturbation-themed “Self Care” closing with a metal-esque breakdown. I’m not sure how the three songs, clocking in under nine minutes, fill out 12” of vinyl, but I love any non-traditional formatting of music. It’s like a teaser sampling to check out the rest of their catalog, especially the full-length Not Punk, Per Se.

It Thing Constant State / P.C.H. 7″

Anger and energy-infused female-fronted punk from the island of Tasmania, echoing the spirit of the GITS, BRATMOBILE, and X-RAY SPEX with an angrier Poly Styrene delivering the vocals. The two fast, assertive, and tough tracks will make you want to check out their entire catalog (especially 2021’s stellar full-length Syrup) or dust off your LUNACHICKS CDs from the early ’90s.

Melt Citizen Dullard II cassette

Up-tempo guitar riffs with a crushing drum and bass back-end that complements the witty, snarly vocals for this El Paso band’s latest. Too fast and hook-filled to be stoner rock and too punk/grunge heavy to be shoegaze. The older kids will think of post-Land Speed Record HÜSKER DÜ and the young ones will compare it to DRUG CHURCH. Both great compliments.

Tuff Bluff Poppies flexi EP

Three-song release from this young Denver band, released as a flexi disc. Punk with enough heavy, rough edges to balance the smatterings of pop that lead vocalist and guitarist Sara Fischer sprinkles in. The distinct meandering bass lines tie it all together, almost like a second vocalist. The right mix of Kait Eldridge’s songwriting in BIG EYES and the energy of the SOVIETTES.

Night Court Nervous Birds! Too cassette

NIGHT COURT plays smart jangly, just weird enough lo-fi punk—which is still harmonic at heart—that draws both from late ’70s power pop and ’90s college radio. It’s the kind of release that would stand strong on the Recess Records or Dirtnap rosters. There’s a complex interplay between the reflective lyrics, fuzzed bass riffs, power guitar chords, and clangorous drums, that while being deftly executed, comes off like it was just an “aw shucks” accident. Extra bonus is that this is the second album in the band’s debut duology, and the first album is just as good.

Ditches Lost in Time EP

Another excellent release from Drunk Dial. Bands get together and record an original and a cover song in a day with whatever ingestant or inhalant needed. The result is often impromptu, energetic, and inspired. It’s as if label boss Jordan Stamm is orchestrating his own version of the Peel Sessions. This one has Stockholm’s DITCHES playing their angsty power punk pop burner “Lost in Time” as the title track, with the B-side being a more inspired cover of “Abra Cadaver” from their fellow Swedes the HIVES. DITCHES has their own version of the Denton, TX sound, honed by bands such as MARKED MEN and RADIOACTIVITY. Jeff Burke of said bands has recorded DITCHES in the past, and does the mixing here.

The Ergs! Renovations EP

With recurring themes of heartbreak, missed opportunities, and broken and lost lives, country music and punk can share some similarities. Here the ERGS! are back together to put out three tracks that you could call country-inspired, but it’s all ERGS! at heart. The opener “Tonight’s the Night” is an OLD 97’S-style romp. The title track, “Renovations” has some of Jeff Schroeck’s best lyrical work to date, while “Penny in the Jukebox” is a great boozy closer. The EP manages to stretch out some musically while still maintaining that ERGS! earnest and honest punk sound.

NOXe Finders Keepers LP

A strong release from the Potsdam, Germany punk scene. The band is led by a scathing female vocal attack from singer Claudi. Her delivery compliments the tight rhythm section and angular guitars. Her delivery and the band’s range have some of the pop of Cinder Block of early TILT, Mia Zapata’s attitude and aggression with the GITS, and Penelope Houston’s politics with AVENGERS.

Heather the Jerk Cable Access TV LP

Catchy and tough punk from Heather Sawyer on her first full-length album. She put out an EP, Rick Shitty Sessions, in 2017, and this album showcases her musical and lyrical expansion but keeps just enough rawness and spontaneity to make it honest and relatable. Similar energy to when the MUFFS were a four-piece, or pretty much any of the tracks off Sympathy for The Record Industry’s Alright, This Time Just the Girls compilations. The range here is dynamic with slow heartbreak songs like “Heather Got a Divorce,” “Thinking About Food,” and “It’s Over,” to poppier sing-alongs like “”3D Binch and “1-800-Heather.” Sawyer drums and sings for the inimitable PROUD PARENTS, and her bandmate Tyler Fassnacht helps out here on guitar. Sawyer is one more part of what’s keeping Madison, Wisconsin as one of the more pivotal punk scenes around.

Christian Blunda Funky Punks in Space LP

Solo album from the MEAN JEANS frontman—a pandemic project three years in the making, and as the title indicates, kind of punk, kind of funk, angsty space-themed, and with keyboard synthesizers carrying most of the tunes. A concept album that stands strong, with a bit more sincerity than the Jingles Collection. Nothing like a pandemic to spin you into a fun, escapist space ride that is epic like an ephemeral soundtrack to an unseen sci-fi movie. I’m thinking of those futuristic ’80s action/horror movies that could dictate mood with a few extended atmospheric notes on a keyboard. He executes this well; I’ll put it up there with when WANG CHUNG made the phenomenal soundtrack to the epic 1985 film To Live and Die in L.A., but with aliens.

Madison Bloodbath Gittin’ Loose With​.​.​. LP

In the early-to-mid-aughts, right around when things started to get digitized and when the cost and turnaround time for a band to put out a 7” wasn’t thousands of dollars and a year wait, there was a certain spirit and sound to a subgenre of punk. Back when you could just write songs about failed relationships, getting drunk, and going on tour, all with epic, future angst anthemic chords. I had a bunch of split 7” records from bands like GRABASS CHARLESTONS, THIS IS MY FIST, SASS DRAGONS, the ERGS!, and early OFF WITH THEIR HEADS from labels like No Idea, Recess, and the late and disgraced Plan-It-X. MADISON BLOODBATH lands right in there, and I’m going out on a limb and assume the members were and are still in that scene. The album doesn’t give the typical list of the prior bands the members have been in, and that’s great––it lets the album stand on its own. With layered vocals, crunchy guitars, and pummeling drums, it’s a debut where the sound is self-assured and well-practiced, but still rough enough to be honest.  It made me dust off and crank up my copy of The Cheap Wine of Youth by RIVETHEAD and reminisce. (Okay, I was just about to submit this review when I found out this is a 2022 vinyl reissue of the 2008 CD released by A.D.D. Records, so I’m not a total idiot for placing this record in that era. But I’m also too lazy to re-write it and I’ll stand by what I said: this record stands the test of time.)

Angry Silence Strange Times Call for Strange Measures CD

Honest post-punk from Brittany. Jangly and abstract timing with sweet hooks like SWELL MAPS getting released on Flying Nun Records. The self- and life-reflective lyrics are delivered in English with a passionate Mark E. Smith duotone delivery, as if the FALL had a bit more lyrical optimism. The band describes themselves as pop, but their shambling, broken anthems with earnest delivery set them well apart from their pop peers. Found myself more engaged and amped on it with every listen, up there in the spirit of the JAM’s 1977 releases.

Brower Live and Contagious LP

As we hopefully near the end of the COVID pandemic, what we are left with is a deluge of bedroom four-track albums or bathroom laptop solo epiphanies. However, this album will stand as the last live concert album to be recorded before the March 2020 shutdown. I left the mystery alone whether the live recording is in the vein of the BLACK LIPS Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo album recorded “live” in Tijuana, or more authentically, THIN LIZZY’s Live and Dangerous, which the art on this album cover reverently replicates. Regardless, it’s a fun raucous ride throughout. Sporting sounds from glam, English disco, and funk punk, the influences range from MUD and STATUS QUO to early KISS and late PHARMACY. The supporting band includes Josephine Network on guitar and Hershguy on drums. The songs pull from a range in BROWER’s career, so it’s a great intro if you haven’t heard this treasure before.

Nowaves Odd Secrets LP

Driving post-punk synth from Dresden with the dark sparsity of COMSAT ANGELS or BAUHAUS, but with the lyrical creativity of NICO’s The Marble Index. The JOY DIVISION comparisons will be made, but they have their own original dark surf vibe going. The album has a danceable goth-pop sound, and the ten tracks grow more with each listen for a solid release.

Quaker Wedding Total Disarray LP

There’s a place between LEATHERFACE and AMERICAN STEEL (post-the Rouge’s March album) where this band lies. The great, angularly harsh guitar work is reminiscent of 1997 HOT WATER MUSIC before their infamous Hard Rock Cafe breakup, and the lyrics haunt with the emotional despair and angst of WEDDING PRESENT’s David Gedge. This is their sophomore release on the infallible Salinas Records and fits in with the more raw and rock part of their discography. I didn’t know what a “quaker wedding” was when I was assigned this review. But the week after, I caught one of JAWBREKER’s shows for the 25th anniversary of Dear You and then watched the documentary Don’t Break Down about the history of the band. At the end of the film Blake Schwarzenbach makes a comment that during the meeting when the band broke up, it felt like a quaker wedding where “you just sit there but there’s a lot of weight in the room.” Here the weight is authentically well-defined and felt.

Big Bopper New Mutations cassette

Spastic scrap/crap bursts of punk from somewhere in Texas. It’s hard to tell if the anonymity that is BIG BOPPER is an actual band or another one-man solo basement project spawned by quarantine. Regardless, it’s catchy, and its pointedly sardonic humor is infectious. The cover art of BIG BOPPER’s discography and the overall sharp spaz vibe lands it in the Lumpy Records camp, which is a great endorsement.

Richard Hamilton Kiss Touch 2000 cassette

Longingly lonely romantic pop rock songs from the prolific Clevelander RICKY HAMILTON. Hooky synthesizer melodies that you don’t mind getting stuck in your head. It lands somewhere beyond where post-punk ends and indie starts. Reminiscent of post-Seamonsters WEDDING PRESENT, where a cover “Montreal” would fit seamlessly into this album.

Horrible Girl and the Hot Mess Do You Know Who Your Friends Are? CD

When I got this album to review from this Greenville, South Carolina band, I had just finished reading A Punk House in the Deep South, which is a collection of interviews from the former residents of the 309 punk house in Pensacola, Florida, compiled by Aaron Cometbus and Scott Satterwhite. The book told tales of the independently creative, politically-minded, artistically mischievous, and musically-focused denizens of the legendary Southern punk house. Maybe it was (roughly) similar Southern geography, part timing, but more so part similar attitude, but I held the book and album with akin spirit. Highly energetic, brutally honest, and the right amount of rough production make the punk anti-pop songs authentically relatable, with a singer that reminds me of a younger Nico de Gaillo. It’s filled with enough tales of broken relationships, bad jobs, bad drugs, a day-to-day on the fringe, and relational escapades to fill a book.

Cocktails Catastrophic Entertainment LP

Excellent escapist power pop in the wistful spirit of PAUL COLLINS. Like a mid-tempo FLAMIN’ GROOVIES, their Bay Area antecedent, writing songs about hanging out with friends, falling through love, summertime on the West Coast, and an innocence that evokes earlier long-gone times. Beautifully crafted tunes with a sound like it could have come from ’70s power pop, ’80s suburban rock, or the Lookout! roster from the ’90s. Moog leads and guitar melodies with boy/girl vocals telling tales of innocent worries that make you want to put on your Radio Shack headphones and curl up in the bean bag chair and forget it’s 2021. Plus, they drop an excellent despondent country breakdown song in there with “Washoe County.”

Baby Tyler Vol. 2 cassette

Excellent hyper-spastic staccato punk hailing from Madison, Wisconsin. On my first blind listen, it had the feel of being recorded on a 4-track in an angry young adult’s bedroom while chain smoking Pall Malls, drinking Boone’s Farm, and reading too much David Foster Wallace. A few more listens and its layering emerged, with slow, emotive insights and complex change-ups balanced against the unhinged melodic bursts. This all makes sense, as the one man behind BABY TYLER is the similarly forenamed Tyler Fassnacht from the pivotally epic PROUD PARENTS. They are one of the current greats to take up the mantle of the frantic, melodic punk sound, like if the BANANAS and F.Y.P. were signed to Flying Nun Records.

Bricheros Live at Hensley 10″

If you’ve owned a copy of Don’t Back Down by the QUEERS, the LILLINGTONS’ Death by Television, or any album by TEENAGE BOTTLEROCKET, and you recognize that the rub in executing RAMONES homage is that it’s easy to create but much harder to perfect, then you’ll appreciate BRICHEROS. The three-piece (two brothers and a friend) who originated in Peru and now call Denver home have done their part in elevating and universalizing the three-chord, 1/8-note sound. This album was recorded during a live show at a now-defunct punk club in Lima, Peru which gives it that lo-fi impromptu appeal.

DDR The Morning Grey cassette

Dark post-punk from Zagreb, Croatia, with the distinction that separates them from the current scene being the searing melodies that quickly sneak in and grapple with the dissonance of the singer’s voice. Melodic in the mid-tempo, angry way of HÜSKER DÜ or Throb Throb-era NAKED RAYGUN. Like maybe what ICEAGE would have sounded like if they stuck with their early DIY/punk sound, but better. Sung in English, the lyrics seem to be trying to piece together some beauty out of a fractured and absurd, sometimes grotesque world.

Suspectre Suspectre LP

A solid debut release from this post-punk trio from Bremen, Germany. Dark but with the right amount of pop and lyrical insight to keep it interesting and varied. A modern-sounding MAGAZINE, but like if Howard Devoto kept more of his BUZZCOCKS influences in there, and he could have foreseen the Berlin Wall falling.

Doctrina Alimentar Su Final LP

Mid-tempo punk out of Seville, Spain that tensely keeps the right amount of lyrical and musical attitude through the eight quick tracks. This could have been something the JAM recorded in the short time between their first two albums, if only Paul Weller sang in Spanish.

The Manikins Bad Times LP

Mostly due to their tour de force album Crocodiles, this Swedish band stood out from their peers in the mid-2000s stripped-down power-garage-pop period—thinking bands like TRANZMITORS, the SHOCKS, and the HEX DISPENSERS who were reinterpreting the BUZZCOCKS for a post-Bush world. Crocodiles came out in 2008 and I thought the band had hung it up. Over a decade later they are back with a batch of new songs, but had the supporting tour sidelined by the pandemic. The album lacks the production earnestness of Crocodiles, but despite cleaning it up, there is an angsty darkness throughout the album captured best in the tracks “It’s Not Gonna Be OK” and “Worse Than I”. The songwriting and change-ups have allowed the band to expand their sound and even style a bit. The standout track is the mid-tempo “Make a Run for It”. An excellent album that manages not to rehash or revisit a long-gone time but moves forward in a newly defined way.

Blowins 2015—2020 CD

This discography covers two LPs and an EP from a band who relocated from Poland to Ireland. Fast, angular guitars with darkly-focused lyrics sung in Polish. A great introduction to the band, plays like a sped-up and then stripped-down version of Pink Flag-era WIRE.

Personal Style On Fyre / Block the Hate 7″

Two solid anthemic rock tracks out of this Buffalo, NY trio. Self- and socially reflective while still insightful and angry. Playing like a ’90s version of STIFF LITTLE FINGERS with some synth and current culture angst thrown in.

Bad Kiss III EP

Four lo-fi punk tracks that sound like they were recorded in a bedroom in one day with a single mic. Basically, it’s awesome, inspiringly authentic, and true energy in all the right ways. It got me more stoked on music and life than all the other ultra-produced too cool for school stuff that’s posing around today.

The Ar-Kaics Live in the Shit LP

This is a live recording captured from a February 2020 show in their hometown of Richmond, VA, right before live music shut down. The frantic intensity of the performance comes out and smacks you with a quick pace as each song rushes in right after the next in a perfect garage punk cadence. It’s a tight, quick set and all the slightly off notes and tuning only add to the authentic energy of it. There’s a good mix of old and newer songs with an excellent unreleased new track, “Outsider.” An excellent addition to their growing catalogue.

Neighborhood Brats Confines of Life LP

Their first album since Claw Marks (one of the best albums in 2018) came out finds the band only getting more diverse in sound and higher in impact and energy. George Rager’s guitar and Jenny Angelillo’s voice are a brutal one-two punch through twelve tracks that will get a pit circling while covering topics of capitalism and housing, misogyny and sexism, commercialism and labeling. I’ve heard they are an insanely intense live show and I’m hoping they get to play some venues stateside soon.

Christmas Bride Dark Romance of a Midnight Wanderer cassette

Davey Hart is this one-man band from Chicago, writing epic songs that don’t so much fit in any predefined genre as much as they make their own. The base seems to be a pop punk homage to ’90s Nitro/EpiFat bands with some theatrics Á  la QUEEN or SPARKS, and a touch of new wave, hair metal, and WEIRD AL. He makes this all fit without any sense of irony and with an earnestness that repudiates the humor.

The Beltones Cheap Trinkets LP reissue

I was in Portland during West Coast travels in 2001, the year this album was first released on TKO Records. I ended up at the infamous Satyricon club, a decadent ruckus glory shithole that showcased some of the best punk, grunge, and garage bands of the ’90s and early ’00s. The BELTONES happened to be playing that night, and though a lot of the details are hazy, I remember them striking a strong, memorable chord and leaving an impression in me as being no-nonsense, honest punks. Listening to this reissue confirmed those opaque memories. Bill McFadden’s vocals don’t so much have a range, but rather fluctuate between a gruff growl to a loud shout to accentuate and emphasize. Like a sped-up STIFF LITTLE FINGERS with the politics being more personal, the BELTONES had their own sound, mixing street punk with flavors of Jamaican music, soul, and Oi!, that more than held its own in the punk landscape of the time. With their catalogue being difficult-to-impossible to find on digital platforms and the original vinyl mostly out-of-print, having their capstone album back on vinyl is both a welcoming reminisce and positive optimism of being able to crank these tunes again.

Dicks Hate the Police EP reissue

This EP is 40 years old and its relevance couldn’t be more important or timely. This is the second reissue, the first being in 2012. During its production and pressing, George Floyd was murdered, focusing a hyper-lens on the ongoing abuse and savagery carried out by the nation’s police forces. The record came out last summer amidst the despot führer’s election year antics and the protests in our nation’s streets. “Hate the Police” has been covered many times, each one failing to reach the impact and authenticity of Gary Floyd’s vocal delivery or the perfectly imperfect raw, cavernous recording of the original band. The lyrics and delivery of the song are so much more than a simple “punks vs. police” dichotomy. The hate and sadistic oppression that encompasses a personal sphere mirrors that of our society on a systemic level. I’m not a pessimist, but when Gary Floyd growls “You can’t find justice, it’ll find you,” I know this song will still be relevant and necessary 40 years from now.

Nancy Nancy Goes Country LP

This is the European version of the same album that was released in the US by Fullerton juggernaut Neck Chop Records. The opening track and album title are a satirical tease, suggesting that these pop-slop-punk veterans turned in their Chuck Taylors and Fenders for cowboy boots and steel guitars. Given this band’s hilarious character acting in their videos, I half believed it. I was expecting something like CLOROX GIRLS’ Justin Maurer’s recent forays into country and western music or the SUPERSUCKERS’ Must’ve Been High album, but the country joke ends after the first track. Which is fine, because the rest of the album is packed with their tight, witty two-piece power punk songs. I’ve been a fan since their 2013 debut, and they just keep getting better.

Witness Marker Witness Marker LP

Like growing up listening to hardcore and then moving to D.C. and discovering Dischord Records. Feels of RITES OF SPRING and an insightful, angsty DAG NASTY. Tempos varied well through songs, they’re able to slow it down and still bring a heavy attack often in the same track. A solid debut from Chris Werner and Bruce Ewell formerly of NO ONE’S HERO.

Quit It! Let It Burn EP

Four tracks of socio-political anthemic punk with some well-placed street and Irish elements. A pandemic-midst project from the Calgary-based RIVER JACKS that hopefully will keep going. Sounds as if Jack Dalrymple of ONE MAN ARMY fronted AMERICAN STEEL. Those were both pretty good bands.

Gemstones Novel of Nothing EP

Sludgy pop hooks mastered up so lo-fi the drums just fuzz and blend into one long thunderous white sound. There’s early JAWBREAKER-esque vocals where you can only make out every third or fourth word, but you can figure out that they’re talking about something like what you wanted to hear. Four songs on black vinyl with a hand stamped center label and xeroxed sleeve in a poly bag—a little authentic DIY hope in an otherwise overproduced landscape.

Quintron and Miss Pussycat Goblin Alert LP

Before the third wave of the great commodification, punk was always a safe haven for weirdos. Experimental and eclectic to the point of being true only to self. A place equally for anger, angst, and creativity. Thinking DEVO, TALKING HEADS, SPARKS. Following in that mind line come QUINTRON AND MISS PUSSYCAT. More theater kids, less leather. This full-length is filled with snotty, swampy anthems that are humorously political, socially scathing, and most certainly would fill a dance floor live. Disco beats, circus organs, homemade instruments, dueling majorette vocals, plus a talk box master. It’s like if John Waters managed the early B-52’S.

V/A Sweet Time RNR Comp 2xLP

This compilation double-LP was put together by Nashville-based Sweet Time Records after their annual Sweet By Sweet Time Festival was cancelled last year due to COVID. Label boss Ryan Sweeney complied 26 tracks on vinyl including local Nashville bands like SCHIZOS, MODERN CONVENIENCE, and SNOOPER, with outside standout tracks from PERSONALITY CULT, MIDNITE SNAXXX, ZOIDS, SICK BAGS, FRESH GRAVES, a great garage rocker from Johnny Otis Dávila of the defunct San Juan band DÁVILA 666, plus a ton more. It’s like an anthology for the syntho-weirdo-punko-garage scene. Also, all proceeds are going to support the venues that lost money from the festival cancellation.

Monty Vega & the Sittin’ Shivas Closed (No Fun) cassette

RAMONES-influenced rock that has a good bit of depth musically and lyrically. MONTY VEGA’s webpage cites paying musical respect to Joey and they also have a song entitled “Poor Dee Dee.” There’s a bit of GROOVIE GHOULIES here and the keyboards bring in some punk new wave Á  la the MINDS, which culminates in a great cover of “Goodbye To You” by SCANDAL. The social commentary video “Failed State” is worth checking out and furthers the case that this isn’t just a homage party band. Seems like this is a two-piece quarantine project, but post-COVID they should be back to a full band which gives me something to look forward to.

Josephine & Hershguy Stocky Tunes LP

The first listen I was getting a lot of sonic inputs from early K Records, SPARKS, post-post-art-punk, ROXY MUSIC, neo-No Wave, glam theater rock…almost in a disparate hi-talent show of the kids too cool and too talented for marching band. On second, third, and many more listens it all melds together into the singular voices of Josephine Network and Hershguy, refreshingly hard to put your finger on, but so good. It’s so unique that the album includes its own Stocky Yiddish Dictionary where I learned that “cockamun with a bissel hunnick” means “shit on you with a little honey.”

Planet Y Kniven for Struben 12″

Scrappy hardcore with just a bit of jangle from this Copenhagen band. A quicker and madder X with the spirit of DEAD MOON. The vocals and sharp guitars bring to mind Poly Styrene and the best of X-RAY SPEX or the VICIOUS. The nine tracks blast quick for a strong listen.

Lost Sounds Black Wave 2xLP reissue

Jay Lindsey may well be remembered by some for his solo work as JAY REATARD and his ominously-titled final album Watch Me Fall that came out on Matador shortly before his death in 2010. Or the scrappier punks may lean toward the fatalistic crash-down sounds of his first band the REATARDS that helped solidify the Memphis/Goner Records scene in the late ’90s. On the timeline between these two bands lies LOST SOUNDS. Alicja Trout, Rich Crook, and Jonas Garland joined Lindsey from ’99—’05 and released several dark synth futuristic/apocalyptic punk records that put them between the post-punk and garage scenes of the early aughts. Trout brought in the synth keyboard influence from her old band the CLEARS to craft an evil circus carnival tent revival sound reminiscent of the SCREAMERS, but a lot more pissed-off and skeptical of a post-9/11 world. This double-LP is a reissue of the now out-of-print 2001 album originally on Empty Records and is a great place to start for a newcomer. Side note: Trout, Crook, and Garland are currently playing as SWEET KNIVES, who sound and feel like LOST SOUNDS without Lindsey and are well worth checking out.

Stiff Richards Dig LP

Blistering post-hardcore from the pivotal Melbourne scene that borrows from ’77 punk, street curb rock, and failed rehab. A modern day, faster Aussie take on MCLUSKY or PISSED JEANS but with a touch of humor and the stamina to party harder. There’s double guitars and crazy tight drums/bass that don’t slow down, but it’s Wolfgang Buckley’s scratchy, screaming, near-breaking vocals that make you want to pound your fist or start dancing or just Iggy strut around your quarantine hole wishing you could see them live.

Mikey Erg Mikey Erg LP

I spent some part of quarantine listening to MIKEY ERG’s 2019 solo album Wax Built Castles, which was a collection of reflective acoustic ruminations reminiscent of Devon Williams’ post-OSKER output. That album fit the mood and the volume of the time. Last year he turned it up with a four-song EP titled Bon Voyage, which was a warm up to this full-length release. Ten blistering punk pop punk songs in 26 minutes, drawing emotively and literally from ’80s indie rock and ’90s punk. The album opens with a mid-tempo rocker “Can’t Be Too Careless” and then shifts into a cover of PEARL JAM’s “Spin The Black Circle.” “Rubin Hall,” “Hey Marissa,” and “Rumblestrip” touch on topics of college life, relationships, and tour with early-aughts ferocity. The version of GREEN DAY’s “Going to Pasalacqua” is the best cover since the ERGS! gave proper treatment to the GIN BLOSSOMS song “Hey Jealousy.” The final two tracks, “Good Mic” and “Give Up,” slow down and blow out as great album closers. MIKEY ERG has been in plethora of bands, currently drumming for the pivotal WORRIERS, and in the past DIRT BIKE ANNIE, STAR FUCKING HIPSTERS, DOPAMINES, and of course the ERGS!, but it’s his voluminous and diverse solo work that continually surprises and satisfies. Factoid: The album cover art pastiches the CLASH’s debut album in the same way their London Calling album mirrors ELVIS PRESLEY’s debut album.

Los Saicos ¡Demolición! / Lonely Star 7″

Many record and band reviews (mine mostly) spend space name-dropping other bands and styles that a reviewee sounds like and borrows from. It’s a kind of connect the musical dots. Because let’s face it, we’re all influenced in some way by what we’ve heard before. But there are those trailblazers and avant-gardes who every now and then create something strikingly new from the same twelve notes we’re all shuffling around, using nothing but their own instincts. LOS SAICOS were operating out of Lima, Peru from 1964–66 with limited access to outside music or the happenings in England or the United States at the time. Their proto-punk sound with sharp guitar riffs and screaming vocals pre-dates the STOOGES, SEX PISTOLS, and RAMONES by a decade, though the band remained in obscurity, almost as an in-the-know secret among garage punkers. The early-aughts saw a brief reunion, along with numerous articles and a few documentaries that brought them back into current consciousness. BLACK LIPS and many many other similarly-styled bands cite them as a major influence. This 7″ is a reissue of two of their early singles, a great musical artifact that couldn’t care less if punk was born in London or NYC.

Warm Exit Sonny Cynar EP

Four tracks of synth-fueled punk rock pop that harkens the weirdness of early B-52’S with the angular-ness of GANG OF FOUR. It also has that current knowledge and feeling that “everything might fall apart at any moment” that one gets from NO AGE. Hoping they put out a full-length at some point. During my own travels and playing shows, I have often visited Rockerill in Charleroi, Belgium on European tours. Rockerill is that kind of place, not infrequent in Europe, where a huge industrial factory is tuned into a true DIY art/music/cultural center hosting art events and punk shows, and also, as it turns out, a recording studio and record label where this album was made.

Bikini Beach Atoll LP

Stoner-psych-fuzz-death-garage-rock with rotating vocalists that I’m sure would leave that high-pitched tinnitus lingering in your ears for several days when (if?) live shows happen again, and one forgets or has a credence against ear plugs. The ringing would be a subtle reminder that you saw a band sweat, scream, and destroy a set leaving it all on the stage. I used “stoner” as a description because if the band were from Southern California or signed to Castle Face Records, that’s a term that may get dropped around. But the band hails from Weinfelden, Switzerland and is too tightly explosive and punky energetic to really be stoner per se, more like a triple espresso with a heavy pour of kirsch brandy.

Ditches Ditched LP

Smart, tight, fast, power-garage-pop from Stockholm, Sweden. The tight guitars, staccato lyrics, and relentless pace immediately bring to mind the North Texas scene (the Denton Sound, if you will) that spawned the MARKED MEN, RADIOACTIVITY, MIND SPIDERS, POTENTIAL JOHNS, HIGH TENSION WIRES, and any other band that Mark Ryan or Jeff Burke had a hand in and likely ended up on the Dirtnap roster. In regards to the above, DITCHES don’t so much duplicate, but more so translate, creating their own sound and style that lands a bit rougher and more earnest than their Texas counterparts. After giving this a few listens, I checked out the liner notes and found out that Jeff Burke of MARKED MEN/RADIOACTIVITY recorded and mixed the album and also lent some back up vocals as well. Suspicion and legitimacy confirmed.

Mr. Teenage Automatic Love EP

Four really solid tracks of power pop from Melbourne, Australia with equal tinges of NERVES-era Paul Collins mixed with the power-pop-punk that came out of Portland/Seattle/Vancouver in the early aughts. I’m thinking SODA POP KIDS, BRIEFS, TRANZMITORS, and WHITE WIRES-style. If released a generation earlier, one of these tracks would likely end up in a John Hughes movie.

The Archaeas Archaeas LP

A non-stop auditory assault that hits all sensory levels. I think I could taste blood. Violet Archaea storms the three-piece Louisville band through their debut album on Goner Records. The glam garage of THUNDERS, TEENGENERATE swagger, and that Goner-esque sound akin to EX-CULT are here. The liner notes reference the important influence of GUITAR WOLF—particularly the epic movie Wild Zero in which the band battles aliens trying to take over the earth. And it’s here, as the album plays like a soundtrack to guitar sword battles, exploding heads, fake blood, and broken hearts. Trivia: the first album Goner ever released was GUITAR WOLF’s debut, so it’s a fitting base to launch ARCHAEAS.

Accidente Caníbal LP

Tight, melodic, high-energy release from Madrid, Spain, with vocals reminiscent of Agent M from the early TSUNAMI BOMB 7″ singles that were released by Checkmate Records in the late ’90s. That label was run by Hunter Burgan who plays bass for AFI, and we can argue if his band sold out well before the Black Sails in the Sunset album, but the tight guitar/bass interplay with thunderous drumming reminds me of those early albums. Recorded in Madrid, the album was mastered by Mass Giorgini (COMMON RIDER, SQUIRTGUN) at his Sonic Iguana Studios in Lafayette, Indiana…so maybe that’s where all this ’90s/’00s stuff is coming from. Translating the lyrics from Spanish, the songs take a strong rebellious stance, putting the common in the center and fighting back the corporate cannibals. I have a feeling this is the kind of band that will pack out the infamous Wurlitzer Ballroom in Madrid to sweaty spastic crowds after the pandemic is over.

Prisoner Choose Your Delusion cassette

Imagine if you dealt with quarantine by locking yourself in a basement with a Casio keyboard, your guitar, a makeshift drum kit, and a Tascam four-track recorder, and the only thing you had to consume was a bag of Flamin’ Hot Funyuns and a case of Sparks. (But it was the old version of Sparks that had a higher alcohol content AND caffeine, taurine, and all that other chemical crap that the government made them take out.) Then you passed your days by composing a theatrical one-man band concept album that played out like the Rocky Horror Picture Show with JAY REATARD in fishnets playing the role of Frank-N-Furter to the audience in the mirror. That’s pretty much what Brandon Hamilton (PRINCE, DUDE JAMS) did in Austin, TX last year. Amazingly spastic, melodically demented, and pleasantly bizarre in a way that’s reminiscent of the early PHARMACY.

The Ar-Kaics Ar-Kives, Volume One: Singles & Unreleased LP

This is a collection of singles from this Virginia band who’ve been morphing their own take on ’60s-style lo-fi garage for years. You can sense the influence of the lineage, but the music has its own unique sound, without duplicity. Tunes range from defiant anthems (“Can’t Stand This Place”) to sludgy stomps (“Cut Me Down”). The band had COVID cancel US, European, and Japanese tours, but were able to release these early out-of-print singles dating back to 2013 and some demos instead. It’s a great place to start if you’ve never heard their other releases. Not just for fans of the Back From the Grave scene, but for anyone who digs fuzzy, snotty songs with a little attitude. European release by Bachelor. In the US, it’s on Dig! Records from Virginia, which has been putting out vinyl for five years but this release was given the 001 catalog number—apparently that’s been on the back burner waiting for a pandemic.

SBDC The Feeling of Winning LP

Vancouver has a long history of great female punk bands, not the least of which is Lisa Marr’s band CUB. SBDC (Stupid Bitch and the Dumb Cunts, if you need it spelled out) is carrying on that tradition with scrappy riffs, clever lyrics, and bursts of short, amazing songs. I recently found an old split 7″ from CUB and Larry Livermore’s band the POTATOMEN that was co-released by Vancouver’s Mint Records and Lookout!—SBDC has the best sounds of Mint and Lookout!, and also the energy of the short-lived Olympia band HEAVENS TO BETSY. For the record, this album could have come out on Mint Records, but instead it’s on the spazier, artier, scruffier, more DIY Kingfisher Bluez.

Honey Joy II LP

Big hooks from dual guitars are matched with the big voice of singer Meg Tinsley on this London band’s second full-length. The album manages to match up socially relevant post-hardcore tracks (“The Contagion,” “The Healer”) with power pop gems (“Queen Ray,” “Saluting Magpies”) and have it all flow together. If there was a Fest this year, I could see HONEY JOY making the trip across the pond. Recorded by Simon Small from the band APOLOGIES, I HAVE NONE, the LP joins a punk lineage of albums mastered by Daniel Husayn at the North London Bomb Factory and it’s released on the up-and-coming indie label Everything Sucks.

The Mark Vodka Group The Mark Vodka Group LP

Halifax, Nova Scotia seems like a weirdly dark, isolated, dangerous spot. Maybe it’s these kind of places that are fertile grounds for spastic punk mayhem. A place where music formulates apart from cultural pseudo-coolness and it’s just meat and bloody guts and acid juice. I’m thinking Mark Mothersbaugh and DEVO from Akron, Ohio, or Mark Winter and the CONEHEADS (or whatever he’s doing) from Northwest Indiana. Add to this the MARK VODKA GROUP, a project from Luke Mumford and some of the other Halifax BOOJI BOYS released by the ever reliable Drunken Sailor out of the UK. Gritty and bitter, but not without humor in a REATARDS-like way.