Reviews

MRR #448 • September 2020

14th Wish 14th Wish / Gotta Get Rid of You 7″ reissue

Reissue of the sole record from the apparently forgotten New York band 14TH WISH. It was originally released in 1980 on Orange Records. I’ll fall in line with the label’s hype. How did that happen? These two songs are great. Laid-back vocals with biting lyrics backed by a great band with a driving style and lo-fi sound. They simply exude coolness and the songs are so catchy. This band could have easily filled the HEARTBREAKERS’ shoes while they were off shooting up, or taken the place of any other overhyped first wave punk band. 300 copies so don’t snooze (again).

Affect Fucked Reality cassette

Well, you got that right, AFFECT. I first played this tape well into the evening, after a few park sodas, and said to myself “maybe I’ll listen to this again over the weekend, and it won’t sound so much like DISCLOSE.” AFFECT are a Swedish band, and if you love DISCLOSE and GLORIOUS?, this is a perfect addition to your Dis-collection. Dis is absolut raw chaos punk noize for reality fucker. And the best part: it’s done by two people, yet sounding like a catastrophic cacophony of several more. The percussion is a bit heavier than is standard, as is the galloping stomper track—my favorite—”Bleeding.” The words are lengthy and well-paced, nicely understated, throughout the tracks, and my only complaint is that I’d love to have some printed lyrics. The tan-on-black cover art is also excellent. AFFECT goes from “eh” to “hmm, well, OK!” with each subsequent listen.

Aihotz El No Movimiento cassette

AIHOTZ from Bilbao immediately creates an exciting atmosphere on their debut demo tape. While the strangeness is rather within their sound, which when dissected, shows how the layers are not alien or renewed attributes of punk rock, only here paired and played in an unusual way. I got it, but would not go as far as the promo text which suggests a blend of PARALISIS PERMANENTE and G.I.S.M., but indeed, they use echoed to spooky vocals mixed with airy metallic power riffs. Both the echo and breezy chords create a lot of open space over which AIHOTZ has control and they are able to fill it with energy. The space separates the music from the determined and playful vocals and the two, parallel yet together, create the unique atmosphere, that tricks me to think more of them than a simple hardcore punk band. This demo is not a scam, though it tends to present itself to something wilder than it really is. Which is very human. Occasionally the bouncy rhythm wonders from dark territories to more direct hardcore/punk forms where high pace is agressively maintained, along the way we encounter strange parts and all of a sudden tempo changes to vary the spectrum. Some of these bridges are theatrically heavy and slow, that recalls too much of the MTV metal, here in an ironic, “let’s revise trash” way. Going further within the short record the charm of the band is based on the same autonomous fundament that is at the core of every good demo tape made by an enthusiastic group. AIHOTZ’s attempt is fun and promising, but this tape would get better if their upcoming record will be crazier.

Anti-Cimex En Product Från Dagens Skitsamhälle CD

This demo recording from 1982 is Anarkist Attack-era ANTI CIMEX, and it sounds great. It was originally sent out to zines and friends and hasn’t been available on CD before now. I have some of these demo recordings on the Demos 81-85 comp, but not all of them. Harsh, warbling and heavy, Nils delivers broken vocals with adolescent intensity, before Tomas took over with a gruffer, more matured sound. This features a DISCHARGE cover and a few impromptu instrumentals, and several rarer tracks such as “Eibon” that are only on demos. This is a powerful and raw ANTI-CIMEX disc, like a table saw that delivers.

Apsurd Derealizacija / Svemu Će Doći Kraj LP

APSURD is back, following up their well received demo, now on vinyl dividing one side to their debut and the other to a few new tracks. This Serbian band plays masterfully crafted hardcore punk, drawing from traditional sounds but not forgetting to be in contact with the present. They create a haunted atmosphere within noise that is at once the form of frustration and escapism. While the bass and drums are building a usually mid-tempo solid base, the guitars mix raging riffs with exploring, curly ornaments. A vibrant desperation blasts from each song, coating Eastern European metaphysical melancholy on uptempo melodies. APSURD recalls bands as TOZIBABE, SOLUNSKI FRONT, DISTRESS or even SACCHARINE TRUST and POISION IDEA, though they are not completely stuck in a proxy-nostalgia—they sneak enough original ideas onto this heritage, while cherry-picking the best parts and instinctively organizing songs from them. There isn’t a significant difference between the two sides/records yet the music never exhausts. This indicates the mature sound of APSURD. They can write proper songs and turn their batch to albums. Their challenge will be to stay fresh within this established sound but I have high hope in them.

Bam!Bam! Nails LP

This album is getting me right in my early ’90s Riot Grrrl nostalgia feels. Jubilant sunny-day punk that is equal parts vulnerable BRATMOBILE jangle and noisy BIKINI KILL/HOLE swagger. The transition between the muscular sub-metal riffage and more introspective pop numbers is so dramatic that it suggests the members are switching instruments—if so, another ’90s staple brought back to life. Add in the references to My So-Called Life and you’re hitting the trifecta. Lest this review lead you to think BAM!BAM! are nothing more than a throwback to an earlier era, I must say that for all the stylistic borrowing the songs themselves hold their own, and I predict that this LP will compete with the best Olympia has to offer for turntable time. I also sincerely hope to get a chance to see the band play once live music is a reality again.

Bashford Happathy cassette

Ten-song cassette from Madison, WI, recorded, mixed, mastered and released by immortal turkey Bobby Hussy. Grunge/alt-rock revival with some real nasty, sleazy riffs, doing it the best that this style can possibly be done. BASHFORD sounds a lot like Bleach-era NIRVANA to me, like you could probably slip a couple of these tunes within that record and play it for someone who has never heard it before and I doubt they would stand out that obviously. I am personally not the biggest alt-rock revival kinda guy, but if early teenage me had heard this, it would have certainly gotten a lot of plays.

Blowins Poudawaj Ze Zyjesz LP

By blowing into Dublin, embittered Polish punks BLOWINS have substituted one bleak, rain-soaked Catholic state for another. The move to (objectively slightly more progressive) Ireland doesn’t seem to have softened their worldview or tempered their anger. This album has nine songs of dark melodic hardcore, with tinges of deathrock, anarcho, and post-punk. Shades of POLITICAL ASYLUM, the MOB, and LEATHERFACE among others can be detected in the sound. Lyrics are in Polish but the insert includes little explanations in English.  Lovely stuff.

Brad Marino False Alarm EP

I really do love good power pop, which is sometimes mistaken for pop punk. And while some bands may blur that line between power pop and pop punk, this is a great example of power pop and something that wouldn’t easily get mistaken for pop punk. Not only that, it’s pure goodness. It’s melodic and mid-tempo and it’s so catchy that I’m trying to draw a COVID comparison. Too soon, I know. There’s also a HOODOO GURUS cover, for those who are interested. This is the first time I’ve heard of BRAD MARINO, but if you look on his Bandcamp page, he’s got quite a bit of stuff out there. I’m looking forward to hearing some of the others.

Brat Curse Brat Curse LP

Straight out of Columbus, OH, BRAT CURSE leans heavily on a mixture of power pop and grunge. It takes some real vision to take two distinctly different genres and squish them into one band without it being a jarring clash between the two, though they manage to remind me of MARKED MEN, the BREEDERS, and LUSH all at the same time. There’s this beautiful guitar part over the bridge of “Under the Gun” that just screams late-’80s shoegaze. It’s almost like feedback, but instead it builds into this screechy warble that when put into words doesn’t sound appealing, though I promise it is! A layer of dreamy wash of melody undercuts many of their tracks, really making a case for adding shoegaze to their list of styles. They have a soft reverb on the vocals, snappy drums, and guitars that both wail and crunch. It’s mellow, yet upbeat. I’m into it.

Brünner Deathmarch 20:20 EP

Damn, this is rocksteady fire! Metered, rhythmic, dense, dank hardcore from the Czech Republic!  I am really digging the knuckle-dragging heavy production. It’s like a smooth mix of raging D-beat Á  la DISPENSE and raging metallic hardcore Á  la FORÇA MACABRA. The bass is pulling a fierce barge of weight under all this. The accentuation of these lyrics are on point. Like, a jackhammer point. This band is cutting it up. It’s not a long EP, but it’s full of tight riffs, gut-knotted death-grunts, and blasting beats mixed with circling D-beats. The BRÜNNER TODESMARSCH, or death march, was the expulsion of Germans from surrounding provinces during late/post WWII. Resulting in the obvious; disease, malnutrition, death. I need to read these lyrics, because this sounds like the difference between 2020 inspired crust/hardcore and 2020 sincere crust/hardcore. 20:20 is definitely recommended.

Closedown Fucking Spent cassette EP

Nasty, gritty, sloppy hardcore punk from San Diego. Gruff vocals barked over mostly driving mid-tempo (with occasional fast spurts) hardcore punk. Very cool. Very angry. Four songs, short and sweet, same program on the A and B sides of the cassette.

Coconut Planters Coconut Planters CD

Debut five-track self-produced/released effort from this new Italian quartet, self-confessed fans of the ’90s sounds of Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph. Hence, unsurprisingly, there are buckets of driving melody, harmony, and rhythm in that time-honored style of NO USE FOR A NAME, FACE TO FACE, LAGWAGON, and, probably most immediately, Sweden’s MILLENCOLIN. Layered guitars and vocals abound. And they do it rather well. I have to say, I’m a fan of this genre, though it does pose a less immediate existential question on the nature of cultural imperialism, and homogeneity. If it wasn’t for the handy one-sheet, I would’ve bet my youngest child that these folks were from Orange County. On well.

Crow 1988.2.28 Antiknock Live CD

This recording of CROW is crude, and captures the fury of punk that CROW was live. Some of my favorite CROW songs stand out on this anxious recording: “I’m Looking Out Over,” “Give Up All Hope,” my personal favorite “Bloody Earth,” and so on. The raw anguish and passion is captured in the racket, as CROW does not wait up for anything between songs. “The Day of Annihilation” into “Bloody Earth” into “Storms of Despair” into “Is Fiction,” right around the middle, just brings me to a moment of how relentless this show must have been to witness in person. A blast-through of a fire set that sounds like 25 people are in the band melting everyone’s face off.

Cumgirl8 Cumgirl8 LP

Not sure precisely what music I anticipated on first seeing the name CUMGIRL8—it might be one of those questions where everyone is best off not pursuing the answer—but this eccentric, ramshackle semi-synthesised post-punk wasn’t it. They’re from NYC, and a brief read-up on them only renders them more curious: singer and bass player Lida Fox and guitarist Veronika Vilim are both models, as in big baller runway Marc Jacobs type shit, with drummer/synth tweaker/producer Chase Noelle having played in BOYTOY and others. Whatever Cumgirl8 is, it’s not anyone’s typical catwalk soundtrack: its bass lines somehow simultaneously blunt and spiky, and Noelle bundling up human cowbell thwack and overheating drum machines. “Cherry Nipples” yanks down the tempo to a goth crawl without it contradicting the effervescence around it, or indeed the gawky indie-pop of “Blue Planet,” which follows. Fox’s vocals are very much in that SLITS/RAINCOATS tradition (I might have assumed she was English without the resources to confirm otherwise) and while the CUMGIRL8 trio, two of who are playing music for the first time in this band, give the impression of wanting to cram as much of their favourite music as possible into one album, they pull it off.

Curbsitter I’m a Soy Boy cassette

Wow. Milwaukee, WI really has a hit on their hands here with CURBSITTER. Five-song cassette that reminds me a lot of super early NOFX. I’m not going to go on a ramble about how that’s a good thing, but I’m talking that early Mystic Records stuff that’s nasty, and many of the songs are too gross to make a lot of musical sense. Yeah, that stuff. This is great. If this band is a fraction as entertaining live as this tape is, they have just moved to the top of my must-see list. With songs about humanity coming to an end, disgust of social media, and spending your last 30 seconds alive masturbating, what’s not to love?

Deep Tissue Patience or Fear LP

DEEP TISSUE are from Philadelphia and pitch their tent somewhere between ’80s goth and ’90s alt-rock, with complementary slick-but-not-too-slick production and outsized, prominent hooks. Their home city is noteworthy, to me, in that Patience or Fear (their debut LP) has me thinking back to a Philly band from a few years ago, DARK BLUE, and how they sounded like something that could find a seriously big audience if they wished. Never happened, for better or worse, and with 250 copies of this record in existence and no current option to tour it’s unlikely to happen for DEEP TISSUE either, but damn if this doesn’t sound like a lost hit. There are some punky, uptempo moments (“Despair,” “Dead Head”) powered by booming toms and Lauren Iona’s strong vocals; things built from textured, swirling guitars which suggest that LUSH and (specifically major label-era!) THROWING MUSES have been closely studied by the band as a whole (“Liminal Space”); and a tiptoe into the deathrock side of the border (“Injury”), although perhaps this album’s great strength is that it blurs distinctions between that, goth, shoegaze and punk by just placing them in one package of fine playing and songwriting.

Deviated Instinct Nailed CD

A hammering, high-production level EP on CD with classic hardcore metal riffs, breakdowns, and sinister vocals, the latter from Mid who coincidentally provided a ton of great punk art for NAPALM DEATH and EXTREME NOISE TERROR. Double-kick-pedal-driven death crust riffs, escapist vibes, cyber-industrial landscape effects—this reissue of DEVIATED INSTINCT Nailed longs for a lazy summer day under the trees with a gang of your best squatter buds. In a world where such things are no longer recommended! “OOH!” Just going to have to thrash on my roof. Tangent aside, if you’re not that familiar with DEVIATED INSTINCT, Nailed is the perfect example of terminal filth stenchcore. It’s killer. “Slow Death Suck” is a must hear death crust track. For fans of SKAVEN, BURNING WITCH, 13… this was a pioneer release when death metal punk was making its way into the NYHC sound as well. “UGH!”

Era Bleak Era Bleak LP

What a great fucking name for a band right now. This is Candy and Justin from the TRIGGERS, SLEEPWALKERS R.I.P., and DARK/LIGHT so you know you’re getting a quality product. This release is more on the punky side as opposed to some of the gothier post-punk of some of their previous bands, and it rips. A really nice balance of classic Dangerhouse style slam and pogo and bit of SADO NATION combined with that classic only in the Northwest WIPERS-like dreariness. Zach from PISS TEST does some serious Sage channelling on songs like “Struggle” and pretty much rages throughout this record. The lyrics are brilliant—bleak and optimistic at the same time, if that even makes any sense. Just listen and sing along to some of my favorites here, like their theme song “Era Bleak, “MRI” and “Opinions,” and you’ll get a nice “we’re all gonna die but it’s kinda fun” vibe that’s pretty swell. Not a stinker here and as we brace for the coming military state and poisoned planet we now have a nice soundtrack as we sift through the rubble. Now go vote.

Existence Out of Time LP

Blown-out, driving noise-crust that is constantly on the brink of total collapse. When I say blown-out, I mean the feedback pierces like twisted steel through your already burst eardrum, and bass rumbles unintelligibly like the moment right before the doomsday earthquake hits. They successfully take the typical D-beat crust formula to maximum chaos while delivering crushing and devastating impact. The whole thing is just ugly and furious. Check it out!

Firewalker Alive EP reissue

Refuse Records brings us a new vinyl reissue of FIREWALKER’s 2018 cassette-only promo, originally on lame-o mersh hardcore label Pop Wig. The new cover art by Emma Hendry is a vast improvement on the original art and re-situates this release within the larger FIREWALKER visual world of smirking impish devils. It’s crazy that FIREWALKER has been around for five years now. They have been a truly game-changing band, inspiring cool girls and enraging small-minded sexists with overtly feminist lyrics set to the previously male-only province of NYHC-inspired music. “Role Model” is an antipodean take on ALONE IN A CROWD’s “Who You Know” (which AIAC puzzlingly played at a 2019 reunion show—yikes, go ahead and prove FIREWALKER’s point), while “Out of Time” bemoans the punishment that accompanies the slow march of progress in hardcore. “Cyanide” features singer Sophie and guest singer Sen IÁ±iguez of the short-lived Olympia band MALA RACHA trading off over a lurching, heavy riff. I’m glad this got the vinyl treatment—it’s a worthy follow-up to their excellent 2017 LP, and it’s quite a bit better than 2019’s The Roll Call. Still an unimpeachably cool band to me.

Forclose Fear of Bombs flexi EP

As the name implies, FORCLOSE is another DISCLOSE worship band. Vocals like Kawakami, but the chord progressions sound a little melodic at times (especially on the title track). Yes, it’s fuzzy noise guitars and boxy sounding drums, but less CONFUSE/Jackie Crust War/static noise/EQ treble boost-type stuff, and more of the torn speaker-sounding Super Fuzz texture. Lyrics are about war (what else did you expect?). At this point, not really sure if anything positive or negative can be said about this approach. It really just begins and ends with Kawakami. RIP.

Foxycontin This Time You’re On Your Own LP

Reading their own description of the band, you’ll see words like “pop punk” and “power pop.” I’m not going to argue with them, but those weren’t the first things that jumped into my mind. I’d have said “rock’n’roll” or “punk’n’roll.” I’d say there’s also a gritty slice of Americana in there, and certain Celtic influences. It’s mid-tempo and catchy, and they convey a certain authenticity. You get the impression that these four are just doing what they enjoy doing and are sort of unapologetic about it. They remind me of BOUNCING SOULS without really sounding much like them, though they do bring that energy. And they like the fact that they’re from Philadelphia, an awesome city.

Freddie Dilevi Teenager’s Heartbreak CD

Pablo Velasquez, a.k.a. FREDDIE, hails from Seville in Spain. The man has, however, both an appreciation for American ’50s rock’n’roll and late-’70s punk, and a fantastic set of pipes. The vocals are way up front, which doesn’t do them any disservice. He possesses a voice as fine as any crooner punk has produced—up there with DANZIG, the DAMNED’s Dave Vanian and John Doe of X, and indeed, wouldn’t sound out of place in a life biopic movie on ELVIS or BUDDY HOLLY. Musically, the rock’n’roll influence is there, Á  la a more mature early MISFITS, later period DAMNED, or X, not to mention the HEARTBREAKERS. The tunes are pretty damn stellar too, and this CD is blessed with two (uncredited/unlisted) bonus tracks sung in his native Spanish, which might be the two best on the disc. Fucking great. Even the wife likes this one, and she gave up on X after Los Angeles.

Gaffer Gaffer cassette

New-in-relative-terms punk from Perth, Australia, GAFFER played their debut show in May 2019, and snuck this seven-song demo out in March of this year. You can still grab a hard copy at the time of writing, which is nice, but suggests it’s flown under the radar a tad, which kinda sucks. There’s COLD MEAT personnel in the four-strong lineup—I think Kyle Gleadell if the wound-raw guitar tone is anything to go by—and vocals are handled by a British invader, Chris Shoulder, ex-herbert-y post-punx STRUCTURE. Accordingly, GAFFER have that air of heads-down CRISIS-type chunter to their sound, but also a bit of KBD rock-pig flourish and early-wave second-string UK fodder, the latter accentuated by consistently gloomy lyrics about life’s grinding drudgery. They’re not shy of breaking the three-minute mark (“Animal,” “Skin of Your Teeth”), yet this tape fair flies by.

Glueams Mental EP reissue

One of the holy grails of the femme-punk underground gets a much-deserved reissue! “Mental” has found its way onto multiple compilations focused on either late-’70s/early-’80s punk in Switzerland or female-fronted punk and post-punk in general from the same era—rightfully so, because it’s a bona fide classic, with Dorette Schmidt’s desperately shouted sore throat vocals, a naggingly repetitive guitar line, and the same sort of raw, tumbling drums that have marked any number of primitive KBD hyper-obscurities, but GLUEAMS’ integration of those fairly standard elements just sounds so perfect and effortlessly cool. “365” has more of a straightforward ’77 punky energy (are those handclaps?!), and in addition to both of those tracks from the original 1979 version of the single, this reissue also includes the previously unreleased and comparatively sparse studio cut “Arsen,” which positions GLUEAMS as a slightly more aggressive counterpart to fellow Swiss national treasures KLEENEX. To top it off, the whole thing comes packaged in a beautiful foldout sleeve with an eight-page booklet of interviews, photos, and a thorough written history of the band, so buy it now or regret it later.

Grave New World The Last Sanctuary LP

All praise to New York’s Bitter Lake Recordings for bringing this masterpiece to the masses (though it sold out immediately and is already impossible to find). This 1991 recording is the sole output of Japan’s GRAVE NEW WORLD, which featured members of CROW, ASBESTOS and LAST BOMB. Churning, noise-drenched industrial metalcrust; every song sounds like an absolute apocalypse, and Crow’s vocals come off like era-appropriate Al Jourgensen stepping into the studio with The End…-era Crow. The assault of psychedelia is easy to focus on, and the externals surely help the record stand out, but it’s the way they tweak and torture the AMEBIX crust model and contort it into something completely their own that is what makes the record special. And essential release (and reissue)…now I just have to get my hands on a copy.

Gumming Overripe LP

Dark, technical noise rock with aggressive, pissed-off vocals, off-kilter rhythms, and repetitive, spiraling guitar figures. There’s a heavy intensity to the songs that reminds me of DEAD AND GONE, as well as a subtle later BLACK FLAG Greg Ginn edge to the guitar that finally makes good on its threat on the song “Agency.” I have to admit that on first listen, I found the vocals to be slightly grating; as the record progressed and on subsequent listens, I realized that exact grating aspect is integral to the band’s sound and crucial to the delivery.

Gunn Peace Love & Heavy Weaponry EP

Man, this is just the best shit. Record of the year. GUNN from Orange County plays gruff, no-frills American hardcore, with vocals not unlike HUMAN SUFFERAGE and GAS RAG. Side A packs three songs into three minutes, and “Slacker” distills an innate universal truth into its brief chorus: “I’m so sick of this shit / I just can’t wait to quit / All this shit is a waste of time / I just want to see you die.” On the B-side, GUNN slows down to a NO TREND or later BLACK FLAG swing for “Not Original,” then speeds up a bit for “Killing Time.” I was born and raised in Southern California’s endless suburbia, and there is no more appropriate soundtrack for the oppressive, brain-deadening sunshine than this song. An instant classic. Kings of suburbia. Long may they run.

Half/Cross Terminal cassette

Fourteen-track full-length demo of powerviolence-inspired hardcore. Metallic leads and scramz-esque interludes help make it more than just full-on PV worship. It’s fast when it’s fast, it’s heavy and plodding when it’s slow. My main gripe is that the tapes are dubbed so quietly that even cranked on my stereo, it’s still very quiet and buried under the tape hiss. Listening on their Bandcamp is much clearer.

Heavy Harvest Iron Lung CD

I appreciate a new band that conducts a sonic examination of a thing that I experienced, as it allows me to hear it all again but through different ears. Switzerland’s HEAVY HARVEST are instantly familiar, and when they do things like the bass break into the added drums and then back into the punishing simplicity of the chorus to “Scream,” I’m like “oooh yeah, that’s the right thing to do there!” The sound is filthy and massive, UNSANE comparisons are inevitable on tracks like “Candy” just like you can’t not think of TORCHE when the hard driving hooks of “Oven” stop by in the middle of the disc. At the same time, Iron Lung is definitely their own, and vocalist O’Neal lays a distorted urgency on top of everything. This is their second release, and I do not see this band mellowing. Quite the opposite.

Home Birth Enjoy CD

These San Jose bros smoke big weed. Seriously. Think big joints, high fives, and inside jokes. It’s like ANDREW W.K. meets FRANK ZAPPA, the RESIDENTS, S.O.D., and SKATENIGS. It works for me on the moodier, noisier numbers like “Donner, Party of 4,” but most of this is past my caring. They could share a bill with M SECTION (reviewed last month) quite nicely. Cool.

Horror Vacui Living for Nothing LP

HORROR VACUI of Italy are very well-rehearsed and the vocals are beautiful and deep. It pushes hard on the retro CHAMELEONS sound, but not so much that HORROR VACUI don’t bring their own unique efforts to the ennui table. Much of the vibe brought by ROSETTA STONE mixed with the morose tones of SISTERS OF MERCY, the electrified angst of CLAN OF XYMOX, and with the bass drive of NEW MODEL ARMY. Some of the vocal intonations recall PSYCHEDELIC FURS. The combination of melodramatic deathrock and post-punk irreverence is choice. Production is vibrating and clear, then some moments are dreamy like the most depressing JOY DIVISION songs. Amazing cover art that reminds me of somber medieval Renaissance printing meets the graphic novel Persepolis. A very solid offing for the darkroom brooding punker set.

Ill Fit Who Am I? EP

From Malmö, Sweden comes this hard-rocking hardcore punk outfit with some familiar faces—namely, members of SLOA KNIVAR, BEYOND PINK, and HAG, among others. Patricia from SLOA KNIVAR chooses to be restrained (not) behind the drums for this outing, but Jessica is more than competent in expressing the necessary rage involved for this release. ILL FIT is very similar to the aforementioned bands with maybe a notch up on the hard-rock scale, and songs like “The Chain” even have a little ZZ TOP boogie in them. I’d have to say MOTÖRHEAD is a driving force here, especially in the ripping opening track, and NEGATIVE APPROACH is maybe behind some of the rage in “Mamas Boy” and “Consequences.” There’s a little classic Swedish hardcore here, but I’d say the influence is more American and British than anything. It’s a good time orgy and that pizza on the cover is making me hungry. Gotta go.

Invalid Format Actual Behaviour cassette EP

Irrepressible posi hardcore from a Malaysian four-piece on what appears to be their second tape release. INVALID FORMAT seem like they’re in love with the pre-Out Of Step Dischord catalogue above all, and the clean-cut likes of 7 SECONDS those releases inspired, but as well as oompah-oompah rhythms and songs titled things like “Unite Not Fight” and “Stop the Violence”, the guitar has this chiming, ultra-melodic tone which sometimes suggests an early wave Creation Records band playing at twice their normal speed. Nice token bit of wonky surf-rock action on “Dear Little Friend,” too. If you’ve been waiting for something new by MILK from Japan, INVALID FORMAT are both a good stopgap and band in their own right.

ISS Too Punk for Heavy Metal EP

It’s too silly and too brilliant at the same time. You know the story. The label guy ignored the band when they were unknown, then he wants to do a record with them. Instead of holding a grudge or talking shit about him behind his back or telling him to fuck off, ISS writes the story in song and lets him release it. They also print the lyrics on the front of the record cover in case the listener can’t make out any of the details. The best revenge is that “Too Punk for Heavy Metal” is such a catchy song, I can’t stop playing it. The epitome of what punk should be—fun, obnoxious, rockin’ and witty. “Are you really sure you deserve ISS? I’m not.” And good on the label for releasing it. Cool to see both sides have a sense of humor. The other two songs are extra-short, but still as super catchy and fun. Are they both also about Richie from Total Punk Records? Could be. I love this record (and all of ISS’s stuff).

Kalashnikov Læderhalse EP reissue

Adult Crash out of Denmark has finally reissued KALASHNIKOV’s classic 1984 EP. It’s rare to find a bona fide classic that hasn’t been reissued or booted at this point, especially one this good, and the original has been climbing in price for a while now, so I’m beyond excited to have this. Originally known as DIARRÉ (you can guess as to that word’s meaning in Danish), they had three excellent songs on the Lorteland tape compilation (“I Hate the New Romantics” is my personal favorite) before recording this EP in 1984 and an LP in 1985. The obvious hit here is the hard-charging “Schlüters Kabinet,” which also appeared on the P.E.A.C.E. compilation, but the other two tracks are great, albeit at a post-punk pace. An essential record now available for a reasonable price.

Liiek Liiek LP

The fine line between efficiency and parsimony is walked by LIIEK on their debut long-player, if that’s the best term. Eight songs, fifteen minutes—bam!—could’ve left me wanting more in a less-than-good way, but this type of sharp, skeletal post-punk makes the whole experience work. A Berlin trio who sing in English; a typical LIIEK song weds a clean guitar line to a disciplined rhythm section, with semi-spoken vocals and occasionally chunkier riff breakdowns. “Waterfall” and “Dynamite” have a paranoid funk about them, comparable to SHOPPING, darker/starker moments come closer to someone like NEGATIVE SPACE, and closing number “The Goods Were Properly Packed” rides a choppy disco-punk groove. That, or the presence of songs titled “Crisis” and “Wire” is LIIEK putting their cards face-up on the table. Either way, there seems to be a bunch of neato punk weirdness coming out of Berlin right now, and this band appears fairly embedded in it.

Max Nordile Gym Places

A very strange artsy/noise project. Sounds to me like a mixture of field recordings and intentionally badly played instruments. Unlike the previous release by MAX NORDILE that I reviewed, some of the “songs” on this release have vocals on them, delivered in a lazy, kooky, CAPTAIN BEEFHEART style of spoken-word singing.

Max Nordile Let Them Fail cassette

I don’t really know what this is. Noise? Free jazz? The unintelligible sounds a novice band makes before starting their set? An art project? Someone learning to play a bunch of different instruments? Hanging out at Guitar Center? As far as I can tell, there are five “songs” on this cassette, each as confusing as the last. Repetitive squeaks and squawks played for a while before abruptly ending. Favorite track: ________, which is my way of saying that there is no track listing within the cassette or available online.

Moderat Likvidation Kuknacke CD reissue

I mean, hey hey! Here is a collection of melodic ultra-fast hardcore from young Swedish legends MODERAT LIKVIDATION. This is a no-brainer must-have for noisefucker. Whenever I hear “Hiroshima” or “Enola Gay” my brain and heart melts. MODERAT LIKVIDATION packs the classic ’80s rough fuzz and fury into every track. And might be the ’80s band with the most pairs of glasses on. Fun fact! As a longtime spectacles-wearer, I appreciate how hard they rocked in cable knit sweaters, bleach-splat denim, leather and glasses. What do we want, excessive LIKVIDATION? NO! The CD quality sounds great, and my CD player isn’t even that great. Get this for a road trip or something—LIKVID your life a little! *pushes glasses up onto noise*

Punitive Damage We Don’t Forget EP

We Don’t Forget is PUNITIVE DAMAGE from Vancouver, BC’s latest output. Plenty of breakdowns and moshier grooves with punchy parts, and a more modern-sounding hardcore approach. Urgent political lyrics relevant to current times, PUNITIVE DAMAGE’s output is coming from a more personal place, yet it’s something many of us across the board in different scenes can relate to. In the DIY punk scene where it looks like there’s a political consensus for certain topics, oftentimes it still tends to lack critical analysis of what the slogans actually mean, which PUNITIVE DAMAGE brings to the table. They push back with honest, real-life-based output that isn’t just a reiteration of slogans without critical thought. For fans of PUNCH, LIFE’S BLOOD, NO JUSTICE, CARRY ON, and LIMP WRIST.

Reaches The Land Is Kind cassette

Solo project from Brooklyn, NY. It’s impressive how all-over-the-map this is, being that all the music and production is done by one person. Stylistically, every song is a bit different so it’s a little hard to pin down. The different songs span into areas of new age, new wave, synth-wave, synth-pop, dance pop, and there’s even a song on acoustic guitar that sounds kind of like solo SYD BARRETT stuff, you know, without the gallons of psychedelics. A lot of this is definitely out of my wheelhouse, but it’s very well done, and the aforementioned pseudo-psychedelic acoustic song, “Psychiatrist With A Sample Bin,” is actually pretty good.

Research Reactor Corp. The Collected Findings of the Research Reactor Corporation LP

It’s a head scratcher that this group that sets battery acid in your veins is actually from Australia and not American flyover country. This is a compilation of previously released cassette tapes with an unabashedly egg-punk composition. R.R.C. plays rock’n’roll standards with a GEZA-X-like sneer characterized by herky-jerky interplay, a synthesizer setting down a catchy hook and dog-bark vocals somewhere between UROCHROMES and HANK WOOD on top. Nth wave of skrunky, Adderall-eyed DEVO-worship.

Rigorous Institution Survival / Despotism 7″

As I write this, Portland, OR and the entire Pacific Northwest is suffering a siege of wildfires and noxious smoke pollution. In suit, RIGOROUS INSTITUTION plays their signature brand of highland war-wandering metal punk for the scorched earth doom parade. Awkward choking vocals and bizarre echoing dark-castle-like synth moments ooze through the tracks. A dirging medieval Battery Humans-era AMEB-oid, VOIVOD-ing, STONE THE CROWZ-eque cloak of brutal esoteric toxic existential gloom crust with non-light vibes of later DARKTHRONE. I picked up their The Coming of the Terror EP last year and was very stoked to receive this for review. Way into this band, a voice in my frustrated corroded 2020 mind.

Science Man Tiny Tower EP

I first heard about these/this freak(s) recently from their Covid Collaboration with NERVOUS TICK and was planning to dig in anyway, so the Assignment Gods be kind this month. It’s like I hoped, and yet more reined in than I expected. Pop sensibilities crammed into bedroom punk recordings, like fuzzed out ’60s Nuggets amped up on all of the drugs (which is an ironic comparison, when you really think about it). Kinda hardcore, kinda garage punk, the drum machine (and tracks like “Changeling”) makes me think of late ’80s industrial/punk hybrids…imagine a collision of KARP and CHROME and SPITS and NOMEANSNO. Hail Freaks, Hail!

Shark Toys Out of Time EP

It’s been a real treat to watch SHARK TOYS evolve over the last ten years or so, from their beginnings as a decent garage-accented wobbly pop band to their current higher state of lean, trebly art-punk attack. The DESPERATE BICYCLES (whose UK DIY anthem “Advice on Arrest” gets a completely frenetic cover here) definitely serve as one of the stylistic compass points for this new EP, along with the URINALS, the FALL (pre-Brix), and WIRE circa Pink Flag, if I had to name the other three—jumpy, economical rhythms, guitar that slashes and jangles in equal measure, and vocals that are dryly conversational even while shouted, all urgently ticking along. The title track is a textbook-perfect exercise in razor-edged Rough Trade-ism (props to that killer single-string anti-solo), while the galloping twang of “Black” most obviously gives away the band’s status as residents of Los Angeles by virtue of sounding like a four-decades-late contribution to the Keats Rides a Harley comp. A band truly after my own heart.

Shattered Dreams Into the Dark CD / Days of Rage CD

OK, this is what I can glean from the liner notes. Four young German lads, greatly influenced by US bands that were busy touring Germany in the late ’80s/early ’90s, form a band called DBF (a.k.a. DISORGANIZED BUNCH OF FUCKERS). They jump in a VW camper van and tour Europe, and have their eyes opened (politically, certainly). And then come home. And are a bit knackered. And instead of doing a new DBF record, start a new project called SHATTERED DREAMS. The resulting new album (which includes one or two DBF tunes) sounds a little overblown/histrionic to these ears. Too many breakdowns, and tough-guy hardcore posturings. Nevertheless, some good melodic hardcore, melded with some of the fury of later-period CONFLICT (the UK anarcho-punk chaps), provides some highlights. This is in 1991. In 1992, a bit underwhelmed, the four-piece picks up a new drummer, records some new demos, and enters into a battle-of-the-bands-type effort (which was duly recorded), and actually come into their own, musically, as a sort of European melodic angry hardcore band with excellent metallic guitaring. Somewhat reminiscent of a fledgeling LIFE….BUT HOW TO LIVE IT? Needless to say, I much prefer this second effort, which doesn’t seem to have appeared at the time (recorded in 1992), but was released decades later, largely for “friends and family.” So much so that if there’s a website or address on either of these discs, it’s in unreadably small print. Which is a pity. Well worth tracking down Days of Rage.

Silent Era Rotate the Mirror LP

Oakland. City of my birth and one I often take for granted with its shinier sister across the Bay where I grew up. SILENT ERA is just so Oakland (sorry Greg) with its dreary WIPERS-ness layered under Matt’s East Bay thrash metal axe attack and a rhythm section as thick as the morning fog off the lake. The title track comes on, I close my eyes and I’m zooming past the warehouses on Mandela Parkway in the early dawn, then cranking it on as I turn down East 14th into the high numbers. Michelle really does have the perfect post-punk anarcho voice, the kind that can really sing and not just shout. This time I’m hearing a little Penelope and especially Theresa from the BRAT on songs like “The Hook” and “Future Dreams,” two of my favorites here. Seriously taking it up a notch with this release and…hell…these are some of the best people I know. Booz Ullrey may be the finest example of what a smart, strong punk person should be, and Greg! Greg is fucking legend! (And he rescued me by letting me live in his house when I was a wreck.) But it’s the music! …and while this is short and sweet, it’s truly a beautiful piece of art and rage and well worth several minutes of your precious time. Pardon me…I need a tissue now…

Sore Throat Who Killed Gumby? CD-R

This is the never-before-released, first recording by these bile-inducing, poser-crushing, noise-grind originators. This shit was recorded in 1987, in one of their bedrooms, with the drum-less “drummer” just banging on a desk or something, and a young sibling coming in at the end screaming at them to shut the fuck up. Other than that, it’s all blast and hideous noise, similar to their other early releases. The last track is a ripping live show from the era that features a real drum set and an average recording. This one’s a bad place to start but a fine place to end up. Welcome to shit-grind hell, fuckers!

Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Fake Nature LP

I reviewed their first album Noun when it came out many moons ago, and then proceeded to wear that shit out. I still love that record. Similarly, this one comes out of the gate throwing punches, just driving right at you. It’s relentless. There’s a piercing quality in the strings, and the drums carry the energy. It’s rough. And the vocals (female and male) aren’t pretty, but they’re strong and not at all unpleasant. There’s nothing cute about this. At the same time, it seriously is catchy as hell. It’s got a poppiness to it. I love bands that can pull that off. And, as with most any record that takes it to the next level, there’s an undeniable sense of urgency here. They even slow things down a little on the last track. This is worth searching for.

Shitstorm / Sunwyrm split cassette

Two St. Louis bands join forces on this here cassette; four songs from SHITSTORM and three from SUNWYRM. With the exception of SHITSTORM’s opening track (a clipped, concise 110-second buzz-pop gem: riff, hook, chorus, brief solo, repeat the chorus, we’re out!), both groups share a devotion to the psych-punk gods of fuzz and wah wah—driving riffage, freakout sounds, and propulsive rhythms, with the Cyclotron™ cranked to 11 and plugged into Jupiter. Great stuff and short enough to leave you wanting more.

Tappo Tappo = Kill! cassette

The members of TAPPO and I appreciate the same type of hardcore—fast, chaotic and wild. The reason why I love early age primitive hardcore is it reeks from the confused yet enthusiastic frustration of its creators. You cannot stamp an expiry date on rage although you could compare and lack any kind of evolution of a certain sound. The difference between TAPPO’s and, e.g., KAAOS’s fundamental sound is basically the development of recording technology. Therefore I cannot do otherwise but enjoy the raging hardcore of TAPPO that includes a singer with a mutating, screaming voice, straight ahead simple but aggressive riffs with screaming that comes across the sky solos. Cymbal clicks are building a wall of distortion, the pace is racing with anger, still there is enough space for radikal rock and roll. Only the release date of this demo remains foreign. TAPPO gives a master class of Fininsh hardcore replication, which sounds dumb because they are a hardcore band from Finland. What I am ventilating over here is the fine line between coping the same way with different frustration and breaking free from tradition. I too believe TAPPO’s influence is one of the best era of hardcore, therefore I cannot resist enjoying their demo, only when I lean on ration do I miss something. Overall this is a great demo.

The Bragging Lads Half Empty LP

This band is unabashedly ’90s-style pop-punk in the vein of the BOUNCING SOULS. There is a small venue jump and shout and drink whatever comes in a tall can for cheap vibe here. The lyrical content focuses heavily on being in bands, touring the country, friends dying, and just hanging out. There’s a fun times atmosphere throughout, but it’s often hard to tell how hard they’re taking anything seriously. Case in point is “Bravo,” a corny 30-secondish love song that may either be a joke or may be completely, awkwardly serious. The BRAGGING LADS are certainly not a joke band, so it’s unclear. The repeating backup vocals on “Anyhow” are classic and work perfectly. Overall, the winning crowd pleaser of the album is “Castaway,” continuing the tradition of the second song on an album always rocking. This band and this album will fit nicely into your rotation of LIFETIME, PULLEY, and the like.

The Cowboy Feel the Chi Releasing From You flexi EP

I won’t buy a flexi disc just because it’s what’s available. It is the most annoying format. The band and their songs need to make it worth the hassle. I’m happy to report that the COWBOY passes the test. Three catchy, post-punk-ish-style songs. Jittery and choppy music with bended guitar strings and spoken lyrics. I’ll flop this piece of plastic on my turntable any time.

The Missed Stiff EP

This is a three-piece featuring Mickey Mocnik from NERVOSAS on guitar and vocals. The song “Stiff” is so strong. It starts out with a basic beat with drums only, but then a heavy and twangy guitar riff cuts through for a measure or two before we hear Mickey’s wail to really kick off the song. “I Wanna Know” is a fucking great song too, but it’s quite frantic and I think it helps build the momentum they showcased in “Stiff.” There’s moments where I hear a lot of SHEER MAG, and by association THIN LIZZY, though I wouldn’t pigeonhole the MISSED as a power pop band. They have an awesome grit, fuzz, and sharpness to them, but also so much sweet, sweet melody. Great band.

The Slugs Don’t Touch Me, I’m Too Slimy EP

The debut EP from the SLUGS, a shambolic UK duo putting a post-millennial spin on the whole post-riot grrrl, Slampt Records-adjacent sound of the mid-’90s (think KENICKIE, GOLDEN STARLET, LUNG LEG, that sort of thing). To that end, there’s a track titled “Girly Gang” on the B-side that’s essentially a sing-song, tongue-in-cheek response to tired “girl in a band” tropes, and which functions as a pretty representative glimpse into where these SLUGS are coming from. Each of the EP’s five songs follow a fairly simple formula of scrappy and jangling three-chords-or-less guitar backed by haltingly bashed-out drums, with both members singing/shouting together and over each other about mostly practical concerns (dealing with creeps, not wanting to be touched, generally being pissed off), but marked by a certain twee playfulness thanks to the sugar-sweet delivery—the lighter side of the modern boy-girl revolution.

The Yum Yums For Those About to Pop! CD-R

I’ve been a fan of the YUM YUMS ever since they released their first 7″ Girls Like That on Screaming Apple over 25 years ago. We’ve had a good run. Their first LP Sweet as Candy is still one of my favorite pop records of all time. For the last few years, it seems they’ve put out a record every six years or so. When I’ve been a fan of a band forever and you see a new release coming out 26 years after their initial release, I get a little anxious. There’s no chance it’ll be as good as the first record. I’ve enjoyed everything they’ve put out, but in my mind there is for sure a chance that this will be complete shit. I don’t want that to happen. From Norway, it seems these guys are still delivering faster-paced, infectiously catchy pop with RAMONES-like guitar riffs. But it’s not just pop or even power pop, it’s also bubblegum, but not in a terrible way, and even glam and for sure rock’n’roll and possibly even just a tad bit of country and surf. Fourteen cuts and I’m pretty sure every one of them is about a girl. This didn’t disappoint on any level. What an impressive track record.

V/A Cleveland Confidential LP reissue

The rest of the world has never fully reckoned with the sheer genius per square capita from Northeast Ohio, which not coincidentally produced one of the greatest punk/weirdo DIY comps of the ’80s in the form of Cleveland Confidential—the original 1982 pressing of the LP has been going for close to triple digits lately, so this new wallet-friendly reissue is a little more in line with the true Rust Belt spirit. For me, the definitive track here has always been MENTHOL WARS’ contribution, a totally sublime organ-drenched take on garage-pop by way of arty post-punk called “Even Lower Manhattan,” even though they were actually based in New York (with No Wave scenester and noted artist/video director Robert Longo on vocals and guitar!) and their primary Cleveland connection was their drummer being ex-PAGAN Brian Hudson. Other highlights, among many: the warped minute-and-a-half pop rant “Love Meant to Die” by JAZZ DESTROYERS (featuring one-time ELECTRIC EEL Dave E.), some droning and VU-damaged Clevo-sleaze from EASTER MONKEYS via “Cheap Heroin,” and the STYRENES’ appropriately collapsing rendition of the ELECTRIC EELS’ “Jaguar Ride.” I heard that the Cuyahoga River caught on fire again this summer; it’s good to know that some things never change.

Violent Change Squandered EP

With a name like VIOLENT CHANGE I had the words “no frills” preemptively written out, expecting a simple ’80s hardcore thrash attack. I was awestruck to hear “Squandered” with a drum track backing some poorly recorded, low-fi, psychedelic simple strumming. It made me imagine if contemporaries CHRONOPHAGE were more of a jam band. Subsequent tracks carried that strung out VELVET UNDERGROUND feel with harmonic vocals and Moe Tucker-like pounding. None of these laid back tunes exceed two and a half minutes which makes you want just a bit more.

Whirlywirld Complete Studio Works 1978-80 LP

This is an amazing compilation of all three releases from Melbourne’s WHIRLYWIRLD. WHIRLYWIRLD was led by Ollie Olsen previously with the YOUNG CHARLATANS and drummer John Murphy formerly of NEWS. The music is minimal electronic sounds, guitar, bass, drums and occasional squawking saxophone. Strikingly Olsen’s vocals have similar cadences and style to Nick Cave and Peter Murphy. They are dramatic, repetitive and playful with the sounds being emitted. The vocals may be the focus of the songs, but the experimental punk-y music forms a catchy foundation that I find equally fascinating. WHIRLYWIRLD was short-lived, only playing fourteen shows, but their music should be remembered along with their more well-known and celebrated contemporaries. Good thing Hozac decided to remind us of that.

XV Basement Tapes cassette

More free-punk explorations from XV! Basement Tapes consists of various unreleased demos, live jams, and practice recordings from 2018 and 2019, documenting some of the conceptual process that ultimately resulted in their sold-out-in-one-day debut LP from last year. That record was willfully non-linear but still concise, and almost approaching a conventional art-punk angularity, while these tracks generally embrace a more raw, loose approach that at various times suggests anything from early HALF JAPANESE at their skronkiest to a dreamy VELVET UNDERGROUND drift to the equally spiky and shaky sounds of the early ’80s UK DIY bedroom-taper scene. Free-association vocals chanted or recited over self-destructing rhythms and scribbling, scratchy guitar; truly No Wave in the most literal sense of the term.