MRR #451 • December 2020

Adulkt Life Book of Curses LP

Debut LP from ADULKT LIFE, a new London band featuring Chris Rowley from HUGGY BEAR and several members of MALE BONDING. Book of Curses is a chilly collection of post-punk unease that charts the banal stresses and miseries of modern life, including aging, parenthood, and ennui over mid-tempo distorted bass and icy guitar lines. The vocals are the main draw here; they are sung/spoken with a certain feeling of frustration, exhaustion, and discomfort that expresses our current zeitgeist quite effectively. Sample lyric: “I’m taking hits, taking hits / I don’t know what I’m for / Unless I’m against it.” I feel that. This record will fit in nicely next to your DIÄT and BÖRN records for harbingers of nagging, everyday dread.

Afterboltxebike Agitaciòn Marxista EP

As far as I can tell, these guys are from just outside Monterrey, Mexico, and borrow their name from a KORTATU song, with whom they also share themes of organized labor and class struggle. They play a classic burly Mexican hardcore punk style, like MASSACRE 68 or SEDICION beefed up with a more modern compressed digital production. “A.C.A.B” is a rendition of “Dicks Hate the Police,” updated to condemn ICE and the current loser US president (who will be fucking off soon), and while I’m obviously on board for the message, it sounds pretty bad! That being said, this EP emanates strong antifascist and revolutionary vibes and is absolutely worth raising a fist in solidarity with, and includes lyrical translations from Spanish to French and English.

Backlash Punk Is Danger EP

Turns out SELFISH is not the only expert purveyor of Japanese hardcore in Finland. While seemingly less prolific and less travelled than their aforementioned mates, BACKLASH certainly deserves the attention of any well-respected fan of the sound. Expect a powerful production, accentuated by massive group vocal barks and appropriate guitar noodling. BASTARD, DEATH SIDE, JUDGEMENT…you know the shit. Pure rampage with just enough hooks to keep me coming back. I both laugh at and agree with the liner notes: “Fuck the system, Fuck You, Punk is Danger!”

Backlash Danger / (I Hope) Fight 7″

BACKLASH from Finland’s newest 7″ from SPHC. The disc consists of two tracks, with “Danger” a mid-tempo anthem in the vein of post-BASTARD or DEATHSIDE projects such as JUDGEMENT and FORWARD. Having one or two raging tracks per side instead of a release with mostly filler tracks is a really JUDGEMENT-like approach. When it comes to this style and we hear Japanese-style hardcore, most of us think of SELFISH, but BACKLASH is another long-running band doing this style for a while.

Become A Live Exercise cassette

Recorded live on KCSB radio on 10-25-2012. Hailing from Santa Barbara, CA, BECOME has the throwback Revolution Summer sound down perfectly. These songs are beautifully crafted, instantly familiar, and super well done, and all of this comes across even being performed live on a radio show. Personally, I probably would have cut out all of the horribly awkward banter with the radio host from the tape release of this, but to each their own. I see that the only other thing the band did was a demo tape on German label Take It Back Records, and I will be attempting to track one of those down now.

Bent Blue Between Your and You’re cassette

Fast, emotive, melodic punk with elements of crew and a heavy ’90s drive. An excellent mash of DC and SoCal hardcore with a solid ’90s > ’80s influence ratio—it’s great when they unleash in the middle of “Influence Me,” but the fleshy part of the song owes more to Revolution Summer than TEEN IDLES, if you know what I mean. And then there’s “Rungless Ladder,” which is just a top-notch, hook-laden Y2K burner…in-your-face guitars and a classically thin bass punch, while you can practically see the singer clutching his shirt in earnest while he screams. Presentations are on-point with doses like “We live a life of misinformation / They call us the lost generation”—these dudes know exactly what they are doing.

Beyond Pain Born to Die; Why Are We Waiting? EP

Pummeling hardcore out of LA that throws in some notes of death metal and powerviolence. For the most part though, this one is a mosh-inducing beatdown from chug number one. Now, metalcore isn’t normally my favorite style, but these breakdowns are so tough that even I’m feeling the urge to start throwing some karate kicks and punching the floor. The overall theme of embracing death cause life sucks comes off pretty well, too. I say give it a spin!

Big Bite Trinity LP

BIG BITE hails from Seattle, Washington and that fact is abundantly clear on their latest release Trinity. Eight tracks of fuzzed-out rock ’n’ roll that wouldn’t be out of place mixed in with your DINOSAUR JR. and SUPERDRAG records.

Big Grump The Complete Recordings cassette

BIG GRUMP is a noise rock band from Memphis, TN that I have to assume is now no longer together based on the feeling of finality this tape has. The Complete Recordings is exactly what it sounds like, the complete recorded discography of the band. Mixing equal parts heaviness and mathy riffs, BIG GRUMP is able to keep my attention through the entirety of the cassette without ever crossing the threshold into being too artsy. If they are in fact broken up, what a bummer. If not, I look forward to more releases from them.

Bitter Branches This May Hurt a Bit 12″

Band of Philadelphia veterans (KISS IT GOODBYE, CAVALRY, the CURSE, loads more) team up for a supergroup of sorts, and drop a debut that sounds like a band made up of…well, a band of seasoned veterans. Emotional intensity reminiscent of MOSS ICON or NAVIO FORGE, delivered with a gritty, heavy guitar-driven attack that actually feels like an attack—guitars right up front and fighting through the speakers for the chance fight you, while Singer (DEADGUY, KISS IT GOODBYE) fucking writhes his way through the words. It’s an astonishingly mature initial release, even considering the members’ collective pedigree.

Blind Ride Too Fast for a Sick Dog CD

This is a hard-rocking power trio from Campobasso, Italy. There’s a nice primitive lo-fi sound to this that makes it all work and brings out the heaviness and energy that only a tight three-piece can have. They love heavy rock as well as punk and horror movies like an Italian band should. Maybe like a meaner, heavier GROOVIE GHOULIES listening to a lot of early BULLDOZER? Really was not expecting to like this but I find myself totally nodding along. “Passive Ways” and “Afraid of Losing Nothing” are my most bang-worthy moments here. Go on. Give it a chance.

Broadway Calls Sad in the City CD

This is BROADWAY CALLS’ fourth full-length. They mix hard driving melodic pop-punk with catchy-as-hell hooks, and a nice line in sophisticated politics, with wordplay to match. They don’t like empire and authority, for all the right (as in left) reasons, and couch it in emotional anthems that wouldn’t sound out of place on the FALCON’s debut, or the LAWRENCE ARMS greatest hits roster, for that matter. Dark, yet poppy soundtracks for these times, for sure.

Chronophage Th’ Pig Kiss’d Album LP

CHRONOPHAGE’s 2018 debut LP Prolog for Tomorrow skillfully synthesized a whole host of outsider pop influences from the past half-century (New Zealand’s Flying Nun/Xpressway scenes, scratchy UK post-punk, the weirder strains of vintage college rock, ’90s lo-fi indie, etc.) without it ever falling into a haphazard pastiche, and its follow-up Th’ Pig Kiss’d Album only further refines that kitchen-sink approach—a band clearly operating on a contemporary DIY punk wavelength and all that goes along with that, but sounding more like a deep cut from the late ’80s Homestead roster alongside SALEM 66 and MY DAD IS DEAD or something. “Absurdity” and “Any Junkyard Dreams” tilt toward brittle and skittish art-punk, with bassist Sarah’s soft-but-deadpan vocals drifting out over of squeals of damaged keys, “Talking Android” and “Siren Far Away” are slightly twangier Texan takes on the HUMAN SWITCHBOARD’s wiry ’60s garage/’80s post-punk duality, and “Heartstone” starts out in hyper-minimalist YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS/MARINE GIRLS territory and ends up (not far away) in the K Records-adjacent early ’90s pop underground. If you spent your formative years staying up all night to obsessively record tapes of college radio shows and/or 120 Minutes episodes (or if you imagine that you had, if you’re not of a certain age), it all makes perfect sense.

Circle Jerks Group Sex LP reissue

The classic first album by this legendary Southern California band gets a fancy reissue on new label Trust Records. It’s been remastered and includes a 12″x12″ booklet full of photos, flyers, and anecdotes by a plethora of well-known fans and contemporaries. In addition to the original tracks, this new version also includes five bonus rehearsal demos taken from a boombox recording. In all honesty, these tracks, while cool, are not necessary and probably should have been left off this LP and instead been released on a bonus 7″, as they kinda throw off the listening experience of this record. All in all, if you’ve got the loot to spend and don’t already own a copy of Group Sex or if your copy is need of an upgrade, if I were you I’d spring for this version. (I believe that Frontier still keeps this album in print.)

Coffer Uneasy Street cassette

Nasty, lo-fi, grimy garage rock from Detroit, MI. Three songs which have a feel to them as if they were written, somewhat learned, and then immediately hastily recorded, which I admittedly dig. With a run of only 25 copies, this wildly blown-out recording would likely disappear into obscurity were it not for the label documenting it digitally. Painters Tapes, self-proclaiming to be “Detroit’s Worst Cassette Label” (though I think they’ve got some competition with Juicy Crack Cassettes) seems to have a ton of other releases, which I will be digging through shortly.

CTRL Group Blood Sausage cassette

Armed with an awesomely warped buzzsaw guitar attack, Raleigh’s CTRL GROUP serves up a tight set of intense and creative hardcore on this tape. The singer’s got a strong set of pipes on him, which he uses to deliver repetitive lyrics with a maniacal melody Á  la Serj Tankian. Fun stuff, and I imagine this band is deafening live.

Danziger Hate Us! CD

Satanic Queer Pizza UFO Punk? Not exactly. These northern Polish punks actually deliver a very progressive and anti-authoritarian message through a polished pop punk style akin to JAWBREAKER or pre-mainstream GREEN DAY. All the lyrics are translated to English and appropriately criticize the abhorrent ultra-conservative Polish government and a placated society. A bit of hopelessness, some humor, but altogether honest and in DIY fashion. Singer/guitarist Tytus does these great rocket-launch jumps, and they covered “Devilock” when I saw them on tour in 2018, both memorable attributes. Not the new hot shit you’re lookin to fly out with your Mastercard for the next punk-tourism festival, but DANZIGER seems to have established themselves as a staple of the Tricity (Gdańsk, Gdynia, Sopot) DIY punk scene.

Deseos Primitivos Deseos Primitivos LP

This is the premiere full-length LP from Oakland’s DESEOS PRIMITIVOS. With all but one clocking under two minutes, these songs don’t overstay their welcome. This record will shake you out of your complacency. Full of pit-worthy bangers, in keeping with early West Coast punk and proto-hardcore styles. Some songs have an almost anthemic quality, inspiring ESKORBUTO comparisons with shared vocal choruses that you can raise a fist to. A moment or two felt like a sped up version of the CURE’s Three Imaginary Boys, but that might just be me. DESEOS PRIMITIVOS play with many different sonic angles, and it’s a joy to hear their sound captured so effectively. A few songs are carried over from previous releases, and benefit from their reimagining here. These recordings feel cleaner and louder, while retaining the raw energy that makes this band what it is. Lyrics tackle  issues like colonization, gentrification, and homelessness. This release is one of the standouts of the year. If this has somehow slipped past your radar, be sure to remedy that.

Dirty Burger Part Time Loser LP

From the home of the SHITLICKERS (Gothenburg, Sweden) comes this psychedelic poppy punk powerhouse. Well, maybe not a powerhouse, but that flowed really well. Elements of the 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS, the HIVES, HUBBLE BUBBLE, JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, and the ADVERTS are present here.  Really cool Zap Comix-style artwork. I think it’s their love of Lemmy-led HAWKWIND that I find most interesting. It  starts subtly on the second track “Video Violence,” and becomes slowly more apparent until climaxing full bore on the 8-minute 45-second closer “Purpose” with distorto bass and bubble machine raging. The vocals get a little poppy at times but mostly it’s a pretty swell trip. They have a song named “L.S.D.,” of course, that’s pretty great as well. So tune in, drop out, keep on truckin’ or whatever you want to call it and give it a whirl.

Druj Druj cassette

If you don’t already know, Oklahoma City is a hotbed for hardcore punk. Wild, inventive, no rules—when no one cares, then you have the freedom to do what you want…and then people start to care. DRUJ dropped this (their third) tape earlier this year and I had listened countless times before it entered my “review assignments” email, so why am I at a loss for words? The guitar intro over the drum roll that starts “Die In Flames” sounds as shit-hot as it did the first time I blasted it, and the vocals are somehow even more disorienting, and I still sit slack-jawed at full volume, just blasting…and seething. DRUJ needs this, and you can feel it when vocalist آزيتا unleashes howls in “Jesus Wept,” setting the tone for four pieces of sonic nihilism. I could dissect each track, but an academic examination would cheapen the experience and this band deserves better than that. Give it to them.

Fetish World Eater LP

This record was tragically and unknowingly Thee Slayer Hippie’s swan song, but World Eater sealed FETISH’s place as a logical (and dare I say spiritual) successor to POISON IDEA. Their earlier single was fantastic, with the A-side (re-recorded for this LP) putting forth a raging Feel the Darkness-faithful sound all the way down to Jerry A’s talking voice, bringing to mind “Death of an Idiot Blues” in particular. But World Eater is a mammoth LP that both connects Feel the Darkness to the present and pushes that sound forward while invoking something both timeless and eternal. If you don’t feel the urge to rage, choke up, and sing along to the soulful crooning of “Voyager,” I don’t know what to say.

Gag Killing for Both Realities 3 ’92 LP

This is the latest release from Olympia hardcore band GAG. Vice once called GAG “America’s new hardcore heroes.” Normally that’s a surefire way to turn me off of a band, but I think Vice might actually be right about something here. This LP is the lo-fi, grimy, sweaty basement hardcore mixtape we’ve been waiting for. Let’s get something straight though, this isn’t another wannabe ’80s hardcore revival band, they’re doing something really fresh here. At their best on tracks like “No Cops,” “Meth Lab,” or “Warm Milk,” they sound like a slightly less technical but more frenetic NOMEANSNO, and there really isn’t a moment on the LP where the band is at their worst. All things considered; this is easily some of the best hardcore I’ve heard coming from the Pacific Northwest recently.

Genöme Young, Beautiful & Free LP

Debut album from GENÖME of Malmö, Sweden. Great production D-beat/kängpunk with echoed vocals. Many bands in this style tend to take a low-fidelity DIY approach to recording but GENÖME does it in the modern, non-retro-sounding style of ’90s Japanese meets Swedish-style hardcore production. Reminds me of a bit of DETESTATION or some of the crustcore bands coming out of the Minneapolis area in the ’90s. Artwork by Petter from GLORIOUS?

Guns n’ Rosa Parks No More Unity EP

More than a decade after the band’s demise, the second EP from GUNS N’ ROSA PARKS has materialized. I saw GN’RP in 2011, and they took the roof completely off the joint (“joint” in this case was a sports and/or dive bar)—just a ball of energy looking for somewhere to blow. This EP captures that—ten bursts of bare-bones and no-nonsense hardcore punk that give casual nods to their influences (to hear Police-era FUCKED UP and Break Down The Walls sneak out of back-to-back tracks is to feel yourself get stoked), but ultimately presents as nothing more than what they were: a hardcore punk band from Denver, Colorado. As something of a delayed and/or retrospective release, No More Unity fukkn nails it—top-tier hardcore packaged in a gorgeous twelve-page booklet packed with lyrics, photos, and flyers spanning the band’s existence. On the one hand, to see an underappreciated outfit get given the deluxe treatment like this just feels right. On the other hand, give me the breakdown to “No More Unity II” over most of the hardcore I’ve heard this year.

Häpeä Valistuksen Aika On Ohi EP

There is no doubt in my mind that many of you see the words “Finnish” and “hardcore” in the same sentence and automatically know you’re in for a ride. I know I do. Channeling accurately the Finnish classics such as KUOLEMA or TERVEET KÄDET and with a couple of EPs under their belt, HÄPEÄ really makes hardcore the way one would expect: an untamed, brutal and crazed assault. The six tunes on Valistuksen Aika On Ohi really stick with you and are well balanced in all that the genre has to offer. For all the Scandinavian maniacs this is definitely a band to keep an eye on.

Highway Stacy Highway Stacy cassette

More pandemic projects are gonna roll in over the next months, and I welcome the experimentation. HIGHWAY STACY is the brainchild of Tyler Shults (COLLICK, OCCULT DETECTIVE CLUB) and is a seriously superb departure from previous projects. Angry, noisy, frustrated, pissed, dark…it’s as if HIGHWAY STACY trudges their way through these five pieces of No Wave no-punk as an act of morose defiance without joy or purpose, just to make a point. To close with the desecration of the GIZMOS track “Pay” is a move that closes this release appropriately: with the listener feeling dirty. Inside. Physical copies are criminally limited with handmade/decorated covers, but now I have glitter all over my hands from taking it out of the case so maybe you’re better off.

Hyper Tensions Evil Seeds LP

Mid-tempo psych-rock from Indianapolis that comes across as a little restrained and melodic for my tastes. I dig how the vocals are drenched in choppy tremolo and delay and how at certain points we get a delightful appearance of what sounds like the electric jug from 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS, but, ultimately, the tunes are held back by conventional blues structures and rather predictable solos. There is potential here, but their overall bar band feel dominates when things need to get weirder and more out of control.

Indentured Resistance Etiquette CD

The one thing that sticks out about this EP is the production value. It sounds like they spent a lot of time and possibly money on this recording. That isn’t a slight, either. From a production standpoint, this is very pleasing to the ears. As for the songs themselves, it’s kind of hard to pin down an accurate description because calling this “standard punk” would be a disservice to the work put in here. Lyrically, though…that’s when they lost me. There’s a song about “the quarantine cruise line” and a song called “Karen” about…yup, you guessed it…a “Karen.” I mean, who am I to judge one’s lyrical content, I just don’t know if songs like these will age well is all.

Instinto Primitivo Quemados EP

The opening riff to the first track almost threw me for a second—it comes off almost as dry-sounding as something the MEAT PUPPETS could’ve written (Up On The Sun-era), before the maniacal laughter starts, the jangle is quickly dropped, and four tracks of raging Colombian HC are quickly spat out in rapid-fire succession. This thing’s a blast, HC sounds best raw as fuck and recorded straight to tape.

Jenny Stupid Band 12″

We’re getting off to the right start with this one. I like power pop and I like harmonies. And I really don’t mind when my punk rock is a little pretty. This one reminds me of things like the PRIMITIVE HEARTS and IT’S GLITZ, though at a slightly calmer pace. All five tracks are winners, not least the acoustic number they finish with that features a little country twang, “Song for Sadie,” a song previously done by SUSPECT PARTS. (Your homework is to figure out the connection.) This one is worth looking for.

Jiffy Marx She’s My Witch / Warning Sign 7″

This record delivers two terrific power pop numbers that take me right back to 1979. The A-side is a mellow, sort of funky little tune, with a bass line that draws you in and won’t let you go. It makes even an old dude like me feel like he’s got soul. The flipside is equally as catchy and also mid-tempo. It’s got a somber feel to it and leans heavily on the “pop” in power pop. You really owe it to yourself to go out and look for this one. Snappy Little Numbers is firing on all cylinders these days.

Joni Ekman Totaalinen Ekman cassette

A collection of essential cuts from the Finnish pop rock savant JONI EKMAN. Late-’70s power and swagger (and style) and an ear for the right hook that is rarely this true, Totaalinen Ekman is a perfect introduction for the uninitiated. EKMAN blasts out of another dimension, a master at heavy proto-psych noodling and a true power pop songsmith of the highest order, with the ability to squeeze Bolan/Bowie-caliber swing effortlessly in between acid burners. The discography is already as long as my arm and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight, which is great news—the twelve cuts here are taken from LPs released in the mid-’00s. There truly aren’t enough accolades—the motherfucker is brilliant.

Kim Kim cassette

Downtempo and moody, the tape launches with a dreamscape of moaning vocals and percussive, fuzzed-out bashes of guitar. The first track builds up to a goth wall-of-sound that one could imagine issuing from the opening of an unexpectedly illuminated cemetery crypt. Also, the track is about the Roman emperor Nero’s sordid story. And that’s just the first track. The tape proceeds to defy genres, introducing metal guitar riffs, then minimalist post-punk drumming, stirring in some legit darkwave dance grooves, and then warping itself back into crushing waves of sludgy metal. The track “Wild One” channels a twisted rock’n’roll vibe aligned with the early CRAMPS. While there are plenty of familiar sounds, nothing about this sounds derivative or cliché. There is a forlorn richness throughout the tracks. The power of the vocals drives the songs forward and lends some cohesion to a collection of otherwise varied elements. I would not be surprised if these folks end up famous.

Kiviranta Antipsykootti cassette

Some magical electr(on)ic space freak punk that you can dance to. That you will dance to. Ghosts of the FAINT, MARTIN REV, and FAD GADGET crash headfirst into cold ’70s Scandipunk and if you have a heartbeat then you’re just helpless…until the beats drop and then even the dead will hit the floor. I hadn’t heard from this Finnish duo since 2018’s Dolce Vita, but suffice to say that they’ve grown into their own sonic skin in those short years, and Antipsykootti is the complete package. Highest recommendation.

Lewsberg In This House LP

The righteous, relentless chug of third-album-era VELVET UNDERGROUND has provided a valuable blueprint for enterprising buttoned-up rockers for decades. Based in Rotterdam, LEWSBERG found themselves trekking to this well so many times that they set up living quarters and now bathe in its replenishing waters every morning. On In This House, their second full-length, LEWSBERG dives deep, and if you’re partial to the charms of the MODERN LOVERS, GALAXIE 500, and BETTIE SERVEERT, then you will find much to like here. The album is evenly split between head-down rockers and songs that are reminiscent of a quietly devastating conversation over late afternoon tea. While they hit the marks of the former, LEWSBERG falls just short of nailing the mood of the latter. “The Door” is the kind of intimate yet foreboding studio apartment psych that YO LA TENGO mastered long ago, but LEWSBERG doesn’t quite have the damage to pull it off. The song contains echoes of HUMAN SWITCHBOARD’s “Refrigerator Door,” but falls short of that classic’s dramatic, gawky outpouring of romanticism. We could use a little more of that awkward, doomed, drunk poetry in today’s rock scene. But LEWSBERG aren’t trying to set the world on fire, they’re just trying to make it to the coffee shop and get things started. “Cold of Light Day” is the hit, projecting a casually cool, streetwalking confidence that sheds the leather jackets for corduroy and peacoats. With its wire-y guitars, “Through The Garden” satisfies on this front, but I can’t help hoping for an extradimensional “I Heard Her Call My Name”-esque feedback squeal to tear through the time-space continuum; alas, no such luck here. I wanted the “Interlude” to stretch its wings a bit more. I caught a brief glimpse of SPACEMEN 3 waiting outside the practice space door and I was hoping they’d come in and jam. The album ends with such a lackluster last minute that it seems like an inverted punchline. Your mileage may vary.

Living Eyes Peak Hour Traffic / Almanac 7″

DIY Geelong garage rockers the LIVING EYES deliver the goods with their latest 7″ single. Both tracks were unreleased demos that suddenly saw the green light just before the band embarked on a Japanese tour, executed and recorded in record time.  First, a song about the modern day frustration that is getting stuck in traffic during peak hours. A guitar-driven upbeat rock anthem that makes being in traffic not so bad if the right tune is playing on the radio. Seems like something we all can relate to. Then, on “Almanac,” a more serious tone is set with a post-punkier edge to it. A cool companion for the morning commute indeed!

Loose Nukes Cult Leaders LP

This one is an old school thrasher out of Texas (and not to be confused with the recent Pittsburgh group of the same name) that falls somewhere between FINAL CONFLICT and Dealing With It-era D.R.I. This band’s style and lyrical themes give me the impression that they don’t give a fuck about anything that came out after 1989, but fuck the last 30 years ’cause this totally rips! It’s like, you don’t think we need another song about MK Ultra, but the subject matter is so punk that once you hear it you’re like “oh fuckin’ hell yeah!” If you love pre-crossover thrashed out hardcore and hate Reagan, you’ve got to check this one out!

Loss Prevention Shoot to Kill EP

No-frills, straight-to-the-point fast hardcore hailing from Kansas City. LOSS PREVENTION pulls a lot of inspiration from other Kansas City hardcore bands like BETA BOYS or RED KATE, among others. The best way I can describe this is as flyover state punk—in that it’s a fucking awesome anomaly that there’s good punk music coming out of Missouri, but it’s definitely nothing boundary pushing or original—and that’s coming from someone who lives in a flyover state. Definitely a mixed bag of an EP, but if you’re just looking for something to bang your head to on a Tuesday this could be your jam.

Lucy and the Rats Got Lucky LP

So you know that old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, I’m guilty. Looking at this record I automatically assumed some garage-y, RAMONES-y stuff. I am happy to say that I was not entirely wrong and at the same time not entirely right. Sure, there are definite garage-y elements at work here, but also this has a heavy ’60s girl group vibe going, too. Think THEE HEADCOATEES thrown in a blender with GO SAILOR and you’re headed in the right direction. Serious contender for best thing I’ve heard this year.

Martha Love Keeps Kicking LP

Pop-punk with twangy guitar parts that was all the rage with the Fest crowd some years back. From what I gather, everybody contributes vocals individually, but the magic happens when they harmonize. Good stuff. Bonus points for having a song called “Wrestlemania VIII”!

Memory Leak Graduate Into Nothing cassette

Ambient indie/shoegaze from Tijuana, Mexico. Five long, pretty, meandering songs, two of them clocking in at over six minutes. As the tape began, I thought it was going to be all instrumental soundscape stuff, which had my interest and was pretty intriguing, but it only lasted the introduction to the first song. The packaging of this really caught my eye and it was the first tape I popped on when receiving my box of demos to review. A double-cassette case which looks like a miniature DVD case, fold-out lyric sheet, and a live photograph of the band. The packaging really is lovely.

Moment of Fear Covid Sessions 2020 EP

MOMENT OF FEAR does not let up on the assault for a minute. Three tracks of scorching, exhaust-fuming hardcore lacking any form of dazzle camouflage. Side A offers an in-your-face blast of aggression and frustration, with the vocals from Bartek (REACTOR, RELIGIOUS WAR) reminding me so much of those on the obscure MORAL SUCKLING LP. Strained, tense and harsh. Side B formulates a more post-punk somber sound, echoing a depression further in the distance, but equally to Side A: torn through by pissed off punk rockers. MOMENT OF FEAR is craggily, rough, scraping hardcore from what feels like a cold PNW ocean, although they are from Long Beach. Covid Sessions 2020 storms in and drags you out to extinction.

Monoshock Runnin’ Ape-Like From the Backwards Superman: 1989-1995 2xLP

A reissue of a reissue, really: that ol’ SS Records singles/demos CD from a decade or so back gets a proper vinyl enshrining. No complaints, as this is some of my absolute favorite music from the era. Peripheral outsiders-among-outsiders, MONOSHOCK, along with compatriots like THREE STONED MEN and ICKY BOYFRIENDS, loitered SF’s early ’90s punk scene with their far-reaching, loud-ass psych-punk swirl. I mean, c’mon: they backed up VON LMO! What’s key to note here is that the same energy current and spirit heard in the locale’s finest punk/garage “Budget Rock” offerings are also central to MONOSHOCK’s sound—it’s instantly recognizable and forever endearing. Sonically, it’s all throbber/pumper rhythms, pure non-stop push and this jaw-dropper up-top guitar mindset that sprouts from Detroit but reaches for the spaceways. Real feeling, pure expression, no rules and lotsa fuckin’ power. Too many hits, too: “Hawkwind Show,” “Change That Riff,” the best RADIO BIRDMAN and MIRRORS covers ever, on and on across four sides. Kudos to Feeding Tube for re-releasing this mandatory odd/sods compendium for us to boil ’bout (again). Incurably loose and so fiercely punk. Highest recommendation!

Murder Generation Murder Generation LP

Relentless 1-2-1-2 stomp driving short bursts of hardcore punk that lands between Riot City and NAKED AGGRESSION. Male and femme vocals bark back and forth while this trio plays music like a snotty teenage kid on a skateboard plowing through a sidewalk filled with stooges trudging to the office. Guitars are more advanced that the record implies (check “Descent of Dissent” in particular), which gives the band a bit of the Midwest basement gnarl that I love—eleven tracks in all, and they wrap things up so fast that they just repeat ’em on the flip side.

Mutabor! Two Wishes 12″ reissue

MUTABOR! emerged from the thriving experimental art and music culture of early ’80s Berlin, after Bettina Köster of MALARIA! and Gary Asquith of REMA-REMA first met at a BIRTHDAY PARTY show in London; Asquith was inspired enough to relocate to Germany so that they could start a project together, with Köster’s MALARIA! bandmates Manon Duursma and Gudrun Bredemann eventually joining up as well. The two tracks on this 1982 12″ are the only recordings from the short-lived group, and it’s fairly easy to connect the dots between Two Wishes, REMA-REMA’s rhythmic, industrial-flirting brutalist drone, and MALARIA!’s dark electronic post-punk drama. A-side “1001 Nights” is a total No Wave collision, the aural equivalent of a shattered teacup reassembled with glue (clearly fractured, but precariously held together)—saxophone skronk, rickety organ, clattering auxiliary percussion cutting in against the bare-bones cymbal-free drumming, multiple monotone voices intersecting with each other, and only the briefest shocks of guitar. “Treats” is even sparser, a series of emotionally detached phrasings backed by little more than a few sax squeals and some BAD SEEDS-anticipating piano that’s mirrored by sinister six-string noise. Bleak as hell, but definitely an interesting link in the evolutionary chain of severe ’80s art-punk.

Nekra Royal Disruptor EP

Dripping with sarcasm and venom, NEKRA spit out five tracks of vicious HC, easily switching between fast-as-fuck aggression and stomping mid-paced choruses. These tempo changes and snotty vocals manage to yield some of the catchiest punk I’ve heard from London in some time, while not losing an ounce of that raw energy that made their 2017 demo such a fuckin’ rager. Recommended.

Neutrals Personal Computing / In the Future 7″

There are worse forms of escape from these dire times than retreating into the warm embrace of vintage computer magazines. That’s how Oakland’s NEUTRALS return from their Kebab Disco LP, this time with a bit more in the way of vocal harmonies that strongly resemble TELEVISION PERSONALITIES. It’s nice to hear them developing their craft with a more thick and resonant guitar and tight songwriting that brings a sort of 20th-century optimism about the future: world peace, flying cars, and geodesic domes. That may not sound very punk, but I had this on repeat in full indulgence of their retro utopia.

Newtown Neurotics Kick Out! LP

In the years immediately following World War II, Clement Attlee’s Labour government passed the New Towns Act 1946. It was emblematic of the Attlee ministry, typified by a series of post-war rebuilding projects including the establishment of the welfare state and the nationalisation of large swathes of industry. One of these post-war “new towns” was Harlow, home of the NEWTOWN NEUROTICS. It’s perhaps the perfect place for a band like them to be from; a living monument to the last great socialist government projects, now left to rot by a Thatcherite systematic dismantling of society. This compilation contains NEWTOWN NEUROTICS’ first six singles, and tracks their movement from bop-along ’77 acolytes to the nakedly political polemicists they became. Steve Drewett’s BILLY BRAGG-esque syllabic contortions are the perfect vehicle for his three-minute manifestos railing against the injustices of the increasingly fascist society in which he found himself. Stand out tracks like “Kick Out The Tories” and “Fools” still remain sadly relevant and resonant, but it’s the version of “Mindless Violence / Andy Is a Corporatist” with ATTILA THE STOCKBROKER from the Son of Oi! comp which stays with you. The follies of being a far-right skin, and one perhaps for all the silly boys at the shows wearing their naughty merch thinking they’re a big man. An utterly vital record.

M.A.Z.E. / Nicfit split EP

A split 7″ featuring two songs each from two representatives of Japan’s contemporary post-punk underground, NICFIT from Nagoya and M.A.Z.E. from Tokyo. NICFIT has been around since 2009, which is long enough that they still technically have a Myspace page, and while they may or may not have lifted their name from a SONIC YOUTH (cover) song, they’ve definitely picked up on some of their arty, free-noise guitar damage. It’s not full-on screwdrivers in strings, though; there’s also a pull toward the whiplash energy of Dangerhouse-era L.A. punk that was a little more apparent on some of their earlier releases (they covered SUBURBAN LAWNS on a 2014 EP), and plenty of nods to the freaked-out flailings of the more transparently No Wave-inspired Load Records bands. On the flip, M.A.Z.E. builds a ramshackle bridge between Japan and the US Midwest, bashing out wound-up, halting rhythms citing the same ’80s oddball DIY/punky new wave references that have been central to the Lumpy Records brand—a label that, not surprisingly, put out a M.A.Z.E. 12” not long after this 7” surfaced last year. Props to both bands for avoiding the always risky “uneven quality of sides” pitfall inherent to the split single format.

Patois Counselors The Optimal Seat LP

I loved the last LP from these art damaged miscreants; its wild snarl and catchy slump brought to mind strange adventures in anyone-can-do-it-core, a lineage of SWELL MAPS-ian slither. This one moves with a different feeling, sort of less imminent collapse pop rambunctiousness and more a tense architecture of synth and guitar scrawl that maybe matches our unnerving era, relentless horror mapped out in a series of flatlining rhythms. It somehow reminds me of the RAINCOATS Kitchen Tapes meets TOTAL CONTROL?! Something about it is less immediately compelling to my mind—the sort of collapse in on itself pop fervour of the first record was a fever dream whereas this one is much more spectral somehow?! It’s a great record, but feels more distant music from the room next door than the immediate savage hammer to my mind of the first. I think this will become a record I return to relentlessly but right now it’s more of a question mark.

Pölykuu Historia Palaa LP

PÖLYKUU has an interesting sound. It’s ’80s college rock meets new wave meets jangle pop. Those go together, right? PÖLYKUU manages to make it work. It’s peppy, then it’s mellow. Add some distortion or an acoustic guitar. Now it sounds like the FEELIES or the EMBARRASSMENT. Is that a BAND cover? Whoa.

Personal Style Demo 2019 cassette

Pure and simple: this Buffalo band cranks out infectious and addictive music. There are worlds where people will call it indie, post-punk, college rock…but goddamn if it doesn’t just hit exactly right regardless of genre descriptor. Vocals are kinda like the first INTERPOL record (that’s a good thing, fight me), their approach is chill and confident at all times, and the guitars just burn the whole time, even when (especially when) they are delivering hooks that will stick with you for days. And then they drop the bridge in “Brain Flu” and it’s clear that these fellows are well versed in American Hardcore Classics and I’m like “yeah, I get it…y’all are just really good.” I can leave the schmaltzier cuts like “Bubble Yum” behind, but I can’t deny that they are absolutely on point. This tape came out last year, there’s a single that they dropped a few months ago (I peeked—read the lyrics—trust me), and all I’m waiting for is a full-length platter to spin on repeat for days.

Personality Cult New Arrows LP

This is North Carolina group PERSONALITY CULT’s second LP. It features past members of MIND SPIDERS, BASS DRUM OF DEATH, and too many others to list in this review. Serving up tunes that bring to mind the garage punk revival of the early 2000s, with an undertone of almost post-punk-like minor key explorations. Some songs move towards more of a garage pop vibe, while others have stronger punk leanings, maybe a DICKIES influence peeking through at times? The moments when they throw out curveballs, like unexpectedly dissonant guitar leads or back-up vocal parts, end up being my favorites.

Piss Crystals Spielt Nicht Zum Tanz cassette

Noisy punk out of Budapest. Starts off promising enough. “Problem” is a ripping (if a tad generic) slice of garage punk with fantastic production—it’s trebly, sharp, immediate, and really fits what I imagine they’re going for (something along the lines of BLACK TIME). But that production is pretty much the only constant running through this cassette. It’s all certainly noise punk in some general sense, but it is as if they’re slathering that sound atop a different subgenre on each track. “AcsarorszÁ¡g” is noisy hardcore, “Glasshaus Zwei” is noisy metal, and “Promises (Still) Unkept” is noisy…emo! While that might sound interesting on paper, it never really clicked with me past the opening track. I don’t quite know what element to pin this on, but the whole tape kinda stinks of the late ’90s. I’m fine with that when it brings to mind late ’90s Load Records, but not so much when I get a whiff of AT THE DRIVE IN.

Pope Joan Happy + Relaxed cassette

Full-length album of alt-rock, indie rock, and modern pop-punk. It’s not that POPE JOAN isn’t a good band, or the songs are bad or anything, they just seem maybe a little too happy and a little too relaxed to really make a lasting impact. Even pop-punk bands need a little bit of grit to them, don’t they? Anyways, it’s poppy, it’s catchy, and there’s an Uncle Buck sample on it.

Riot Stones Mosh With an Open Mind cassette

RIOT STONES are mentioned in a few articles as being one of the first HC bands from Morocco—emerging in 2015, they released this tape themselves, and to be quite honest I have no clue if they’re still active. What’s on display here is aggressive, stomping hardcore that, just like the title implies, makes ample use of breakdowns and mosh parts. Emerging as late as 2015 whilst still having the title of first HC band in Morocco raises more questions than answers, and the snippets of information I could dig up about their scene lamented the closure of a local youth centre in Casablanca, leading to the demise of multiple bands. Regardless, what you’ll hear won’t break any musical boundaries, or reinvent the wheel as it were, but it is a fun listen from some genuinely fucked-off kids who deserve credit for kicking open a door for (hopefully) others.

Rocky and the Sweden City Baby Attacked By Buds LP

I nearly forgot about Tokyo’s premiere punk weed enthusiasts, which isn’t actually that weird considering their last release came out 20 years ago! It may be my jaded attitude to approaching new releases, or my ignorance of the Japanese hardcore world these days but somehow I was not expecting this to slay as hard as it does. Truly impressive, furious and powerful shit that immediately earns a spot on the shelf next to my favorite CRUDE and FORWARD releases. ROCKY AND THE SWEDEN has a unique penchant for incorporating their passion for ganja into both their aesthetic and demands for freedom and liberation. Some might think this is cheesy but I’d argue that their authenticity is undeniable given how long this theme has endured, along with consistent quality of output. For me it’s all about the aural impact and the great songs, jackhammering drums and searing guitar leads that somehow conjure feelings of hope, where there honestly are none these days. This limited US pressing was intended for a 2020 US tour (that obviously didn’t happen) and, like toilet paper and PS5s, was panic-bought and is already going for inflated prices, so enjoy it anyway you can!

Sabre I Will Live Forever EP

Bay Area punks SABRÉ bring us a concise demo with UK82 energy tempered by looming post-punk/anarcho vibes. Gravelly vocals and dizzying guitar work propel these four short and sharp songs forward, and when it’s over in a flash you’re compelled to play it again. Cool. 

Scholastic Deth Bookstore Core 2000-2002 LP

Essential listening for fans of fast hardcore, but you likely already know that. SCHOLASTIC DETH were kings of the Bay Area fastcore world—we knew that immediately after that show in the 924 Gilman Stoar. This band was such a complete machine—Josh looked like he was doing battle with his guitar while Chris laid down thunder with a casual confidence that was in conflict with the cloud of dust the band was kicking up, B’s ever so slightly off drum fills that roll into the breakdowns (and his blast beats, obviously). Max’s voice injected this adolescent honesty while so many were trying to growl out their anger, and his signature jerky/ladder riffs (yeah he’s the singer—but he played drums in the band I was in with him and I recognize those fucking riffs) are pure gold. They were smart, snarky…they were fucking fast. Everything is here—all the records, all the comps, and two unreleased cuts. Sometimes everyone loves the same band, and there’s a damn good reason why. So happy that this thing is finally out, even though you probably already have your copy.

Shrinkwrap Killers Stolen Electronics to Shove Up Your Ass / Merch Killer 7″

Third entry (of a planned five) in Iron Lung’s mysterious “Systemic Surgery” series. Aside from the limited run (only 200 copies pressed), deluxe packaging (hand-stamped labels, custom die-cut sleeves, risograph prints), and hitherto unheard-of bands (the first two entrants were from CLARKO and HOMELESS CADAVER), I have no idea what ties these releases together. At least Iron Lung was nice enough to let us know who’s behind the outfit this time—Oakland’s Greg Wilkinson (BRAINOIL, DEATHGRAVE, and Earhammer Studios). The title track is straight up SPITS worship that’s maybe a bit heavier on synths. The B-side also really leans on the keys and has more of a gothic pop punk vibe, in the vein of the HEX DISPENSERS. Neither cut is particularly memorable, and this stab at dum-dum lyrics needs more…or maybe less work.  Recommended only for those Systemic Surgery completists out there.

Shrinkwrap Killers Feral Rats Have Become Our Only Pets LP

Based on the band name and cover, I was expecting some gross horror punk or maybe crossover thrash, and boy, was I wrong. SHRINKWRAP KILLERS is the solo project of Greg Wilkinson of BRAINOIL playing a bizarro new wave/synth-pop/garage punk mix. Imagine GARY NUMAN, the SPITS, and maybe DICK DALE camping out in a squalid punk squat with only dystopian novels to keep them busy, and you get the idea. With song titles like “Stolen Electronics to Shove Up Your Ass,” “Hive Robotics at the Human Zoo,” and the title track, the vibe is definitely jokey, but the grooves are too good to be a joke. There are some real, albeit goofy, earworms here. This record mixes some straight-ahead garage sing-alongs with a few lo-fi woozy synth dirges that wouldn’t sound out of place on a TOBACCO record. Do you have a quarantine anthem? “Shotgunning O’Doul’s and Kicking Dicks,” where the title is a good portion of the song’s lyrics, has you covered. Very weird fun if you are experiencing paranoia, boredom, or enjoy shoving stolen electronics up your ass.

Silver Palm Silver Palm 10″

One of the lost projects of Portland’s early ’00s neo-No Wave boom, SILVER PALM included members of adherents like SLEETMUTE NIGHTMUTE and GLASS CANDY (among others) and essentially lived and died over the course of 2003, in the period of time before off-center art-racket fell out of favor in the city once everyone discovered Italo disco. The seven tracks on this 10″ were sourced from a small-run CD-R demo that I have to assume stayed fairly local, so it seems timely for them to be given a wider release now that Portland has regained its reputation for producing this stripe of weirdo disjointed post-punk in the last few years. “Present Creature” dishes out isolated single-note jabs of guitar that give way to a mischievous KLEENEX-by-way-of-LUNG LEG gang chant, as the tense austerity of “Saline Smear” (which pares the drums down to what sounds like only a snare for most of the song) and “Alibi” (with its seasick rhythm and knot of rapidly overlapping vocals) calls back directly to the No Wave principle of liberation through reduction/de(con)struction first laid down by the likes of MARS and UT. Some more uncovered marginalia in the girl-punk historical record, awaiting your exploration.

Smarts Who Needs Smarts Anyway? LP

I’m not exactly sure when meme-spawned punk sub-genre classifications first officially entered the unironic press material lexicon, but we might have reached peak egg-punk with the debut LP from SMARTS—there’s an “egghead” joke just waiting to be made there. As seemingly mandated in Australia, there’s substantial member crossover between SMARTS and a number of recent OZ DIY all-stars, some less eggy (PARSNIP) than others (AUSMUTEANTS, HIEROPHANTS, ALIEN NOSEJOB, etc.), and while Who Needs Smarts Anyway? isn’t a major departure from anything that the latter subset has produced, it does kind of seem like it could have been generated through a machine learning algorithm designed to come up with a prototypical band in this style. The sort of uptight, hardcore-velocity anxiety hammering employed by URANIUM CLUB, blaring new wave-via-Lumpy Records (by way of the DEADBEATS) sax that’s not nearly as abrasive or punctuated as this kind of panic-punk truly calls for, snotty rapid-fire vocals delivering lyrics focused on the omnipresence of pocket computers (“Smart Phone”), the minutiae of everyday life as expressed through household products (“Cling Wrap”), and the inescapable iconography of corporate culture (“Golden Arches”)—check, check, double check. Been searching for a band even more to the right of the CONEHEADS and UROCHROMES on the egg/chain spectrum?

Sneaky Pinks Sneaky Pinks LP

Man. This brings me back. The first SNEAKY PINKS EP was on like non-stop rotation on my turntable for almost a year. Well, you get that classic and more on this new compilation LP. While none of the rest quite lives up to that EP for me, this is still a raging example of super trashy, non-wimpy, ultra-bratty garage punk. Think greats like PANTY RAID, BABY JAIL, the SPITS, and HUNX AND HIS PUNX. I think you get all their recorded output including some great and not-so-great covers here. You’ll be dancing it up in your padded confinement cell for sure. Ring the bell. It’s Jello time. It should be noted that Justin “Nobunny” Champlin has contributed to this band. While I have known and enjoyed his company in the past, sexual predation is unforgivable, hurtful, and deeply traumatizing on so many levels.  It is seriously fucked up and is in no way condoned here.

Editor’s note: After Justin posted and then deleted his statement, at least two survivors came forward about their experiences with him, which are available to read at the @lured_by_burger_records Instagram account (heavy trigger warning for sexual assault and for grooming of underage kids), and which do not seem to be adequately encapsulated in Justin’s supposed admission. Goner has pulled the two Nobunny records they released, and it is disappointing that Almost Ready has not done the same with this LP.

Snot Puppies T.V. Tantrum EP

Three tracks of great adolescent LA punk, produced and remastered by Geza X and rescued from obscurity by No Matrix Records. SNOT PUPPIES were a short-lived high school band but still managed to share bills with the likes of MIDDLE CLASS, the GERMS, and SCREAMERS. Collector scums already heard “T.V. Tantrum” and “Towel Song” (just called “Towels” here) on Killed By Death #13, and I can confirm that this official 7″ release was worthwhile and is essential for those gobbling up everything from the early LA punk scene. All three songs are delightfully bashy, fuck-up punk that fits nicely among the above mentioned bands, like a more inept DEADBEATS. Liner notes include all the memories and flyer scans necessary to make this an obvious pickup.

Soft Shoulder Not the New One LP

Certain records require listening at specific times of the day. I kept trying to listen to this LP in the evening and it just wasn’t working for me. Now listening to it on a cold-but-sunny Sunday morning while I drink a steaming cup of tea, it all makes sense. It’s like having a nice conversation. The vocals are sing-spoken in a relaxed tone while the minimalist music peppily and jerkily moves them along. It is jazzy math rock with art-punk musings. Not the New One is a collection of songs from many different versions of the group recorded between 2015–2019, but it does not feel disjointed. It keeps you entertained and even gets you out of your chair to dance a little bit.

Speed Plans More Hardcore LP

Fuck. Getting assigned this record to review makes me realize my misstep in not including SPEED PLANS in my yearly top ten. Forgive me. I shall sing their praises here. Describing Pittsburgh’s SPEED PLANS to someone who hasn’t seen them live is challenging.  Looking at them, one may be doubtful that this unlikely bunch of characters with the odd band name could be any good. My good friend Collin H. once remarked that the singer looks like the actor Will Arnett. Not that far off as he’s really funny and can often crack you up with wicked between-song banter. The bass player may look like someone who just rode his bike back from a PHISH concert (George is cool as hell), and, shit, the whole band is such a wonderful tossup of personalities such as which makes a lot of Pittsburgh bands so great. Once they start playing, I guarantee, you’ll be scraping your jaw off the sticky Rock Room floor by the end. These guys can play and are tight like Joe Biden’s butthole. They completely won me over one night by doing the most amazing cover of “Rambling Rose” I’ve ever witnessed. But what about the record, you say? This, I believe, is their second tape put to vinyl (they have a third, I’ve yet to hear) and like their live set, does not let up from beginning to end. Musically I’d say they’re  a semicoherent mix of classic thrash like NEOS or JERRY’S KIDS with some ANTI CIMEX 12” EP and bits of Japan’s MOBS with modern day sounds of, say, S.H.I.T. All this is overlaid with crazy guitar antics in the style of the aforementioned Wayne Kramer/Sonic Smith variety with maybe a little GRAND FUNK thrown in. Favorite moments are hard to choose but if pressed I’d say “Four Letter Word” for its killer guitar breaks and the epic “Kill Us Both” into “Green War” into “Revenge” for sheer ferocity. Hell, most of the songs run into the next and the longest is a minute-five. How can you get any better than that so why are you lagging? Pick it up chump.

Stirling One Percenter EP

Unearthed 1996 recordings from this short-lived Essex band. Five quick tracks of noisy, dumbed-down punk ’n’ B. Sits somewhere between PUSSY GALORE’s garage-y din and early OBLIVIANS’ cro-magnon punk. Highlights are “R-E-V-E-N-G-E” and “Go Away,” the latter of which even sounds like an Eric O-penned tune. Maybe not an essential release, but certainly a welcome one! Fun fact: one of the guitarists on this release, Sam Knee, compiled the book A Scene In Between and runs the (great!) Instagram account @sceneinbetween, where he catalogs UK fashion and alternative youth culture from the ’80s indie scene.

Street Magic Nightvision Breath demo cassette

Pure, dreary lo-fi pop injected with a(n over)dose of damaged freak trash. STREET MAGIC wants you to love them, but keep making you question your own taste. I can only imagine a live manifestation fraught with confusion, but captured on tape this Seattle outfit is like a gift from the space gods. Choice cut “Communion” is worth the price of admission on its own, especially coming after the moonless desert excursion “TOYL” that opens the second side. Sounds for a (the) next generation to enjoy today.

Sudden Impact Freaked Out EP

Guided by the expert punk archivists at Supreme Echo, SUDDEN IMPACT upgrades a semi-legendary demo to a fully formed EP. Before leaning into something closer to “trad” skate-thrash, SUDDEN IMPACT were making pits erupt in Toronto and the proof is evident on a blazing 1984 recording. Delivering ten cuts in thirteen minutes, this remastered EP is practically the platonic ideal of a hardcore punk 7”. Things back then were truly fast and furious, so much so that who even has time to come up with song titles? (“New Song” could use a little more work but still packs a punch.) “Freaked Out” sports enough bent corners that it could fit comfortably on an early Killed By Death volume (see KRAUT). True to form, the theme song (“Sudden Impact”) completely shreds and features the always-welcome sound of breaking glass to ensure that you’re paying attention. And then they wrap things up by covering TED NUGENT, because of course. NUGENT sucks, but AMBOY DUKES rule, and as far as hardcore covers of hard rock nuggets go, it ain’t half-bad.

The Cavemen Euthanise Me EP

New Zealand scum punks the CAVEMEN return with four tracks of their particular brand of theatrical faster-and-louder rockn’roll. The results are solid, with nothing feeling particularly evolved from last year’s full length Night After Night. But that’s not really the point with music designed to hit hard and as to-the-point as possible. It’s a good bit of fun, though the music does sound a bit friendlier than I might expect from titles such as “Eat Your Heart & Wear Your Face.” There’s something charming about the band’s preoccupation with writing “evil” tunes, I just wish I believed them a smidge more. Less cracking wise and more cracking skulls!

The Derelicts Life of Strife LP

Wait…what?…this is that DERELICTS?! Then I put on the song “Life of Strife” and it all comes back. The DERELICTS were one of the go-to bands for hard-drinking and drug-taking punks in the late ’80s/early ’90s who were tired of the endless grunge singles coming out, especially as those bands were becoming the dull classic rock bands they used to parody. Without them, the DWARVES, the SUPERSUCKERS, and probably L7, I might not have made it through those few years. Totally hard to believe from the endless crap those bands have puked out since (except maybe L7) and, yes, this sounds dated as hell, but they sound…great! This is a spattering of new songs along with many re-recorded old ones which I don’t get the purpose of but the new songs fit right in and that guy can totally still sing like that! The revisited songs are strong and comparable but I much prefer the rougher-recorded old versions. How do I know that? Because I went back and listened to each and every one of them so you don’t have to. Cheers to these old men for surviving and being able to still pull it off, but you can pick up the great Going Out of Style comp as well as most of their old singles for pretty cheap if you care. This has a definite time and place for me and I can’t really see going back, but maybe there’s a Pabst-swilling, meth-shooting bad teen out there just waiting to discover this. Yay!

The Froys Seaweed / Under a Tie Dye Sky LP

This is fuzzy garage rock moderne from Mexico City. High-octane playing and performance style is reminiscent of their more well-known contemporaries of the genre. If you are a fan of the modern garage sound, the FROYS will be a perfect addition to your collection. This LP combines the band’s two EPs from 2019 and 2018, respectfully. As a nice retro touch the LP includes a full color fold-out poster, too!

The Gingerbread Men Witches House CD

GINGERBREAD MEN were one of my favorite ’80s Boston bands. Witches House was recorded in 1987 and was supposed to be their debut album, but due to the usual band nonsense it was never released. They did release two 7″s back then and all four songs are included here. Catchy, poppy garage rock with a flavoring of college rock and early hardcore influences. The lyrics are fun and funny. “Happy Squirrel” from their first 7” is an immediate standout. It has a cool MISSION OF BURMA sound with humorously morbid lyrics: “My heart beats a rhythm like a twisted rhyme / When I saw her hopping on the power line / And then the flash I knew she was fried.” Yikes! Catchy and twisted! There’s a lot of that here: “Day Job, Night Band,” “That Ain’t Your Car,” “Battle Bones.” A vinyl version will be out in early 2021, but the CD version has eight bonus tracks.

The Harness 1st Demo cassette

Two-piece, lo-fi hardcore punk/queercore from Serbia. I was shocked to see that a drummer is listed as a member of the band. Considering how nasty the recording is, I had assumed it was a distorted drum machine. This is a wild ride. Four songs of incredibly pissed-off hardcore punk with song topics like calling for all the queer punks to come out and be proud, and being upset about not being able to masturbate in your room without getting in trouble. I think this is beautiful and I am honored to have one of the mere 25 copies that exist of this masterpiece.

The Lice Punk Is Bed cassette

There is a lot to like about this collection of dreamy, lo-fi bedroom recordings. The catchy, fuzzy coldwave riffs and endearingly retro drum machine compositions definitely have an irresistible charm. But there’s no way those features can make up for the off-key singing that throws a wrench in the gears of this otherwise sweet pop project. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of off-key singers—NEIL YOUNG, DANIEL JOHNSTON, DEAD MOON. This is punk, after all. But sadly, it just doesn’t work with this kind of melodic fuzz-pop. We need an anchor in this sea of electronic trashcan drumming and delay-drenched synth leads, rather than another untethered line flailing wildly in the gale.

The Lungs Psychic Tombs LP

Man, this is really not my thing and hard for me to get through. To give them credit, they are good musicians and their passion for their message and music comes through. Fuck. I just have no taste for jazzy, nu-metal-style post-hardcore…er…whatever. Maybe compare them to RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, FAITH NO MORE, DISTURBED? From the atrocious cover art to the doubled and tripled melodic vocals, this screams anti-me in every way. Uh…great musicianship…feeling…did I say that already? Please make it stop!

The Nerves Hanging on the Telephone EP reissue

What is there to say about one of the most classic 45s of all time?! Up there with the UNDERTONES Teenage Kicks for total power and feeling and pure hooks, with a desperate message direct from the heart to the minds of the youth ready for new sounds and visions. A deconstructed pop dream made with just the bare essentials; that nervous guitar and shattered rhythm and Nuggets/Bomp! California take on the ’60s invasion sound. A wild combination of ideas and ideals somehow making old dreams sound brand new. Anyway this is a pretty perfect reissue, a close to exact replica of the OG with a much lower price tag attached, except of course by the time you are reading this the reissue has sold out! And the really cool looking Japanese language version they made is long gone!

The Speed Humps Consumption cassette

Four originals and two DWARVES covers comprise this most recent release by the SPEED HUMPS from Ontario, Canada. The originals are all in the faster realm of mid-tempo as far as hardcore punk goes. This band appears to have three different vocalists, with both guitarists and the bassist sharing the duties. The vocalist that does a majority of the songs has barked discernibly yet choppy style, not unlike UNIFORM CHOICE. The second takes the lead on the incredibly confusing song “Dick Dungeon” (is it really about accidentally seeing some dude’s business in the bathroom of a bar?), and has a lower, growlier, Matt Freeman kind of gurgle to his voice. My favorite sounding of the three vocalists is the member who sings the two DWARVES cover songs. I can hear her chiming in singing backups in the originals, but she sounds super cool as the lead vocalist.

The Toms The 1979 Sessions LP

This album apparently collects the “chaff” from Tommy Marolda’s three-day solo recording session that led to the TOMS’ self-titled album. I must admit I was not familiar with that LP, but it seems to be considered a power pop classic among aficionados. After listening to The 1979 Sessions, I had to immediately go and listen to it, because if these are the rejects, the songs that made the album had to be something else. The fourteen tracks here are a masterclass in jangling ’60s British Invasion guitar pop with an unmistakable BEATLES influence, with forays into spacier PROCOL HARUM or CREAM territory—it’s almost impossible to believe that one person played and recorded a couple of albums’ worth of this stuff in his home studio over a weekend (to make use of studio time vacated by a SMITHEREENS cancellation), but that’s how the legend has it, and if rock’n’roll isn’t about legends, what is it for? It doesn’t even sound home-recorded—it could have been tracked at Abbey Road. Essential stuff for the power pop fan.

Tortür Never Ending Grief LP

Scaly, scaling, escapist rÁ¥punk D-beat noise from LA. Deliberate face-ripping riffs that flail through the play with no mercy. TORTÜR plays the standard D-beat formula, but the energy is many ticks above normal. Vocals are grimaced and the chords are buoyant. Drums pulverize—sticks tumbling with classic DISCLOSE openers and breaks, at a rate a notch faster than everything else, and it works—as TORTÜR ebbs and stabs in unison. The way a band like this should sound; slightly organic but still nailing it like the nightmare machine they are illustrating. Some surprising rhythmic change-ups, in the way I fell jawless skull-over-boots for WORLD BURNS TO DEATH some 20-odd years ago, in “Who Will Survive The Human Collapse?” which adds shock treatment to the overall seizure of this album. Basically, a blistering new chaotic D-beat album that excels with production fervor and speed. Might be on my top ten had I not already sent it in. Recalling TOTAL WAR, DESPAIR, ASPECTS OF WAR. Art by Robin Wilberg of SVAVELDIOXID (previously DISFEAR). TORTÜR, a three piece of LA, are a gift (GASATTACK), and I definitely recommend trying to find this raw physical slab, it goes for $666 on their Bandcamp, and was released this past September 11th, yikes.

Tough Age Which Way Am I? LP

Although I have been aware of TOUGH AGE for quite some time, for some reason this is the first I’ve actually heard them. At first listen, I was quick to write this off, but upon further investigation this record started to grow on me, and now it seems as though I have been missing out all this time. There’s a big time post-punk influence here underneath definite power pop vibes. Now if that sounds like a strange combination of sounds, it might be, but it works. I especially enjoy the contrast of the two vocalists. This is definitely gonna be in heavy rotation on my stereo for a while.

Unruly Unruly LP

Miserable, crawling punk from Wellington, Aotearoa, UNRULY debut with a nauseous-sounding sludge record that channels a very particular kind of anxiety. They stay at a constant crawl but it’s when they finally break through into mid-paced territory that they really hammer a riff right into your skull. “Knuckle-dragging” is an often used whilst seldom accurate epithet ascribed to punk like this, but it really does fuckin’ pull ya along. Think blood stains and foul bucketbongs, black mould and chronic bronchitis.

V/A Nitalect: Abandoned Meaning cassette

A four-way split cassette on a 30-minute tape. DESASTYR really lives up to their name playing some strange combination of noise/jam/punk/No Wave/free jazz/something or other. It’s kind of like hanging out at Guitar Center, to be honest. I do love the photo of Weng Weng on their portion of the insert, however. DOWN//OUT is more discernible, playing post-apocalyptic crust-infused metallic punk. BOZGOR keeps it the most straightforward of the bands on this comp, delivering fast D-beat. DREKAVATZ closes out the tape with a mixture of cheesy metal riffs and mid-tempo black metal, revving up a little faster from time to time. It’s actually the most enjoyable of the tape and I couldn’t help but bop around to it a bit. All in all, an incredibly bizarre four-way split. I can find no information about this online, but with the tape being a run of only 35 tapes, once all four bands had their copies and review copies were mailed out I can’t imagine the label would have had many to sell.

V/A Achtung ADK cassette

Thirteen tracks of synth-heavy weirdo punk from Berlin, Germany. If I’m understanding things correctly, all the songs were recorded specifically for this sampler. This is incredible and all over the map within genres that I thoroughly enjoy. There’s fast punk stuff, raging hardcore, No Wave weirdness, and post-punk dirges, with synth being present on a majority of the tracks. After a few listens, I think my favorite tracks are by DIE BONZEN, GESTURE, and NIGHTMARE. I can’t wait to do my research and find out if any of those bands have more to offer as their tracks are super good.

V/A Whole World vol. 1 cassette

Tasty little collection of five lo-fi garage freaksters from Berlin. Some nice No Wave eccentricities, some raw stomps, some drugged-out, wild-ass sweaty punk, even a coupla doses of shaky melancholic pop—NUNOFYRBEESWAX, FREAK GENES, TOP DOWN, the BUGS, and the DO NOTHINGS offer up a varied and feisty sampler of Berlin (circa 2019).

V/A Southend Punk Volume 1 CD

Another micro-scene gets the archeological dig treatment. Best-known to most as a place where Londoners go to the seaside, Southend and its Thames Estuary neighbors punch above their weight in rock’n’roll pedigree, as home to influential acts that pre-date this comp (such as DR. FEELGOOD and EDDIE AND THE HOTRODS), so it’s no surprise there was a burgeoning punk scene buzzing along there as early as 1976. For some reason, few of the no-hit wonders collected here made it to larger exposure. MRR readers are most likely to be aware of the SINYX or KRONSTADT UPRISING for their appearance on CRASS’ Bullshit Detector comps, but this album demonstrates that the Southend scene was home to punk bands of every stripe, from the gothic post-punk of AFTERMATH to the NEUROTICS-sounding progressive punk of the PREY. Fun fact, the VICARS here feature the vocal stylings of Alison Moyet, who went on to fame as the singer of YAZOO (sounding here more like Feargal Sharkey.) There’s honestly not a dud on this whole record. A great collection, lovingly compiled.

V/A Killed by Meth #5 LP

It’s Trash! Records’ annual compilation Killed by Meth is always an eye-opener. This year’s installment (the fifth) continues to highlight some of the filthiest offshoots of rock coming out of the US Midwest, including the always-excellent ERIK NERVOUS and recent Goner signees ARCHAEAS. There are no duds here, though the standouts steal a lot of the glory. The best song of the bunch comes from Cincinnati’s BLACK PLANET. Their contribution, “Crimewave,” is a total earworm of pounding rhythms and acidic vocals that demands you pick the needle up and play it again once it’s done. The rest of the compilation keeps it eclectic with the likes of urgent synth-punks MONONEGATIVES before and closing everything out with a new nihilist anthem—”Flies on Shit” by AU SHOVEL. All in all, it’s another solid entry in the ongoing series of killer punk comps.

Vapaa Maa Vesi Nousee LP

Politically-charged Finnish hardcore in the vein of the HOLY MOUNTAIN and the like. The vocals are all in Finnish, but there are English translations. Standard lyrical content for the genre here (economics, politics, anti-homophobia, environmental, etc.). The production aspect is pretty slick compared with other bands of this ilk, which in my opinion hurts this album a bit. I prefer these bands to have a bit more of a dirtier sound, but again that is my personal opinion. If this sounds like your cup of tea I’d recommend giving this a listen.

Veneno Herejía LP

Angry Barcelonians VENENO let lose their fast, high-energy hardcore LP HerejÁ­a and if you know any Castilian, you can tell by the title that they really appreciate their HERESY—this is totally the case, as they pay homage to the fast hardcore sound that VOID paved the way for. Singing in Castilian only adds fuel to the fire, as you can feel the rage that comes through their politically-fueled lyrics that deal with society and the scene itself. The members are busy with other bands like ARREST, CRUZ, and PELIGRO! but have the skills and dedication to sound super tight in VENENO. This is a record that makes you feel young, like when you wanted to skate down the street while spray painting “ACAB” on cop cars.

Vicio Tu Placer Es Maltratado EP

Eight tracks of thrashed-out hardcore perfection originally released as a demo at the turn of the century, deservedly pressed on 7″ format. From the border town Laredo, TX, situated equidistant between San Antonio and Monterrey, VICIO’s outrage at racist domestic terror, dehumanization, and attention to addiction and abuse is forever relevant. They explore complicated issues, vulnerably conveying frustration with the way their people choose to assimilate to survive and thrive in American society, white people in their community panhandling, and perception of self-worth in an overwhelmingly xenophobic society. Their sound unmistakably compares to some of the most timeless and influential Latinx hardcore bands like CRUDOS and SIN ORDEN, with a distinct rawness that often comes though best on a band’s debut. I long for this kind of unapologetic, inspiring punk that hits so hard, while I acknowledge this level of outrage sadly only comes from real struggle. A total Lengua Armada-styled layout (Martin S. credited in the liner notes) rounds the whole thing out, further making this an essential pickup.

Vivien Goldman Launderette / Private Armies 7″ reissue

Journalist VIVIEN GOLDMAN was one of the key voices in the late ’70s UK press to acknowledge the profound influence of Jamaican music on England’s emerging punk and post-punk scenes, and after being inspired by her female friends like the SLITS who were starting bands without having much (or any) prior musical experience, she recorded a one-off single in 1981 (thanks to studio time borrowed from fellow dub enthusiasts PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED) that became a certified punky reggae classic, now newly reissued. On “Launderette,” GOLDMAN recounts a soured laundry room romance in a lilting voice over wandering, slow-throb dub bass (by George Oban of the reggae group ASWAD) that provides the song’s primary foundation, filled in by rattling percussion, some distant violin warble courtesy of Vicky Aspinall of the RAINCOATS, and sparse, scratchy guitar from PiL’s Keith Levene. B-side “Private Armies” follows a similar sonic trajectory but takes a much sharper lyrical turn, addressing structural racist violence in the UK amplified by a culture of toxic masculinity and exacted by skinheads, cops, and “heavy metal boys,” with VIVIEN intently chanting lines like “If you can’t get a hard-on, get a gun” over a drawn-out, simmering rhythm. Still relevant, both musically and (unfortunately) topically.

Xylitol I’m Pretty Sure I Would Know If Reality Were Fundamentally Different Than I Perceived It To Be EP

We live in hell. Sweatpants, aggressively marketed to us on data-mining apps as we remain confined to our homes-cum-workplaces (if we’re lucky enough to not be risking COVID serving the WFH class), cost $100 for some reason. Nazi cops use the same apps to suppress resistance and target the already marginalized. I don’t know anyone at this point who’s enjoying life. I hate it, you hate it, XYLITOL from Olympia really hates it. For XYLITOL, sourdough baking and furiously donating to GoFundMes is not enough—they wrote six pogo anthems asserting their humanity and agency when it feels like no one has any. “Dim the Sun” flips the script on ATROCIOUS MADNESS’ HAARP obsession, a Dr. Evil climate change reversal fantasy that trounces any corporate carbon offsetting. “I Want a Refund” is the clear hit, a laundry list of daily indignities large and small with nary a receipt with which to return them. “(There’s Something in Your) Void” slaughters the Scandi-minimalist vapidity of contemporary design; “I Have Free Will” is a last-gasp plea for sentience against the invisible hand of the market; “Don’t Let Them Leave” would rather parade Elon Musk’s head on a pole through the commons than let him escape to Mars with wee X Æ A-12. “Crazy Frog” closes out the EP—I think it’s a love song, but honestly who knows? It’s like PRINCE on DMT. XYLITOL only has one beat, but this record is short, and I’m glad the lyrics are shrieked along to frantic pogo rather than subsumed by the infographic-industrial complex.

Zoikle Zoikle LP

Former EX vocalist G.W. Sok started ZOIKLE almost ten years ago, but they’ve effectively been on hiatus since 2013 and this LP is the group’s first release since their debut 7″ in 2011, collecting fourteen recently fleshed out demos and fragments of songs that were started (but never finished) before that lengthy break. During his time with the EX, Sok helped set the bar for wildly smart and creative avant-punk over the course of three decades, and in more ways than not, ZOIKLE is a natural continuation of the outside-the-box approach that the EX had really come into by the early ’90s. Those familiar spoken/ranted vocals are still central, backed here by an ascetic foundation of cello, guitar, and drums scratching out a perfectly high-anxiety clamor—the presence of the cello invites some obvious parallels to the collaborative albums that the EX did with TOM CORA, with songs like “Happy” and “Waiting” leaning into Dragnet-era FALL/early MEKONS-ish pointed friction, while “Gangrene” and “4Q” throw in some busted-up electronics for a slightly more technologically-aided take on ramshackle art-punk. I can’t really think of many other people actively creating punk music today with this long of a completely unfuckwithable track record…