MRR #436 • September 2019

Adult Magic Adult Magic LP

With every song, it’s increasingly difficult to believe this is a three-piece. Maybe it’s because all three share vocal duties, but a lot of it has to do with how they fill space with their instruments. The drums are constantly covering open moments with crashing cymbals, though ricocheting in the lo-fi background like a white noise. The guitar is both fuzzed-out and clean, depending on the needs of the song, and oftentimes alternates back and forth within the same track. The bass, for me, is seemingly buried in many songs, but when I start to listen for it, the warm and stark tones were there the whole time. They’re abrasive, yet catchy as hell. Vocals mix from guttural to rough to melodic, and everything in between. In the first track, “Achin’,” there’s these wonderful little “ba-ba-bahs” slightly hidden in the background of the second verse, and I just love them. It’s a record that continues to deliver things you might not have noticed on the first pass through. Also, the opening of that first track reminds me a lot of “Tracks” by Portland’s DIVERS. ADULT MAGIC has a lot of big hooks that carry through, no matter the tempo of the song. Unsurprisingly, and almost unfairly to mention, I hear many moments akin to IRON CHIC songs (both bands share two members), but they’re delivered quite differently. Not even just that there’s different singers, but there’s more texture and grit to the ADULT MAGIC tracks, where IRON CHIC’s strengths are building a homogeneous wall of sound. I also love the guest vocals of Mimi Gallagher, especially on the song “Demotivation,” which took me a few listens to fully appreciate. This release took nearly two years to come to fruition, and the work they put into it is noticeable. Solid release.

Aluminum Knot Eye Neutered and Declawed / Pantherman 7″

These Milwaukee garage psych freaks are no closer to assimilating than they were when they started more than 20 years ago. It’s almost as if this slab is meant to draw a clear line between themselves and whatever you think is normal. Howling shrieking monotonous chaotic no rules roots punk owing as much to SCREAMIN’ JAY HAWKINS as to MC5, and with a pretty damn straight screaming cover of the ’70s Dutch glam proto-bonzer “Pantherman” on the flip, make no mistake that ALUMINUM KNOT EYE are going to continue doing whatever the fuck they want for as long as they want. High-energy monotony of the highest order.

Ammo Nausea Nightmare cassette

I think I can probably list the song titles for a band called AMMO and you wouldn’t need any other encouragement. “Life Crime.” “Nazi Pope Nazi Pain.” “End It All.” See? Ultra-fast, relentless hardcore punk with desperate vocals (and lyrics) and eye-popping riffs. No bullshit, no pretense, this is hardcore that makes you stand up and go “wait, what the fuck is happening?” like DIRECT CONTROL did when they dropped out of heaven nearly 20 years ago. I have a feeling there’s more AMMO coming, and if they can set a bar like the breakdown in “Known Unknown” on this demo, then I can only imagine what kind of destruction we are in for next.

Argument? Paintings EP

Weird, experimental, and nostalgic peace-punk from Berlin that comes across as completely earnest without taking itself too seriously. Playful basslines climb and descend, channeling the B-52’S as much as CRASS, while the blunt yet passionate lyrics remind me of NAKED AGGRESSION. It has a tough, artsy vibe, and vocalists taking turns, not totally unlike HUGGY BEAR. There’s something refreshing about hearing a band that doesn’t seem at all concerned with fitting in to a current trend, but is just having fun and doing what feels right. Definitely something to check out for anyone into peace punk, or looking to hear something sincere and unusual.

Asocial DÁ¶d Á…t Kapitalismen CD

Perfect. Absolutely perfect ten songs, sixteen minutes, and twenty-nine seconds of Swedish hardcore. Perfect. I mean perfect. An out-of-the-park, kicks-the-shit-out-of-everything, perfect hardcore record. By the time this record first surfaced on vinyl in 2017 on the F.O.A.D. label, I had forgotten people could even make records this good. ASOCIAL’s early ’80s origins were more lo-fi and raw—the last time they surfaced was on an uneven metal outing in the ’90s—but this incarnation (75% of the original ’80s band, 25% the long-standing drummer of UNCURBED) takes cues from Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing, where adept musicianship completely nails really basic pummeling D-beat without standing in its way, weaving inventive song structures and curt solos to absolutely perfect D-beat hardcore. Unrelenting powerful drumming, with the overdrive of the best UNCURBED moments. Tommy Berggren sounds less like the haunting ghost of his last outing in UTANFÖRSKAPET, but is still one of the consistently greatest Swedish hardcore screamers. The recording is perfect, similar to Hear Nothing where it’s not raw but in no way over-produced, with just the slightest metallic tinges. It’s long enough, just short enough. Only points off: the lyrics are entirely in Swedish, but with no translation or explanation, and the cover, while well-drawn and poignant to the meaning of the record, maybe falls short of the sheer perfection of the music. This totally fucking rocks—it’s perfect.

Betercore Completely Out Of Control: Discography 1998-2003 LP

BETERCORE was a severely underrated Dutch band that carried the self-proclaimed “youthcrust” banner during their turn-of-the-millennium existence. I quite literally discovered this band by doing an internet search for “youth crew crust” in 2003, and immediately knew that I had stumbled on something special. BETERCORE’s sound is characterized by blastbeats interspersed with mosh breakdowns, frequent between-song samples, and melodic leads, with two vocalists that trade off, and is sonically on the slightly cleaner side of abrasive (I think they’re more “crust” aesthetically and politically, and more “youth” in terms of the breakdowns, songwriting, instrument tones, and energy brought forth). Their impassioned lyrics—which can be felt in the vocal delivery—take on society’s bullshit, as well as that of the sometimes sterile and detached-from-real-life hardcore scenes that were going when they started up, with humor and seriousness whenever the respective one fit (sample song titles include “SXE, But Not An Asshole,” “Gospelcore,” “Man You Suck,” and “Mosh Against Monarchy”). Their main output is four split 7″s and a split tour CD-R, which is compiled here in reverse chronological order, along with a history, loads of pictures and flyers, and even a quiz! Although I still regularly see their records in distros, it’s nice to have everything in one place, and I’m glad that a band this necessary yet lesser-known has seen their discography pressed to vinyl and contextualized with care. They called themselves “better ’core” for a reason, and they delivered. Let us not forget.

Bikes Bikes LP

Mellow and jamming are two words I never want associated with any music I listen to. Yet, they are the two that immediately pop into my head while listening to BIKES latest self-titled album. Still, I like it. It’s laid back and nonchalant, but rocking. It makes no sense. BIKES are garage rock moderne with no pretension and some catchy riffs. It’s a great album.

Boron Heist Ridin’ Rough CD-R

Overly aggro-sounding rock music. I wouldn’t know the band was from Charlottesville, NC if I wasn’t told. The singer does a macho sounding English accent reminiscent at times of Lemmy. The music is rudimentary. Ripping off the HEARTBREAKERS musically and lyrically on the first song “Shut Up & Go.” Back to the drawing board.

Celebrity Handshake Religion On The Outside / (Float) Don’t Take Care 7″

One could simply rubberneck and tag CELEBRITY HANDSHAKE as some kinda broken blues exercise, but the glorious noise and madness that they place on all sides is the real frosting here. Both tunes begin with recognizable budget blooze groove, but lumber toward this caterwaul collapse that just levels me. Tears of joy, I tell you. Fucked in every direction, though when the keys spring up, my spirit soars. Hell, each tune is damn near five minutes apiece, and that’s too short—make this goddamned contortive boogaloo endless! Start here for instant conversion, as this is surely one of the finest 45s of the year.

Cereal Killer The Beginning & End of Cereal Killer LP

Eruptive ’tweener stylings from this Australian gang, affiliates of the WET BLANKETS and AUSMUTEANTS charm academies. If this is truly the beginning and end, CEREAL KILLER should feel accomplished and proud, as their take on hardcore—tuneful, mildly freaky—is endearing and fun. Seems “lite” in mood, but 100% serious in delivery, as all the performances are damn impressive. “Being Cool” has a perfect NWOBHM-inspired riff, something that carries over to “Should Punks Be Allies.” Along with the smarmy electronic swipes they sprinkle in, these injected deviations make this something you wanna listen to as well as thrash around to. Fast fun for fuckfaces.

Broken Things / Changer split EP

BROKEN THINGS plays straight pop punk that feels like the ’90s. Their first song is reminiscent of SICKO. Super poppy, pretty catchy, but maybe not catchy enough. Also, that organ is too much. The second song is a little more JAWBREAKER-ish, but without any of the guts. Also, you brought that organ back at the very end? Why? There is a third song that you get digitally. It’s in the same vein, but maybe better than the other two. CHANGER does two songs as well. I’m pretty sure that this is what SUM 41 sounded like (or still does?), add in some heavy part that I think is what passes for “emo” in modern culture, and there you have a giant turd. I do appreciate that they ask people to be kind to animals.

Chilton Little Birds LP

There’s a whole helluva lot going on here. It’s spastic, metallic in a late ’90s kinda way. Lyrics are all over the damn place. Guitar solos are about every three to ten seconds seconds or so, with genre and tempo switches similarly paced. I kinda really hate it, but I gotta admit that it’s intense as fuck, and probably took collectively 30 years off of the lives of the members to create, and I listened to the whole thing and didn’t groan once. This is probably hot shit in some circles, and I can see why. It’s certainly proficient, dynamic, passionate, and played at breakneck speeds most of the time. It’s just a little too not-a-hair-outta-place-core for me.

Chow Line Life of Extremes cassette

Clenched-fist destruction of the highest order. Somehow these freaks manage to inject mid ’00s heaviness into modern stomp hardcore,and they make everything real fukkn fast. CHOW LINE is really really good, like a bulldozer digging up fukkn buzzsaws-level good; the kind of demo that makes you tired just listening to it. Up there with the LIFES 12″ in the “I don’t want to listen to anything else” category this month. Don’t snooze.

Compressions Death Spiral cassette

High-energy US hardcore punk with a nice greater Bay Area vibe—I’m thinking somewhere between ECONOCHRIST and BL’AST. They never unleash, but the guitars sound like they are constantly fighting to get out of a cage, and the vocalist earns the mid-era FLAG comparisons likely heaped upon him from listeners and watchers. The more I listen, the more I like it.

Current Affairs Buckle Up / Worlds In Crisis 7″

Just perfect. Two tracks of reverb-saturated, melancholic pop jangle distilling familiar sounds from SUBURBAN LAWNS, ALTERED IMAGES, and even at times SLANT 6 through a DIY punk filter into this finely crafted (yet charmingly rough around the edges) single. You’ll keep flipping this over and over, trying to decide which song is your favorite, but why choose? I just feel lucky to live in a time when I get to hear things like this.

Diphallia The 14 Inch EP

In case you don’t know or are too lazy to search, diphallia is a condition where one is born with two penisis. What would cause people to name their band after this could be puzzling, but when pondering the humor of this after a ton of beer in a backyard party in backwoods Florida, you might begin to see their vision. This is total backyard party punk that spans the globe from Fort Worth (where they hail) to Oxnard to Pinole (CA), with just the right amount of snottiness and fast parts to keep your dull thud of a buzz coasting along just fine. Not sure about a song called “White Trash Punk” in this current day and age, but “Slave to the Grave” is fucking cool. Think the band you never heard of on a 50-band Mystic Records comp, or the overloud blown-out track on a ’90s East Bay mixtape. Keg stands would probably be in order, or at least some poppers.

Direct Action Tomorrow Is Too Late LP

Aside from its vital late ’70s and early ’80s originators, 1980s Canadian hardcore post-’83 often suffered from really difficult recording and production, while being released at or past the point where the floodgates of hardcore records had flung open worldwide, and distinction became harder to glean. A lot of the records are cool and probably resonate deeper with local fans, but the original DIRECT ACTION Trapped in a World LP from 1985 is a mixed bag of solidly good hardcore fighting with really uneven recording and mixing, mired with strange production choices tempering its delivery. By 1988, it seemed already apparent that something was lost in translation between this Toronto band’s 1984 Tomorrow Is Too Late demo and the aforementioned LP, and a nicely-mastered German collection on Bitzcore delivered a mix of recordings from both. European bootleggers served up the demo on LP, minus a track, half a decade ago, but here it is finally released, legitimately and in its entirety. Charmingly chaotic rapid-fire volleys of blistering hardcore singed with a DISCHARGE/VARUKERS/ENGLISH DOGS-style heavier guitar sound, with biting quick vocals spitting over the top. As the title suggests, there’s a real beautiful immediacy to the demo like the best of ’80s hardcore: put together a band with some friends, cop a band name off the headlines (the Squamish/Vancouver Five had just taken “Direct Action” to the actual streets in Canada in 1982), and blast out sixteen hardcore bombardments with lyrics volleying defiance against the government, the cops, and your own impending nuclear annihilation. That might make it sound simultaneous wonderful and generic, but it sheds comparison to its contemporary deluge of thrash with how unrelenting energetic it is, and how the mix floods everything into powerful blasts of mayhem. The presentation is nice with brief liner notes, but a bit sterile in organization compared to the organic explosion of the music or the included replication of the original chaotic hand drawn and cut ’n’ paste collage lyric sheet poster. Fun record.

Dots Dots LP

Cool yet wild spasm sound that is somewhere between NOTS and certain eras of RAKTA?! Though maybe DOTS are more sorta art punks unable to hide their BLACK FLAG roots… Vicious sounds! Wild looping collapsing rhythm sectional idea explosions! Theramin! GINN-ish guitars! Spaced-out vocal incantations c/o the punkest Camylle (also of MIDNITE SNAXXX and prob a million other groups?!). Doomed Bay Area sounds that will make you wanna dance and fuck shit up.

DPBS Stairway to Community cassette

Ultra limited-run tour tape released last year. The power of The Internet can still connect you to these space indie sounds from Montreal. Dreamy and just a little bit noisy (sometimes) prog-punk with a decided groove, like a basement punk WOODEN SHJIPS or something. It’s good, man, I swear…and I would have enjoyed seeing this band on their summer 2018 tour.

Email Trouble Cyberbully cassette

The combination of driving mid-tempo drum machines, dark, dancey synth leads, and angsty human vocals really resonates with the strange realities of late capitalism and the electronic age. Minneapolis’ self-described “Queer+Trans punx making synth beats” deliver ten tracks that could definitely get a basement full of punks dancing deliriously, peppered with smart political and cultural critique. The minimalist synthesized instrumental compositions allow the vocals and lyrics to be front and center. This tape is totally electronic and totally punk at the same time, which is no easy feat. The tape includes cool artwork and a free, customizable ALIENation membership card.

Flashlights Shadows and Lights LP

Secret Mission continues to make vinyl wrongs right by issuing the 2016 debut by Tokyo’s FLASHLIGHTS on LP. Originally released on CD only by Fifi (TEENGENERATE and FIRESTARTER) on his Stay Free imprint, this album has been a dark horse favorite of mine for a couple years now. Though boasting members of ROCK-A-CHERRY and the impossibly fantastic KNOCKS, FLASHLIGHTS’ approach is quite obviously centered on ’80s guitar pop, most akin to bands RAZORCUTS, the FLATMATES or even the FEELIES. I’ve opened up a lot more to this stuff in recent years, so I’m very much on board here. As is customary with so many Japanese acts, there’s a tastefulness to their entire operation that captuers part of the spark and spirit of their influences in a genuine way. Great.

Glue Traps Future Shocks EP

This Baltimore outfit ensures that twelve-song 45rpm 7″ EPs are not a thing of the past! Short, frantic snotty punk songs edited tightly together for maximum money’s worth. Self-deprecating and anti-authoritarian themes alternate, succinctly written, no solos, no breakdowns, no effects—refreshing, isn’t it? Minus 69.420 points for including Joe Biden in the thanks list and noting Mystic Records for “eternal inspiration,” but still up enough points to make it a winner.

Golden Pelicans Grinding for Gruel LP

Another great album from these Florida boys. The vocals are a snarling grumble of fuming attitude. The music is a driving, metallic, distorted force of nature. The two collide in a propulsive discharge of some of the catchiest songs of the year. “Lady Radiation” is my fave with its (sort of) singalong lyrics and stomping beat. Great record.

Gonzo Do It Better Again LP

Four young-ish tykes from Geelong here with an album recorded in an old stable. Polished shards of pointed rock stab insistently from the speakers over tense, clipped rhythms. There’s a tension here between the physical urge to rock out (at least one of the guitarists here can obviously shred) and the cerebral insistence on minimalist restraint. GONZO are clearly clever, but not too clever; like the older cousins of the CHATS, the ones who went to Uni instead of wasting away on the dole. Math-rock time changes and post-punk sparseness compete for attention with meaty Aussie rock in the tradition of X or COSMIC PSYCHOS or EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING, and it all makes for a great listen. Once again, the land down under is flying the flag for rock music, much as it has for most of the last 30-odd years.

Government Flu KFJC Session flexi

These seven songs, recorded during a live session at the historic KFJC studio in the South Bay Area, absolutely rip. The songs are fast and in-your-face, falling somewhere in between JERRY’S KIDS and United Blood-era AGNOSTIC FRONT. This band has been around for a while, but hasn’t dulled a bit. Hardcore punk at its finest.

Grudge When Christine Comes Around / I’m Gonna Smash Your Face In 7″

I first heard LAURICE at MRR headquarters while listing to their excellent G.A.Y.D.A.R. LP. If you’re unfamiliar with LAURICE, let me just say that they’ve been releasing a ton of material: bubblegum punky glam, smooth jazz, even straight-up disco since the early ’70s under various names. Record collector nerds can probably give you way better insight to this (Mitch Cardwell, Graham Booth, are you reading this?) but this record consists of the earliest LAURICE recording under the band name GRUDGE. While I very much prefer the hard throbbing cock disco thump of G.A.Y.D.A.R., this song will definitely grow on you like a bad genital fungus. The flipside is a straight up Michael Nesmith-style MONKEES jammer under the LAURICE nom de plume. Young kiddie fans of HUNX AND HIS PUNX and old Partridge Family lovin’ pervs alike will groove along to this wax in the sticky summer months. Someone please get me a towel. I feel unclean.

Heatseeker Infected Society LP

This LP goes so hard! Unrelenting, aggressive, riff-y hardcore that falls somewhere in between VIOLENT REACTION, BOSTON STRANGLER and LOCK. Nearly every song has a moshy breakdown at the end, and a few even have some divebombs and sneaky guitar solos. The vocals are low and gruff, reminiscent of NEGATIVE APPROACH.

Hepcat Dilemma Art Imitates Life LP

Outsider sounds. This would have fit nicely on the Alternative Tentacles catalog circa 1989. Professional and/or professorial art/poetry with meandering guitars leading “compositions” instead of songs and/or tracks. This falls somewhere between TRAGIC MULATTO, ZAPPA, and VICTIMS FAMILY.

Hierophants Spitting Out Moonlight LP

A new LP from these synth punk Aussies, this sorta reminds me a bit of SCHOOL DAMAGE with less C86 and more Messthetics? Well, it turns out this features a SCHOOL DAMAGE (and a PARSNIP! I guess as with every other sick Australian group each member must play in fifty-nine other equally cool bands). Neat and witty pop constructions that have a basement band new wave feel, sometimes can have a background music quality, rather than “must listen to this and do nothing else.” This is unfair, because this band is obviously going for a different style/feeling, but I am thinking of when the last TOTAL CONTROL LP came out, and how totally overpowering it was. But then sometimes it feels like “Outdoor Miner” being played by FELT, which is a dream. “Pang” is perfect! More of this please! There’s an ironic playfulness with sharp radical underpinnings too, and while some of it blends into one, for the most part it is a really pleasurable blend?! Plus the LP title is beautiful/cool/gross…

Joey Cape Let Me Know When You Give Up CD

You know, I was never a big fan of this guy’s output. Whether it’s the skate punk of LAGWAGON, the grungy BAD ASTRONAUT, or cheesy covers in ME FIRST AND THE GIMME GIMMIES, none of it piqued my interest. This latest effort is his first solo record in four years. A fair portion of it is quiet and intimate in a way that had me a little checked out. The titular track does this really pretty thing when it transitions from this subdued lullaby on an acoustic guitar with a phone ringing in the distance. Right when he starts singing “As we wait wait for sea change / Wait for the next wave” there’s this crescendo that he builds to vocally and it’s really nice. But then the drums, electric guitar, and piano jump in, and it sounds like something I’d hear at youth group. Then the very next track chugs along with this lean towards country that I hear in the play between the drums and a slightly twangy guitar. It’s not like there’s a western lilt to his voice, it’s more just a vibe I get. The very next song, “Daylight,” croons in with this ghostly choir of “oooooh”s, some strings, and soft, sleepy vocals. On this record, there’s some weird synth that sounds almost like a theremin, there’s a lap steel, and there’s a female vocal accompaniment. All over the map. I’ll say this: the guy really knows how to build to a break, make strong song arrangements, pen intentional and thoughtful lyrics, and he has a deft control of his voice paired with strong delivery. Each song sounds different from the other, with the only cohesive element being Joey’s singing. This record is anything but solo and, to me, feels like alternative adult contemporary made by a punk. I don’t quite know where to land on this. He’s mentioned in interviews that this is meant to be a distraction from deluge of politics, and if that’s what it aims to do, then it’s perfectly fine background noise.

Kinzie Dead Eyes CD

An interesting proposition here. The songs veer between SUPERCHUNK pop snarl and NOMEANSNO jazz-punk and SHUDDER TO THINK drama. Maybe a more direct comparison would be fIREHOSE? The band members certainly have chops, and are adept in a variety of styles. As an album, the whole thing is polished with a ’90s sheen that renders it listenable and inoffensive, but not immediately arresting.

Kira Jari Spooky Freaky EP

Not every great band is from Denton, TX, yet every band from Denton that I’ve heard is great. There must be something in the rock’n’roll water out there. KIRA JARI just popped onto my radar with this collection of four searingly quick punk songs. As a four-piece, they’re able to let some of the guitar melodies breathe while either layering some sweet solos or strong rhythm parts over the top. The song “Seasick” sounds so much like something I’ve heard before but just can’t place, and a lot of that musical amnesia comes from the fact that they switch things up so much in the span of just over two minutes. Like there’s some weirdness of the MINNEAPOLIS URANIUM CLUB, mixed with sharp leads Á  la MARKED MEN (sorry, couldn’t help but think of the kings of Denton, but also Jeff Burke recorded this), and a lot of the scrappiness you’d find in BENT OUTTA SHAPE. And I’m probably gonna get a few raised eyebrows on this one, but I hear some SHEER MAG, if nothing besides the effects on their vocal harmonies. Just like you can always trust bands from Denton, Dirt Cult delivers another awesome release from a band I might not have otherwise heard about.

Ladrones Ladrones LP

There aren’t many female-led bands doing the unhinged TY SEGALL garage thing these days. So it’s really nice to have this debut album from LADRONES. Vocalist Valeria SÁ¡nchez has a wild style with frantic yelps and elongated howls. The band plays frenzied, distorted garage punk. It sounds great. The best song, “La Pichaera,” sounds like it could be an outtake from the debut DAVILA 666 album. It’s so catchy and driving and makes you want to sing along. Excellent album.

Lifes Treading Water LP

Serious contender for my favorite hardcore record of the year over here. Milwaukee duo LIFES have been plugging away with EPs and splits for several years now, and they apparently had been waiting for this one until it was perfect. It is. Sonic destruction of the highest order, with discordant slows and blasts that are nothing short of punishment. Layers of bass tracks are at constant war with dual vocals and drums that struggle to maintain one beat long enough to get you hooked…so instead you just stay anxious. The doses of early ’00s influence come from the chaotic melodies in tracks like “A Four Year Old Contemplates Death,” while the shameless speed and power (and the crushing slows as in “Bitter Cold”) of LIFES that will likely get them lumped in with bands they sound nothing like…well, that’s when they truly sound like no one else. Brutally honest and unforgiving and often uncomfortable lyrically, the voice is delivered with arguably more fury here than the music, which is presented with a fucking massive recording, and any space left in the sound is perfectly filled with sound or samples Á  la MOTHERCOUNTRY MOTHERFUCKERS. A completely excellent and very intentional release that I cannot recommend enough. The title track, “Treading Water,” is on repeat all damn day.

Line Of Sight Line of Sight LP

This DC youth crew band’s Dissent EP, originally on Youngblood, graces the A-side, while their demo is on the flipside. This is the more “searching for something” school of post-millennial youth crew, with the energy and shouted vocals (and a little singing on the demo) to match. Everything is tight, well-written, and well-played, there’s definite evolution from the demo songs to the EP ones, and they achieve a good balance between drawing from a few different corners of the overall youth crew canon and falling back on tried-and-true genre staples when it works. There’s a lot of cartoon bullshit in this genre, but these songs come off as sincere and relatively refreshing. I’d mosh.

Mala Vista Mouth Breeder EP

NYC’s MALA VISTA pack five catchy, fast, rock’n’roll songs onto this EP. The songs have a fun, high-energy, ’77 punk style and a heavy retro undertow. But they don’t just take the genre cues and sit back. Punchy chorus riffs, tidal waves of shredding, and lyrics about fucking up fascists set this record apart. Garage punk has a tradition of avoiding politics, but I think this record proves that rocking out is more fun with a common cause.

Mean Jeans Gigantic Sike CD

These Portland popsters are back with another fun solid release. Pop punk meets power pop along the ways of the YUM YUMS, the TRAVOLTAS, and of course the RAMONES. 11 songs in 21 minutes, so there’s no doodling around here. I’ve seen this trio several times, and they are good live as well. Together since 2006, this is their fifth full-length. Top notch band for the pop folk.

Meatbot Nine Scalias CD

A four-song CD EP from Maryland. This band of punk vets includes former members of BEEFEATER and VISIGOTHS. Stripped-down US punk circa 1982, which would fit right in on Not So Quiet on the Westwen Front. Basic, fed up, and to the point.

Model Zero Model Zero LP

Members of the SHEIKS (one of Jack Oblivian’s backing bands) and EX-CULT backed by one of MR. QUINTRON’s drum buddies from this Memphis supergroup. With a pedigree this cool, it would be hard to go wrong. MODEL ZERO does not disappoint. Theirs is a retro futuristic style with whirly synths and repetitive beats. The vocals are soulfully plaintive. Plus it’s got a wacky edge. Buy this.

Moskwa 1984 Demo LP

Goodness, this is an absolute treasure! MOSKWA should a familiar name to most punks, if only for their much-compiled track “Stan I Walcz,” one of the greatest hardcore punk songs ever written. Alongside peers like ABADDON and DEZERTER, MOSKWA was one of the strongest bands in the extremely dynamic ’80s punk scene in Soviet-occupied Poland. Recorded live straight-to-tape in a garage with zero overdubs or other studio tomfoolery, this recording captures the essence of what makes MOSKWA one of the all-time greats, even more so than their ’86 cassette album. These fifteen tracks are blasts of pure fury, tempered by subtle guitar melodies, driven by the frantic drumming and passionate vocals. Tracks like “15 Sekund” and “Na Wasz Kolorwy…” are nearly as extreme in tempo and delivery as your MOB 47s or NEOS. DEZERTER are definitely an influence, but unlike many of their peers, MOSKWA did little experimentation with song structures or genres, sticking almost entirely to straightforward, impactful hardcore punk. The included GBH cover (“Hell On Earth”) gives a pretty good indication of what the band were going for style-wise. Given the circumstances, the recording is shockingly good, a little bit biased toward the high-end (you can feel those vicious crash cymbal hits in your gut), but everything is pretty clear and dynamic. The quality packaging from Warsaw Pact includes some great photos of early concerts, lyrics for all the tracks in both Polish and English, and a short history of the band’s early days and the recording of the demo. One of the most essential reissues of the year!

Obsessions Killing Time / Final Solution 7″

A dreamy, psychedelic take on garage rock, with reverb on the vocals and a heavy tambourine presence. The straightforward minor chord progressions and disaffected, snotty vocals are more emotional and less macho than you might expect from a garage record. While I don’t suspect these guys are actual fascists, it is a bit tone deaf to release a track called “Final Solution” with no lyric sheet.

Open Wounds Invaders LP

This has got your classic hardcore punk sound, reminiscent of YOUTH OF TODAY or MINOR THREAT, with those attitude-y 7 SECONDS-style vocals. Lots of energy, lots of speed. The lyrics span from serious to funny. I lol’d at the song “Record Collectors” which is about being “addicted” to collecting records. “Got enough but I keep buying more / The records pile up, blocking my door.” It’s a sentiment that I think a lot of us can relate to.

Pisser Breaking Chains LP

Ferocious lowest-common-denominator crossover thrash. You’ve heard the riffs before, and you’ll love them this time too. You’ll also love flares like the half-time tempos in “Nightcrawler,” particularly the one leading into the ripping solo. The recording is cavernous and treble-heavy (think the first DESTRUCTOR 12”) and the vocal yowls land somewhere between ACID and BITCH, which is a very, very tough place to land. Choice cut: “Willing Victim.”

Positive Citizen Tension cassette

I thought I was in for more indie rock when the guitar intro started, instead I got distorted melodies and in-the-red youth frustration. POSITIVE CITIZEN sounds like a dozen bands I played with in the late ’90s: punk and raw and pissed and determined, but determined to write catchy as fuck punk songs instead of determined to level the place with volume or riffs or whatever. Just doing the damn thing and doing it with heart. These bands can tip the scale either way, but this one is a winner.

Protestera Kampen GÁ¥r Vidare CD

The thrilling, epic, and chilling debut LP from Götenborg’s PROTESTERA is now available on CD. Bitter, metallic, and melancholic late ’90s/early ’00s crust, with harsh riffs, and drums that are fierce and tight: weaving D-beat with circle pit-ready mosh breakdowns. Spoken passages, dual vocals with static-filled hardcore breaks and vicious oration, and menacing, rhythmic gang vocals all put forth intense conviction. If you’re into CONTRAVENE, SCUMBRIGADE, POST-REGIMENT, OI POLLOI, FLEAS AND LICE, or ANTIPRODUCT, this is for you. The 30-page booklet oozes with photos, a history lesson, and squat scene nostalgia. We need more bands like this again. Such a level of solidarity and passion in a time of exhausting hopelessness. Digitally remastered to the highest standard since its original release on Skuld release in 2000. This will not disappoint.

Pura Crema Fin de la Era / Balada Del Hipocita 7″

Sparse, dark-yet-jangly, dreamy, sometimes surfy, psych-pop from Monterrey, Mexico, that kinda rules. Going down an internet rabbit hole, it seems that after a few years and a lot of digital releases, this is their most professional attempt, both at songwriting and recording. I gotta admit, it’s a good jump, and I can’t wait to hear what they got next.

Raw Power 1983 Demo LP

RAW POWER is a life-changing band. Years ago, when I first got into international hardcore, the early output of these Italian maniacs represented a gateway to a new sound and a new way of thinking for me.  Their first LP Screams from the Gutter is a stone-cold classic of unhinged screaming and bonkers guitar work, but the recording that truly blew my young mind was their demo from 1983. Often referred to as the Brown Studio demo, this rough and tumble recording largely circulated on cassette tape in punk’s international network of friends until the dawn of the internet age. Somehow, despite being one of the very best examples of furious Italian hardcore ever recorded and despite every random third-rate band from the 80s getting deluxe reissue treatment in recent years, the ’83 demo had to wait until 2019 for its vinyl debut. The packaging for this reissue is modest, with nary an overpriced gatefold or a nostalgia-filled booklet in sight. But the music, with its tornado of guitars, screaming-like-someone-is-chasing-me vocals, and fucking punk cowbell is as urgent and necessary as ever. RAW POWER was the epitome of Italian hardcore, and unlike some of their dour international peers in Scandinavia or Latin America, they brought a measure of goofy fun to their wild hardcore sound. A furious party indeed.

Red Threads Out Of The Blue cassette

Soulful freak punk with a casual absence of pretense. Early no wave/damaged post-punk with some awkward funk thrown in, fronted by performance art freak vocals that move effortlessly between Lunch and Kekaula. I can see this in the context of 1990s indie just as easily as 1980s New York, and it sounds like it completely belongs in 2019.

Rigorous Institution Penitent EP

As many of us already know, the influence of post-punk bands like KILLING JOKE, JOY DIVISION, and BAUHAUS was to shape the sounds of AMEBIX/AXEGRINDER (referring specifically to the ’80s era, and not their current incarnation). RIGOROUS INSTITUTION reminds me of those gritty, dark, gloomy aspects of the original anarcho/post-punk influenced crust punk bands that were coming out from the UK in the ’80s. They combine aspects of KILLING JOKE meets VENOM with the synth parts used in AXEGRINDER songs. It’s common to see people blindly ripping off anarcho/post-punk bands like EXIT STANCE, VEX or PART 1 this past decade, but RIGOROUS INSTITUTION doesn’t fall into that realm. It’s “crust” but not in the HIS HERO IS GONE-inspired neo-crust/’90s hardcore kind of way, nor another version of the mid-’00s “metallic crust.” It doesn’t comply with most people’s stereotypes of the genre (the ones who would be into that stuff would most likely be in the old school death metal scene right now). In this current day and age of easy access to an overwhelming amount of information to simply mock a certain style that’s considered cool or validated, I’m glad to hear a unique band like RIGOROUS INSTITUTION doing what they do. Highly recommended.

Rotten Foxes Arrive, Raise Hell, Leave EP

With a name like ROTTEN FOXES, I was in full anticipation of a group of extremely attractive people. Alas, all I get is a bunch of ugly hairy dudes. Well, fret not, for this is some damn decent ugly hairy guy rock’n’roll, and I mean that in the nicest sense. They get the obvious comparisons to BUZZCRUCHER or MAD BROTHER WARD, as well as the token MOTÖRHEAD nod, all while being quite tuneful and carrying a melody or two in between shout-along choruses. You’d expect these guys to be from the South or Midwest, but these blokes hail from bloody England for fucks sake!?! While you ignore my lousy attempt at cockney slang, let me just say this is a mighty OK record. A little slicker than I like in this kind of band, and almost like MOWER, minus the crust punk influence, it’s still very worthy of ten or so minutes of your life. Cheers.

Scrap Brain A Journey Into Madness LP

Raw, vulnerable, and disgusting, SCRAP BRAIN delivers a scourge of slowed-down art hardcore spiced up with a few unusual elements like a remixed pop sample and electronic interlude. While some hardcore bands attempt to break music through extreme precision or brute force, SCRAP BRAIN instead uses their powers to contort notes into unnatural positions, pours on malaise-infused static confusions, and glues it all together with scathingly unapologetic lyrics dissecting the experience of madness. Definitely something not to miss for hardcore fans, art rockers, and weirdo punks alike.

Scraps Dismantle the Machine One Cog at a Time LP

This French band’s final twelve-song album was originally released with a different cover in 1994 on Germany’s X-MIST. I’ve always found SCRAPS’ catalog, which dates back to the early 1980s, a challenging listen: the monotonous high-pitched yelped vocals are almost painful, the mixture of thrash and ’90s stop-start-change-start off-kilter experimentation, with some somber peace punk or DCHC “I’m leveling with you now” voiceover moments thrown in—it’s not something where I can usually make it through even one side of a record, though at this point, they had seamlessly dialed in their style and delivery. The lyrics are poignant and meaningful and quite thoughtful, and the thrash sharply delivered, but I generally have found this band completely unlistenable; and I’ve tried. I own almost all of their records. This album, remastered and repackaged, is no different. I want to like it, as the regard SCRAPS is held, the fact that this record was so lovingly reissued, point to there being is probably something I am missing that other people see, but each time I revisit their records, I still don’t get it. The sloppy delivery and randomness of the previous Wrapped Up in This Society makes it more bearable, and I find parts of all the things I love here, but I can only take so much, Je suis vraiment désolé.

Sidetracked Hollowed Out LP

24 tracks, not one of which is longer than a minute? Yeah, it’s a powerviolence record. It’s got that classic west coast style Á  la DESPISE YOU and CROSSED OUT. There’s nothing wildly different about this record compared to the last 200 or so that To Live A Lie has put out, but it does hit pretty hard. The songs, though short, are pretty dynamic, stacking tons of riffs and different styles. Some of the songs sound more punk and driving, like “Turmoil,” while others like “Suffocate” and “None the Wiser” get groovy. What I appreciate about this band is that they really trim the fat: there’s no obnoxiously long heavy parts leading into a four second blastbeat. The breakdowns on this record run an appropriate amount of time, and don’t take away from the fury. Other powerviolence bands: take note!

Taiwan Housing Project Sub-Language Trustees LP

I really loved their first 7″, but the last LP sorta lost me a bit, had a circus punk veneer in my mind I couldn’t get past. This record is more what I wanted outta that! Incandescent noise fuck sounds from HARRY PUSSY and LITTLE CLAW past-lifers, this is a total and true sound, savage and unreal, destruction and love, lost in a dream. It’s intoxicating and also catchy, has an otherworldly quality, like watching something burn in a dream. Kilynn has an incredible voice…if you have vague TEENAGE JESUS-as-the-world-ends inclinations and seek out sound ideas that are A Totality, then this might scratch an itch.

Terry Who’s Terry? EP

Fans of TERRY won’t be surprised in any way by this EP. Four songs of simple but wildly catchy pop music that is just a little off kilter. At times it can feel a bit monotone, but that also tends to add to the charm. Their sound wouldn’t be out of place in the late ’80s Flying Nun catalog. If you’re listening for the first time, check out the B-side of this record. “Eggs” is an upbeat head nodder, followed by the mellow “Drawn for Days”—a Kilgour brothers-style tune—is the perfect side of a 7”.

The Antipatix Psychobilly Gone Bad EP

I guess “psychobilly gone bad” becomes garage rock moderne with its jangly guitars and laid back attitude. The pumping of the bass and snarling vocals are still present which makes it an interesting amalgam. This is the ANTIPATIX’s first record. Perhaps they will work out the kinks in their style and make something truly unpredictable. I look forward to it.

The Dogs Sick as a Dog 1994-1998 LP

Not that DOGS, but the best 1980s record not from the ’80s that I’ve heard in a minute. This OC band existed for four too-short years in the ’90s, most of whom went on to start BROKEN BOTTLES, who I’m not super familiar with. These guys came in a little too early, and much too close to the ’80s, as you could see them going over real big today. They most likely tore up house parties with the likes of the STITCHES, STARVATIONS, and the SPOOKY, but there is no pogo here. Just slaming and crawling classic OC hardcore punk. The big comparisons here are the ADOLESCENTS and DI, who they obviously worship, but also CHINA WHITE or even AMERICA’S HARDCORE. Leather-jacketed goons roaming the beaches looking for blood and trouble fill my head as I’m whisked away to Reaganland. They easily could’ve been included in the never-made Suburbia II soundtrack, but make no bones, this is from the ’90s, and the DOGS are sorely missed today.

The Members Version CD

Folks that might remember (or recognize) the MEMBERS for (the admittedly sublime) “Sound of the Suburbs” or even “Solitary Confinement” might be in for a bit of a shock. Not a rude one, but certainly a stylistic one. This is yet another covers disc, in this case, largely of classics from the ’60s and ’70s—BUZZOCKS, the RAMONES, the LURKERS, DAVID BOWIE, PRINCE, the VELVET UNDERGROUND, JOHN HOLT, GREGORY ISAACS, BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS, DILLINGER, GRANDMASTER FLASH and ABBA. A fairly eclectic mix, but which all make perfect sense for those lucky enough (and there’s still time!) to be familiar with the back catalog and oeuvre of THE MEMBERS. Unsurprisingly, the most faithful of the covers are the reggae and dub efforts, while the PRINCE, ABBA and punk songs get more of a FAD GADGET ’80s electronica treatment (along with some dub!). And it largely works. And I say this as both a huge ABBA fan, and a MEMBERS aficionado!

The Mentally Ill Gacy’s Place (Starbeat Session) LP

Does the phrase “total Killed By Death destruction” mean anything to you? “Gacy’s Place,” the defining ’79 anthem from Illinois’ MENTALLY ILL, ranks among the most disgusting and drool-inducing jams of the genre—a life-ruining classic for sure. This 12” includes that fabled debut 45 and the other cuts from the same session, all wretched, painfully scuzzy punk. Alternative Tentacles unearthed this crapola at the turn of the century, but Almost Ready has thankfully trimmed all the fat from the rancid USDA KBD beef here, resulting in a frightening slab of fuck sure to poison the mind of any listener. Hard to beat.

The Nods Overripe LP

It’s a bold move to open your album with a backmasked noise jam. At least HÜSKER DÜ tucked “Dreams Reoccurring” a few songs into Zen Arcade. The NODS hail from Salt Lake City, and their sound is a fuzzed-out blend of psychedelic pop. Imagine some teenagers frying in the desert somewhere with three records between them: the OH SEES, the SPITS, and BUTTHOLE SURFERS. The fact that the album sounds like someone passed out on the reverb button adds to the sense of sweltering burnout. It’s lo-fi for sure, but the energy (and the songs) come through.

The Rats In a Desperate Red LP reissue

The decades-long DIY rock n’ roll love story of Fred and Toody Cole is by now well worn. I’d be surprised if most readers of Maximum Rocknroll don’t have at least a cursory knowledge of DEAD MOON, Fred and Toody’s most widely-known and long-running band. But before DEAD MOON and PIERCED ARROWS, Fred and Toody were part of Portland punk’s first wave in the form of a band called the RATS. (For those not in the know, Fred’s roots go way back into the ’60s, but that’s a story for another day and another reissue.)  In a Desperate Red is the third (and to my mind best) RATS LP, bringing together the rawness and desperation of early punk with the wistful lo-fi tunefulness of Fred and Toody at their best. The Coles had a knack for bringing real human emotion into simple and urgent rock ’n’ roll songs, and In a Desperate Red features that tendency at its finest. Incredible songs about feeling antisocial (“Leave Me Alone”) sit side-by-side with songs about finding solace with a long-time love (“It’s Still You”) and songs about the drudgery of working life (“Working Class”). This long-awaited reissue spares no expense; the gorgeous 40-page booklet is a real treat for long-time fans, and the vinyl sounds fantastic. Completely mandatory.

The Slop The Slop LP

This started out like a record by a generic garage rock band, but after a few listens, it has started growing on me. I don’t want much from garage bands. Just a rockin’ beat and frantic vocals. The SLOP has both. The songs seem like you’ve heard them before, and you probably have. But they make up for it with a good sound.

Tommy and June Tommy and June CD

In my head, I’ve been constructing a lengthy discourse on the lineage stretching from SIMON AND GARFUNKEL to the likes of NOFX or NO USE FOR A NAME. Y’know, close vocal harmonies, pop songs, power chords, that sort of thing. But fuck it. TOMMY AND JUNE are a duo (no shit), with more than a passing resemblance to SIMON AND GARFUNKEL, NOFX and NO USE FOR A NAME. Tommy is obviously the Paul Simon of this duo. He writes all the songs, and I’m guessing he does the lead vocals (as opposed to the typically omnipresent high harmonies). Lyrically, they talk about being punks and not wanting to grow up, and unsurprisingly, often throw in (as did SIMON AND GARFUNKEL, of course) electric guitars and drumkits into the typical folky acoustic guitar mix. As well as the patented NOFX/NO USE FOR A NAME chord and vocal harmony progressions. There’s even a bona fide (pop punk) rocker or two on this disc. And at ten tracks clocking in at twenty minutes, there’s no meandering endless introspection, nor repeat-to-fade choruses. It’s actually fucking really good, and this is coming from your humble reviewer who is the proud owner of not only the Old Friends SIMON AND GARFUNKEL box set, but every single CD ever released by NOFX (well, except Liberal Animation, which let’s face it, is embarassing bollocks). Pop-folk-punk anyone?

Trash Everything Is Trash cassette

Yup, this is hardcore. Nasty ’80s California meets destructive ’00s Ohio from this outfit made up of kids from, well, California and Ohio. Oxnard, meet Parma (in this case it’s Baltimore, Ohio, but let’s not split hairs here). It’s manly, it’s bombastic, it’s fast, it’s slow, it makes young men want to murder each other. There’s probably blood, and the vocals are real throaty and fukkd. It’s good.

Ufosekte Sickness EP

I know I’m biased, but this could easily be a version of ADD/C from an alternate universe. One where they lived in Frankfurt and played synthesizers. Of course, the songwriting isn’t quite on par with our Chattanooga heroes, but don’t take that as an insult, y’all. Fast, super fun, and I’m pretty stoked on it, even if some of the riffs and most of the howling are absolute matter of fact pure Daniel.

Retortion Terror / Worm split CD

Technical modern metallic hardcore from WORM, legit mainstream shorthair metal appeal in more than a few parts. Fierce technical grind from RETORTION TERROR, inhumanly fast during the hardcore parts, and then they grind, sometimes with spoken (almost rapping) vocals. A chaotic listen from start to finish—both bands are from Japan, and the whole thing clocks in just over fifteen minutes.

Xenu and the Thetans Xenu and the Thetans LP

Brandon Welchez from CROCODILES and Johnny Otis Davila aka Dr. Papi, from DAVILA 666, joined forces in Mexico City to form XENU AND THE THETANS. It’s as if they had been held back by their previous musical endeavors and decided to play as fast as possible. Luckily, they are able to pull it off without sounding unhinged or disjointed. The drummer is pretty great. Excellent cover of the SAINTS’ “This Perfect Day,” sung in Spanish.

Четыре Таракана Duty Free Songs LP

ЧЕТЫРЕ ТАРАКАНА (FOUR COCKROACHES) were youngsters from Moscow as far as I can determine, and these tracks have been released on cassette and CD numerous times since 1995. Eleven varied tracks show varied western late ’70s punk influences. Each track has me thinking long and hard about whether it’s a cover of a classic punk song or just a brazen adolescent tribute. “Freedom,” “Home Sweet Home” and “Acid Song” have whimsical piano parts, but most songs are snotty RAMONES/SEX PISTOLS hybrids, which of course sound sick in Russian with a tinny distorted guitar sound.