Reviews

Willis Schenk

Burning Heads Embers of Protest CD

Formed in Orleans, France in 1987, this melodic hardcore band has stood the test of time. Without really taking a hiatus, BURNING HEADS have cranked out a lot of music, this being their sixteenth full-length, not including live recordings or EPs. Understandably, the band has gone through their share of labels and members, with this release being lead vocalist Fra’s second with the band, maybe sounding like a less whiny Dan Andriano while the original singer, Pierre, had more of a Mike Ness thing going on. Admittedly, I didn’t listen back to all the hours of music in their catalog, but as the closer of this album suggests, they figured out how to “Keep the Fire Burning” all these years, with whole-band harmonies, endless guitar riffs, and a nod to their Opposite-era reggae album on “Dark Romance.” If you’re a fan of the band, Embers of Protest will not disappoint.

Joey Nix Another Way to Do It LP

Cleveland’s JOEY NIX, also of MA HOLOS and SHITBOX JIMMY, presents fifteen songs in the garage/power pop wheelhouse. Originally out on cassette from HM R&T in 2019, Just Because has put Another Way to Do It on vinyl. With the use of an acoustic guitar throughout, this album brings to mind the carefree qualities of Muswell Hillbillies-era KINKS, with NIX’s “Small Reward” even having some lyrical similarities to “Alcohol.” “Purple Peet” gets the most experimental with a nervous rhythm, a squeaky fiddle, and Mark E. Smith-styled vocals.  “Jousting” blasts that acoustic guitar through a blown-out amp and has the most grit, with snarled vocals—at a minute-and-a-half, I want it to keep going!  “I’m a plumber at night / And a janitor by the day” is crooned softly throughout “Jobs,” with a melancholic harmonica in the background producing a tender love song and another dimension to this multifaceted album.  Admittedly, we’re a little late to the party, as this re-release came out in October of 2022, but not so much that we can’t shine a light on this excellent album that is lighthearted, heartfelt, clever, and catchy.

Why Bother? Serenading Unwanted Ballads LP

Wow. WHY BOTHER? made another album. Another very, very good album. This prolific band comes from Mason City, Iowa, and this is their seventh full-length record since 2021. Serenading Unwanted Ballads hits all of the marks of their signature sound: Terry’s foreboding-doom vocals and hallucinogenic synth, Speck’s shimmering guitar that’s drenched à la country western ballad in reverb or full of crunch and fuzz; Pamela’s growling bass (check out “Some Don’t Dance (Post Modern Mix)”); and the equally precise yet destructive drumming from Paul (check out “Frothy Green (Live Dec. 2020)”). The A-side comes off as a darker and at times slower version of the band, like on my favorite of the album, “Come on Inside”—absolutely haunting. The B-side gets a little more energetic and feels akin to previous releases, yet still has some dark reveries like “Thanks for the Ride” and “Testify,” the latter written and recorded by Aaron H in the Anamosa State Prison. In full disclosure, A City of Unsolved Miseries made my year-end top ten for 2023, so I come predisposed to loving this band, and I’ve been listening to this release on repeat since it came out in March. But I digress, as I’m gushing at this point—if you like post-punk cloaked in a gothic shawl set to horror synth, then do yourself a favor and listen to WHY BOTHER?

Becky & the Politicians Play the Early Hits of Cub cassette

This cassette is in honor of CUB’s original drummer Valeria Fellini. CUB is the Vancouver, BC icon of twee pop and cuddlecore that was, intentionally or not, the foundation of the bedroom projects that surfaced during the pandemic. All nine tracks are CUB covers, as BECKY & THE POLITICIANS skip down the road and hold hands with contemporaries like 1-800-MIKEY, RICHARD HAMILTON, BABY TYLER, BILLIAM…the list could go on. BECKY & THE POLITICIANS play a jangly guitar, an obstinate bass, and a tight little hi-hat drum beat that are—collaborative-sounding band name aside—the solo project of Jacyn Nickle, also of COLLATE, CONDITIONER DISCO GROUP and the BEDROOMS. With quite a few other releases on Kennel Jitters (Options, Punk Rolls Over the Hill, Drop Acid, and Own Thing), I first heard the “band” on the 2022 Girlsville comp She Don’t Need You that I reviewed. On Play the Early Hits of Cub, the synth is put away, which gives a much different tone to the whole thing compared to those previously mentioned releases, creating distance from the synth cover band pigeonhole that BECKY & THE POLITICIANS isn’t in. Awesome lo-fi recording that honors the life of Valeria Fellini and pays homage to CUB’s greatness.

Committeemen Extended Play CD

Houston, Texas-based COMMITTEEMEN release six new songs on this EP. Forming post-pandemic through answering some Craigslist ads, vocalist and guitarist DJ Gilmore-Innis and drummer Ken Dannelley (also of the NERVE-CURLERS and CORNISH GAME HEN) got together as the heads of the project, having their second guitarist and bassist amicably change over since this release. COMMITTEEMEN play post-punk-flavored garage rock, with some fairly gruff/shouted vocals and fuzzy guitars way up front in the mix. They remind me of the BLACK DOTS who I reviewed a while back, but not as emotive. They take the “Are we not men?” line from “Jocko Homo” on their “Total Devo,” give a dissonant little guitar intro, but otherwise don’t try out any mimicry. Another namedrop comes on “Kate Bush Plays Coachella,” but I can’t really parse what’s happening in that song, as they sing “Just like the movies / You see right through me”—your guess is as good as mine. Anyway, decent release, with another single (“Stimulated”) that has come out since.

Northeast Regional Fitness EP

Following the band’s debut LP Brand Managers of the Mid-Atlantic from last year, NORTHEAST REGIONAL fires off three post-hardcore/power punk tracks on this latest 7”. The group comes to us from Richmond, VA by way of Washington, DC, and is the brainchild of vocalist and guitarist Jeff Byers. The group was formerly a studio-based effort with lots of credited musicians, but a steady lineup has since formed and the group has been found on stage with local acts like DARKER THAN and the ARMORS. For their sound, Byers sites inspiration from groups like the HIVES, OSO OSO, MENEGUAR, and brings it back to his regional roots “[with] LUNGFISH’s ‘less is more’ songwriting approach.” The songwriting and ethos of the band seem to be a mélange of mistrust of capitalism, a good gym routine, and heavy, fast guitar riffs, producing song titles like “Agencies” and “Isometrics.” If you’re looking to reminisce on the RVA punk sound of bands like STRIKE ANYWHERE and the riffy metal- tinged mood of DC’s DARKEST HOUR, look no further than NORTHEAST REGIONAL.

Gut Health Singles ’23 EP

Five-piece from Naarm/Melbourne providing some wonderfully angular no wave, led by Athina Uh Oh. I hear ESG mashed together with DEVO—great quirky synth lines, staccato, jabbing guitar riffs, jittery drums, and a busy bass. They’ve got music videos for a lot of their songs, which are worth checking out to see their art-house aesthetic at work. Would definitely recommend this EP and this band!

The Grubs Big Mouth CD

Fun pub-punk band from Haverhill, Massachusetts that boasts a fairly beefy discography over the last decade, just adding Big Mouth to the collection. Pretty classic fare on offer, fun and carefree party tunes with whole gang sing-alongs that I’m sure would be enjoyable live. Of the four songs, the closer “Sky Dragon” is definitely my favorite, singing about a permanently closed Chinese restaurant and opening with the line “Crab rangoon on a full moon / Pork fried rice makes it nice,’” which just makes me smile. They remind me of the CHATS in that they sing through life’s inanities and have a good time along the way.

Radical Kitten Uppercat 12″

After their first full-length Silence is Violence from 2020, RADICAL KITTEN is out with their second release Uppercat. Groove-driven post-punk through a queer and feminist lens gives perspective on “No Means No” with lines like “No means no! / Patriarchy fuck off,” and the absolute ripper of a track “Fake as Fuck” that death screams at the end of the line “These two-faced peoples will try to trick anyway / No, I don’t wanna waste my time on them!” There’s some spiky energy at work here, with bobbling bass lines and great drum fills reminiscent of Buzz or Howl Under the Influence of Heat-era MINUTEMEN set to the political fervor of PYLON. Great album. This Toulouse, France trio is one to watch!

Angel Face 5.1 / Driftin’ Away 7”

Debut single from Tokyo’s ANGEL FACE. The band features Fink (TEENGENERATE, FIRESTARTER, RAYDIOS) on guitar and vocals, Toyozo (FADEAWAYS) on bass, and Rayco (RULER, TRIPLE JUNK) on drums. “5.1” is a blaster from the start, featuring a straight rock’n’roll riff on repeat with clattering drums and gut chugging bass—really high energy, almost like a DEATH arrangement, with fast changes and endless drum fills that eventually break for that main riff to grumble alone. On the back side, “Driftin’ Away” has a little more space for lyrics that have a similarity to Eugene Hütz’s snotty vocal intonation. Very cool release. Reno’s Slovenly Recordings has picked up the band and already released another 7” single as well as their debut self-titled LP, if you’re hungry for more. ANGEL FACE is not to be missed!

Added Dimensions Time Suck / Hellbent EP

Following their self-titled cassette from 2022, ADDED DIMENSIONS puts five tracks to wax on this new EP, out on Erika Elizabeth’s Domestic Departure label. This is Sarah Everton’s project (of BLOWDRYER and TELEPATHIC), and she contributes everything from guitars and lyrics to the artwork, with drumming from Rob Garcia. Inside this lovely home-spun record, we find staccato SLEATER-KINNEY-esque guitar riffs with the shambling rhythms of the VASELINES and her very own lyrical grit about modern life, like on the second track “In the System”: “In the system I cannot leave / That’s OK, they know what’s best for me,” sung with a satirical sweetness. This won’t suck, doesn’t take up much of your time, and you might even be hellbent for more!

Blind Eye Waste of Time / Nothing’s For Free 7″

Do you like aggressive, femme-fronted hardcore? No, you love it? Look no further than this gem of a 7” by the Nottingham, UK group BLIND EYE. Steeped in the Nottingham scene, bandmates Andy Morgan (guitar) and Steve Charlesworth (drums) played previously in ENDLESS GRINNING SKULLS (and many other bands separately), and took their energy to this project with the help of Matt Grundy (bass, also a bandmate of Morgan’s in NADIR and DEAD IN THE WOODS) and Anmarie Spaziano (vocals). The tour-de-force of their 2019 demo has carried on through their Decomposed LP and now this single—fast, fierce, raucous, as if the whole thing could come to pieces at any moment, but somehow, they maintain. The A-side “Waste of Time” is an instant classic, with ascending guitar lines that boil over into choruses that get Spaziano screaming with the whole band working at a pretty flat-out pace. The B-side “Nothing’s for Free” starts out slow with some spoken word over dissonant guitars and shimmering cymbals, then rips into the frenzy they are known for, shouting “I’m just trying to stay alive” over a barrage of riffing, and don’t be mad they put a guitar solo in the outro, it rips! Overall, every member of this band is putting out excellent musicianship, true stewards of their craft. Am I avoiding using the obvious pun that’s to say “don’t miss out on this one”? Yes.

La Aferra Program 2xLP

Nikt Nic Nie Wie and DIY Koło put out a double LP from Polish green anarchist band LA AFERRA. Disc One is a partial rearrangement of songs from their 1996 cassette La Programo, and starts with a PA announcement and siren wail that set the motif of Eastern Bloc oppression.  “Kiedy Pozbędę Się Serca” follows with a mid-tempo hardcore rhythm and spat-up spoken word that rips into shouts at the end of the song that’s basically one long crescendo. This style remains throughout, speeding things up or down (mostly up), getting angry about the state of the environment through an ecological lens, based on notes from NNNW website. “Morderca” is a good taste from La Programo, with heavy riffing and lots of backing vocals from the band.  Disc Two is their 1994 debut cassette W Naszych Nagich Twarzach in its entirety. The songs here maybe hit a little harder and take less time for instrumental breaks or slowed-down bridges. The green anarchist anger is definitely present in this compilation, and makes a solid showcase of the band’s sound. If you’re looking to delve deeper, also check out Miłość (“Love”), their final album from 1999, that takes the band in a different, more somber direction with long, dark instrumentals, as if all their initial anger was swept over with a sadness inherited by not seeing the change they were after. Great to see bands like this, otherwise off the radar from 30 years ago, get some light of day.

Circles Still. LP

Having formed in Nantes, France in 2017, this marks CIRCLES’ sixth release. The band notes ’80s DC hardcore as a main influence for their sound, with a melodic twist. I hear this in songs like “Sunglasses,” with pummeled drums, angular guitars, and shouted/sung lyrics. While the title track “Still” starts with a FUGAZI-esque riff, it really takes a turn with a long, almost orchestral outro, featuring synths and keys. Other songs like “Giants” and “Waves” have brighter, splashy drums with a tambourine rattle and some of that melodic vocal influence, producing a pop-forward sound. Given this range of focus, I was a little lost after the first listen, but after a few plays, I think CIRCLES achieves the cohesiveness of a solid album with Still.

Grazia In Poor Taste EP

Debut EP from London’s GRAZIA. Four tracks of bleeding-mascara garage pop dressed in thrift store chic spandex and leather. Nervous little guitar jabs, mid-tempo drums, wobbly synth, and almost vocal-fry-esque vocals that are resonant and syrupy. Fun release, check out the two music videos of “Cheap” and “Stupid Paradise” to get in the spirit.  Worried the record jacket won’t match your favorite neon? No problem, choose between fuchsia, lemon, or green!

Fire Cult The Very Edge of the Sea LP

Debut LP from the Swiss/Spanish trio FIRE CULT.  Fun indie pop sound mixed with sass, whines, and screams that are at times dissonant and at others melodic (often both) within these longer-format songs, as in “The Runaway,” which starts slow, droning and repetitive, then halfway through shifts to fast and upbeat, declaring “I’m running away.” “No One Tells You” is my pick of the album, with blaring attitude and a quick tempo. That said, I think “Static World” is probably the catchy indie pop hit of the lot—it’s tender, sweet, and has enough grit to balance it out. I got to review their first release We Die Alive EP when it came out in 2021, and they have only expanded on their cult sensation that seems to be focused on playing great tunes and having a damn good time while they’re at it.  While The Very Edge of the Sea certainly contains the elastic-snap of indie, they have dropped the synths that were on their first release, giving this album a heavier, and at times more serious feel. This good-time pirate ship of a band may catch your attention, too. Beware!

Giglinger React 12″

If you’re familiar with GIGLINGER, this may be a far cry from your expectations…React starts off with an eight-minute track (the shortest of the four cuts is five-and-a-half) that mixes post-punk with jammy psychedelic noise rock. Am I at rave? A cavern in hell? Right, Finland.  Looking back on their discography, I found a totally different band—straightforward, lo-fi punk that was great!  Take, for example, their full-length cassette 13 from 2021, that is two sides of riff-driven, fast-paced punk rock, like a group that enjoys the DAMNED. Whether these slower, longer, more spacious songs (with a much cleaner production) are a new beginning for GIGLINGER or an experimental layover, I don’t know.  I like parts of this, and I’m reluctantly pigeonholing the band by saying I miss the heart found in previous releases. But hey, they’ve been at it over two decades; it’s your band, get weird!

Trash Knife Weird Daze LP

With their first release (the Trash Life EP) having come out in 2016, and a slew of other EPs and singles along the way, this marks the first LP for Philadelphia’s undeniably crusty TRASH KNIFE. Only a few tracks wander over the two-minute mark, so it’s over with while you’re still reeling from the fury-meets-fun, stomp-and-crash garage soundscape. Lauren’s vocals often harmonize with guitar leads, kind of a thread throughout, only to surprise you by breaking off into snotty diatribes, spat and shouted. They kind of have a FDR skatepark aesthetic, and I’m all about it. This recording was done live in their practice space, which speaks to the tightness of the band, and works perfectly to give the production that rough edge this music deserves. Do enjoy these Weird Daze.

Piss Test Don’t Care LP

The foursome PISS TEST takes shit from no one and deserves your attention. At first, I was put off by the “cartoon cop squinting at a urine sample” logo from their first EP 7 Songs 7 Inches, thinking they were some half-baked teen project, but then the opener here, “Don’t Care,” barged in with buzzsaw guitars, pummeling drums, and frontwoman Debra Fetzer’s throat-punching vocals syncopating “I don’t care what say about me / Honey, I don’t care what you think about me,” and I was left with a much, much different impression. Here lies a project steeped in Fetzer’s years in the industry, distilled to a biting yet warming liquor. She got her start in Gainesville in 1983 with the band MUTLEY CHIX, performed for seven years, fronted other bands through the ’90s, and worked on booking shows and promoting the music scene through the Hardback Café. It was at the Hardback during COVID lockdowns that PISS TEST formed and used the empty venue as a practice space. There’s a great write-up about Fetzer in The Independent Florida Alligator, if you’d like to learn more. It’s not often you see a band of this caliber fronted by a 60-year-old, but unfettered by an instrument, she throws high-kicks like she’s fighting for her life (and clearly winning), while telling it like it is with tongue-in-cheek: “I’m a she-devil / An old bag / In it all, I revel!” from “Battleaxe.” Don’t Care marks the second release from this Gainesville based-band.

V/A Compulsive Agitation EP

While there are only six songs and five bands on this EP, there’s a lot to unpack here. All of the bands feature members with musical ties dating back to the ’80s, some of whom have taken substantial leave from playing; a renaissance at hand, if you will. KRUST WORTHY, from Basingstoke, UK, gets tracks A1 (“Protect & Serve”) and A4 (“Sab the Hunters”), and features the songwriting and guitar of Neil Duncan, chief editor of IssuePunkZine. Both songs have sort of a krautrock thing going on: syncopated, in-your-face, heavy, politically offended. RHI & THE RELICS get the closing track “Urban Disease”—I mention this one next because they are also from Basingstoke, and also have Neil Duncan behind the songwriting and guitar. This closer is definitely my favorite; Rhian Gove’s vocals are reminiscent of Steve Ignorant, and the song has that flavor of late ’70s UK punk in general. In the middle are some bands connected from the southern Netherlands, first up WASTE with their track “Everything is Grey”, which—maybe the titles are just similar—reminds me of the atmosphere of “Everything Turns Grey” by AGENT ORANGE (without the surf guitars), I don’t mean to say that as a slight, as it’s a great track. WASTE originally put out their first EP History Repeats in 1982, and came up touring with (next on the EP) the SCOUNDRELS, who formed in 1979. SCOUNDRELS contribute the track “Reptile Brain,” a fast and chaotic ’80s hardcore sound penned by guitarist Patrick Delabie, like early DAMNED mashed up with the mind of the CRAMPS. “A Messed Up Situation” is last to be mentioned here, played by FORD’S FUZZ INFERNO, featuring guitarist and songwriter Hans F. Ford, also amongst the founding members of aforementioned WASTE. “A Messed Up Situation” plays at the general milieu of the state of things here on Earth, which I’m sure they thought was dire in the 1980s, and what do they think now? Listen and find out. If all these musicians, who were at the bedrock of the movement in the late ’70s/early ’80s are still coming out with new music, and have reinvested their time and energy into it, then I’d take a look at the collection on offer here.

Step Sister Façade cassette

Façade, the second release from Minneapolis-based STEP SISTER, hits with a commendable force. Rapid-fire lyrics are spat over an inferno of bass, drums, and guitar, roiling yet fairly technical for the speed they’re working at. I hear riot grrrl, hardcore, and Midwest DIY meets an Australian chaos, like a Stateside AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS. Grade-A thrash and energy on display here—not much I can find on this band that formed in 2018, but I sure like what’s happening, with seven songs that immediately claim your attention.

Seagulls The Rapture and Resurgens LP

Seven years after their inception, Atlanta-based SEAGULLS put out their first full-length LP. Melodic guitar riffs, gruff vocals, power pop stylings with song titles like “HELLHOLEBOOB” and “A Tale Told by an Idiot” self-effacing the immaturity they play at, while taking on serious personal and social issues and growth. The band reminds me of DILLINGER FOUR, replete with silly sound bites and whole-gang backing vocals. This is out from Say-10, the record and skateboard company out of Richmond, VA that has featured bands like LESS THAN JAKE and ALKALINE TRIO on their decks and puts out hometown bands that could otherwise fit into the Fat Wreck Chords catalog. If any of those names get you excited, this may be for you.

Tractorman Tractorman 12″

Mid-’90s Madison, WI was the stage (basement) for co-creators Corinna Greenwood on guitar and vocals (credited as Electra Lass, also of TORMENTULA) and Indra Dunis on drums (credited as Jungle Judy, also of PEAKING LIGHTS, NUMBERS, and DYNASTY) who comprised TRACTORMAN’s main lineup, later adding friend Scott Watson on bass (credited as Bob Casserole). They played house shows and bars between Madison and Milwaukee and eventually put these ten songs down on a four-track in the bank vault turned practice space of peers XEROBOT, and from what I can tell, released the cassette themselves in 1996. The recording is actually pretty good, making audible the drum kit abuse, string-scratching, spiky guitar riffs, gutsy bass, and Corinna’s vocals, coming in equal parts screech and low-end rumble.  Kitschy Spirits’ reissue is loaded with fun stuff—the vinyl plays the same ten songs as the originally cassette all on the A-side with a TRACTORMAN etching on the B-side, there’s a write-up from Corinna and Indra, and a copy of the “Bassist and Singer Wanted for Band” poster that hung on Madison telephone poles. While they only managed to find a bassist, and moved on to different projects shortly thereafter, TRACTORMAN’s raw, unhinged sound (never clocking over a two-minute track) and DIY work ethic give them an air of authentic greatness.

Black Dots EP2/EP3 LP

Denver punks at it for over ten years put out an LP with 2021’s EP2 and 2023’s EP3. I reviewed a flexi single of theirs a while ago, which was comprised of the first two tracks of EP2, so I feel like I’ve been here before… heartfelt lyrics with backing melodies chiming in on choruses, pretty straightforward mid-tempo instrumentals: palm-muted chugging, rests for vocals to sail over, and economic guitar riffs. I kind of get a HOT WATER MUSIC vibe. While EP2 might be a little faster and heavier, EP3 slows down and is perhaps even more melancholic, if possible. This isn’t something I seek out, but the songwriting is clever, the band is tight, and the production is clean as can be.  Check out “Tired of Dreaming” for a good sample.

Dead Familiars Turbinado cassette

With a logo like it’s been carved into a particle board desk at the back of the classroom, DEAD FAMILIARS put their debut six-banger to tape. This Madison, WI four-piece released Turbinado digitally in 2020, until local record shop Kitschy Spirit did a cassette run. This reminds me of BUSH—slack rock fusing with a gruff, buzzy type of thing leading to some pretty middle-of-the-road power pop that one may raise a fist to at the back of the crowd.  At times melancholic, at others aggressive and stompy.  No surprises within, but a solid debut for fans of the genre.

Cloudage Cloudage cassette

Debut EP from Toronto-based CLOUDAGE, a feel-good indie set that will have you hooked straight away or leave you spitting up sugary-sweet melodies, depending on your preference for this type of thing. There are fleeting moments of edginess that help cut the sweetness where the backing vocals chime in, and you may feel compelled to nod along. While acoustic guitar strums mix with electric guitar and bass distortion over upbeat drums, the vocals are clearly the focus here: a barrage of narrative lyrics to pull at your memories of breakups and heartache, hardly stopping for a breath, evening singing through outros with “ooh”s and “la da da”s. There’s an homage to Ad-Rock from the BEASTIE BOYS, “Ad-Rock You’re So H”—and is that meant to be ambiguous? Hard? Heavy? Whatever. The closer “Stay Pure” pokes fun at their style with the line “Let bygones be bygones / Don’t turn pain into poetry / To hold onto in sad songs;” a genuine and self-effacing sentiment that may be the thread throughout this four-song debut.

Headwinds A.I. cassette

With a few records in their bin, Las Vegas’s HEADWINDS put out A.I.—songs are fun, dirty and have plenty of grit, with great-sounding guitars toned to hollow out yer bowels. There’s a little imperfection on the recording that sounds like a stylus hitting some dust, and is fairly apparent on the opener “Desire” during the longer-than-necessary outro. But they’ve got that desert-pysch thing going on, and used a 1959 reel-to-reel to record on, so I’ll give them a pass!  After a few times through, this really grew on me—the reverb-soaked vocals on the anthemic “Wild & Free” is an instant hit, and deserves a listen. The songs rollick around, kicking up dust, and give the illusion that everything will be okay, especially on the sandy-strummed acoustic closer “Melody” that sweeps beautifully to a finish.

The Cult of Lip Fuzz & Feedback Freaks cassette

This cassette compiles all three of CULT OF LIP’s first EPs—Right Now (2015, No Problem Records), Your Feedback (2017, Rare Plant Records), and Sleep Receiver (2018, Rare Plant Records). All of these are individually available from MPLS Ltd, and finally, this compilation on Kitschy Spirit. The music is equal parts psychedelic, noise, and shoegaze, gathering into an industrial-sounding headache betrothed to shimmering, warbled guitar and looping instrumentals; “Fog” off Right Now is a good example. I’m not saying this in a bad way at all, and there are times when everything gels in songs, like “Fray” from Your Feedback, that is dreamy and dark. Ronnie Lee and Hannah Porter achieve all the vocals and instruments on these recordings, except for Sleep Receiver on which the drummer Eric Whalen is credited. This pared-down lineup gives a true focus to their sound, which has progressed since their first release over ten years ago, with Sleep Receiver (the most recent) being my favorite of the three. This cassette comes out in front of their 2023 Marsha LP, perhaps creating some buzz (or fuzz) for the release. I was surprised how much this grew on me: while it droned and wandered at times, the effective songcraft and Hannah’s haunting vocals kept drawing me back.

Blood Cookie The World in Reverse! LP

Minneapolis trio BLOOD COOKIE puts out their fourth LP, The World in Reverse!—it’s dark and brooding indie with noisy instrumentals, like a page out of early SONIC YOUTH with poppier overtones. Jordan and Tom trade off bass, guitar, and vocal duties in this democratic band, keeping songs fresh track to track without losing their cohesive sound that is as endearing as it is fun. With a range from soft, sweeping, and shambolic (“Shelter”) to slap-happy drumming and fast changes (“I Robbed a 7-11”), this has a little something for everyone and will leave you wanting more, even after fifteen tracks. Don’t let the glued-together album art fool you—while they may present as a melancholy college band, this group is tight and well-formed after ten years as BLOOD COOKIE.

Splizz Splizz cassette

Another wonderful offering from Phantom—Berlin, Germany-based SPLIZZ takes a page out of the ’80s post-punk book, maybe something like the SOUND with rougher edges. Not totally sure what they’re getting on about, except for “Bored” which is sung in English, but the mix is great with bass way up front, dueling male/female vocals, and shimmering guitar riffs. This follows their first EP from 2019 (also self-titled) and comes out at a time when Western European post punk is in full-fledged revival. That said, SPLIZZ stands out to my ears, and has all the makings for greatness (or maybe I just can’t get enough of this type of thing)—you decide.

Wet Dip Smell of Money LP

Sisters Erica and Sylvia Rodriguez, along with Daniel Doyle (DANIEL FRANCIS DOYLE & THE DREAMERS, EARLY LINES) present their debut LP, Smell of Money. Austin, Texas-based WET DIP sings half in English, half in Spanish, and delivers a no-fucks-given-wave, cool-as-they-come sound. Guitars scratch and jitter over anxious bass and drums with a mixture of spoken word, innocent melodies, and downright venom, like on the closer that yells “smells like shit” until you too are ready to choke out an ethereal greed. The sparse and wandering PIXIES track “Silver” gets covered, as well as an angular take on “Pelo Suelto” by Latin pop star GLORIA TREVI—both covers fit nicely and give a contextual range of influence. Solid sound and a great debut.

Gym Tonic Good Job LP

Phantom has reissued the synth punk reveling Good Job, originally out on Et Mon Cul C’est Du Tofu? in 2019. This debut has its moments of quiet, slow wandering, apparent on “Hiroshima,” with mod-wheel-driven synth lines and spoken word, but moreover turns up with dance beats on the likes of “Tourists of Death,” which is catchy by the end of the first listen. These dark song subjects made me feel as if I had GYM TONIC pinned, then they slip in egg-punk tracks like “Car Sick” and “B12 Injection.” And did I mention they’re named after an ’80s French workout show? Needless to say, they’ll keep you guessing! Can’t get enough? Also out on Phantom is their new Sanitary Situations EP.

Inner Conflict At Any Time LP

INNER CONFLICT is back with their first LP since 2010’s Nachhause, and first release since 2018’s First They Take Manhattan Then They Take Kalk EP. This Köln, Germany-based melodic hardcore group has a lot of music in their larder, having formed in the early ’90s, yet they still present a raw, powerful sound on this recording. They don’t incorporate a double bass pedal—which I’m very happy about—and therefore stay more on the punk side of the dial, while ranging into emotive, tech-y guitar riffs and Jenny’s resonant voice carrying lovely harmonies with male bandmates. You like this type of thing or you don’t, you’ve known the band for years or are just passing by—either way, props given to a group still putting out music 30 years on. Pretty rad.

Railing Stay Mad Forever LP

Debut LP from Portland, Oregon’s RAILING, with a no wave take on grunge. While this hangs on the mothball tailcoats of regional grunge forbearers, it does attempt to create a unique, spacious sound. A lot of these songs start slow with droning, repetitive guitar riffs (that I think could be battered in a little more sludge), oddly bouncy drums, and a fierce female vocalist (who kind of saves the whole wandering ensemble). Midway through most tracks, the tempo ramps up, gets snotty, only to end right when you’re nodding along. I must say, I’m left wanting a little more. A touch faster? More gut to the guitars? But you didn’t ask me, and who the fuck am I? The lyrics are affirming, genuine, and writhe under society’s general control, as in “I’m sick of keeping up / Just to stay down” from “Now.” “Radio” kicks along consistently at a mid-tempo pace and is fairly catchy, so there’s some gems within. Not for me this time through, but I’d try out their next take.

Red Dons Generations EP

Despite moving to different corners of the US and Europe, members of RED DONS—originally formed in Portland, Oregon in 2006—have continued to put out music throughout the decades. Their name comes from a group of British Intelligence officers working out of Cambridge University circa WWI who were discovered to be Soviet spies, the context of which sets the stage for their long view of political engagement and questioning. As for the music, I find a sound rooted in rock’n’roll, emulating/paying homage to dark-leaning bands like the DAMNED or T.S.O.L., with plenty of space for guitar solos, keys, and some mild crooning and wailing. This four-song EP marks their first release since 2017’s Genocide, and they are still sharp and passionate as ever.  Moody, poignant, enlivened music.

Closetalker Destination Isolation LP

Sludgy, slow bass starts off this debut from Minneapolis’s CLOSETALKER; drums give a roundhouse lead-in to eight bars of droning guitars—and I thought I had some heavy, doom metal-flavored punk coming my way!  Instead, what followed was a melancholic guitar lead and some vocals like you’d find on a SWINGIN’ UTTERS record, or think of other mid-to-late ’90s Epitaph/Fat Wreck Chords stuff.  The band’s tight, the mix lets you hear everyone distinctly, and the songs are well-structured. It’s kind of push-around, friends-in-the-living-room music, offering a soundbite from Vin Diesel’s character in Fast Five (a quick search revealed) about people important to your life on the closing track “Honestly Livin’.” While this allusion was a little distracting, at least it came at the end, letting the other songs speak for themselves, like the catchy “J Masochist”—given their guitar leads, I assume these dudes are fans?  One can never be sure. CLOSETALKER may not be breaking any boundaries, but Destination Isolation makes for a solid debut.

Radio Siniestra Radio Siniestra cassette

Here’s a femme-fronted darkwave/post-punk group out of Chile, with what appears to be their first release? While I couldn’t find much on the group, they were recorded in Valparaíso, and picked up by the Santiago-based Cintas Taciturnas, while also releasing cassettes on Comidillo out of Berlin, Germany. The Comidillo Bandcamp page has a mystical write-up on the band…or what the band may mean to you as a listener, or something? Opening with “Who are RADIO SINIESTRA? Most can’t tell, unless you’re there.” Not shitting on it here—it’s a darkly painted canvas of an angular, crusty sound, mixed with bright spots of anarchic joy portraying this seven-song cassette.  For avid listeners of MRR Radio, you probably heard the album opener “Sombras Marinales” on Erika’s episode #1883. For fans of anything in those “marginal shadows,” this is a must-listen.

Fotokiller Eerie Nostalgia LP

Femme-fronted band FOTOKILLER of Berlin comes out with their debut LP.  Eerie Nostalgia features some songs off their 2020 Lenses demo, two singles from along the way, as well as some new material. This three-piece is concise yet full-bodied, playing driving post-punk, pointing it straight down an icy road, with bass lines way up on the fretboard and rarely ceasing, clean guitar riffs breaking way to distorted chords, then rests that let beautiful vocals float over drum and bass verses. 1980s post punk fans apply within. This is my first time hearing of the label Order05, but if you like the stuff coming out from Cintas Taciturnas or Symphony of Destruction, I think you’ll enjoy this. For a quick taste, try the catchy-upon-first-listen “Stop the World.”

Mary Bell Cerbero LP

Third LP (and the fifth release) from Paris’s MARY BELL, blaring out thirteen tracks of riot grrrl, grunge-laden aggression. Staccato guitar leads like you’d find from SLEATER-KINNEY with a super fuzzy rhythm guitar and a robust, gut-churning bass. Vocals vary from the sweeter side on “Watch Me Disappear” with a ’60s girl group influence, to more strained and typical of the genre on “Inferno.” American foresisters of the ’80s and ’90s would be proud, as Cerbero’s venom is just as potent. To give an example of the group’s serious, feminist intent, they take their name from a violently abused English girl, who went on to be England’s youngest killer in 1968. The point to be taken clearly is not the latter statistic, but rather to abhor the neglect, sexual abuse, and violence that catalyzed such behavior to begin with. If this dark, historic reference doesn’t sober you to the truth, try out “Viaggio,” it builds to quite the ripper.

The Jacklights Final Girl CD

For nostalgia-seekers of ’90/’00s female-led emo bands, listen up. Grainy and chunky guitars, with that fast-shuffling hi-hat beat, build a landscape for PARAMORE-esque vocals, saccharine to sour, asking questions like “Why’s this so hard? / I can’t believe the things you said to me” (from “Past Tense”). This is the JACKLIGHTS’ third EP, and they have kept laser-focused on their sugar-coated emo persona, dialing in some great songwriting chops. This four-song release is the perfect length for me—I enjoy it, but it’s the kind of thing I take in small doses.

Slack Times Carried Away LP

Indie pop band SLACK TIMES comes out with a compilation of their three EPs—Carried Away (2022), At the Blue Melon Rendezvous (2021), and Up Here (2021)—which makes up the order of the album. The opener “Carried Away” sounds like a TOM PETTY impersonation set to some Americana guitars and had me largely confused as to why MRR sent me this one. Nothing screamed punk or punk-adjacent at all. I kept listening, though, and maybe the remaining vocals (“Carried Away” aside) have the whiny, distorted nature of someone like Tom DeLonge singing more gently over the FEELIES—one of the bands they mentioned as an influence. R.E.M. and YO LA TENGO were also referenced, and I can hear the FLAMING LIPS, to boot. I really like jangle-y, poppy punk, but this feels more like pure indie, with the zest of any “punk” flavoring missing. I feel foolish groveling over genres, but that’s the impression I’m left with. All said, a good album that these members clearly poured their hearts into.

The Toads In the Wilderness LP

While Billy Gardner isn’t busy bringing us notable acts like PARSNIP, CIVIC, and ALIEN NOSEJOB on his Melbourne based Anti-Fade label, he’s hard at work playing in bands such as the LIVING EYES, VERTIGO, and the TOADS. In the Wilderness is the debut from this latest project, and brings us be-jangled garage rock, punchy in-your-face-bass, pure rock’n’roll lead guitar riffs, with some JOHN CALE-esque poetry lines sprinkled in, like on “The Wandering Soul.” This is tambourine-shaking fun, puts a smile on my face, yet doesn’t abandon social issues, like on the opener “Nationalsville” or “Sacred Books and the Damage Done.” Keep your eyes on this lot.

 

Spetters Who is Gay Chaos? cassette

Reading, PA DIY group SPETTERS puts out their last album, with a mixture of new tracks and a few from previous releases. A red herring two-minute piano opener gives way to guitar and bass that get a good workout, riffing up and down the neck with fervor, cloaked in reverb; drums make surprise changes, rests, and generally kept me on my toes throughout; vocals start relaxed, gravelly, and build to a strained scream at the top of choruses—the sum of all of it leading to catchy, genuinely engaging songs in the form of a deathrock frontman meets surf-laden shoegaze (maybe?). From their YouTube videos, it looks like they put on some high-energy party shows, blending their technical rhythms that boil over into a push-and-shove crescendo. If this is the last go of SPETTERS, then get your tape before they’re gone!

Es War Mord Die Utopie der Kosmonauten LP

Third LP from Berliners ES WAR MORD, with a title that translates to “The Utopia of the Cosmonauts.” My first passive listen didn’t draw me in, but taking time with it, I found technical breaks, guitar chugging (like on “Hinterlist”) that sounds lifted from a DEAD KENNEDYS rhythm, surprising pinch harmonics, and strained vocals like a German LEATHERFACE. Mid-tempo, gruff, with some melancholic melodies and guitar solos mixed in. Truly a lot to offer, yet they are concise and super tight. “Derselbe Atem” is a good taster, if you’re not ready to dive into the fourteen tracks within. Everything’s sung in German, so I couldn’t tell you what they’re getting on about, but either way, I’m in for it.

Negative Glow Volume 1 cassette

“Born out of a mutual love for ARCHERS OF LOAF” states their Let’s Pretend write-up— NEGATIVE GLOW certainly pays a killer tribute while leaving their own mark on this cassette. Super-fuzz guitars, right up front in the mix, straightforward drums, and male/female trade-off vocals with a love-lost kind of heartache, as in “The colors are so bright when you’re around” from “Hover.” This takes a moody walk right up my alley—I really, really enjoy it. It’s simple, catchy, and just droning enough. Even though it stands in the shadows of ’90s slacker rock, and therefore you could say is nothing new, any revival of this downcast sound has a place for me.

Munchkin Head Not Gonna Cry Dad cassette

Imagine music set to a Bart Simpson side-scroller arcade game, and you might come close to MUNCHKIN HEAD’s sound. Drum machine, Casiotone keys, dirt-chewing guitar crunch with little derivation, and high-pitched vocals with a filter that makes it sound like dude’s gotta clear his fucking throat! I like the DIY nature of the magazine clip-out cassette cover and of the music itself, and the earnestness of the “devotional cockrock” tag, but the music is grating, and not in a good way. I’m a little annoyed, and clearly that’s what the band was going for, so, good job?

Abolitionist A Pernicious Truth LP

New LP from Oregon’s prolific ABOLITIONIST, this being their eighth LP (if I’m counting right), with releases dating back to 2010. If you’re new to this group, they have that polished (dare I say commercial?) post-hardcore sound in the style of TITLE FIGHT or AT THE DRIVE-IN, while maintaining releases on independent labels. Listening back to some older ABOLITIONIST material, this production sound may have come with age, as it tends to, and I’m sure any tie to “commercial” is against the group’s anarchist themes (so, sorry guys). That said, I can appreciate their political attitude/anger that has an obvious place within the genre. They address “liberty” a lot, which led me to the liner notes: “A follow up to events that transpired in the lyrics of 2015’s “The Vicious Rumor” (but years later, and in the form of a letter written by Nestor to Liberty)…” I tried researching this letter, but don’t want to misrepresent anybody if I’m looking at it wrong. All to say, these lyrics are clearly written with intention and a historical perspective—all well and good for intention, but the music is not for me.

Mother’s Milk Render Void at Gate LP

Atlanta, GA-based MOTHER’S MILK is fronted by (or comprised entirely of?) Josh Feigert, who also runs the State Laughter label. While he’s been credited for other projects like CAMARO CROTCH, GG KING, and UNIFORM to name a few, this is the debut LP for MOTHER’S MILK. Render Void at Gate is an experimental, noisy, fantasy narrative that was written and recorded during pandemic lockdowns. Spoken word over synth is placed as bookends for the album, and gives context to the strange realm within—at times the vocals sound like BUILT TO SPILL’s Doug Martsch, set to an EVOL-era SONIC YOUTH soundscape. Feigert tells his story about the album on the State Laughter website, and is worth a look if the music captures you. This isn’t a casual listen by any means, but is an interesting concept album for lovers of science fiction and off-the-beaten-path seekers.

Love Interest Motherwound 12″

I was immediately drawn to the illuminated sheer drape on the cover and thought, “Is this going to be a moody, dark catharsis?” Yup. This well-presented debut EP comes from Detroit’s LOVE INTEREST, and is “a meditation on motherhood within a hostile world” (from their Bandcamp page). Tom-heavy drums set the undertone for icy guitar lines, punchy bass, Houses of the Holy-esque synth, layer upon layer of operatic backing chants, and a strong frontwoman with a killer range. By no means is this paired-down or sparse—it’s that wall-of-sound production that works really well with this dreamy, gothic, darkwave-in-sound, post-punk-in-lyricism styling. These four songs have meat to them, are on the longer side, and require your attention. Lovely music for the fall season.

Atomic Tide Night Crimes CD

Second release from the San Francisco group ATOMIC TIDE, with members from AVENGERS, ANGRY AMPUTEES, GLITTER WIZARD, and the PLEASURE KILLS. This is a bombastic approach to punk with tinges of surf-y, psych rock guitars, and is gripped by the power of Lydia Taylor’s vocals, reminiscent of Yula Be’eri in NANUCHKA—deep, rich, and resonant. Their first self-titled cassette release came out in 2019, so it’s good to see this group survived lockdown and made it out with five new rippers! This is night music, if the title didn’t make that clear, so once the sun sets, pop this CD in your 2008 hatchback and let ATOMIC TIDE do the troublemaking for you.

Love in Hell Love in Hell demo cassette

Fun twee-pop demo from Portland, Oregon’s LOVE IN HELL. Draped in floral printed dresses, this all-female trio plays sugary beats with a crunchy guitar, bobbling bass, and syncopated vocals that tell personal stories and ask pointed questions like “What would make it all worthwhile to you?” High school locker-art aesthetic (awesome), fun and heartfelt, a name that’s a little obvious yet somehow perfect, and did I mention floral? Sign me up.

Penny The Bubblegum Tape cassette

Second release from the New York four-piece PENNY. Members Jordan and Liz came from FLEASPOON, and brought some songs from that to their 2019 LP, but here we find four new originals and a cover of HEAVENLY’s “P.U.N.K. Girl.” Loud and fast with barely comprehensible vocals; music to keep you frenzied and jittering. A feat only possible on a self-released tape, each copy comes with a pre-chewed piece of gum stuck between the shell and the jacket, with a “Certificate of Authenticity telling you who chewed your piece and what flavor it was!” While this is a little fanfare-y, I find it endearing and clever. There’s nothing groundbreaking on this lo-fi garage-stomper tape, but at the same time, it hits all the marks and does not disappoint.

Soup Activists Live at Sharon’s cassette

This comes from the mind of Martin Meyer, most notably of LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS and Lumpy Records, who brought us eggy tracks on records like Huff My Sack and Music to Hump a Trashcan To. SOUP ACTIVISTS turn down the distortion and chaos some, and provide a sweeping, shambolic sound: synths playing merry-go-round tunes, chug-a-lug guitars, and steady, mid-tempo drums. I get the brattiness of DEAD MILKMEN in the vocals, mixed with the oddball lyricism of the FLESH EATERS, but the comparison already stands to the whole body of work Meyer has been involved in, his Discogs bio listing countless St. Louis projects—I’ve brushed by this music, but I’m excited to take a deeper dive. Live at Sharon’s comes out in front of a studio LP slated for release this fall, so be on the lookout. I’m wondering how this recorded-live-to-tape raw sound will translate to studio production, but I have faith they’ll keep the edge intact. Don’t pass this one by.

Hunger Artist Samsara LP

If Samsara is the cycle of death and rebirth, then that is the story of this album. HUNGER ARTIST consists of Edward Scales, Michael Honch, Tom Messmer, and Carl Silvio, and was formed in Rochester, NY in the mid-’80s. These eight songs were recorded at PCI Recording in 1989, the reels allegedly sitting behind closed doors all this time, just now coming to light on vinyl. The band’s love of DC hardcore, which they grew up on earlier in the decade, shows up in spades on this record—angular rhythms full of rests, followed by crashing drum beats, concise guitar lines screeching over gut-punching bass and strained vocals. From what I can find, they put out the Who Changed? 7” in 1988, contributed to a Flux Records 7” compilation in 1989, recorded the songs that appear on Samsara, and then disappeared. In looking for more on the band, I came across an interview on the Made You a Tape website with Ian MacKaye and Michael Honch, wherein they unearth the 1987 letter that Michael sent Ian, asking him to send tapes of DC bands he couldn’t find in Rochester. It’s an interesting read, and gives a lot of perspective on this record. I can’t find much on the other members, but Michael Honch played in some bands before and after HUNGER ARTIST, including NUNS ON DEATH ROW and POWERLINE in the ’80s and ’90s before taking a musical break, returning in 2011 with ALARMS & CONTROLS and currently NUMBERS STATION, a two-bass instrumental duo. Returning to focus: thank you, Rabbit Rabbit, for rescuing this one-off gem, what else is out there?

T.A.C.K. T.A.C.K. cassette

Stomp-and-crash duo from New Orleans, rattling the bolts off the garage door and red-lining their four-track on this wonderfully lo-fi recording. Stella keeps a nasty, splashy beat while taking on most of the catchy, screechy, and shouted vocals, while Roach sings back-up and pushes his guitar through a blown-out amp, performing lead fills between rhythm chords. Each listen draws me closer, and I think the opener “P.L.F.” is a fucking hit: “I’ve got a car, treats me kindly / It’s got wheels and that’s all that I need.” Any chance you’re doing a Northeast tour? Think these two would be a blast live. The Feed My Ego tape I got has the bonus single “Lunch” as the closer, and so does the Blä version, but the XTRO version does not. Each release also swaps around the track order, so you decide? Feed My Ego appears to be the band’s own label, so show some support!

Gottlieb I Am This Place cassette

Angry-as-hell four-piece hardcore group from Los Angeles. This is their second EP, following 2021’s Dear Heroes, and this double A-side cassette offers a litany of social and political critiques and downright condemnations. Themes of consumerism, billionaires, racists, homophobes, and sense of place get highlighted and torn apart during this five-song basher. Pretty straightforward HC musically, but I think the lyrics shine through and are really poignant. Lines like “It all leads back to shopping centers, touch screen skies / I’m terrified that we’re in denial / But we love the lie” from “Venetian Hotels” and “I looked up to my cousin / He beat me with a shovel and passed a bit of wisdom / Stop being such a girl” from “Man Up / Down” stand out to me, blending a sense of self into the issues at play. Not something you’re going to put on, snap your fingers to, and have a good time, but rather, it will enliven your sense of rage (if it’s not already at its max). Wake up!

Rata Negra Bien Triste 7″

New single from Madrid-based RATA NEGRA, with a “very sad” (or Bien Triste) take on post-punk or indie-flavored darkwave (or whatever). Beautiful, melancholic vocals from singer Violeta are backed by the mid-tempo pulse of drums, shimmering guitar riffs, bass that hangs right up front in the mix to provide the melody, and a digitized synth line, creeping through the background. I must admit this is my first introduction to the band, and I am excited to look back on their three LPs, though with some quick research, RATA NEGRA has had quite the following, so I’ll assume my ignorance is in the minority. They remind me of the haunting melodies of KOLD FRONT who I reviewed a while ago, but RATA NEGRA has been at it longer, so maybe the comparison works the other way? This is another affirmation that La Vida Es Un Mus can produce little I don’t enjoy. Get your hands on this one.

Night Court Humans! LP

Following Nervous Birds! One and Nervous Birds! Too, this is NIGHT COURT’s third full-length release, and first time on vinyl. They are a Vancouver, BC outfit doing some indie-flavored garage punk, with a digital undercurrent as if you’ve got the headphones plugged in halfway. I don’t necessarily mean this is in a bad way—the slightly distorted vocals and synth/guitar phaser play well off one another. A mix of the SHINS and the PIXIES, roughed up with a lo-fi production, might get you close to the NIGHT COURT sound, for whatever the comparison is worth. Only two tracks reach the two-minute mark, so this sixteen-song LP is over pretty fast. Fun, easy, summertime listening.  Should we be on the lookout for Humans! Too?

Wasted Modern Lie LP

Formed in 1996 in Joensuu, Finland, WASTED re-records some of their earliest work here on Modern Lie. This ain’t no skin-and-bones punk, this is full muscle and gristle: “wrench tossed in the political machine” lyrics, bass bright and up front in the mix, with a combative rhythm. The band might sound like a darker version of NAKED RAYGUN, or something of the like, if it wasn’t for the clever, post-punk guitar riffs layered throughout, in addition to the poignant lyrics, like on the opener “Break You” where they sing “I bet they taught you about global wealth / But did they teach you about mental health.” “True Colors” has my favorite bass and drum groove on the album, while “Trenches” sounds like a call-to-arms anthem, not to be missed. Brothers Ville and Antti Rönkkö have written the band through six other LPs over their 25-plus years as WASTED, and they aren’t here to fuck around. If you need the last veil to be lifted on the first-world illusion of prosperity, tune in to Modern Lie.

Eyes and Flys Swirl Maps LP

I first heard this group on The COVID Collaborations, Vol. IV and immediately enjoyed everything associated with these cassettes—lo-fi bedroom projects galore, what’s not to like? Swirl Maps is EYES AND FLYS’ first self-released LP, pulling some tracks like “Cactus Flowers” and “Eyes and Flys” from previous singles. That said, Tetryon Tapes did put out an LP of all the singles in May of 2022, so you may see some crossover here. While the lineup has shifted somewhat, it seems Pat Shanahan and Biff Bifaro have stayed active in the band from the start, performing regular tune-ups on the motor of their shambling and be-jangled sound. Wiry, reverb-soaked guitars, shouted vocals that make me rock back and forth, singing along slack-jawed. Of the new tracks, “Empty Safe” is my favorite faster/rowdy track, while “Take the Keys” is a slow, sweeping reverie, beautiful in its own messy way. Keep your eyes on these FLYS!

Angry Adults Dust and Weight EP

Third release from Helsinki trio ANGRY ADULTS. Fun, summertime punk rock, as if they jumped out of the late ’90s Fat Wreck Chords catalog. Uplifting guitar riffs between whiny, slacker-esque vocals and splash-heavy drums keeping a mid-tempo beat. Going nowhere fast, driving the LAGWAGON down Highway 1 in the full sunshine…or some coastal road in Finland. This doesn’t wow me, it’s not trying to change my mind, it’s not genre-bending or new, but after a few listens it’s growing on me, making a whole lot of sense in this sticky summer heat.

Øbvious Approach Pre-Rhetoric 2xEP

First release from Grand Rapids, Michigan’s ØBVIOUS APPROACH. Five songs split between two 7” discs, all with really long titles, like the opener “…No, It’s My Face! It’s Like Your Face is Made Up of 1 Million Tiny Versions of My Face,” delivering a moody, poppy blend as if you smashed MXPX and AFI together. Generally, a clean and well-polished recording, with strained-to-crooned vocals over tom-happy drums, breaking way into pick-sliding guitar chugs. Catchy, poppy, melancholic, self-described as “dumbestic punk.” Did these guys grow up listening to the Warped Tour CDs? If you did, and are hungry for more, check out Pre-Rhetoric.

Decent Criminal / Direct Hit split EP

Three-song split from DECENT CRIMINAL (Santa Rosa, CA) and DIRECT HIT! (Milwaukee, WI). DIRECT HIT contributes the first song “Wasteland,” starting off with a surf-rock twang strum and someone saying “I feel like I’m skateboarding in this song,” which leads into scratchy, shouted vocals over tom-heavy drums. The song came out of pandemic lockdowns: a vision of a virtual-reality future, wondering “We’re in the wasteland / Are we even alive?” The sound is nasty and in-your-face; a confrontation. I listened back to some previous releases, and while the surf-rock thing appears, Nick Woods’ vocals, mixed with the indie pop swing of the band, makes them sound like GOOD CHARLOTTE, or some other unfortunate iteration of pop punk from that time. Not that I listened back to all their tunes, but it seems “Wasteland” takes a different approach. Speaking of indie/alt rock: DECENT CRIMINAL. “Dream” and “Time” jangle along with a tambourine and some soft “ooh”s and “aah”s and are generally catchy, though admittedly not my bag. If this is your thing, the 7” also comes with a full-length comic book, Beacon, a collaboration of Nick Woods’ dystopian writing and Walker Dubois’ illustrations. Candy pop punk fans apply within.

Club Déjà-Vu Alles Was Es Gibt LP

Seems like there is currently a revival of late ’90s/early ’00s melodic punk, but if your band formed in 2004, is it a revival? Germany’s CLUB DÉJÀ-VU put out their fourth LP this year, with their last album, Die Farben der Saison, having come out in 2015. I listened back to a few tracks from their nearly twenty-year endeavor, and Alles Was Es Gibt delves deeper into the emotional side of their already melancholic sound. Sing-along melodies, downtrodden guitar riffs mixed with bright and quick solos, fast drums, and a high-quality production sound. This reminds me of SQUIRTGUN, or generally anything from the Mallrats soundtrack, but sung in German. If you like this type of thing, they have 60-some songs in their repertoire.

Veľká Potreba Tlak CD

Oddball five-piece from Slovakia with their second LP, Tlak. The music ranges from straightforward chuggy punk to post-punk-styled guitar lines to polka-tinged ska rhythms (plus a surprise ending). The singer wields a trombone, using a plunger as a mute, they all wear matching short-sleeved white shirts and striped ties, looking like begrudged office hacks, and they’ve collectively donned “Potreba” as a last name; has a cult formed here? I couldn’t find much in English about the band, but it seems like we have a group of middle-aged punkers giving it their all and having a bunch of fun (the live videos are really great). This release is available on CD or plunger-shaped USB drive (which also gives you their first album, V Rohu). Tlak is a pretty long album, so if you want a taste, try out the penultimate “Vypeníš,” which has a breezy, nostalgic air to it. And hold the front door! What’s that last track? “TRAPenie ľudí” is yes, a trap song, with all the auto-tuned, click-beat trap-ings. That’s a first for me in an MRR review. I’m out of answers, you be the judge.

Disintegration Time Moves For Me 12″

When I pressed play on the opener “Carry With You,” I was hit with a drum machine and a dirty, farty synth line—like something you’d hear on a NINE INCH NAILS record—then Haley Himiko (PLEASURE LEFTISTS) came in with deep and dark vocals, crooning through the mechanical soundscape from Noah Anthony (PROFILIGATE), Christopher Brown (CLOUD NOTHINGS), and Paul Ryan (solo project under his name). A little coldwave, a little goth, a little synth punk, and a lot Cleveland. Songs are on the longer side, the shortest being three-and-a-half minutes, so you get good mileage out of these four tracks. The last song (“Make a Wish”) has a music video, if you want to see the team at work. I believe this is the first recording from the group, and I hope they keep at it. Lovers of the off-kilter and avant-garde, apply within.

With Arms Still Empty Discography cassette

With maybe the best emotional/melodic hardcore band name ever, WITH ARMS STILL EMPTY puts out all twenty songs from their tenure of 1998 to 2002; the sweet spot of the genre. Think of bands like DEATH BY STEREO, THRICE, DROWNINGMAN—fast, technical guitar riffs, probably a drum kit with a million pieces, call-and-response screamo vocals that shift into sung harmonies, you know the deal. I can only digest this type of music in small doses, indulging my angsty inner teen, so listening to the whole discography in one shot was a bit of a slog. But for fans of the genre, and the band, who apparently had a good run in their heyday throughout the Midwest, this may land as an important piece of history. Again, I think they really nailed the band name, and the songs are just as good, with titles like “Even With Warrior Screams,” “Every Goddamned Butterfly,” and “Lunar Fuck, ”and while I may be laughing, you know these dudes were dead serious. Jump in with both feet or pass on by.

Baby Tyler Imposter cassette

Fourth full-length coming from Tyler Fassnacht’s solo project BABY TYLER, and it’s got all the energy, grit, and unpolished punk that’s only getting better with age. This is one of those COVID bedroom endeavors that has carried on and proved to be something special; the brazenness of ALIEN NOSEJOB and hooky songwriting skills of (fellow Tetryon-er) RICHARD HAMILTON. Speaking of the label, Tetryon is a cassette-only subsidiary of Feral Kid Records and has lots of fun up-and-coming artists, even encouraging bands to submit demos, so check them out! Back to BABY TYLER: for a taste, listen to the closer “E.E.L.” with the chorus “And it feels as though I’m caught in the undertow / Of everyone else’s life,” which rings like an anthem. This music makes me want to take out the trash. It makes me want to stomp around and feel good. Get your hands on this one.

Pleaser Demo ’21 cassette reissue

On the second edition of their 2021 demo, Copenhagen’s PLEASER blasts out three sub-two-minute bangers. If you put a guttural metal singer up front, this would be a straightforward thrash/crossover band, but it’s not. A mix of shouted and melodic vocals from the two frontwomen form a menacing yet playful sound. Vocals ride over deathrock guitars, drenched in reverb, and super splashy drums—there’s a jitteriness at work, paired with catchy lyrics and downright push-and-shove rhythms. Kind of a riot grrrl thing, but more metal? BABES IN TOYLAND come to mind, or the more current band MAUDIT DRAGON who I reviewed a while back. This has the making of something very good. And before you ask—yes, their debut is on the way. Look for the self-titled LP this September and pre-order now!

Anxiety Spree The Vinegar Pageant cassette

Third release from upstate New York’s ANXIETY SPREE, which has turned into the solo project of Dominic Armao. Compared to the band’s last release, this is a little more focused, with no signs of the upbeat pop sound found on A Party For the Garden Rats. The instrumental intro to “The Price” reminds me of something you’d hear on a SLINT album, with mostly spoken word, to boot. Even though the lyrics are included, I find myself a bit lost in the metaphors, but that’s OK; I enjoy the syncopated vocals over the angular guitar lines. This self-released project will make you a copy of the tape by request—for four bucks this can be yours!

Fuck Sorry! Eat Shit LP

Femme-fronted hardcore group from Vienna, Austria with their debut LP. I can’t decide if I like the band name or the album title better, but needless to say, they’re both amazing. Very politically-minded, they start us off with “Prime Time War,” singing “They all stare at the TV in awe / Disgusted but fascinated / And excited by the spectacle and the misery.” The song is laden with clips from newscasts and the sounds of machine guns repeating. I’m not usually into sampling like this, but it works here, reminding us of the buzzing, distracted nature of media consumption that leads to confusion and apathy. The following track “Eat Shit” is a fucking ripper, and refreshingly short after the long opener. The you-are-what-you-eat adage is put into focus with a pummeling reminder of how much plastic has made its way into our food and water systems—“Finally we are eating our own trash.” If you’re looking to get pissed à la CRASS listening, then tuck that napkin into your collar and get ready to Eat Shit with FUCK SORRY!

Kosmetika Illustration LP

Melbourne-based art-punk/new wave band that bends the genres to their will, blending industrial noise with shambling dream pop that’s gone goth, maybe? Vocals are sung half in English and half in Russian, Veeka Nazarova’s native language, the harsh Slavic nature of which adds to the angular and industrial sound of the tracks. Fans of obscure ’80s new wave/darkwave/no wave will like this. I hear similarities to STRAWBERRY SWITCHBLADE in pop-driven songs like “Eighty Four,” or to contemporaries DELIVERY (who I reviewed a while back). On the other hand, the two opening tracks “Strawberry Needles” and “Psycho TV” remind me of—and I’m sure this is a stretch—the clamoring FOETUS, with noisy and experimental brushes throughout. This just came out in April, so if any of this interests you, get your copy of the limited pressing before it’s gone.

Public Interest Spiritual Pollution LP

Second album from Oakland’s PUBLIC INTEREST, with their take on dark post-punk. The only musician credited is Chris Natividad, so whether this plush, full-band sound is coming from him and him only, I can’t truly say. If you’re familiar with his other band MARBLED EYE, you will like this variation on their theme that is more pop-driven in its beat, while still providing those reverbed-out, languishing guitar lines. The vocals are as if Thurston Moore is singing in a monotone baritone the whole time, which works with the steady, mid-tempo drums and repetitious bass chugging and synth strokes, best exemplified on “Falling Ash.” The dark aura of MORPHINE or TYPE O NEGATIVE comes to mind, but as a punk outfit. Erste Theke Tontraeger hasn’t led me astray yet, and this record is no exception.

Hands Off Hands Off demo cassette

Independent punk band and label from Groningen in the Netherlands, with ten tracks of swift and buzzy riot grrrl. I really enjoy the pulse beat in the synth-driven “S.I.M.” that employs the repetition of “no one has” to start every line of the song. With this type of repetition used throughout, I hear a poetry in their songwriting, which is presented calmly over synth lines, like on “S.I.M.,” or shouted over fuzzy guitars like on “Get Me One.” If you enjoyed the 1993 Stars Kill Rock compilation put out by Kill Rock Stars, then I think you’ll be at home here.

Träume Ob​ł​ę​d EP

First recording from this Warsaw-based hardcore foursome. TRÄUME (or “trauma”) and Ob​ł​ę​d (“madness”) give the English-speaking sap like me a context for the rage within these four songs, which are over within seven heated minutes. The band rips—pick slides and chugging guitars galore with straightforward tom-pummeling drums. Vocals remind me of the way BAD BRAINS shout, howl, and emphasize end lines by swinging up an octave. Not a clue what they’re singing about, but I’m all in!

Blonde Revolver Good Girls Go to Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere LP

If the title of the debut LP from this six-piece, all-female ensemble of Melbourne punkers doesn’t draw you in, then simply hit play. With members coming from BODY MAINTENANCE, CARPET BURN, DELIVERY, FUTURE SUCK, and GUTTER GIRLS, this lot is churning out some snotty, synth-drenched, Aussie-signature tracks that truly make you want to move. The album opens with the theme from Buffy and goes into a song about vampires (“Raise the Stakes”), they lean into their leather and fishnet aesthetic on “Lipstick and Leather,” and in “DOC NRG,” which is my favorite track, shouting the chorus “We’ve got big DOC N-R-G.” Late ’70s rock’n’roll irreverence in a modern, doom-driven context that finds a way to laugh the whole way through. I think of an all-female SICK THOUGHTS, and fans of JUDY AND THE JERKS would definitely enjoy this. Dirty and grimy sounds covered up in bright makeup—what’s not to like?

Bibione Quattro Formaggi 12″

Riot grrrl, post-punk, darkwave, surf guitars—whatever you want to call it, it’s a delicious four-cheese blend that will drip gooey sass and pizza(zz) all over your turntable and into your ears. This threesome (with occasional help from a possessed trumpeter) comes from Prague, Czech Republic and achieves a softness and rage wrapped all together, best actualized on “Spin It,” which is tragic and droning and fucking amazing. BIKINI KILL anger mixed with CRIME OF PASSING iciness. If after this quick listen you’re looking for more, BIBIONE’s self-titled release from 2021 is also fantastic. Keep it coming.

Appaloosa Western Glow cassette

Five songs on cassette, previously released as singles by Seattle, WA’s APPALOOSA.  Femme-led pop punk with a strong backbone of garage rock. Shamble-y guitars tear into solos, light vocals turn sassy and harsh, occasional keys provide texture, while bass and drums keep a pretty steady rock’n’roll groove. The earliest contribution to this release, the RATS cover “Thoughts By Now” (from 2020), is my favorite, with contrasted clear-as-a-bell vocals against lo-fi and super rough-sounding guitars; that said, the polish on “Western Glow” shows a nice maturing of their sound. I get the vibe of the COURETTES with rougher edges. Hope we have an LP to look forward to!

Maldita Existencia Demo 2022 cassette

Two songs from Chilean synth-punkers MALDITA EXISTENCIA. Knowing this comes from Cintas Taciturnas, this demo sounds like it’s paying homage to EXRAÑA MISIÓN’s Ensayos 1988 which the label re-released last year, and they do a great job. Big, reverbed synth with matching high-octave bass, like you’d find in a JOY DIVISION intro, with jumpy drums and a clean, wandering guitar line. The vocals stay steady, almost spoken, and don’t achieve a huge range, but combined with the instrumentation, this really works.

Barricaded Suspects Terminal Growth LP

First LP from Nashville, Tennessee’s BARRICADED SUSPECTS. All five songs from Winning, their 2020 EP, are scattered throughout this twenty-one-song album of relentless hardcore. The songs are fast and quick (only one track hits the two-minute mark), but they flow together so you barely stop nodding along from one to the next. This would be the kind of thing you’d hear at your local all-ages venue, giving a new generation of minors their first ringing ears. It’s grating but never droning, and you can pick out most of the lyrics over blisteringly fast drums and guitars; nobody gets a break here. I really like the humor in “Something You Already Know”: “The grass is green / The sky is blue / Don’t eat yellow snow.” But more and more we need common sense reminders these days…impressive set of work from this group.

Divorcer Espionage EP

Third release from Vancouver, BC’s DIVORCER, who “formed in late 2016 in a booth at Duffin’s Donuts,” according to their Bandcamp page. Pretty, slow-tempo pop/punk filled with sugary harmonies, backed by slippery bass and lead lines. That said, the distortion pedal gets a stomp here and there to give texture to these pop-heavy ballads. I think of jabby, single-note guitars influenced by SLEATER-KINNEY mixed with the breathiness and candor of DUM DUM GIRLS. Their lyrics aren’t diluted by pop trappings however, as “Bug” (my favorite of the four-song EP) is a metaphysical haunting (“You woke up in a box / I woke up as a bug / This world’s not meant for us”) that only gets weirder as you go…just listen to it.

Bench Press / Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice A Split 7″ Between Friends split EP

Here’s a split of two Aussie post-punk bands fighting the good fight. DR. SURE’S UNUSUAL PRACTICE starts the A-side with their wiry, buzzy guitars, haunted house synths, call-and-response vocals, and metronome-tight drums.  “Great Pacific Garbage Island” brings the tension of our human impact to home, with the line “As the great Pacific garbage island moves in on Hawaii, you’re on my mind.” You’ve probably heard at least something from this lot, they’ve released a lot and are a big name in Melbourne, rightly so! I hadn’t heard anything from BENCH PRESS, but I can see why this “split 7″ between friends” makes sense, as they too are politically engaged in a world that needs youth advocacy. “What you are doing is all wrapped up in politics” is the opening line of “More Than That,” and they do not relent.  Excited to check out BENCH PRESS’s two LPs. The anger on these tracks reminds me of contemporaries MINI SKIRT, but with a more minimal structure. I also read that this is the first record Fellaheen, home of bands like PAVEMENT and BEASTIE BOYS, has put out since the late ’90s, so that might give you an idea of the worth within. Enjoy.

Last Bias Last Bias demo cassette

Three-track demo from LAST BIAS, a Tampa Bay, Florida four-piece. Tagged as a post-hardcore group, I can hear similarities to/influences from bands like UNWOUND or the JESUS LIZARD, but with a really gruff vocalist, more in line with traditional hardcore. I think the last song “Not The Same” shines the brightest of the three with its structure and riffs. Polish this up and let’s see what’s next!

City of Industry Spiritual West LP

Angry and moody melodic hardcore from Seattle, Washington’s CITY OF INDUSTRY. This is the trio’s fourth LP, and according to guitar and vocalist John Caraveo, “Spiritual West is, musically and lyrically, the most honest, raw, and poignant piece of work I’ve ever done.” The lyrics are highly personal, and Caraveo sings and shouts them with an abrupt honesty, like he’s already lost his shit. I expected more songs like “Perruquier,” with dark, meandering synth, heavy mid-tempo drums, and droning guitar, which, past the three-minute mark, feels long compared to so many sub-two-minute tracks that chug at full speed. “Spiritual West” is the most confessional moment of the album, with Caraveo’s voice alone shouting over a hollowed-out synth line that’s repeated throughout the twelve songs. If sad and tragic with a touch of crust is what you’re looking for, check out CITY OF INDUSTRY.

Surplus 1980 Kremlin Gremlin (A Dull Fiddler) / Some Few Facts (And One False One) About Birds (Birds Are Real Dub Mix) 7″

New single from Moe Staiano’s SURPLUS 1980 project. Staunchly in support of Ukraine, the album cover is simply Putin’s face crossed out by Ukrainian colors, and all sales of the single go to the Vet Crew, taking care of animals displaced by the war. This is my first dabble into anything Moe Staiano-related, and apparently, I’ve got some homework to do. SURPLUS 1980 was originally started as a studio-only band, with Staiano playing many different instruments on the 2011 debut Relapse in Response, and transformed over the years into a collective of different musicians with some live shows. The music is a little unnerving and off-kilter, but in a playful way. Lots of odd percussion, single synth notes walking up obscure scales, asymmetrical guitar riffs, and fun backing vocals coming from all directions. “Kremlin Gremlin (A Dull Fiddler)” provides the political context, and has a little more typical song structure, while “Some Few Facts (And One False One) About Birds (Birds Are Real Dub Mix)” on the B-side is a full dub-groove experiment with a cyclical melody that is a little maddening, sounding like some DEVO hidden track. Show some support for Ukraine and get weird with SURPLUS 1980!

Beat Panic Anti Club//Club 10″

Debut release from Naarm/Melbourne, Australia’s BEAT PANIC continues the dialogue about colonization and Aboriginal displacement in Australia, thusly giving name to the Kulin Nation of Naarm. This shows up more in the Bandcamp notes than what I can find in their lyrics, but something to recognize all the same. To the music: I didn’t know what I was going to find after the synth-only opener “Sprawl,” which is haunting and tender all at once. What follows is  wonderfully rich, goth-tinged post-punk reminiscent of DAVE VANIAN AND THE PHANTOM CHORDS, especially the commanding yet reverb-hollow vocals. Definitely worth a listen—but hey, I was sold at Aussie post-punk.

A Culture of Killing Dissipation of Clouds, The Barrier LP

Really unique sound coming from somewhere vaguely in Italy—A CULTURE OF KILLING brings in elements of goth, post-punk, anarcho, peace punk, and even dub. Vocals come at us with call-and-response male/female parts that harmonize on choruses, keeping us engaged the whole record through. Guitars also call and respond, arpeggiate, jab, and blare into crescendos that has everyone on double-time. Bass does not merely toe the line, and is in fact front and center on a lot of the tracks (check out “Speculations”). I also hear a guiro (I think?), some other odd block percussion, and a xylophone somewhere. The drums provide a rhythm seamlessly transitioning between pared-down, stark post-punk, to groove-centered dub beats that gather the band into a potent force, never devolving into a belabored “jam,” while providing endless fun. A CULTURE OF KILLING mentions ZOUNDS, the CURE, and CRASS as some influences, and while I hear pieces of each, they have truly formed their own breed of punk. This is their third album, and first with Drunken Sailor, and I’m equally excited to listen to their past two LPs as I am to see what is next.

The Black Black / Kissed by an Animal split EP

Two indie-flavored pop punk bands from Brooklyn on a split with two songs from each. The first song from both is a separate take on “Songs About New York,” but don’t be confused, they really, irreverently “fucking hate songs about New York.” Comparing the second tracks, BLACK BLACK is a little heavier and darker, with distorted vocals and a more driving beat on “Work,” while KISSED BY AN ANIMAL has that feel-good, shamble-y guitar and operatic backing “ooooh”s on “I’m So Happy I Don’t Wanna Die.” The album art caught my attention, with the primary colors of a graphic novel depicting a woman giving the so-what hand flip to a drunken, lumpy Muppet (KISSED BY AN ANIMAL), and the lumpy Muppet finally passed out on the bar, wine glass intact, woman gone (BLACK BLACK). I enjoy the jab at how over-romanticized New York City is, but this kind of dark indie-dance thing isn’t quite for me. Are you looking for a snarlier version of the BLACK KEYS? Well then, this could be for you, and both bands have a couple LPs in their catalog if you want more.

 

Hayes Noble Head Cleaner CD

With his debut CD after his “Forget It” single from Fall 2022, HAYES NOBLE brings forth a shoegaze wall of sound. And literally, there’s a lot of shoegazing in his “Forget It” music video, as he swims in a pool fully clothed, wearing black-and-white Chucks. This kid’s seventeen, but has clearly done his homework on the indie/alt/grunge genres, as the songs are tight and engaging. The light-hearted, higher vocal register of BUILT TO SPILL, mixed with J Mascis’s heavy, blurred guitar lines. But HAYES, come on, Head Cleaner? This should really be a cassette release, just saying. All told, a warm and fuzzy good listen.

Rekäl Part One cassette

I’m speechless, a little confused, though I’m surely smiling; let me explain…any fans of ’50s sci-fi paperbacks and sludge metal? Look no further than Providence, Rhode Island’s REKÄL, who have pulled every lyric from Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” short story, and put it to mid-tempo, greasy, and distorted sludge punk (though it sounds pretty metal to me). I can’t say this will be hailed as a favorite of mine, but as someone who does enjoy the ’50s sci-fi thing, filled with stories of Martian expeditions, rayguns, and people getting left in space, I like what’s happening on this cassette. Liner notes read “all music by E. J. Dick”—a coincidence? A dramatic name change? A relation? Color me curious. Part Two coming soon.

V/A Girlz Disorder, Volume 3 LP

With 25 “femipunk” bands from 17 different countries, there’s a lot to enjoy here. I highly recommend taking a look at the Mass Prod website that details the DIY record label and show organizers, with plenty of photos from past events, an active calendar page of future ones, and tons of records to search through—Mass Prod is based out of Rennes, France and has been at it since 1996. But about the music…compilations are always tricky for me, I don’t want to leave anyone out, but in this case, there’s too many bands to mention. Compared to the Typical Girls, Vol. 6 LP that I recently reviewed, Girlz Disorder is much heavier, and in its abundant diversity, leans towards hardcore. Some of my top picks are the German post-punk group CONTA doing “Was Geben,” English hardcore/crossover band LADY RAGE with “Because F You,” featuring completely brutal vocals (think of a female-led FORESEEN), Canada’s pretty straightforward punk but really tight the HORNY BITCHES with “1000 Lives,” Brazilian hardcore rippers BIOMA with “Falsas Causas,” and Australia’s BLONDE REVOLVER with “Pocket Rocket,” featuring one of the best opening lines I’ve heard in a while (“I’m an alpha baby / And you’re a beta bitch!”). The contribution of these 100% female bands proves their gender is alive and well in the genre, and is as important and urgent as ever.  Have a listen and I’m sure you’ll find something new to enjoy.

Peur Bleue Peur Bleue demo cassette

Great demo from Lille, France’s PEUR BLEUE. Female-led group with a post-punk style and grace that’s bold enough to squat ‘n piss between two parked cars. Released on the DIY tape label Dirty Slap, I feel this band would fit nicely with their native Symphony of Destruction comrades in sound and ethos.  Looking forward to the next release!

Bar Tape Bar Tape LP

Beer-sloshing pub-punk from the debut LP of Dublins’ BAR TAPE. This is melodic in the likeness of MILLENCOLIN or NO USE FOR A NAME, but far less whiny, and more driven for fun. At times, the dueling male vocals remind of some LEFTÖVER CRACK verses as well.  By the third song “God Damn,” the lads have already lost their voices, in the best way possible, wth “oooooh” backing melodies under the gruffly-sung “Smile and pray / And walk your own way” (from what I can parse). This is nothing groundbreaking, and maybe you’ve retired from this type of Oi!-ish, ’90s teen skater thing, but if you’ve got room for a little rough-housing and nostalgia, get your friends together and have a knock around. 

Hammered Hulls Careening LP

’80s hardcore is back! But was it ever gone? While this is HAMMERED HULLS’ debut LP, coming after their 2019 self-titled 7″, they are by no means a novice act. The foursome of Mark Cisneros (CHAIN AND THE GANG) on guitar, Mary Timony (AUTOCLAVE, HELIUM, EX HEX) on bass, Chris Wilson (TED LEO / PHARMACISTS) on drums, and Alec MacKaye (IGNITION, UNTOUCHABLES) on vocals (and yes, younger brother of Ian MacKaye) have all contributed to many more bands than mentioned, and are all legends, still at large.  HAMMERED HULLS p(l)ays homage to its ’80s DC hardcore roots, vis-à-vis MINOR THREAT, FUGAZI, RITES OF SPRING (the lyrics here bring them to mind), BAD BRAINS—you name it—yet their sound strives purposefully into the present. Or is it Careening its way to us?  Too pissed and sad to run, too driven to ever stop. The guitar riffs are clever, fast, and range from off-tempo jabs to steady chugging; the bass steamrolls through each track and then links up with the guitar line for techy transitions; drums slam and berate, then back off at the crescendo, rolling with the bass as Alec picks it all up again with spoken, sung, and screamed lyrics. This whole album rules, but “Abstract City” and “Written Word” are at the top of the heap, for me. Careening is already sold out on their Bandcamp page, so check your local shop.  Do. Not. Miss.

Kill the Hippies Special Master cassette

Not to be confused with the 1978 DEADBEATS album, or the 2013 Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself compilation, this group comes from Cleveland and has been making music since the early ’90s. This version of the band features the paired-down threesome of Morte Treehorn on guitar and vocals, P.P. Envy on bass and vocals, and Joey Pepperoni on drums, and while they’ve been at it for a minute, there’s still plenty of energy on the table here. The falsetto on “Single Prayer System” reminds of something the ADICTS might have done, while other tracks bring to mind local forefathers DEVO, and the alternating male/female vocals provide a nice variety throughout. “Defective” slaps the hardest, and reminds of any charging GBH track. There’s a pretty straightforward cover of “New England,” which kind of comes out of nowhere, but has a funny spoken word opener “Well, I live in Ohio so why should I care? / But I just happen to like it there / So I guess I’m just a square.” I haven’t gone through KILL THE HIPPIES’ whole catalog, but I like what I hear. And don’t be fooled, no part of this is promoting violence. Listen up!

Over To the Teeth LP

Sophomore album from Portland, OR’s OVER, with a high-gloss take on post-punk. They lean into longer-format songs, with fuzzed bass, hi-hat-clattering drums, and reverb-droning guitars used to create climaxes worth the wait. That said, the female vocalist doesn’t take a back seat during tracks that push past the six-minute mark, singing throughout with an impressive range. I hear moments of poetry, but wish they had included lyrics online! We’ll see what the vinyl copy includes. This reminds me of ESSES’ Bloodletting for the Lonely LP. Moody, ethereal, and certainly worth a listen.

The Tacks The Tacks LP

Debut LP from Christchurch, NZ’s the TACKS. This five-piece identifies as a goth band, but comes across with broader influences of post-punk, darkwave, and dance-y new wave. I think it sounds like a horror lullaby, and it’s wonderful. The female vocalist leads the group with catchy, concise melodies, and the band achieves a cohesion amongst fast chord changes, rests, and tireless guitar leads. The self-titled cassette they put out in 2020 is much rougher-around-the-edges punk (and is worth a listen), but I don’t mind the polish that was put on this Rockstar release. I think fans of CRIME OF PASSING will take to this, and generally anyone who likes “1980s college radio,” as the band suggests. Tune in.

Arr​ê​t Arr​ê​t demo cassette

Brand new post-punk outfit from Los Angeles with a two-song demo. Cavernous reverb on female vocals with vibrant riffs and chugging bass and drums. The opener “Pandemonium” offers up the cheery chorus “Pandemonium / Done deal / It’s been decided now / Nothing’s real,” which feels like a good summary of the world. “Démolir,” or “demolish” in English, counters the A-side with a more hands-on approach required to move the “done deal[s]” stagnant needle. Without much info on this new group, I’m not sure where the French influence/origins come from, but all said, the aesthetic, the sound—I’m all in, looking for more! 1753 has other L.A. groups putting out small-run cassettes, worth a quick look.

V/A Typical Girls, Vol. 6 LP

Another great collection of femme-fronted bands “inspired by the pioneering women of the first-wave punk era and beyond,” as Emotional Response writes. Without pigeonholing themselves to any specific subgenre, a really diverse range is on display here. To name just a few: the LINDA LINDAS start off with super catchy ’60s girl group crunch, FAKE FRUIT contributes “No Mutuals” off their popular 2021 self-titled album, SWEEPING PROMISES provide angular and driving jabs of bass and guitar, WET SPECIMEN warbles through a slow progression of dark and reverent melodies (and is my favorite track of the album), LANDE HEKT jangles amongst a cherry-sweet indie collage, PROVOKE lets you know they’re going to get heavy with a feedbacked, slow-chug guitar intro (and it’s a truly a headbanger), SQUID INK gets snotty in the garage, and OPTIC SINK rounds it out with a synth punk, spaced-out closer. If you go to stream this on Spotify, FAKE FRUIT and SWEEPING PROMISES are not on the album, even though they both exist elsewhere on the platform. I don’t know why, but neither are to be missed, so just buy the record! Dive in, and I’m sure you’ll find something new to enjoy.

Morgana Contemporaneità 12″

From Florence, Italy, MORGANA releases some re-recorded demos, a couple singles, and a new song to form Contemporaneità. These seven songs are an icy post-punk that reminds me of the Copenhagen group KOLD FRONT that I reviewed a while back. Mid-tempo, reverb-heavy, with high-octave, melody-driven guitar riffs. While this may not break any molds, this is certainly my cup of tea, and I would recommend a listen.

Private Lives Private Lives cassette

Debut release from this Montréal group that started as a husband-and-wife project during the pandemic. Now actualized as a four-piece, PRIVATE LIVES present five garage-y, post-punk songs with surf-pop drums and fuzzed-out guitars that drop into wiry riffs between distorted vocals, reminding me of CO-ED who I reviewed a while back. In general, this is hard to not enjoy: poppy enough to be catchy, heavy enough to be rollicking, rough enough to retain its edge. Looking forward to what’s next from these Quebecers.

Tin-Ear Cadastral Maps cassette

Self-described as “tweemo,” this is TIN-EAR’s debut album. Very heavy shoegaze vibes at play, with coy vocals that lead a soft and melancholic tribe. Is my teenage self brushing the hair out of his face and crying somewhere in the kaleidoscope of time? Anyway, this lot hails from the salty shores of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where we are taken to sea aboard a “rickety ship that may never return to shore,” and are ultimately tossed about with the nearly nine-minute closer, simply named “Untitled.” Concept albums and long-jam enders, the type of thing SONIC YOUTH pulled off, are their own form of bravery in the genre, and for that, I give this a lot of credit.

Freak Genes Hologram LP

Having formed in 2016, this is FREAK GENES’ fifth LP, on which we find eclectic synth punk from the duo of Charlie Murphy and Andrew Anderson. These dudes have played in a bunch of bands (RED CORDS, HIPSHAKES, HOLIDAY GHOST, and PROTO IDIOT), none of which I’ve listened to, but all that is to say that they seem to have a plethora of creative output. This is one of those bands that has created their own universe, and plays by the rules of their creation: there may not be gravity, there may be hover-cars with cassette decks, and there’s definitely something in the drinking water. I looked up footage of live shows, and I was really hoping for some DEVO-style showmanship with matching outfits and dance moves, but sadly, this was not the case. Just saying, I think y’all could pull it off. If synth punk is your thing, this will surely scratch the itch.

Misery Whip Misery Whip cassette

Heavy powerviolence/hardcore from Portland, Maine’s MISERY WHIP, not to be confused with the death metal band of the same name from Portland, Oregon (wait, what’s going on here?). This eight-song cassette has both previously released singles “Misery Whip” and “Dissent,” the latter having a really brutal breakdown that screams “You are a piece of shit!” Check out the absolutely ferocious “Empty Words” for a good sample of the band. This reminds me of G.L.O.S.S. but darker in its lyrics and imagery. Accept the whip, take a listen.

Delivery Forever Giving Handshakes LP

Melbourne, Australia five-piece that plays in a comfortable place between garage and indie. With all five members contributing to vocals, these songs keep you guessing. “Wear It Well,” and generally the female-sung tracks, remind me of contemporaries AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS, and are scrappier than the male-led songs, which have a more breezy, indie flavor. Lots of trebly guitar riffs on these longer-format songs, with plenty of instrumental breaks between verses featuring carnival keyboard lines. “Baader Meinhof” has a music video on their Bandcamp site, if you want to see these Aussies in action. It took me a few listens, but I think there’s a lot of fun stuff here.

Dimber Always Up to You LP

Debut LP from Los Angeles’s DIMBER. This sounds like if the lead singer of COHEED AND CAMBRIA started a melodic pop punk band, and was serious about it. Introspective, confessional lyrics, so that, with their style in mind, we get…an emo band? On the other hand, in a track like “Tyler” (featuring a different vocalist, I believe), I hear something closer to college rock, à la the DESCENDENTS. If you need an outlet for your sass and angst, here it is! The cover of “Better Off Alone” is hilarious and surprising, and made the whole thing worth it for me.

Shitshow Epic EP

Debut EP from Hamburg, Germany’s SHITSHOW with a five-song flurry, only one track of which times out after two minutes. This is mean, in-your-face, and to-the-point, with songs like “Kill” that blare out “No feet for the right wing / They kill, kill, kill!,” and “Cellphone Monkey” that shouts “Your best friend / Is just a machine, yeah!” Female vocalist, anger with a purpose, and catchy tracks? I’m in.

Bev Rage & the Drinks Exes & Hexes LP

Second LP from Chicago’s indie/garage/queercore group BEV RAGE & THE DRINKS, led by the larger-than-life drag queen BEV RAGE. These tracks are fun, poppy, fast, and fervently personal—the soundtrack of a party that’s rowdy yet responsible (“Drink Water”), brash yet sensitive (“Younger Lover”). Besides BEV’s persona in the spotlight, I think the synth and keys add a lot to the band’s otherwise obvious indie sound, my favorite example of which is the closer track “Mist Connection,” which is almost haunting. Toss back a couple shots between your glasses of water and have a good time with this.

Wedding Songs Late July cassette

Debut release from Koblenz, Germany from the duo Simon and Dominik, known as WEDDING SONGS. While they hail from thousands of miles away, this music is enchanted by some American West twang and mystique, with lots of spoken word and bluesy/country licks, spooked up by post-punk dreariness. It’s as if JOHN CALE made a country deathrock group with the BLASTERS as the backing band. This 2021 release has been followed by their debut LP this year, Hard to Find, which I look forward to hearing. Over all, this is a unique take on the genre, worth the three-song listen.

Blister Early Onset cassette

Debut album from Portland, OR’s BLISTER, offering ten tracks of tilt-a-whirl death punk. With one hand on the keys and the other clutching the fork in the outlet, the synth player sets the background for this stomp-around, mid-tempo death stroll, while guitars and drums plod beneath salty, sassy vocals that contextualize some life-disparaging moodiness. This reminds me of the FLESH EATERS, but without the horns. “Burnside Burnout” is a great song, and I can only imagine is an ode to the crusty ones that skate and lurk beneath the bridge.

V/A She Don’t Need You cassette

This comp seems to cover three bases: riot grrrl (POSY), synth punk (ANDREW ANDERSON), and garage (SEXAPHONE), and features bands from Bulgaria to the West Coast of the USA. From the title alone, I assumed this was going to be a riot grrrl-only list, but the range is achieved (with a little distraction from the synth stuff, to my own ears). A lot of the buzz seems to be about the COACHWHIPS’ “When I Go (Demo)” that is a blown-out, lo-fi gem, and they’re maybe the most senior contributors. Personally, I like the tongue-in-cheek love song “Stupid Punk Boy” by GOLDEN STARLET that starts with the interlude from “Give Him a Great Big Kiss” (“What colors are his eyes? / I don’t know…”) and has plenty of ’60s girl group melody ramped up with shouts and UK snarls. I also enjoy the descending minor scale in the PRISSTEENS’ “Party Girl” that enshrines the reverence for when the fun is over. BECKY & THE POLITICIANS offer up a weirdo synth-stomp that sounds like dial-up internet to a beat, yet kind of works? THREX is a computer on drugs. FAR CORNERS sounds like a ’70s UK band recorded on a boom box. If there’s a thread here, I may be missing it? Super lo-fi, lots of fun, broken guitar amps? Well, that’ll have to be enough. Good stuff within.

Green/Blue Paper Thin LP

GREEN/BLUE’s second release of 2022, and third album to date, Paper Thin is a chilly take on post-punk. The songs achieve a balance between bleak Midwestern moodiness and tranquility-inspiring tenderness. “Floating Eye” comes as an interlude, and is the most brilliant song of the lot, with a slowly plucked bassline, soft vocals, and no drums—it lulls me into a state of peace and happiness. If that sounds nice, then give this a listen, and if you’ve enjoyed their previous work, there’s no doubt this will be in your new rotation.

Martha Please Don’t Take Me Back / My Heart is a Drummer 7″

This 7” single came in advance of MARTHA’s fourth studio album Please Don’t Take Me Back, which was released at the end of October. The group has written a lot of music since their first release in 2012, and between their old family (I assume) photos for album covers and their syrupy indie sound, they have definitely made a “thing” for themselves. “Please Don’t Take Me Back,” sung by one of the male vocalists, reminds of some newer ARCTIC MONKEYS that’s made its way through alt-radio stations countrywide—and while I don’t necessarily mean that as a compliment, the song is great in a lot of ways: it starts with simple palm-muted strumming, bouncy drums, and iconic over-pronounced British vocals that build into a heavier chorus with plenty of harmonies and catchy hooks. “My Heart is a Drummer” (which I don’t see on Please Don’t Take Me Back) has a more enjoyable structure, with a fast drum breakdown during the chorus shouts of “In the place where my heart is a drummer / In the place where my heart is drummer.” I also find the female vocals (occupying the second half of the song) a little less grating and the lyrics less formulaic. Everything about this works, sounds great, and has that air of nostalgia (just look at the cover) that is so popular amongst a world gone wrong, but you have to really like sappy indie to enjoy this, and for me, these two songs were about my limit.

Glaas Qualm LP

Berlin, Germany’s GLAAS comes out with Qualm, their first LP after last years’ self-titled EP. Think post-punk with wild synths and jacked-up effects of a diseased hardcore. This ten-track album is fun and rowdy—the kind of thing that exemplifies the chaos and distress of the genre to the non-believer, yet is the exact thing that sounds to-the-point and refreshing to the enthusiast. With members from DAS DAS (Cosey Mueller), LACQUER (Raquel Torre), and CLOCK OF TIME (Seth Sutton), to name a few, this group comes well-informed and polished only in their form, leaving plenty of splinters to pierce through the speakers, hopefully blowing out into a lousy basement haunt. Copies are going fast!

Total Silence Total Silence demo cassette

This is a beautiful, down-tuned, thrash-y, metallic exertion of power. If the first five seconds of sludgy guitar isn’t your thing, then move on. If it is, my god, turn it the fuck up. These mid-tempo tracks let you appreciate all the riffs, belabored drums, and  “I’m not going to have a voice after this tour” vocals. It reminds me a little of DROWNINGMAN in its pace and technicality (but without the harmonies), and is certainly my kind of heavy. I hope to hear more from these Toronto slayers. TOTAL SILENCE(?)—anything but.

Empire Expensive Sound LP reissue

When commercial success and artistic integrity presented a fork in the road, drummer Mark Laff and guitarist Bob Derwood Andrews left the then (from the label’s point of view) doddering ranks of GENERATION X to form the more alternative-flavored EMPIRE. This LP is a reissue of their debut from 1981, and while the band never saw the chart-ranking success of the Billy Idol-fronted GEN X, they made a hell of a record here. Allegedly inspired by JOY DIVISION, this group wanders a line between late ’70s garage punk with catchy hooks and poppy lyrics like the VIBRATORS, to sparse, guitar-heavy tracks that have the ambience of JOY DIVISION, but sound more like predecessors to FUGAZI or SONIC YOUTH with screaming feedback, pinch harmonics, and heavy drums. Just take the instrumental opener “Empire” that is a long, beautifully sad guitar riff, followed by “Hot Seat” (originally off their self-titled 7” from the same year) that is all jangly “clap the tambourine” power pop. That said, the lyrics on “Hot Seat” are divorced from the songs’ otherwise pop styling; they sing “Sitting here in my armchair / Sitting here without a care / All I have to do is stare / I wonder how long will I live,” an inherently punk apathy. While a lot of this sounds like any UK outfit of its time, the integral nature of Andrews’ guitar really makes this album worth a listen.

Chained Bliss Chained Bliss LP

High-energy debut LP from Philadelphia’s CHAINED BLISS. This has the youth crew sound similar to the new-ish ENACT. Pummeling drums, buzzed-out fifth chords, slimy guitar leads, powerful bass, and in-your-face half-sung/half-shouted vocals. I imagine their live shows rule, as I want a crowd to bounce off while listening to this, but alas, head-banging over my morning coffee will have to suffice. Turn up loud, get stoked.

Sectarian Bloom New Spring cassette

Second release from the darkwave-meets-post-punk group SECTARIAN BLOOM, out of Oakland, CA. For a trio, they really fill out these songs, creating the ambience of a genre often accompanied by a second guitar and synths. Will’s vocals are clean and stark, like Peter Murphy of BAUHAUS, while Susi (I could only find first names here) sings passionately and hangs onto notes over the glassy guitar riffs. The lyrics are poetry, like some JOY DIVISION coldness found on the opener “Static”: “A new found passion / A new found hate / But now aware of what fate waits / Expired incandescence / Flowing coils losing sheen / Silent detachment waits at every corner / Just static.” Transylvanian claims to have “the darkest waves in the Bay,” and I think that does well to sum up SECTARIAN BLOOM.

E.V.A. Un Sitio Barato Para Soñar EP

Debut recording from Barcelona’s E.V.A., offering up four tracks of dreamy post-punk on their aptly-named EP, the title of which translates to “A Cheap Place to Dream.” These songs are bass-forward, with simple, steady drums, clean, beautiful guitar riffs, and femme-led vocals, the sum of which reminds me of the post-punk coming from neighbors in France and Germany, like on the Symphony of Destruction label. And for a €1 digital copy, this shit is cheap!

Las Partes Faltantes Las Partes Faltantes cassette

Buenos Aires foursome with their debut release, an experimental mixture of math rock and hardcore(ish?). The opener “Campana Zarate” has a heavy breakdown near the end that finishes with a college jam band bubbly guitar solo (trust me, I got dragged to see too many of those). And while this jammy thing continues throughout the album, what those college bands were missing is made up here in the heavier, technical rests and tempo changes (read: math rock), that are paired with yelling and super soft near-aria vocals—a good example of this duality is on “Ghosteas”. Check it out for something different.

Scrunchies Feral Coast LP

Don’t let the quiet bass-and-vocal intro to the opener “The Houseplant” fool you, because this shit turns up and slaps. With a riot grrrl sound like SPITBOY or BIKINI KILL, this Minneapolis group has earned their keep amongst the greats. Their 2018 debut album Stunner earned them wide recognition, and Feral Coast is no lightweight follow-up. Fronted by the shouts and vocal prowess of Laura Larson (formerly of BABY GUTS and currently with KITTEN FOREVER), SCRUNCHIES is an amalgamation of too-many-to-name bands through its various members, past and present. On this release, Matt Castore’s (CONDOMINIUM) bass lines bowel-rip through the undercurrent; farty, distorted, and unrelenting. Danielle Cusack (BRUISE VIOLET) speeds through cymbal-heavy and frantic drums, only softening to let some verses be heard, then red-lines into the bridges and choruses, singing backup the whole while. It’s hard to pick a favorite track here, but “Black Egg” is up there for me with an intro that builds to the roiling “Honestly honey” hook, balancing the personal and political nature of SCRUNCHIES lyrical content. If any of the aforementioned bands pique your interest, I think you will really enjoy Feral Coast.

Jane Doe Ensemble The Corruption of What Cheer? LP

With two singles (one vinyl, one digital) and an EP of demos behind them, this is JANE DOE ENSEMBLE’s debut LP. Their NYC roots are not to be missed on this minimal, no wave art-punk recording. Organ and synth-led, most songs are slow and reflective, with jabby guitars, floppy drums, and chorused lyrics focused on social and political commentary, like “What is Left is Also What is Right.” These songs are not catchy, you won’t get them stuck in your head, and they’re not foot-stompers, but they will make you think. On “Respect,” I hear some slanted DEVO influence, but my lack of depth in the art-punk world doesn’t give me much else to reference here, which is maybe part of the point. If you’re not already feeling weird and uncomfortable enough, then have a listen.

Blemish Blemish 12″

Originally a 2021 cassette on A World Divided Tapes, Not For the Weak has picked up Montreal’s BLEMISH on this vinyl release. Well-informed post-punk, the instrumentation of which reminds me of the WIPERS’ Youth of America with a faster tempo, while the lyrics are a little more playful and UK snarl-y. Not to be confused with the Birmingham group of the same name (nor the death metal band from Jersey, nor the electro-pop duo from Los Angeles), this BLEMISH participated in the 2020 Demo Fest, with all three of those songs ending up on this 12”—their only physical release. Other than that, not much to be found on the band, or if they’re even still active. Here’s to hoping. Check out “Industrial Bodies” for a good taste of what’s inside.

It Thing Syrup LP

First release from IT THING, hailing from the far reaches of Tasmania. Post-punk styling with poppier vocals, full of sass and heart. The laid-back, too-cool-for-you (please, don’t be fooled by “Uncool”) energy is not to be missed here, birthed from the malaise of modern life, exemplified in the line “Please change the channel on the tube” from my favorite track “Pet Snakes.” This is on the level of some Aussie contemporaries, like MINI SKIRT, yet stands firmly on its own feet. Syrup was released in November of 2021, and the first pressing is already sold out! Looking forward to more from these folks…

Crime of Passing Crime of Passing LP

A quick internet search will show that these Cincinnatian’s debut LP has garnished a lot of attention, from the likes of the ad-laden music blog site Stereogum, whose home page has a T-SWIFT post this week, to the more obscure minded Post-Trash site, to the questionable composure of myself here at MRR. Why, then? Because, simply, it is very, very good. With a moodiness and cadence like FEHLFARBEN and the energy of SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES, this band has a lot of bases covered: coldwave icy and reverbed-out drums, sculptured post-punk guitar riffs atop driving, high-octave bass, with the disdain of darkwave synth and vocals cast over everything in trailing slow motion. With Dylan McCartney and Dakota Carlyle of fellow Ohio DIY outfits the SERFS and the DRIN, this project is led by frontwoman Andie Luman who, gathering the full force of the band, lulls us into a state of hypnosis and reverie. Although this came out in the spring of 2022, this album is meant for the gray days of fall, the soundtrack of a thunderstorm and cracked brown leaves whipping through the sky.

Personal Style False Memories / Heartbeat 7″

Three-piece from Buffalo, NY with what seems like their second release? Although I didn’t find much on the band, I get a very jam-econo/MINUTEMEN thing from “False Memories,” with sparsity and intention throughout. The live take from Duende at Silo City, on YouTube, is rough and full of feeling—I wish they’d gone for that sound on this recording. “Heartbeat Memorial” caught me by surprise based on the A-side, starting with a wall of distortion and a faster tempo that doesn’t see any rests, along with a more melodic structure. All that said, I thought I was headed for a synth-wave band based on the cover art, so color me confused.

Phantasia Ghost Stories LP

NYC’s PHANTASIA drops a very well-rounded debut LP. Riddled with sentimentality (“Falling Falling”), darkwave bliss (“Out of Spite”), and poppy interludes (“All the Flowers”), this album is a culmination of noted influences like BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and PYLON, to name a couple. Mixed with an original styling, I find a debut that captures this band at its rawest, and most close to the heart. The closer “Leftover You” reminds me of the REPLACEMENTS’ “Answering Machine,” or any of their B-side reveries, for that matter. The vocalist warbles through elongated notes of heartache, sounding like she’s hanging on to the microphone for dear life. This is worth your time.

State Drugs / Zephr split 7″

A feel-good track each from Denver’s own STATE DRUGS and ZEPHR. “Mr. Untitled” (STATE DRUGS) is soft, and almost a little sappy, yet earnest. A minor scale lead walks up and down over a jangly rhythm guitar while the vocalist croons out “Are we OK? / The world’s scaring the shit out of me / There’s no escape / No point to stay / No where to leave,” the fatalism of which hits home for, I imagine, too many. “Landline (J’ai Une Âme Solitare)” (ZEPHR) is a little more playful and noisier, with classic ambient shouts from backing vocals under “Hanging on a landline / Feeling low / Can’t get myself outside.” These songs could fit in any of the early-aughts Warped Tour compilations, but are obviously covered in the makeup of our present. All in all, they make a cohesive split—have a rainy day listen.

Black Dots I’ve Had It / Are We There Yet? flexi 7″

Fast and powerful punk rock tinged with the heartache of emo—think of a more melodic version of SWINGIN’ UTTERS. This flexi release offers up two new songs, “I’ve Had It” and “Are We There Yet?” Although this is a stand-alone release, these songs are paired with three others on a (digital only?) release titled EP2. “I’ve Had It” is a melancholic parting ways track, starting with “I’m packin’ up and movin’ it along / And maybe I’ll just yell about it in another song,” the simplicity of which I enjoy. The rest of the lyrics come off as trope-y and cliché, but the feeling that moves me in the first line, somehow, carries on throughout. “Are We There Yet?” walks a similar line, buts captivates me less with its chorus “How fucking hard is it? / To find compassion past your own shit?” The message may be positive, ultimately, but this is the kind of thing I can take in very limited doses. But hey, if you’re feeling a little whiny, or pouty even, this may be for you.

Junta Screwdriver / Policia No Me Jodas flexi 7″

Self-released punkers from NYC pummel through two songs of excellent Latino hardcore. “Screwdriver” starts off the flexi by demanding your attention with beaten-into-submission drums and death metal guitar riffs that’ll make your head spin. “Policia No Me Jodas” (“Police Don’t Fuck With Me”) follows up with a repetitive anger and is a rerecording from their 2017 demo Open Veins. Get your elbows out for this one.

The Missed Activation LP

Cleveland’s the MISSED have roots in garage rock that roughen the edges of their otherwise power pop styling—they are catchy and fun with a devil-may-care attitude, reminiscent of the relatively new GREEN/BLUE.  “Sink” cranks up the angst compared to the other tracks, and is my favorite of the album, while “Choke,” with its ambling bass line, makes for a close second. Get activated with this third LP from the MISSED.

Maudit Dragon Maudit Dragon LP

This three-piece from Grenoble, France quite simply fucking rules. For a debut LP, these songs are wise beyond their years, with a production that isn’t over-polished. Jo’s vocals range from high and light, to a low-end, strained output of total force, reminiscent of Brody Dalle’s snarl, particularly the opener “Ailleurs” that sounds like the DISTILLERS’ “Ask the Angels.” The guitars are perfectly big-fuzzed-out, mirroring the vocals, and make a wall of sound over the powerhouse drums—and did I even hear some keys in the background? I can’t imagine this not making my 2022 top ten. Everything I want out of a punk album: grit and power balanced with harmony and tenderness. The Cursed Dragon calls, so listen up.

Sweet Knives Spritzerita LP

Alicja Trout and Rich Crook, former members of the LOST SOUNDS, reformed a few years ago with John Garland and Jon Grissom, to bring us SWEET KNIVES. Spritzerita is the second LP from this Memphis group, and six months after its release, it’s already sold out! Without Jay Reatard’s vocal obscurity and with less reliance on synth, SWEET KNIVES is much more garage-y than LOST SOUNDS. Alicja’s delicate vocals, heard at their softest on the closer “Fruitcake”—a clean, acoustic, upbeat song—dance over the other full-speed slammer tracks, as in the opener “Blockin the Lanes.” This deserves your attention.

Pigeon Permanent Quest / Riged 7″

Post-punk, noise-y PIGEON puts out this single, after their Deny All Knowledge of Complicity LP from last year. “Permanent Quest” sounds like a more typical punk rock song structure, while the shouted lyrics find their noise/start-and-stop-instrumentation on “Riged.” I also hear snotty UK DIY influences like GIRLS IN SYNTHESIS.

Die Angst Abgesang / Salzprinz 7″

Twenty years after their inception, Potsdam, Germany’s DIE ANGST has dropped this new single. The A-side “Abgesang” starts with upbeat drums, some phaser effect on the bass, and guitar feedback—all pretty typical—but the illusion is shattered with a guitar strum and the gruff, stark, Germanic vocals, which really tie together the melodic post-punk atmosphere of the band. The B-side “Salzprinz” leaves a little more rumination between lyrics, but has the same well-produced song structure of its sister track. While I couldn’t find much on the band, the few listens of their older stuff I certainly enjoyed. Dive in.

Extraña Misión Ensayos 1988 cassette

Short-lived darkwave band out of Lima, Peru—this compilation of scarce recordings was put together on a 2002 GJ Records CD by the same name. Twenty years later, Cintas Taciturnas has put out the same comp on cassette, and thus the importance of reissuing continues! The audio quality is actually pretty good, so that you don’t miss the wandering, left-to-right vocals, the rambly, jabby guitars, farty bass, and almost new wave dance-y drums. “Absimos de Senitmientos” fits in that latter dance-y category, while tracks like opener “La Extraña Misión” are colder and more grating. If you’re looking for some obscure ‘80s darkwave, search no further.

The Dumpies Roberto Clemente EP

Astoria, Oregon’s the DUMPIES knock up some dirt with their Roberto Clemente EP, named after the Puerto Rican baseball player. And while traditional sports culture and punk ethos haven’t always walked hand-in-hand, I guess we are mixed up in everything now, and maybe that’s okay. All said, the track list reads like the snotty-as-ever garagesters they seem to be, with “Pot Moms,” “Eat Ass Do Crimes,” and “Garbage Zen,” to name a few. This six-song EP comes in at just over five minutes, with the longest song (1:19) being the SHANG-A-LANG cover “Commotion” that makes for a great anthemic ender. It’s catchy and fun like something you’d hear in a college basement, while being slightly more informed, with the song brevity of a hardcore outfit. Have a five-minute beer and listen up.

Wrong War Fixed Against Forever LP

Debut LP from Chicago’s WRONG WAR, this HC album is fast, tight, and angry. The socio-political tension can’t be missed, from the band’s moniker to each and every song. The opener “Words Were Mere Words” shouts in its chorus, “And how I / Long for / Those days when / Words were mere words. / And how I—let it align.” A reckoning with cancel culture, as in we should be responsible for what we write and say and how it makes one another feel? Or an actual desire to not be accountable? Although the lyrics are all shouted, they are clear and you don’t need the liner notes to make them out—that said, the messages are vague and trope-y…the war machine (“Count the Days”), religious falsehoods (“Direct Function”), foolish patriotism (“Escape Clause”). But I don’t know, maybe I’m just oversaturated with being reminded of how shitty everything is, was, will be, etc. Anyway, if this fuels your rage, they released a second LP (Once Upon a Weapon) earlier this year, and I can only imagine what they’ve got to say since this release came out in 2020.

DEB5000 Debutante cassette

Auckland, NZ punk four-piece with all its female members coming out of other bands (though I haven’t been able to find which ones) to create the ridiculous, the fabulous, DEB5000. Take one look at the cassette cover, it’s amazing; take one look at the track list—where’d they come up with this shit? “Bad Guts” about gastro-intestinal problems, “Keanu (Wyld Stallyn)” that makes a song out of Keanu Reeves characters. I think “Termite Queen” rocks the hardest and makes a great metaphor for female strength. This is some wild Down Under punk rock, and I would recommend.

Dyym 2020 CD

Here we have some metal-tinged DIY hardcore from Poland. With their female-led vocals and style in general, this reminds me of HYSTERESE, who I’ve reviewed a couple of times. Songs are in that two-to-three-minute mark, but make plenty of time for complex structures, packed with riff changes, bass and drum breaks, and full-force choruses. Lyrics, kindly translated into English, ask poignant questions about social inequities, such as “Equality March” that starts with “Why do you think love is heterosexual / Traditional, brutal and pushy?” This song, clearly not to be missed, is both the opener and the closer, sung first in Polish and last in English. My favorite of the album is “Utopia” for its introspection that can be read in the lyrics and heard in the slower nature of the track, ultimately building to a roiling chorus that rests at the top, where a simple “utopia” is sung.

Red Lights Red Lights 12″

For fans of the GUN CLUB and JEFFREY LEE PIERCE, this reissue is a must. RED LIGHTS, from what I can find, formed in 1978, two years before the GUN CLUB, and recorded this five-song demo that largely went unheard. Even at nineteen years old, PIERCE’s voice was just as iconic as it was anywhere in his career. The blues-heavy, cow-punk sound of the GUN CLUB was still to be reached, though, as RED LIGHTS touched on reggae in “Kitty,” and is otherwise very pop-heavy, in the vein of his Debbie Harry worship (“Debbie by the Christmas Tree”). The opener “Jungle Book” garnished the most fame, being covered by a number of bands including the LAST on their 1980 Look Again LP (featuring Vitus Mataré on keyboard, who was on this original demo). The recording shows its age in sound quality, but if PIERCE and the GUN CLUB play an integral role in this whole punk thing, then RED LIGHTS is surely a stepping stone in the history books. Copies are limited, so get yours today.

The Courettes Misfits & Freaks / Killer Eyes 7″

Everything from the album layout, to the way they dress, to the music itself, feels like this came out of Detroit sixty years ago—but don’t be fooled, this duo is out of Denmark and giving us this fantastic pop-rock right now! This 7”, released four months ago, is already sold out! What’s happening? 1960s garage/girl group influence has really been showing up lately, like with the EXBATS, who I just reviewed, for example, but the COURETTES take the influence to the next level while modernizing the lyrics. If “Misfits & Freaks” doesn’t get used at the climax of the next feel-good indie apocalypse film, then it’ll be a major missed opportunity. The aforementioned A-side starts off with tambourine claps, a clever acoustic guitar riff, and a lamented version of the chorus vocals before the drop of distortion, a full drum kit, and a faster tempo. It’s irresistibly catchy with backing “ooh”s and “ahh”s under the line “Cheer up, you misfits and freaks.” This song came from their 2021 Back In Mono LP, but they’ve reworked it a little here to give an even more devil-may-care attitude that came from the uncertainty of the pandemic lockdowns. The B-side, a brand new track, starts up with the same riff and “Cheer up, cheer up” backing line from the previous song, only to switch gears to surfy guitar strums that lead to “The way he looks / And all his charms / I could die in his arms,” with all the trappings of ’60s girl groups, and they certainly pull it off. Please, have a listen.

Dark Times No Hope / The Early EPs LP

Eleven years after their first release, Sheep Chase has remastered all three early EPs from the no wave/hardcore group DARK TIMES. The album doesn’t present the EPs chronologically: the order comes second, third, and first released. First, we hear the self-titled 7” (or Skull), coming in with my favorite track “Distrust” for its belabored and repetitive heavy rhythm (which I came to hear as their trademark sound). Sandwiched in the middle is the Girl Hate 7” that came out a year after the others, yet feels like it’s matured more than that. The songs are tighter, shorter, and catchier—check out “Waste.” Last up is their self-titled demo cassette where you can see the no wave and hardcore influences more separated between songs, as in the 40-second “Dead Meat” blaster, followed by the more ambient four-minute “Worlds Away.” If you, like me, missed this a decade ago, check it out now!

The Condos The Condos cassette

High-energy synthwave/post-punk coming from Adelaide, Australia. This debut EP was recorded live in 2019, and on the first few listens I wrote it off as another modern try at a darkwave revival, but maybe there’s more at stake here. I think they nailed the sparsity of instrumentation; ranging from synth intros, to bass and drum lead verses, to wall-of-sound choruses where the reverb-bleeding guitar riffs hang behind snarling Aussie vocals. It reminds me of the DAMNED’s goth rock years, only set to a dance beat. Check out “Suffice” for a good sample.

Joyride! Miracle Question LP

Bubblegum pop punk, as if it were blaring from the open window of a car that’s clearly having more fun than you. A decade going, this is JOYRIDE!’s fourth LP, jam-packed with syrupy and finely-tuned female vocals, aided by fast instrumentation; guitar riffs and tom-drum bridges in all the right places. But here’s the deal: it’s 2022 and pop punk isn’t all sheen and passive content—it’s fun and provocative all at once, and that’s why I like it. “In the Afterglow” gets in your head with “We get attached to what we think we know,” while “Flyover States” brings environmental disasters to light, and then “Routine Maintenance” spells out “k-i-s-s-i-n-g” in the chorus, like you’d expect from the genre. Just listen and try to have fun while not being ignorant—and if you figure out how to do that, let me know.

The Exbats Now Where Were We LP

Fourth LP from father/daughter team Kenny and Inez McClain, the EXBATS take flight from the deserts of southern Arizona. At first glance, I hear the song writing sensibilities of ’60s girl groups (the BANGLES, with drummer/vocalist Debbi Peterson, to boot) on songs like “Best Kiss,” but with heavier influences from the punk genre, and similar to early ’00s the LIKE in this convergence. But EXBATS don’t pigeonhole themselves. Themes of country twang appear in “Practice On Me,” and “Hey New Zealand” describes eco-disasters, atypical of jangly garage pop.

Young Ruins Severance Play cassette

Cataclysmic darkwave/post-punk/hardcore sound from Brooklyn’s YOUNG RUINS. The opener “Rabbits” has a tremulous guitar riff like JOY DIVISION’s “New Dawn Fades,” which simply repeats “I could be the god / You could be the lamb / Take you by throat.” Even in our news-cycle culture that has forgotten last month, let alone last year’s news, this recording from 2016, finally released in 2021, is still very current. “Actual Women” and “Law Enforcement” speak for themselves, while “On Hold” encapsulates YOUNG RUINS stream of conscience theme. Songs wonder lyrically, brooding on the mundane, mixed with social conflict, as in “So alive culturally, little house on the BQE / We all still lock our doors at night / Expensive, local, everything” from the closer “Game Over.” The instrumentation is jabby and loud, but with earned breaks from chaos; and mostly the songs move in a single direction: rising crescendo to end right there at the top, ignoring typical verse/chorus patterns. I would highly recommend this cassette.

Convert Saves CD

Debut album from Milwaukee’s CONVERT, with elements of darkwave and goth in its mood and temper, but faster and closer to post-punk with belabored screams. The ever-present horror movie synth lands a little cheesy for me at times, and I could certainly do without the voice- modulation intros, but I understand the place for both. “Watch It Burn” hits the heaviest, while “Night Bursts” is the most wondering and haunting of the album. Check it out if your teenage angst is bubbling up again.

Beige Banquet Live! Live! Live! cassette

UK DIY that was, you guessed it, recorded live! Though, this falls more along the lines of weirdo sounds coming from contemporary Deutsch punks (NUNOFYRBEESWAX and PONYS AUF PUMP come to mind), blending tight transitions with oddball cowbell and clap track interludes over an otherwise post-punk landscape. For a good taste, listen to the driving last track, “Hotel Room.”

Clan of Xymox Peel Sessions LP

Founders of darkwave CLAN OF XYMOX have been reissued on Dark Entries with their 1985 Peel Session recordings. For fans of the genre, it doesn’t get any better than this—but you already knew that. On the intermittent cool and cloudy days of Spring, this will land just right: ambient yet driving synth instrumentation, with vocals that range from melodic and upbeat (“Seventh Time”) to a tortured ode (“Agonised By Love”). “Stranger” opens the album, and could be the soundtrack to a fallen angel’s journey through hell, with anthemic choral vocals backing the whole song; completely chilling. CLAN OF XYMOX (also released as XYMOX) has a catalog of music spanning from 1983 to present recordings. This group has stood the test of time.

Progromo Heute Schlägt der Bauer den König / Niemals wird Heute 7″

With an opening clip from Rebel Without a Cause, I couldn’t help but be interested. This 7” single, with an A-side translated to “Today the Pawn Beats the King,” has been brought to light forty years later, after being the side project of Bernd Zimmermann (ISOLIERBAND, DEUTSCHDENCH, amongst others). PROGROMO is drum-machine-driven, with clean guitar and guttural-yet-clear deutsch vocals that land nicely in the realm of poppy darkwave, and I like it. This tracks with other modern releases from the likes of Phantom and Symphony of Destruction.

 

Programmed Hatred I Wish I Could Have Nice Things But I Live in Philadelphia cassette

Nine tracks of blown-out powerviolence/noisecore from a new Philly group. Side A has some unexpected ambient sections paired with plenty of voice-over clips (pretty on-brand for this type of thing), yet they are still structured as songs. Alternatively, Side B is an indistinguishable gargle of digital-distortion-peaking wreckage that made me double check my speaker connection. I threw headphones on and it sounded the same; as if the audio of Star Wars had been condensed to a nine-and-a-half-minute cassette and then bastardized by thousands of pirated copies. To be certain, the album title is my favorite part of this project, but maybe there’s a fan base for this kind of off-kilter depiction of urban decay, which, if you follow the liner lyrics, you complete a picture of—otherwise, good luck getting the message.

500$Fine Yer Wolfbro is in My Capitol EP

On their first release since their 1997 Forward CD, Richmond, VA’s 500$FINE makes a four-track comeback. Gary Llama’s vocals fall in the range of Tim Armstrong, and the band certainly has that Hellcat vibe, though these Richmond-rockers delve deeper and more seriously into the socio-political realm. They’ve slowed down a little since Forward, but understandably so, and written: “And now we are old / And everything I felt / Still fuels every part of me” from “The Same.” They’ve also abandoned their ska interludes, which frankly I don’t miss, giving a more distilled, powerful backing to songs that range from twisted conspiracy politics (“Yer Wolfbro is in My Capitol”) to the support of the Black Lives Matter movement (“Commonwealth”).

Planet Y En Plads i Solen LP

Besides their demo, this is the first full-length album that Copenhagen’s PLANET Y has released. There’s not much I can find on the group except a consistency in their album artwork: a post-industrial collage with a looming, orange sun. The twin vocals remind me of HYSTERESE who I reviewed a while back, but the instrumentation is much rougher on En Plads i Solen, which translates to “A Place in the Sun.” I really like the glassy guitar line in “Plasticsolen (Plastic Sun);” also the guitar and bass chugging verse of “Dør på Klem (Door Almost Open)” that sounds like the verse from NEIL YOUNG’s “Rockin in the Free World,” which somehow works here. It took me a few listens, but I think this despairing yet hopeful, charming yet in-your-face album is simply great.

Ataque Zero Ataque Zero 12″

Unrelenting five-track debut from Bogota, Columbia’s ATAQUE ZERO. Bass lines build to ride cymbal-clattering choruses, with Luis’ shouted vocals barely taking a rest throughout the entire EP. This project is part of the autonomous cultural center, Rat Trap, in Bogota, that features DIY artists and musicians. Limited copies going quick!

Top Down Backyard Thunder LP

Third full-length LP from Berlin trio TOP DOWN, who clamor out effortless garage punk with anthemic choruses, my favorite being “Broken Hearts.” They play scratchy guitar riffs, steady-as-ever drum and bass, and seemingly lazy, yet perfectly placed, vocals that groan and crack, reminiscent of Fred Cole. Would highly recommend this for fans of that desperate, lo-fi garage sound.

Sundown Keep Moving CD

Melodic hardcore quartet SUNDOWN, of Indianapolis, presents their debut LP. With every member contributing to vocals, you get a variety of leads from song to song, the best of which I think is the tremendous, metal-tinged screams of the opener “Don’t Ask Me” that lights a fire for its successors. Their self-described influences of HOT WATER MUSIC and AVAIL can definitely be heard throughout: heavy riffs, clever lead guitar turnarounds, shouts and howls that cede to emo-styled melodies. Think of a grittier ALKALINE TRIO. If this strikes your nostalgic fancy, this fast and technical record will keep you on your toes.

Walled City Dream Deprivation cassette

Fast and angry debut from Florida’s WALLED CITY. The instrumentation comes off like melodic hardcore á la DEATH BY STEREO, whereas the vocals and lyrical content sound like the recent (and only) ENACT release. I think “Broken Windows” hits the hardest, and is a good taster for the EP. Have a listen and get pissed.

Dramachine Συγκινησιακή Πανούκλα LP

Athens, Greece trio leaning heavy into a pop-synth/drum-machine soundscape, only to break the mold with vocals that range from post-punk to new wave dance to weirdo DIE ANTWOORD-esque rapping (see “Φεύγουμε Από Εδώ (Let’s Get Out of Here)” featuring SCI-FI RIVER).  In this way, each song is its own oddball trip. The album translates to “Emotional Disease,” and maybe that explains it all.

Strangelight The World Needs Laughter LP

By the album title, I thought I was in for some egg-punk silliness, but instead found an Oakland, CA hardcore foursome that sounds like Sister-era SONIC YOUTH. This is a four-song single-sided 12″, with a screen-printed B-side of “The World Needs Laughter” in an eye chart logo. The guitar and violin outro on “Lead Blanket” form a nice break before the heavy-hitting title track that slaps in half the time of its predecessor. STRANGELIGHT’s tour starts off in Oakland this month, so get after it.

Schedule 1 Schedule 1 12″

SCHEDULE 1 formed right before pandemic lockdowns, and managed to put out this debut LP in the interim. There seems to be some Vancouver, BC new-wave-that-leans-towards-emo melodic “thing” happening, and this certainly shakes that tree. Think of the KILLERS mashed up with NEW ORDER. For me it’s a little too whiny, shiny, and overproduced. All said, it’s a tight album, and SCHEDULE 1 makes some catchy dance beats.

TVO Fall in a Pit 12″

Described on State Champion’s site as “Philly’s most haunted and deranged freaks”—this lot rocks. It’s fast and fun and heavy and is over before you know it: three songs on a single-sided 12″ with a hand screen-printed photo on the vinyl’s B-side. “Fall in a Pit” is a fantastic track, displaying TVO’s growth towards a tighter sound compared to their other releases, while still achieving that unhinged garage punk sound. Fall in a Pit made my Year End Top Ten, so what can I say, I’m a little biased!

Italia 90 Borderline / Declare 7″

Fifth release from Londoners ITALIA 90. “Borderline” has a staccato guitar line that turns into a wailing, melodic chorus riff beneath the lyrics “And the thing you’ve created / Is the thing you have hated.” Great track. While “Borderline” has a more traditional structure, “Declare” is the other side of the coin: avant-garde noise rock. Lots of ambient space for drums and a rambling whistle/dial tone, then a sudden wall of sound, shouting a snotty, Cockney “Declare!” Worth the quick listen.

Neuf Volts Demo 2021 cassette

New French quartet, kind of in the realm of hardcore, but with atypical babydoll vocals that come in syllable-jamming succession. The combo lands nicely. The closer “Super Skate” is an interpretation of a RIKA ZARAρ track (1978 French pop song about skateboarding? Yes, please). I don’t know how I feel about the eponymous anthem trope of “Neuf Volts,” so maybe it’s good they got it out of their system on the demo. I’ll keep listening.

Infinite X’s Infinite X’s LP

Here we have a remastered vinyl reissue of the INFINITE X’S’ 2002 self-titled album. With members of formative queercore bands TEAM DRESCH and LONGSTOCKING, this album is an indie pop smash hit. Loaded with catchy riffs, clap tracks, and interlaced with sections of minor-chord despair (“Bittersweet”). “Joanna”is a fucking amazing love song that crescendos to a hands-in-the-air chorus, while “Welcome to the Show” fires ya up and gets you moving. Sign me up.

What Me Worry? Off My Meds EP

Dave DeMedici, of TOO MANY DAVES, puts out an EP to the tune of Fat Wreck Chords snarl. In that vein, nothing wildly new here—raspy vocals overlaid with harmonies, fifth-chord riffs, you know the deal. But the piece is elevated by the lyricism: struggling with substance use in the contrast of “Off My Meds” and “Back on My Meds.” It feels honest, in a self-deprecating sort of way. I don’t know, maybe the album’s description (“A coming-of-old-age tale…”) made me sympathetic. Rounding out the EP is a spin-off of the OPPRESSED’s “Ultra Violence.”

Kold Front Kold Front 12″

Lovely femme-led post-punk/coldwave album from Copenhagen’s KOLD FRONT. The duo presents six songs, only one of which is under four minutes (and just barely), giving plenty of meditative noise-space that turns into a snare-driven fantasy ride. The album’s ominous, reverb-chamber guitar and drum machine theme stands alone in “Interlude,” and despite the general allergic reaction to the instrumental, I think it works here. My favorite track is the closer, “Did You Wish to Die”—it’s dream pop vocals float over their signature, desperate sound, while being slow enough to contemplate the title, which comes as a statement, not a question. If you’re looking for something moody to chew on, look no further. Symphony of Destruction bags another keeper.

Home Front Think of the Lie 12″

Hammering out a dance beat from the cold plains of central Canada, HOME FRONT breaks frozen ground with their debut EP. Think of the Lie offers all the trappings of new wave sheen—rambling synth and bass, drum-machined angst, and vox and guitar drowning in reverb. The angst comes through with clarity on “Seagulls,” but is well balanced by softer tracks around it. The first track “Flaw in the Design” and the last track “Kill the Time” make nice social commentary bookends, grounding the fun overtones of the album.

Nightwatchers Common Crusades LP

Driving anarcho-punk from this Toulouse, France quartet. NIGHTWATCHERS take the long view, with historical assessments of French imperialism and nationalism, which undoubtedly circle back to where we are now: in a milieu of nationalist vs. globalist thinking, our wheels spinning. Lyrics and politics aside, they play melodic, power pop punk—think of that heavy snare hit on every quarter-note beat. Nothing particularly ear-catching here, but at least they’re fighting the good fight!

Fake Fruit Fake Fruit LP

Indie/pop gusto galore, Oakland, CA’s FAKE FRUIT make a lovely splash with this debut album. Stringy guitar lines, sparse drums, and bass-led tracks range from the quiet and melodic (“Swing and a Miss”), to the more upbeat and confrontational (“Yolk”). The center piece that is Hannah D’Amato’s vocals shines throughout—a spoken style like COURTNEY BARNETT with the edge of PYLON.

Deep Trench Deep Trench demo cassette

At first glance of the name, the cover art, and the opener’s instrumental, I thought this was some experimental, sci-fi shit—but I was way off. This is a grunge heavy-hitter served up from none other than Olympia, WA, with little else I can find on the band except that it features members of DOGJAW and RVIVR. The screaming lyrics come off like HOLE’s Courtney Love on Pretty on the Inside (controversy aside, just think of the voice). “Little Minds” is a good taster of the power within DEEP TRENCH.

Nervous Twitch Nervous Twitch LP

Super catchy pop punk from NERVOUS TWITCH on their fourth album. It’s hard to miss the ’60s pop influence—think the CHIFFONS or the SHANGRI-LAS, tinged with UK punk attitude. In this way, they sound like contemporaries of the SLITS, but are in fact contemporaries of one of 2020’s favorites, RIBBON STAGE. I love “Not Everyone’s Out to Get Me” for being so damn upbeat while singing “Fuck yes I’m at my best / Fuck you I’m stronger than ever.” Get TWITCH’n.

Spectres Hindsight LP

Vancouver outfit that blends anarcho lyricism with post-punk while leaving room for some ’80s pop beats. If in print this sounds a little wandering, I recommend giving the first, politically-driven track “Cold War” a listen compared to the last track “Tell Me,” which comes off as a new wave love song—hanging in the balance is an album that achieves this reach. If you’re hooked, they’ve got four previous LPs at the ready.

Nameless Creations Pain-Powered Machine / Things That Serve 7″

Great new single from Warsaw’s NAMELESS CREATIONS. Having three LPs behind them, their droning post-punk sound comes well established, with songs that are longer and tend toward the macabre (look no further than the cover). The lyrical poetry is what captures me here, and with the vocals more spoken than sung, you hear every bit. The B-side is my pick of the two, with its wickedly depressing ender “Luck is lost, truth generates pain / Things that serve, bind like chains.” Dorian’s vocals aside, this group goes beyond guitars and drums (throughout their career), adding keys and violin here that do well to accompany their ghoulish sound.

Anybodys Acts of Endurance EP

Second release from the Vancouver, BC trio ANYBODYS. These four tracks comment heavily on our socio-political climate and exemplify that equality is still an uphill battle, as in “Excuse me / You’re looking right through me / Into and out of me / I don’t care” from “Do We Disgust You?” I think the last track, “RFK (2020 Version)” rocks the hardest—hopefully they’ll continue down this path while fighting the good fight.

 

Rider/Horse Select Trials LP

I don’t know what blend of psychedelics and speed these Ever/Never people are taking, but the last record I reviewed from them, CURED PINK’s Current Climate, was in a similar vein of experimentation. Here, on RIDER/HORSE’s debut, you hear a noise-heavy drum machine wasteland, filled with repetitive, jabby guitar riffs that yield to ambient synth breaks and dramatic, spoken lyrics. While the pandemic gave them a break from other projects, such as SPRAY PAINT, this duo was able to give this electric-drama their all, and it shows in the production. Personally, I’m sort of over this Vin Diesel-club-scene-music, but maybe you’re ready to get after it.

Pasha & the Kindred Spirits Their Screens / B-Sides cassette

NYC quintet giving it the DIY try. A-side is the Their Screens EP, while the B-side is five unreleased songs that were recorded in the same session. Think of a lo-fi version of PARQUET COURTS with their emotional lyrics, or even MODEST MOUSE’s groaning, tortured guitar riffs. This also has that early-aughts indie rock sound (without the polish), if you’re looking to reminisce in real time. The energy is there, if this is your thing.

Kometa Eierschneider cassette

Not to be confused with the Finnish band of the same name, KOMETA hails from Vienna, Austria and aims to rip a new one in the patriarchy. I was a little thrown off by the surfy instrumental opener—it’s fun—but maybe I missed the point. In bluesed-up post-punk styling, the angst and struggle picks up on the other three tracks, with lots of duality in the vocals, distorted and clean guitar channels, and a crunchy, blown-out bass to ground it all. Including their 2013 demo, this is their forth release, and comes out in anticipation of their debut LP, to be released within the year.

Nunofyrbeeswax Stratotoaster LP

Proto-punk, garage, lo-fi, poppy—hell, it’s just that Berlin sound! Serving up hot tracks from their clattering Stratotoaster, this album is all fun: driving percussion that’s way up front in the mix, and dreamy femme-vox ride over a variety of sounds, like a stand-up bass-walk from “Glitch,” or tambourine, cowbell, and horns on “Wax Bux.” No track sounds quite like the other, so it’ll keep you listening. This reminds me of releases from fellow Berlin label Phantom, if you’re interested in more. Get yrself exposed.

Girlfriends and Boyfriends Fallacy of Fairness LP

A very polished new wave style-revival (new-new wave?) from Vancouver, Canada. Definitely some heavy English influence, with guitar riffs that don’t stop, dreamy synths, and melodramatic vocals. Some of it errs on the cheesy side, like in “Colour Shining Bright,” which sounds synth-attack-y in the way DEAD OR ALIVE does. If you like this, and want to harken back to that English influence, check out the SAD LOVERS & GIANTS record I reviewed recently. Anyway, Fallacy of Fairness is an all-around fun and sappy album.

Nature Boys IV LP

Kansas City’s havoc-seeking NATURE BOYS come firing on all cylinders on their fourth LP to date. Fast, rambling Midwestern grit, buzzy guitar riffs—never slowing down—this trio is pure punk rock’n’roll. Suzanne and Evan hardly stop yelling at each other as Danny keeps everything tight, against all odds. They’re rowdy and infectious, like some DEAD BOYS and DEAD MOON hybrid, and it’s banger after banger.  Turn up and thrash out.

Bleakness A World To Rebuild 12″

A downbeat set of six from Lyon, France’s BLEAKNESS. At times sounding straight post-punk, then goth, and then almost new wave, particularly on the two synth-heavy “remixes” of songs that came off their debut LP Functionally Extinct. Within that range, and what I think gives theme to the whole piece, is Nico’s heavy, coarse vocals. Ultimately, the two-tone album cover and their name say it all.

Guns’n’gänseblümchen Perspectives LP

Big, rich sound from a drum/guitar duo based in Germany and France. The vocals really shine through here, dueling from female to male, from tenderness to grit on both sides, evoking that peace-punk hope and despair all at once. Perspectives is the sophomore album from this true DIY, no-profit outfit—that’s right, free download on their Bandcamp page, so get it in ya!

Sad Lovers & Giants Lost in a Sea Full of Sighs LP

In the realm of dark and dreamy UK post-punk, Lost in a Sea Full of Sighs collects SAD LOVERS & GIANTS’ early work, recorded from 1981—1982. Filled with plenty of bass and synth leads, sax sections, and guitar flourishes, I’ve got a soft spot for this kind of thing. The lyrics are sometimes sappy, like “And when I see you / I fall helplessly in love” from “When I See You” (which could be a CURE song), to the heady lyrical “Lately I find I’ve been walking on tightropes / That stretch through my mind in the spaces I don’t know” in “The Tightrope Touch.” Love songs? Existential crisis? Yes please, and all at once. Lots of music to look back on here, and they’re still at it with the Mission Creep album in 2018 and shows up until the pandemic shutdown. Let’s hope they keep it up!

Instigators 1993 Demo N Live LP

Giants of UK anarcho-punk in the 80s and early 90s, and we get to hear a re-release of their last push in the studio and on stage before disbanding after a ’93 European tour. Side A contains the six-song demo with some really catchy tunes—”Never in a Million” almost feels like a BAD BRAINS track, but ya know, not quite as fast; it’s an anthem to the disenchanted and is my favorite of the demo. Side B, a live excerpt from the Huddersfield gig, starts, as Side A does, with “Suckerpunch,” and then delves into older songs, sung entirely with a vocal echo. The echo remains for the rest of the side, so when Tez speaks between songs you hear everything twice, which must have been a little maddening in the crowd, but does well to invoke chaos through the speaker. With so many changes in labels and members (and subsequently styles) over their career, the INSTIGATORS have a history and discography worth the dive down the rabbit hole, and this album is a great display of that career and ultimate progression.

Girls in Synthesis Shift in State 12″

As a follow-up to their debut LP Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future, this mini-album is another GIRLS IN SYNTHESIS release of which the hardcopy is already sold out! Sticking true to super-limited pressings, this UK DIY band delivers with lots of ambient noise and grit—they’re pissed, and you better not get in the way, as in their closer track, “Don’t try!”

Co-Ed Co-Ed cassette

Los Angeles-based CO-ED puts out their debut EP on the Philly cassette label Sludge People. The vocals are a little poppy, with fun pitch-bends at the end of lines, on top of driving, low-end guitars. Only one of the six tracks pushes past the two-and-half-minute mark, and just barely, so that it’s over before you know it. Two months after this release they put out a single as a taster for their upcoming LP, but according to an update on Sludge People, CO-ED has disbanded. I don’t know if there’s any chance the LP will be released, but one can hope. Hold it close if you were one of the lucky 100 people to grab this tape!

Alarm / Barren? / Douche Froide / Litovsk split 12″

Super gritty four-banger split from some newish, downbeat French punks. ALARM has dueling guitars and a great drum and bass bridge; BARREN? sings a bleak poem entitled “Illusion” (“You can wave goodbye to your hopes and dreams”); DOUCHE FROIDE is bass-forward with angelic vocals; LITOVSK is big, glassy guitar riffs and a jangling bass. I like that all of these songs are in the four-to-five minute range, as it gives you more to chew over. Though not all on these labels, each band’s got a previous record or two worth checking out.

Cured Pink Current Climate CD

Upon the first listen, and a quick look at their Bandcamp page, I thought this was some NYC hipster shit (New York label), but upon investigation and eventually hearing it in their vocals, they are from Brisbane, for what it’s worth. There’s lots of different instrumentation throughout: horns, synths, samples, and otherwise led by bass and drums giving it a dub vibe. This isn’t really my bag, but if you’re looking to feel obscure, it may make some nice background music. If this is your thing, they’ve been making music for a decade, and this release comes in front of the lead’s new band, WITNESS K.

Diensthund Horizont Aus Draht cassette

The album title translates to “Horizon Made of Wire,” and is mirrored in the wiry, stripped-down guitar licks and lo-fi feel. With its synth lines and frequent rests, this reminds me of the early DEVO demos on Hardcore Devo: Volume One, only heavier. There’s lots of negative space, and a general zaniness throughout this disturbing six-song Deutschpunk carnival ride, and I feel a little crazier on the other side of it…wait, what’s happening?

Laxisme Premiere Sortie cassette

Fast, fun, and loaded with energy, LAXISME delivers a five-song cassette that is a little poppy, a little hardcore, and completely infectious. With bluesy howls to round out the choruses, I am already singing along to the French and German that I don’t know, wishing I were pushing through their crowd. Phantom seems to have their ear pressed firmly to the Berlin underground, and I hope they keep listening. More, please!

Ponys Auf Pump Wirt Schon Wieder LP

Big surf rock guitars, synth leads, kazoos, riot grrrl power, and…was that a recorder? I don’t know what’s going on here—but I like it. “Kleine Maus” is maybe my favorite pick of the album, as it builds with fast guitar chops and big bass to a sing-along chorus with falsetto backing. Wirt Schon Wieder is the second full-length album from Berlin based PONYS AUF PUMP, and another gem brought to us by Phantom.

Spitboy Body of Work 1990–1995: All the Songs 2xLP

Body of Work brings together SPITBOY’s full discography on this double-LP release. This historic all-female group faced a lot of adversity in their day, standing up to sexist and racist fans by writing a litany of songs on feminism, blaring it out, and demanding change. In the totality of their work, we hear a snotty, crusty, and unrelenting anarcho-punk sound that pairs perfectly with their subject matter, as in “Baby boy, precious baby boy / The world wants you / I am what’s left over” from “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” I also really like “Fences,” originally off their ’95 split with LOS CRUDOS. The bass line rambles throughout, as the song weaves from heavy guitars to pinch harmonics and quieter melodies, while they rage against the commercial punk scene. This is a great piece for the collection, and all the proceeds go to the National Women’s Law Center!

Chain Cult We’re Not Alone / Always a Mess 7″

Athens, Greece-based CHAIN CULT gives us a take on the pandemic through their post-punk lens with lines like “We always know / We’re not alone,” and “Now I pretend to be normal / When life used to be normal.” For a threesome, the sound is full in body, and Dino’s picked-apart guitar lines are maybe the most notable aspect of “We’re Not Alone” and “Always A Mess,” running parallel with many of Jason’s sung melodies and punchy bass lines. The production lends itself to a very clean and polished sound—no crust here—but it’s dark, driving, and leaves you in that gray space between defeat and hope. Take a listen and see where you land.

Hysterese Hysterese LP

Marking a decade since their first release, HYSTERESE hits us with their fourth self-titled album (an homage to ZEPPELIN by going self-titled and using the Hindenburg disaster photo on their second album? I just don’t know). But I digress; we’re here to talk about this 2021 release wherein Helen Runge takes us by force with the elegant power of her vocals. Of course they implement their signature use of rounds, which is what first struck me about this band—Runge’s floating melodies countered with screaming lines over a sort of glammed-up post-punk soundscape, best heard here on “Lock & Key.” Another fine piece of German engineering, and I hope they keep at it.