Reviews

Willis Schenk

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.