MRR #457 • June 2021

Aküestix Parody of a Tragedy, Pt. 1 CD

Musically, this reminds me of something that would have been on Fearless or Hopeless in the ’90s. Lyrically, there’s a song about aliens. That was almost enough for me to write this off but…then I heard the song “Appear” and that kept my attention, as it was the standout track in my opinion. If you long for the days of Black Flys, bleached hair, two-row studded belts holding up Dickies shorts that always seemed two sizes too big, and perfectly-timed jumps in unison, then my friend, you will most likely enjoy this CD.

Alambrada Muerte Preventiva EP

I love debut 7″s. Bands tend to showcase their virtues in a raw and colorful way, like they have so much to prove in just a few minutes. ALAMBRADA is a new Colombian band, straight from Bogotá with members of beloved MURO in their ranks, and this is their first EP, one of the best of the year so far. Eight songs of noisy-as-fuck yet incredibly hooky guitar riffs, a rhythm section that splits your head open with uncompromising determination, and a voice so thick in poisonous spit, it can melt metal. Their sound is so vicious and raw that it can sometimes veer into total chaos, but just this close enough of atonal oblivion. It is actually hard to have a favorite track, but I can tell you to go straight to the double-decker of “Control Total/Un Acto de Lealtad” and you can thank me later. So it goes.

Artery Oceans 12″ reissue

Real talk, even in a very generous estimation, ARTERY’s seven-track Oceans 12″ from 1982 barely makes the C-list of goth-shadowed early ’80s UK post-punk, and I highly doubt that this reissue will do anything to change that standing. Mark Gouldthorpe’s vocals have a vaguely BAUHAUS-era Peter Murphy quality (if you removed any visceral edge of drama from Peter Murphy’s delivery), there’s some minor JOY DIVISION infringement in the martial, bass-forward rhythmic drone of “Into the Garden,” and for about half of the record, ARTERY passes the expected signposts along a very well-trodden path of post-punk gloom. Everything finally clicks on “The Slide,” where Gouldthorpe’s batcave howls meet clanging mutant disco beats like a crypt-dwelling LIQUID LIQUID, solid gold! But then it’s all downhill from there—”Sailor Situation” is a piano-led, sub-BAD SEEDS reworking of a sea shanty (as in, “what shall we do with the drunken sailor?”), which is just as cringe-worthy as that sounds, and “The Clown” (presented in not one but two versions!) takes a flicker of ROXY MUSIC-ish glam and completely snuffs it under squawks of gimmicky carnival organ and horns. So yeah, “The Slide,” what a perfect argument for the superiority of the 45 format.

Autoagresion Bajo Control cassette

Argentina is bringing some serious heat to the review section this month, and Buenos Aires’ AUTOAGRESION is some of the hottest—searing fastcore, but with a massive production and vocals that fucking hurt (my throat) to listen to. “Apartadxs” is a perfect equation: intro + explosion = perfection, while just one track (“Policias”) tops the one-minute mark. This is just pure and honest hardcore punk, and probably the best release I’ve heard this month.

Baby Bones What Do I Do / We’re Done Talking cassette

Feisty and heavy Kentucky rock. “What Do I Do” verges on nü metal but still has lotsa hooks. “We’re Done Talking” hits me like a lost QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE cut with an infectious sing-along chorus. Let’s go.

Bain de Sang Sacrificed for a Load of Filth and Lies LP

This LP opens up with pulverizing, blackened, downturned rippage reminiscent of UNRUH meets AT THE GATES, MISERY INDEX, INSISION, and SKITSYSTEM. BAIN DE SANG of Paris plays intensely tight grindcore with galloping precision while locking up crust-inspired riffs and brutal black metal grimness. At times slightly screeching, BAIN DE SANG always seems to pull back into the realm of hardcore at just the right moment. Powerful rhythms undercut the complete onslaught of technical modern grind. Bestial dark deathcore breakdowns punctuate where necessary, and thrash momentum opens up the cover of “Warsaw”—previous to this track, my favorite homage was done by SWING KIDS. This one brings such smoldering, depressive merit to covering songs. Self-described powerviolence; I wouldn’t go there at all, personally. This is from a warmer place, for lack of a better word. Damn fine French grindcore album.

Appaloosa / BBQT split EP

The APPALOOSA side is a surfy number with conversational vocal delivery and a modern power pop ballad in the style of HAYLEY AND THE CRUSHERS, with some elements of the GO-GO’S as well. I think fans of modern garage rock with a melodic pop sensibility are the target audience here. It may come off as a bit tame for those who prefer the raw, punk-adjacent side of the power pop coin.

Bibione Tell Me What I Think EP

If you sometimes feel that the post-punk realm is overcrowded with bands that leave you totally indifferent, don’t miss this amazing 7″ inch from this female Czech trio from Prague. Five songs of playful, intimate and furious post-punk, seven if you get the download. The band can make poppy and dynamic short blasts of surfy fun, like “Tell Me What I Think,” that make you think of BRATMOBILE, and they can get harsh and noisy like in “Gloves” and “Call Me.” “Summer Hit” may be the, erm, hit of the record, with some beautiful guitar riffs, like a riot grrrl ELECTRELANE. “Pleasures” sounds like PYLON fighting KLEENEX/LILIPUT.  Sorry if I’ve been name dropping too many bands, BIBIONE has a sound of their own, I just don’t wanna sell them short. This is a record that deserves to be played repeatedly. The two bonus tracks are damn good: “Colours” just kicks you in the face.

Bloody Head The Temple Pillars Dissolve Into the Clouds LP

Even if much of this Nottingham band’s prior product was unlovely scum sludge for DRUNKS WITH GUNS huffers and the like, there was always something inherently trip-worthy about their vibe. Probably not a good trip, no, but…yeah. Either way, their second album leans more flagrantly than ever into psychedelia, opening number “This Could Be Paradise” wigging shaggily for eight-minutes-plus. Everyone sounds on top form here, vocalist Dave Bevan spitting the realest lyrics (“I’m 57 and I’ve never been sucked off / Imagine that”) and Ian Boult, who I daresay knows these guys’ steez inside out, recording them impeccably. BLOODY HEAD’s psych touchstones are the bad vibes bringers—STOOGES, SPACEMEN 3, BRAINBOMBS—but with the four-piece’s CV including MOLOCH, NADIR, and ARMY OF FLYING ROBOTS, they bring near-ceaseless riffs, too. Riffs they could probably sell to a younger, prettier band and watch as they toured the world with them—better they’re kept right here in this dank purgatory, though.

Cage Kicker Parasitic Future cassette

On this release, CAGE KICKER from Berlin plays angry and vicious—yet catchy, pogo-y, and stompy at the same time—’80s USHC/UK82-style punk. Endless circle pits with pogo-ing, I believe Parasitic Future is where the rare, bilateral agreement between the society of circle pitting hardcore and pogo-ing punks occur.

Candy Apple Sweet Dreams of Violence LP

Don’t let the band name fool you, because you are about to get some bitter taste after a bite or two. Fuzzed to the gills, crunchy and untamed hardcore full of bottled-up anger like S.H.I.T. or GLUE. Sweet Dreams of Violence is the follow-up to the band’s 2018 demo and 2019 Joyride cassette. The perfect record to let some steam out.

Cassie Change My Image / Will You 7″ reissue

This is a re-release of a single that was released in the UK in ’82. Apparently CASSIE was heavily influenced by BLONDIE, but to my ear this hits more like a funkier version of the STRIPES. The A-side “Change My Image” pairs bright, power pop guitar riffs and a classic rock’n’roll backbeat with intermittent bursts of saxophone, and what sounds to be a toy piano. The B-side alternates instrumentally between reggae and new wave, with singer Cassie’s throaty, melodic vocals stitching the transitions together seamlessly. If your collection includes X-RAY SPEX and the SELECTOR, this record would not feel out of place.

Chain of Flowers Amphetamine Luck flexi 7″

First new music in a few years from the Welsh diaspora’s preeminent dream pop punx, and “Amphetamine Luck” is a one-song, one-sided flexidisc which finds them back at peak performance. There are a shit ton of guitars on this, be that due to multi-tracking or a surfeit of fellows who simply love to stick their six-stringed oar in, and the full, fulsome, sweetly ear-ringing sound—from the synth-y ambient intro on—is a credit to producer Jonah Falco and, more poignantly, the late John Hannon on mastering duties. Lyrics seem to aim for that moment in a party arc where chemical euphoria starts to bleed into chemical regret: “I just can’t seem to learn,” croons Joshua Smith, relatably.

Chainsaw Funny Feast LP

Collecting songs recorded between 1998 and 2002, Funny Feast reissues the (complete?) works of France’s CHAINSAW. Featuring original DOGS frontman Dominique Laboube as well as members of the VERMINES, this record showcases a reunion of sorts of these Rouen punk veterans. With a musical style that sways back and forth between earnest, old school Motor City-style rock’n’roll and a sort of unpolished power pop, CHAINSAW’s soulful, heavy, and garage-y sound was built on nostalgia. Influences of the STOOGES and NEW YORK DOLLS are apparent, and at times the singer reminds me of a French version of 1980s Iggy in his delivery. Once in a while some DEAD BOYS mojo surfaces, like on the lead track from the band’s 2000 EP Godzilla’s Got a New Toy, and they close out the album with a trio of solid RAMONES covers. It’s a love letter to the ’70s delivered through a distinctly ’90s lens, and these fifteen unabashed retro-rockers will surely appeal to proto-punk perverts around the globe.

Chill Parents At the Barricades cassette

Eight quick tracks of hard, crunchy punk with a political bent. Searching for a reference leads me all over the place. There are melodic riffs over impassioned protest lyrics reminding me of ANTI-FLAG on one track, then explosions of party-hardcore intensity on the next, running into some gruff ’80s-punk-style ranting and guitar chugging that reminds me of BUTTHOLE SURFERS on the next. Whatever this is, it’s not what you expected. Whoever you are, you’ll find something to love and something to hate here. As cool as it is to hear a band with a carefully crafted and cohesive sound, this tape reflects the reality of what bands are usually like in real life—a lumpy assortment of creative ideas and intermittently compatible personalities.

Cococoma The Money Will Roll Right In cassette

New release on powerhouse label Primitive Screwhead. For those of you not yet familiar, this is the brand new, all-live tape label run by garage rock dynamo Big Neck Records. Chicago, IL-based COCOCOMA has always been a cool, intriguing band to me, who seemed to walk the tightrope between catchy garage rock and spastic, nasty punk weirdness. On this live cassette recording the band really ramps up the psychedelic/pop aspects of their sound. So many killer, catchy songs on this tape and the sound quality is great. One doesn’t always know what kind of can of worms they’re opening with live releases, but thus far Primitive Screwhead has been doing a fantastic job with releasing cassettes that truly capture what it’s like seeing a band live.

Colonial Wound Colonial Wound 12″

COLONIAL WOUND plays spacey, atmospheric post-hardcore that is as discordant and intimidating as it is smothering and embracing. Vocals are monstrous, but at moments subtly spoken, dream-like, and the lyrics are poetically miserable. This is a tight three-piece who play blackened ethereal hardcore with a dooming metallic tinge. Florida, in my opinion, is known for its ruthless grindcore and death metal. COLONIAL WOUND offers something new and more personal-sounding without being over-dramatic or emotional about it. This is polished, but certain instrumentations are gritty. Reminds me of the punk qualities of early CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, the dark warmth of ROSENKOPF, and the overall style of ISIS, all mixed together. Cream white vinyl as a picture disc on one side—a chain link fencing making an eye. A debut that is quite good.

Cutters Chewed Up Fortune EP

Remember a simpler time when you knew fuck-all about punk and just wanted to rage as hard as you could with some of the early records you found out through your friend’s older sibling? This is the feeling you get from Melbourne punks CUTTERS’ EP. They take every early DEAD KENNEDYS album, cut it, chew it up, and spit it out. A fun record for pure hardcore punk lovers. Short, fast, and to-the-point, just like this review!

Dabblin’ I Was Almost an Astronaut Once cassette

At first listen, my very first thought was that this reminds me of Plan-It-X stuff, but if those bands paid their electricity bills and decided to trade in their acoustic guitars and washboards for amps and loud guitars. This thought remained with me while listening due to the vocals and the delivery of said vocals. My second thought was how fun seeing this band live must be. Eight songs total, with the last one being an acoustic song. All in all a fun release, and one I’ll surely be revisiting. If I had one complaint, it would be that I wish there were just a couple more songs here.

Dead Meat I’m an Infection EP

I’m not a big fan of record descriptions like “no frills” or “back to roots,” but I think either of those are pretty applicable to this EP. DEAD MEAT pulls inspiration from punk classics like X or the GERMS, and they do it well. True to fashion, none of the four tracks are longer than two minutes; plenty of time to get your aggression in, but not enough to tire you out. Although this record is pretty straightforward and familiar for most, the songs are still catchy and gnarly enough to get your kicks in. Classic punk done right.

Desborde Single 2021 cassette

Hard to describe how much territory DESORBE covers in just two tracks. Starting with a steady punk churn fronted by fierce high-end hardcore vocals, by the end of the first track it feels like you’re listening to an outtake from Panorama (the best record by the CARS)…and then the next cut launches shamelessly into a keyboard-driven hardcore freakout. After the first listen, I was confused. But the same two jammers are on the flip, and after the second listen…? I was in love.

Dicks Hate the Police EP reissue

This EP is 40 years old and its relevance couldn’t be more important or timely. This is the second reissue, the first being in 2012. During its production and pressing, George Floyd was murdered, focusing a hyper-lens on the ongoing abuse and savagery carried out by the nation’s police forces. The record came out last summer amidst the despot führer’s election year antics and the protests in our nation’s streets. “Hate the Police” has been covered many times, each one failing to reach the impact and authenticity of Gary Floyd’s vocal delivery or the perfectly imperfect raw, cavernous recording of the original band. The lyrics and delivery of the song are so much more than a simple “punks vs. police” dichotomy. The hate and sadistic oppression that encompasses a personal sphere mirrors that of our society on a systemic level. I’m not a pessimist, but when Gary Floyd growls “You can’t find justice, it’ll find you,” I know this song will still be relevant and necessary 40 years from now.

Die Atlantikschwimmer Die Atlantikschwimmer 12″ reissue

After their waxing of DIE ATLANTIKSCHWIMMER’s debut cassette, Static Age reissues the German group’s self-titled follow-up. Originally coming out in 1985 on the legendary Zickzack label, this Atlantic swimmer is even more streamlined than its predecessor. The water this combo wades in resists being roiled, hanging out instead in the placid end of the pool. You’ll find no lack of ponderous bass tones and thudding drum machines, occasionally spiced with pre-modern instruments like accordion. There is an intriguing frozen quality to DIE ATLANTIKSCHWIMMER’s impeccably produced songs; they flirt with pop structures but ultimately remain at a distance from mainstream aesthetics. Call it “Factory on the Rhine.” “Komm Mit Mir” repurposes a song from the debut and imparts the feeling of drifting along a canal as centuries-old buildings loom in the background. There is something undeniably romantic and—forgive this ugly American—European about DIE ATLANTIKSCHWIMMER; yet, the album doesn’t quite satisfy whatever foolish notions this listener harbors about a lost weekend in a far-off city. All deserted streets and darting shadows, the whispered, seductive menace of “Film Mit Überlänge” is closer to my idea of a good time in an unfamiliar locale. Keep the carriage ride, gimme the foot chase.

Collective Hardcore / Disco Junk split EP

What we have here is a double-dose of Melbourne teen go-getter Billiam, a.k.a. Billy Twyford!  You get a couple of tracks from his full band DISCO JUNK on the A-side, and three tracks from his solo recording project COLLECTIVE HARDCORE on the flip. I’ve had trouble deciding which I prefer, which I guess suggests both are pretty good. But I think the COLLECTIVE HARDCORE side takes it by a hair. The weirdo self-aware egg-punk (listen out for a CONEHEADS sample) works a little better than the straightforward, garage-y KBD stuff from DISCO JUNK. Plus, “Panic Attack” really smokes!

Dry Socket Shiver cassette

Scathing and brutal hardcore out of Portland, Oregon that delivers an impressive wall of unflinching attitude. The record label described it as “unapologetic,” which initially sounded to me like kind of a generic punk descriptor—like, when have punks ever been apologetic (with the exception of Milwaukee’s chronically unsung the APOLOGETICS)? But, it turns out I agree that DRY SOCKET really drips with whatever it is that is the opposite of an apology. There’s plenty to love here with the heaviest of breakdowns, occasional weird guitar riffs, and experimental timing. But the real gem is the hurricane-force vocals, steeped in such a thick concentration of fury that they are legitimately kind of terrifying, an effect that keeps growing the more times I listen through.

Education Parenting Style EP

After the excellent Culture LP also released on Symphony Of Destruction, EDUCATION is back with a new EP. Dark and primitive post-punk, almost like a gloomier version of DIÄT or a less crazy INSTITUTE. Parenting Style has four amazing tracks that will stick to you like glue. One of the best post-punk bands out there.

Emboscada Demo 2020 cassette

Gruesome vocals from Argentina reminiscent of BLAZING EYE, SODOM, ELECTROCUTIONER; things of a gruesome metallic punk nature. I love that the first song is “No!” and the last song is “Nada.” Otherwise, I’m picking up “my head” and “your house;” songs seething in melodic aggression. The construct feels derived from ’80s Latin American hardcore in its diminutive distortion, with some aspects of ’80s US hardcore in the more anthemic upbeats. This contrast, plus the vocals (some femme vocals), the production, and the various tones, all create a unique demo. Long enough to be interesting, short enough to be wanting more.

End of Hope Cease & Destroy LP

Heavy rock’n’roll-tinged stoner jams, pulled through time from the mid-1990s “noise rock played by old punks” brand of heavy alt. The difference is that END OF HOPE still opens it up from time to time, and maybe it’s the variation that sets them apart. Massive guitar tonnage and killer riffs, Cease & Destroy hits hard and swings hard, like a thinking person’s grunge/stoner hybrid. Distinct piercing growls from former KRAUT frontman Gunner ensure that this record doesn’t sound like anything else on your shelf. Self-released on CD in 2019, slapped onto shiny green wax by Chain Reaction.

Exposure Atonement LP

Mannheim-based metallic hardcore powerhouse EXPOSURE is back with a full-length. Atonement unleashes ten metallic hardcore tracks full of thrash metal influence that mainly comes from their geographical location, mixed with Cleveland-style hardcore like INTEGRITY or RINGWORM, and coupled with the H8000 legendary sound of bands like CONGRESS and LIAR. This concoction is deadly and can even get to fans of the crossover stuff like POWER TRIP. They did not discover fire but they can surely set everything ablaze.

Fake Last Name It’ll Happen Again cassette

Shape-shifting post-punk from a new Baton Rouge, Louisiana solo endeavor dubbed FAKE LAST NAME, with scribble-scratch guitar, limber bass lines, skittish beats, and perfectly affectless vocals all assembled in a series of quick, economical audio bricolages that are decidedly offbeat, but not at the expense of an accessible and sneaky playfulness. There’s the sparse, concise ROSA YEMEN-style No Wave exercises “FFSN” and “Demeanor,” backmasked loops circling behind abstracted spoken vignettes and a singular fuzzed-out bass note repeated into oblivion on “Persona,” cowbell-accented deconstructed dance rhythms pushing “Window” forward, and the anxious, agitated twitch in “Service!” (and its dryly acidic “thank you, thank you for your service!” refrain) that hits a similar nerve center as MARAUDEUR’s modern redux of DIY Euro-wave, just with a touch more of a late ’70s US art-punk preoccupation. The real freak sound of now!

False Truce MMXX cassette

Chris Pfeffer has had a hand in some of the best punk Texas has produced in the last two decades—STORM THE TOWER, OBEDIENCE, SEVERED HEAD OF STATE, J CHURCH, CRIATURAS, SIGNAL LOST, the list goes on (and on)—and when civilization closed up shop last year he did what any self-respecting genius would do: he made a record. By himself. Very much a sum of its (his) parts, FALSE TRUCE sounds absolutely like Chris—the guitars take the Mould model to another level, the full-charge D-beat lurch, and honest and blunt delivery of honest and blunt lyrics. Hopefully this project doesn’t fade into a COVID haze, because the world needs FALSE TRUCE.

Fox Face End of Man LP

Milwaukee quartet FOX FACE makes a slow and soft but extremely sharp mind-melting version of Midwest punk. The band doesn’t rely on fast grooves or crushing riffs, instead allowing for the music to build in chaotic rhythm. No extra padding needed; just true guitar-led punk rock. The tracks on this LP are lyrically potent, describing our turbulent times in true sneering punk fashion. They take influence from a wide variety of punk bands all the way from VIOLENT FEMMES to SLEATER-KINNEY. Truly a very cathartic and timely release.

Fun Time Objects C20/20 Go-Go! LP

First, I’m just gonna admit that I can’t tell if the title of this record is a reference to eye testing (strongly supported by the vision-chart-inspired album artwork), the controversial introduction of tapes and home dubbing into the music scene, the calendar year, or the comet C2020. The multiple possibilities of meanings fit in with the reality of a band from Brooklyn releasing a proto-punk record in 2020. The retro sound is perfectly convincing—upbeat and snotty, accented with tambourine, and topped with a dissociative op-art album insert. What does anything mean? The perennial threat of neo-fascism is bulging at Reagan-era levels, but the world is in many ways unrecognizable compared to the world that first spawned punk’s irreverent minimalism. Instead of being an aggressive challenge to the old days’ buttoned-up social order, this lands as more of a return to simpler times when pushing the system’s buttons was so much easier. This record might be the musical equivalent of sniffing glue, and maybe that’s what some of us need right now.

G.A.Z.E. Sielun Tuli demo cassette

Self-described “Super Dimension Hard Core!!!!” bringing a brightly packaged cassette in yellow with many psychedelic aspects to it. This may be a reference to the MANBIKI CHOCOLATE compilation, from the look and sound of it? The sound—this is like PAINTBOX and TURBONEGRO meets GISM and ZOUO, with Oi!/Scandi-folk anthemic cheering and fully demonic verse vocals like BEHERIT, IMPALED NAZARENE, and MARERIDT. Psychotic metal punk!!! Ungodly and totally scorching!!! I’m scared to submit a review of this diabolical treat! One thing is for sure, it just melted my face off. If you’re looking  for something totally insane, non-stop confounding, and well, I am 100% fucking convinced—”Super Dimension Hard Core!!!!” Get this!

Girl Guided Missiles Desperate Men / Fully Qualified Robot 7″ reissue

This is a reissue of the GIRL GUIDED MISSILES’ only 7″, originally released in 1979. They have a catchy, amateurish sound that will be familiar to fans of late ’70s post-punk bands from the north of England. The songs are longer than most bands of the era, but they never lose steam. They keep on rockin’ out to the end. Two great songs. A great reissue.

Golpe La Colpa È Solo Tua LP

Just as predicted in my review of the GOLPE’s Promo 2020 cassette, this album fucking kicks ass. Tadzio Pederzolli from KOMPLOTT and SEMPRE PEGGIO managed to keep expectations high and deliver an amazingly fresh D-beat-infused hardcore record. It’s great to see punk bands that use their political views as weapons against ignorance and prejudice, as not many bands these days talk openly about their beliefs. Just head on over to his Bandcamp and grab a shirt, with proceeds going to Brigate Volontarie. Everything about this record screams activism and solidarity. This is what punk is supposed to be.

Haiboku Un Nuevo Poder EP

At first spin, you feel like you are listening to a lost EP of KURO, GUDON, or some other ’80s Japanese hardcore band. In fact, this band HAIBOKU comes from Mexico City, but they learned their Japanese hardcore well. The name is Japanese, they sound Japanese, and even have a sick GUDON cover at their Bandcamp. Un Nuevo Poder is their second EP, and definitely check it out if you like your hardcore fast and unpredictable…and hummm…Japanese!

Hallucination Hallucination cassette

I’ve been loving all the stuff that’s been falling on my ears from Philadelphia. What a great scene you have there! HALLUCINATION presents their self-titled first cassette, five tracks of obsessive guitar noise that meshes D-beat, rough punk, and crazed crust. Get the cassette tape for the exclusive POISON IDEA cover.  Songs are short and violent with riffs that replicate themselves as they morph into a destructive nuclear squall, scorching a city in just a few minutes. This EP is a place to inhabit, so take your time to listen to it repeatedly and grasp the slowly revealing melodies and hooks, catchy guitar riffs, and pounding drums between the manic thickness of the guitar tone.  Just play this loud and demolish your last vestiges of hope.

Hatã Demo 2021 cassette

HATÃ, “hard” in the Guarani language, is the name of this band formed in Barcelona in the middle of the pandemic by people from Paraguay, London, and Colombia. International solidarity manifests itself in beautiful ways when we see migrants from different countries come together to create noise that denounces global injustices and share the experiences of those who seek to destroy the borders that divide us so artificially. It reminds me of the sound of ’90s South American and Mexican hardcore: raw, brutal, with enough room to breathe and wait for the stampede of the next riff. Beautiful and intense. This is their first demo of four songs, and it comes with a fanzine if you want to get it on cassette.

Headlice Vol. 1 EP

Debut EP from this Brisbane band fronted by the CHATS frontman Eamon Sandwith, and it’s certainly an interesting one. We’re treated to six quick tracks that, to my ears, call to mind a mix of NYHC, UK street punk, the DICKIES…and a goddamn synthesizer! Look, I by no means hate synths, but this one drowns out what I think would otherwise be some pretty cool tunes. Like, even 30% less synth, and I’m probably 100% on board. Recommended for people who think BAD NOIDS should sound more like the EPOXIES.

Health Plan Health Plan cassette

Must admit to having low-ish expectations for this one for a few jumbled reasons (artwork apparently completed in a two-minute time limit, recording process described as “we plugged guitars straight into a laptop,” members’ other bands USA NAILS and DEAD ARMS never truly doing it for me with their recorded product), but the debut release by London band HEALTH PLAN has some very agreeable moments of mangled punk electro No Wave. The nasty recording is actually a boon in fact, assuming you can get with clipping-heavy digital snowstorms, and the injections of sax skronk boost the gnarl nicely; vocals are largely semi-spoken and often buried in the mix. A sound I most readily associate with the first decade of this millennium—which makes it more fun to hear now!—HEALTH PLAN are working similar angles to XBXRX, PRE, and NO BABIES in times recent or less so.

Hélène Barbier Regulus LP

Second solo LP from HÉLÈNE BARBIER, formerly of Québecoise trio MOSS LIME and joined here by a cast of collaborators from the Celluloid Lunch family. MOSS LIME’s version of spartan, spectral art-punk wandered through labyrinths similar to the ones constructed by YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS and the RAINCOATS forty years prior, and Regulus largely follows suit—sing-song vocals (in both English and French) with a touch of languid chilliness, stripped-down and unhurried beats, angular single-note guitar twang, pop songs run through post-punk machinery. BARBIER’s lyrical delivery serves the skittish rhythms of tracks like “Get a Grip” and “Regulus” just as much as the bass and drums, with words and phrases drawn out and repeated until the distinctions between language and sound start to break down, while muted swells of keyboard add to the otherworldly fever dream vibe of “Jersey Swap” and “Lightly,” and her gauzy take on “You Little Nothing” by the GORIES is somehow even more bare-bones than the original, with only some brief mangled guitar racket keeping it from completely drifting into the ether. Lovely.

Hideous Sun Demon Development Hell EP

Hailing from Australia, HIDEOUS SUN DEMON absolutely kills it on this 7″, recorded at the legendary Flightless Records HQ. Four tight and punchy punk songs that spit attitude, what else do you really need? Occasionally mixing synths and other psychedelic noises, the sound is reminiscent of OMNI or PREOCCUPATIONS. The final cut “Australia” feels a little slower, more like JOY DIVISION. Overall, very excited to hear more from the group.

Hrdinové Nové Fronty Obyčejní Hrdinové 2xLP

HRDINOVÉ NOVÉ FRONTY was a punk band from Jihlava, about halfway between Prague and Brno in Czechoslovakia. A couple punks from the region have told me they were one of the more legendary bands pre-Velvet Revolution, and this appears to be their second offering from 1987, originally released as a cassette and here on vinyl for the first time. The production is simple but punchy, very vocal-forward, and from what I can tell through internet research it’s considered the pinnacle of HNF’s output. Imagine DEZERTER mixed with DEAD KENNEDYS demos, and maybe a dash of NOMEANSNO. It comes off both direct and sophisticated. PHR puts together a nice package, no translations for us non-Czech speakers but I don’t imagine many folks outside the region are asking for it. I was previously only familiar with the album Válečný Území­, but Obyčejní Hrdinové (“Ordinary Heroes”) is more palatable and probably the best introduction to the band.

Innuendo Losing Again demo cassette

Simple, straightforward, and brash, the head-bobbing hardcore on this three-song demo hits the spot. This Wisconsin band’s rockin’ mid-tempo style channels O.G. punk spirit in the vein of early BLACK FLAG and NEGATIVE APPROACH, and it sounds awesomely refreshing right about now. This one even slid onto my Top Ten for 2020 based on its pure potency, and get this—it’s just two guys: a vocalist and an everything-else man making this excellent racket. With any luck this strong little tape is just a teaser for a more comprehensive INNUENDO attack to come.

Joy Joy cassette

Launching with forceful, haunting vocals amid minimal post-punk drumming, super-fuzzed-out bass, and atonal but brutally intentional guitar flourishes, this tape is exciting from the first moment. The next tracks venture more toward a danceable post-punk sound, folding in synth drums and vocals that duel rhythmically with the driving, syncopated instruments. JOY nods to the legacy of anarcho-punk bands like LOST CHERREES and CRASS’ Penis Envy, while also echoing the post-punk sensibilities of bands like DELTA 5 and ESG. They apply an expansive sense of imagination, breaking genre rules and creating songs that embody duality: enraged yet disciplined, sweetly harmonized yet unnerving, viscerally human yet mediated with electronics. Definitely not to be missed.

Klapper Klapper cassette

More minimal grooves spawned from Berlin’s new wave of Neue Deutsche Welle, this time courtesy of the drum machine-abetted duo KLAPPER. Like hometown peers AUS and OSTSEETRAUM, KLAPPER is upholding the German tradition of disaffected, synthesized post-punk, but they’ve added some spacious, dub-inspired turns that both play into the starkness of that particular sound and moderate the overall severity of it. The reductive electro-punk rhythms of “Exciting Life” are paired with beyond-impersonal vocals chronicling the rote tasks of modern life (work, phone calls, trips to the post office, consuming food for sustenance) before ultimately landing on an ice-cold command to “be happy and satisfied” that cuts straight to the bone, while the similarly deadpan lyrical focus of “Success” (“Life is about success / And I have success”) hits a little differently against a white funk bounce of busy bass and writhing guitar. When KLAPPER descends into seedy synth-wave—really just on the instrumentals “Rattle Stork” and “Crane”—it’s not quite as compelling, but I’ll take the rest of it (that downer-ESG throb of “Born to Obey”!) in a heartbeat.

Knowso Rare Auld Trip / Psychological Garden LP

KNOWSO is a unique meld of off-kilter post-punk, new wave, and a dash of CAPTAIN BEEFHEART weirdness. Much like the first time I heard BEEFHEART’s Trout Mask Replica, I came away a little confused by my first listen to this record. It’s hard to pin down genre-wise, quirky as hell, and totally unlike most of what you hear in today’s punk scene. That being said, a few more listens to the record were enough for me to realize what a goddamn masterpiece this record is. Truly one of the most creative, unique, genre-bending releases of the year. The band has stumbled upon a punchier, noisier take on DEVO that still feels forward-thinking in the 21st century. It’s witty and sarcastic, but also profound, striking a nice balance lyrically. This is a highlight release of the year for me.

Krupps Prospect Street cassette

Unlikely to be confused with DIE KRUPPS by anyone who takes time to listen, KRUPPS are from Nottingham and feature one of that city’s great BLOODY HEAD on guitar. Prospect Street is their second album-length tape, packaged like a cassingle (ask a Gen X-er), and it matches its predecessor, 2019’s Players, for het-up ranting shit-fi. These songs tend to be notably slower and dirgier than before, though, with the three musicians’ jangly slop energy reshaped into a murky, detuned plod. Similarly, where vocalist Alan Martin once sounded like someone unloading several years’ worth of frustration inside 25 minutes, here his demeanour contributes to a beaten-down and frankly depressing sounding album. Let me be clear—this is all good gravy to my ears, and by accident or design KRUPPS have found a sound both singular and fucked. Maybe think CERAMIC HOBS meets NO TREND as shorthand to try and grab your interest?

Kto Ukradł Ciastka Rozdział 1992–1993 LP

I had never heard of KTO UKRADŁ CIASTKA when I went to Poland for the first time in 2003 and WHN? played the Refuse 10th Anniversary show. KTO UKRADŁ CIASTKA had reformed for that one gig and it was clear that their influence was strong in the DIY scene…it was also completely fucking wild. A vinyl reissue of the first cassette release on Refuse Records, Rozdział 1992–1993 captures the band live in 1993 and a rehearsal from ’92. The audience recordings are pretty rough, but the record settles in after the first few tracks, and the power really comes out when they hit their stride around “Butapren.” The rehearsal, however, is amazing—seven doses of pure fire from a band bridging the gap from classic ska/reggae-infused ’80s Polish punk to the then-modern world of European DIY hardcore, with a sharp triple-vocal attack and constant urge to speed up and fall (or fly) off the rails. Political, straightedge, pro-animal rights, KTO UKRADŁ CIASTKA was blazing their own trail in early 1990s Poland, and this document was clearly put together by someone who followed in their wake. Just a couple of hundred copies, with a gorgeous printed booklet full of photo and flyers and a previously unavailable recording of the anti-fascist anthem “RAAF.” I highly recommend reading the label’s write-up on the history of the band and the release—perhaps it’s a copout to send a reader to the label, but in this case there’s an extensive and personal history with the band, and few people can put their importance in context better. An incredible release.

Last Point A Beaten Path CD

Hailing from the central coast of California, LAST POINT plays the kind of melodic skate punk that wouldn’t be out of place amongst some of genre’s heaviest hitters. In fact, this album sounds like it was meant to be at the very least considered for a 7″ or a track on a Fat Music comp, but was just unearthed from some secret vault deep beneath the Fat Wreck office.

Lethal Model Citizen demo cassette

Oof. If you needed a convincer on the virility of the current NYHC scene, this oughta do the trick. LETHAL’s barreling and pointed brand of punk is the kind that fills the air with tangible electricity. If I can feel it in my house, it must be pretty intense live. The music is vicious and urgent, and this guy is screaming his ass off in a way that sounds like it’s going to hurt later. “Model Citizen” is a brutal way to start the show. The last song, “Poison Age,” somehow actually sounds poisonous. These tracks just rip right through you. Let’s hope for another dose of LETHAL soon.

Maladia Sacred Fires 12″

When I saw MALADIA play, close on eighteen months ago, they were billed second to PERMISSION, and while those two groups diverge somewhat from a baseline sound—one more weird, the other more ferocious—together they’re top of the line in modern London hardcore. Sacred Fires is MALADIA’s first vinyl release after a 2019 demo, and they have upped the (already intense) intensity for twelve minutes and five slippery rippers. John Weston sounds extra anarcho-aggro on the mic and the VOID via post-Pope Adrian RUDIMENTARY PENI blown-out deathrock vibe gets rolled up in a comparably more psychedelic carpet on the B-side. This is feeling like a sleeper hit of 2021 DIY punk.

Moron Moron cassette

Freaky and lighthearted hardcore from Berlin, that tends to bleed into some art-punk territory in its down-tempo moments. The track “Ants in My Pants” brings listeners back down to earth, like all the way on the ground, where everybody can get weird and nobody needs to be taking themselves too seriously. This is for you, if you are into fun and refreshing weirdo hardcore.

Motherfucker Teresa Old News is Still New News cassette

Erratic song structures and a recording that leans heavily on the high end amp the intensity of this dual-vocal Denver outfit. MOTHERFUCKER TERESA would have fit in nicely on a mid-’90s Gilman bill with BLACK FORK; jumpy lurches turn into nasty, guitar-driven political punk—and with tracks like “Me and Mitch McConnell in a Dark Alley,” I think you can pick up where they’re coming from pretty quickly.

Mundo Primitivo Paisaje Interior cassette

Sydney’s MUNDO PRIMITIVO is a band formed just last year with Melissa from Colombia’s ABUSO and members of MORTE LENTA, ILL BRIGADE, PHOTOGENIC, and MUM. This six-song tape is sung in Spanish, but you can get the lyrics in English on their Bandcamp. I urge you to do that, just to get the full message of the band: the personal is political, but if the personal is imploding while the world burns, what are we supposed to do? To resist is the answer. There is a hallucinatory edge to the images painted by the lyrics, the urgency of action is so strong it takes the form of expressionist and vitalist imagery. Sonically, we’re talking about some intense and gripping hardcore with catchy riffs and energetic performances; it reminded me of early ’80s Southern Californian bands like the GERMS or T.S.O.L. Anyway, this is one of the best punk releases of the year. You can feel and smell the sweat dripping from each song.  I particularly loved “Medium” with its very deathrock-y slow intro, noisy guitar feedback, and slightly pysch hardcore finale. You can get the single-sided tape, with beautiful original artwork printed by Melissa, on Static Shock Records. Also important, all proceeds from this release are donated directly to all the people resisting fascist state violence in Colombia.

Nancy Nancy Goes Country LP

This is the European version of the same album that was released in the US by Fullerton juggernaut Neck Chop Records. The opening track and album title are a satirical tease, suggesting that these pop-slop-punk veterans turned in their Chuck Taylors and Fenders for cowboy boots and steel guitars. Given this band’s hilarious character acting in their videos, I half believed it. I was expecting something like CLOROX GIRLS’ Justin Maurer’s recent forays into country and western music or the SUPERSUCKERS’ Must’ve Been High album, but the country joke ends after the first track. Which is fine, because the rest of the album is packed with their tight, witty two-piece power punk songs. I’ve been a fan since their 2013 debut, and they just keep getting better.

Endless Bore / Numbskull split cassette

Split cassette of two current Australian bands. ENDLESS BORE from Melbourne plays heavy powerviolence-inspired hardcore with repetitive heady breakdowns. I have reviewed one of this band’s previous cassettes and these songs feel much more involved than the prior release, with a more prominent emphasis on brutality. NUMBSKULL from Sydney meshes well on this split, but they bring a more fastcore approach to the extreme music on this cassette. Unbelievably short songs played at blistering speeds. “Mozart and Beethoven can suck a wet fart / This is hardcore punk, not the fine arts.” Respect, NUMBSKULL, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Opposite Sex High Drama LP

OPPOSITE SEX from Dunedin, New Zealand has this fuzzed-out guitar sound that reminds me of the first GRINDERMAN LP. Without it these tunes could fall into conventional indie rock, but the noise, paired with an idiosyncratic delivery, eradicates any sentimentality or sweetness that would undermine the whole thing. My favourites are the tunes with a more hectic pace like the killer opener “Shoots Me Like a Knife,” or “Combine Harvester,” both songs featuring twisted, extended choruses in which Lucy Hunter’s vocals chant with an equal amount of joy and malice. I love how messy this record gets at times. Longer tunes like the “Dick on a Throne” (“Don’t call me a girl, I’m an adult!”) and “Owls Do Cry” show a willingness to have songs that space out and don’t adhere to normal song structures. Less-than-polished drums and slightly off-kilter vocals make it sound more legit and reckless rather than amateur hour. I understand their earlier stuff is less heavy, but High Drama is more KILLDOZER than Flying Nun.

Opus Good Procedures / The Atrocity 7″ reissue

I must admit: I’ve always been a little perplexed as to how this single came to be such a rarefied bonzer. Released in 1979 in a micro-edition of 200 copies (deepest of ironies that, considering it’s about the standard run these days), OPUS has spent the 21st century skyrocketing in value (Discogs clocks a $3,500 sale with no pic sleeve). OPUS was an L.A.-area band that played a few gigs and managed to squeeze out this two-sider before vanishing in a cloud of dust. As they continue to mine for rare gold, Meat House has been on a tear lately, so it’s quite a feat that they managed to secure such a “holy grail” for re-release and reappraisal. So how da tunes, you ask? Well, they’re fucking perplexing—”Good Procedures” is a head-scratcher of an A-side. It straight-up sounds like a demo of a mid-tempo rock song that sits somewhere between snoozeville AOR and the least-exciting almost-post-punk cut you can name off the top of your head (so proto-indie rock, basically). It is truly so underwhelming that someone out there should be demanding a $3,495 refund based on this side alone. But then you flip it over and “The Atrocity” comes ripping through the speakers and the current price tag almost starts to make sense (but not really, I mean c’mon, what the fuck). “The Atrocity” features gnarly guitar strangling at near-hardcore tempos and even has a hook, so there ya go—an actual punk rock song. At least this version comes with a guaranteed cover. For less than a twenty dolla holla, you too, can own an overrated slice of punk rock history.

Plague Thirteen Plague Thirteen LP

It’s dark. It’s heavy. It’s oppressive. It induces moshing. It’s the debut album from PLAGUE THIRTEEN, a crust punk band from Czech Republic formed by ex-members of LINK and SORE in 2019. Inspired by last year’s COVID lockdown, the band presents six songs that achieve a really satisfying balance between expansive arrangements (like the brutal breakdowns of “Eyes Wide Open”), guitar epicness, D-beat fury, and full-on assaults and melodic richness.  If you wanna sample the intense power they can produce, I command you to listen to “Saturated Black,” which veers into extreme metal territory with some vicious riffing and death metal growls.

Plava Laguna Cobalt Blue cassette

PLAVA LAGUNA delivers an impressively fully-realized goth electronic sound, reminiscent of SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES but with plenty of updates. It’s unusual to see a group in this format get everything this right, but PLAVA LAGUNA totally nails it. The moody electronic compositions, velvety and ethereal vocals, pacing, and mix are all seamless. This band sounds like they could be headlining goth festivals and I was just the last person to hear about them.

Poison Tribe State Sanctioned Violence cassette

Full-throated crust churn—another killer contribution from the folks at Chain Reaction. The vocals are exhausting, lyrics descending into a breathless “aaaarrrggghhhh“ instead of words, and trying to keep up with the all-go low-end attack. Five songs here—definitely looking forward to more in the future.

Predator Spiral Unfolds LP

After dropping the great GG KING record just a couple of months ago, Total Punk pulls a “While I’ve got you guys…” and ends up with a new LP from the other unsung heroes and elder statesmen of Atlanta’s punk scene, PREDATOR (who share two…maybe three members with GG KING). It’s technically their first LP since 2014’s The Complete Earth, but you’d be forgiven for not recognizing that, seeing as how one of the main creative forces behind the band, Brannon Greene, has also dropped a slew of records with his other projects NAG and GET HIGH BOYS—bands that sound similar enough that I (a true Predhead sicko) would have trouble differentiating were you to randomly play their songs at me. What’s maybe most surprising about this LP is how much it stands apart from previous PREDATOR releases (and other Brannon projects). There’s still plenty of the nihilistic post-punk-tinged hardcore that these guys have been delivering since 2009(!)—and it’s still great—but this is a much more varied affair than what we’ve gotten from them in the past. “Confessional” features an honest-to-god vocal melody, and “Hands Reaching Out” (maybe my favorite track on the album) could even be described as gentle. It’s just great to hear a band that’s been around this long doing whatever they want while clearly staying the same band and having it turn out this good. Also, quite the handsome sleeve on this one!

Psykik Vylence Psykik Vylence EP

ERIK NERVOUS goes hardcore! Or to sacrifice snappiness for the sake of accuracy, Erik Nervous, né Hart, (the person) has a new one-man recording project, PSYKIK VYLENCE, where he plays hardcore. Either way, it’s really good! This EP, initially issued as a cassette by Richter Scale in the UK and now pressed to 7″ by Under the Gun, runs for about ten minutes and features Erik absolutely blazing through seven tracks, all of which bear little resemblance to his previous projects. There’s a touch of that herky-jerky, start/stop sound that you just can’t scrub out of these Midwestern kids, but otherwise this is straightforward, angry hardcore punk. He’s even replaced his trademark nerdy yelp with a booming crusty grunt. It’s quite a transformation! Calls to mind a quirkier, punker BREAKDOWN or a tougher, less trebly LAFFING GAS. Get on it!

Quit It! Let It Burn EP

Four tracks of socio-political anthemic punk with some well-placed street and Irish elements. A pandemic-midst project from the Calgary-based RIVER JACKS that hopefully will keep going. Sounds as if Jack Dalrymple of ONE MAN ARMY fronted AMERICAN STEEL. Those were both pretty good bands.

Deafkids / Rakta Live at SESC Pompéia LP

The evolution of São Paulo’s RAKTA and Rio’s DEAFKIDS from, respectively, gothic post-punx and a solo crust project into their recent psych-freak heights has been hugely satisfying to witness, and also seemed to bring the two groups into each other’s orbit. Witnessed them both smash it live when they toured Europe together in 2019, including a decent chunk of RAKTA’s set which in fact saw both bands onstage—bringing us to this album, recorded live in São Paulo a little later in the year with all six members performing as a singular noise unit. You get two songs each from the most recent RAKTA and DEAFKIDS albums, plus both sides of the collaborative 7″ they made for that tour, and not only is it a spot-on recording, for the most part it sounds notably different—jammier, trippier, wormholier—to the studio versions. In this, Sesc Pompeia gets past the common problem of complete pointlessness associated with live albums. The presence of two drummers is key, helping to make RAKTA’s “Miragem” into a major Krautrock rave-up, and the rendition of “Espirais Da Loucura” by DEAFKIDS that closes this LP gets on a buckwild cosmic jazz tip.

Nervous SS / Rat Cage Skopje vs Sheffield split LP

A battle between two hardcore bands that are a match made in hell. In the left corner is NERVOUS SS from Macedonia, a vicious TOTALITÄR-esque hardcore killing machine keeping the Scandinavian sound alive. In the right corner is RAT CAGE from the UK, same core as the above but with a more USHC influence from bands like POISON IDEA. Sometimes punk splits seem like a dumping ground for unreleased material. Not in this case—you get the sense that you are listening to a full album. So, who has won in this battle of Skopje vs Sheffield? The fucking punk scene!

Rata Negra Una Vida Vulgar LP

Finally, the highly anticipated new album of Madrid’s RATA NEGRA is here, and it’s a treat. It is a pleasure to realize that this ability for melody has become their main weapon. Each of the songs on Una Vida Vulgar (“A Vulgar Life”) have memorable choruses; you can imagine yourself singing them at the top of your lungs as soon as you hear them for the first time. We are facing direct and fresh songs, perfectly structured to generate the greatest emotional impact on the listener, the desperation and boredom of life in 2021 are reflected in the lyrics and in a hint of generational sadness that contrasts and makes more powerful the vital energy of the music: amphetamine pills for people who no longer have anything to lose, all with a sound that is already absolutely personal; dark melodic punk, desolate power pop. A new classic.

Reiser 1000 Neue Polizisten LP

Leipzig’s REISER comes as a breath of fresh air. It’s not that synth-punk is overdone, it’s that bands rarely have the courage to explore outside the confines of what has been established as “cool”. The paradox of course being, how do you find the next cool thing if you won’t take a risk? (See me if you want to have an intense three-hour conversation about this.) Anyway, REISER is taking these risks, and it’s great. This record is full of influences, from KRAFTWERK to ’77 punk to CHAIN AND THE GANG, but the real exciting thing is how they are making those influences their own and turning them into something new.

Repo Fam Whipped Cream EP

I liked this mix of sugary indie pop confections wrapped in gauzy distortion from Baltimore’s REPO FAM. “King of Marvin Gardens” sounds like SONIC YOUTH’S “Beauty Lies in the Eye” with its echoing spoken vocals and hazy strumming. If you’re going to nick the style, go for the best, so no hard feelings here. It’s a great song from a perfect influence. “Psycho Bombs” is a short noise-pop gem with simple catchy melodies and warm lo-fi production. “Whipped Cream” has a slightly atonal guitar/vocal interplay that gives a little art school scrappiness to the bedroom pop. “Here We Come” is a simple and effective garage stomper with the words “Here we come / Join the fun.” It sounds spooky and has some howling (from synth or werewolf, I don’t know) in the background. It’s fun in a stripped-down ’60s garage rock-meets-’90s indie way. If you have a sweet tooth for pop that’s rough around the edges, definitely check out REPO FAM.

Schiach 2 LP

Over the last five years, there’s been no shortage of TOTAL CONTROL-type bands on the international scene. I’m here to tell you that SCHIACH is one of the finer such units. Maybe that’s because their influences stretch all the way back to the original German post-punk scene and they utilize drum machines as effectively as they use guitars. In accordance with the genre, 2 is packed full of paranoia. All manner of clanking sounds ricochet around the agitated vocals, often sounding like a parody of industrial-influenced club music; a lo-tech MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT, perhaps. But instead of sending up Christianity and hard rock, SCHIACH seems to be mocking modern surveillance culture, and that’s something this reviewer can get behind.

Sectarian Bloom Sectarian Bloom cassette

A modern post-punk outfit that draws from well-established influences like BAUHAUS, SISTERS OF MERCY, and JOY DIVISION. Atmospheric guitars that sound like they are echoing through a gothic cathedral, and are accompanied by driving drumbeats and darkly melodic vox. Music for vampires to get down to.

Signal to Trust Albatross Sessions cassette

A cassette release of recordings from way back in the year 2000 from this now-defunct band. Frankly, it’s criminal that these tracks are just getting their first “official” release now. Quirky, dynamic post-punk with stop/start math rock rhythms, brittle D. Boon/BEEFHEART guitar, and earnest vocals. A joyous mashup of all your favorite things from MISSION OF BURMA to SQUIRREL BAIT to SHELLAC to BIG BOYS, SIGNAL TO TRUST is exactly the band you needed 21 years ago and you didn’t even know it. Now you can correct the error.

Speedbilly Raise Hell, Praise Dale! CD

NASCAR punk from Minnesota! No really, it’s a thing. Most folks looking at this would be expecting some hard ZEKE and NINE POUND HAMMER worship, which isn’t that far off, but there is an element of pop punk flowing through this well-worn manifold and it’s not such a bad thing in this context. The lyrics to “Doin’ It for Dale” are pretty funny. Oh hell, I have to say it…give it a spin!

Spirit of Revolt Brick demo cassette

Debut release from this Northern Colorado band. SPIRIT OF REVOLT hits the streets running with six songs of politically-driven punk rock. Mid-tempo drums, driving repetitive riffs, shouted anarchist/anti-capitalist lyrics, “Oi!s” peppered in for good measure, what’s not to like?

Stella Research Committee A Proposed Method for Determining Sanding Fitness LP

File under difficult listening. Imagine the sardonic noise rock of CHERUBS with the wild No Wave of DNA with the destructo synth of THROBBING GRISTLE, all played at the same time. Let’s throw some free jazz drumming in the mix too, just for funsies. Never not interesting, these tracks feature stuttering drum machine patterns with syncopated live drums on top, atonal strumming, and an ever-present synth whine. The tracks occasionally fall all the way apart, like opener “Murdurd,” but in a seemingly intentional way. They could honestly be dropping their instruments over and over, and I wouldn’t know the difference, but that’s not a criticism at all. “Dustkop” surprises by beginning with Krautrock rhythms that move into techno in a way that works but shouldn’t. What could come across as self-indulgent, inaccessible skronk worship is enjoyable in a “what the hell are they doing, now?” kind of way. I thought I was going to hate this, but I respect these folks for fighting the good fight with this brand of anything-goes freakery. If you have open ears for the really weird, check it out. Play it for that friend who is always like “I listen to everything,” and see what they say.

Taifun Demo 2020 cassette

German punks worshipping Japanese ’90s hardcore bands, featuring members of BURIAL (no strangers to this genre) and BOMBENALARM. Side A is pure pummeling Burning Spirits-styled hardcore going from BASTARD to FORWARD. Four tracks with all the style’s tropes: rock’n’roll leads, gang shouts, and an upbeat feeling. Side B is a vicious ten-minute noise piece about the mythological Greek giant Argus Panoptes that will melt what is left of your ears off. Overall a great demo for all the Japanese hardcore enthusiasts.

Tchernobyl Consumé Par Le Feu EP

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose! Another week and another cracker of a French-speaking Oi! record for me to tuck into, this time from the perennially great scène Parisienne. While the Anglophone world may be slacking, these upstarts have been adding their spin on that classic French sound everyone loves (unless you are a cloth-eared bastard). Both lumpen and leaden while simultaneously whipping along at decent pace, it’s a great little record, and doesn’t stay around long enough to offend either.

Die Group / Tenement Rats split 7″

Tokyo label Episode Sounds, who specialize in wrapping some of the gnarliest low-budget punk in some of the most exquisite packaging, are here to bless us with another instance of everyone’s least favorite format—the split 7″ (if you prefer these to a 10″, you are insane)! With a total running time that barely cracks three minutes, at least this one is short enough that you could theoretically just stand over your turntable while it plays to make spending merely a minute-and-a-half with each band as painless as possible. Anyway, we’ve got a track apiece from two L.A. punk bands here, and apparently the release was put together for their joint tour of Japan. The DIE GROUP cut is some solid downer punk with a little street swagger sprinkled in and a guitar sound that could cut concrete. The TENEMENT RATS track is fast, loud garage punk from what sounds like one of the rowdier bands in the Dirtnap stable. I get why this exists, and these songs are fine, but it could stand to have at least another track on each side.

The Beltones Cheap Trinkets LP reissue

I was in Portland during West Coast travels in 2001, the year this album was first released on TKO Records. I ended up at the infamous Satyricon club, a decadent ruckus glory shithole that showcased some of the best punk, grunge, and garage bands of the ’90s and early ’00s. The BELTONES happened to be playing that night, and though a lot of the details are hazy, I remember them striking a strong, memorable chord and leaving an impression in me as being no-nonsense, honest punks. Listening to this reissue confirmed those opaque memories. Bill McFadden’s vocals don’t so much have a range, but rather fluctuate between a gruff growl to a loud shout to accentuate and emphasize. Like a sped-up STIFF LITTLE FINGERS with the politics being more personal, the BELTONES had their own sound, mixing street punk with flavors of Jamaican music, soul, and Oi!, that more than held its own in the punk landscape of the time. With their catalogue being difficult-to-impossible to find on digital platforms and the original vinyl mostly out-of-print, having their capstone album back on vinyl is both a welcoming reminisce and positive optimism of being able to crank these tunes again.

The Cavemen Am I a Monster? / Schizophrenia 7″

An Auckland, New Zealand band that just lays it out there and lets the listener decide if they want what is being offered. In the case of the CAVEMEN, I do. This 7″ has two songs that are so distorted and messy, but also so damn catchy. It’s fast and frantic and it’s great.

The Eurosuite Hot Off Depress LP

Hot Off Depress is a smorgasbord of unnerving but rocking noise punk with clear antecedents in CHINESE STARS and, closer to home for these Brits, USA NAILS. We’re talking dentist-drill guitars, sarcastic vox, pounding rhythms, and the rare ability not to overstay their welcome. The EUROSUITE even manages to employ electronics in an organic manner, often standing in for what would normally be a guitar feeding back. The desperate, sleazy synth-pop of “Stimulate” shows that the EUROSUITE ain’t just miscreants with tinnitus, and “Line/Void” ends the album with a lonesome piano playing in the next room while a man narrates an absence to himself. Cracking debut, lads.

The Gruesomes Cave In! LP reissue

You don’t need to know that the GRUESOMES were Canadian or that they formed in the mid-’80s or that this album was originally released around 2000, but that is all probably helpful information. Here’s some better information: this is some amazingly catchy garage pop that will grab your feet and just start moving them. It’s mid-tempo and super melodic and it’s got a fuzzy guitar sound that will transport you to a garage full of wild teenage kids back in 1967. A couple of key things: one, it’s on Alien Snatch. Two, if Jon von (SACRED COWS, MR. T EXPERIENCE, RIPOFFS) was Canadian, he’d have been in this band.

The Higher State You Might Find Out / Come Winter Rain 7″

Two songs of authentic ’60s-style garage rock. If you’re going to do it, do it right. The HIGHER STATE does. They have that great organ sound leading the jangly rhythms topped with laid-back vocals. It’s not quite the summer of love, but someone may have some flowers in their hair. Fun stuff.

The Jacks Make ‘Em Cry LP

Reminder unearths another collection of recordings from a power pop band you’ve likely never heard of. This time we’re treated to the total recorded output of the JACKS, a Tulsa, OK band who only managed to release one record in their lifetime, 1980’s “Just Like Yesterday” 45, which they issued themselves on their own Debonaire imprint. Composed primarily of songwriting duo Mitch Griffin and Walter Kleinecke, a couple of acolytes of fellow Tulsan DWIGHT TWILLEY, the band seemingly spent most of its existence floating around the Midwest and managed to keep some interesting company along the way. In addition to TWILLEY, the band gigged around with the PAGANS while spending a good chunk of time in Cleveland, and they even managed to coax youngsters Bob Mould and Tommy Stinson into the studio to serve as session musicians after relocating to Minneapolis. The songwriting featured on this collection is solid, but it’s hard to say there’s much here that helps them stand apart from their contemporaries (even those represented on Reminder’s roster). Still, if you’re a fan of power pop, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here, and it is presented in a lovely gatefold sleeve with great liner notes. More fantastic work from Reminder!

The Owen Guns Electric Boogaloo EP2 CD

Seven tracks of raging, somewhat melodic hardcore. With lots of “fucks” and mob chant choruses, guitar solos, and ’80s riffs and breakdowns. Given that these lads are from Australia, the inclusion of a faithful rendition of the HARD-ONS ditty “Just Being With You” is a pretty good representation of style, substance, and attitude. With lots of swearing. The second release from this four-piece, both forged in the period of the pandemic.

The Slow Death Born Ugly Got Worse LP reissue

The tenth-anniversary reissue of this gem of an album has been remixed and remastered, so it sounds even better than it did a decade ago. This is still one of my favorite records by Mr. Thorson and company. The opening track “Ticks of the Clock” is and has been one of my favorite songs for the last ten years. That said, just about every song on this record is a hit in my opinion, and I’m thrilled that Rad Girlfriend has reissued it so that hopefully a new crop of folks can give it a spin and possibly find their new favorite band!

The Stools Live at Outer Limits 12-28-19 LP

My feeling on live records is it was probably better if you were there. The STOOLS are a rockin’, rollicking, fun-time band. This is better than your average live recording. The music is clear and has an energetic presence. The STOOLS play bluesy garage rock. They give it their all and the audience screams with delight. It sounds like it was a great time.

Trash Knife EP / EP LP

A collection of two EPs from Philadelphia band TRASH KNIFE. The first thing you will notice about this record is that the songs are tight as fuck. The band keeps in rhythm with the precision of a math-rock band and tracks flow one after the next with ease. The songs come down with pummeling chaos and frenetic energy. Think MELT BANANA meets LIGHTNING BOLT in some strange intersection of noise and hardcore. This is a really fun and energetic record. Enough to get you bouncing off the wall and furiously headbanging as any good record should do.

Dead Hero / Ultra Razzia split LP

Another split from Primator Crew, this time bringing Montreal scrappers ULTRA RAZZIA and Bogotán mob DEAD HERO together on wax for the first time. The former’s side of the split is characterised by their signature sparse but muscular take on Oi! More in common with some of their more hardcore contemporaries, but if LIONS LAW or BROMURE are your type of thing, you’ll find something to enjoy here. DEAD HERO’s side offers a more of a lighter touch, but is perhaps even more fun. It’s a real love letter to a type of punk many of us fell in love with first; it’s safety pins on a school blazer, think maybe VICE SQUAD out on the piss with COCK SPARRER and you’re in the right ballpark, ’77-in-’82 fun times for all.

UNIT What’s It All For? 12″

A single-sided 12″ slab from San Antonio’s UNIT, What’s It All For is full of fast and angry punk with an urgent and agile aura. When compared to recent standout acts from the region like GLUE and INSTITUTE, UNIT has a more classic hardcore approach, but the modern Texas mayhem comes through loud and clear in their sound. Catchy hooks and chaotic anxious energy propel these five songs forward seamlessly with little pause in between, and the title track closes out the record with an all-too-relatable sentiment of aggravated existential dread.

V/A Racism Sucks! S.H.A.R.P. Compilation CD

Yeah, racism sucks. Duh. In case you’re not convinced or want to beat the dead horse into the ground with some mediocre international Oi!, here you go. There’s a few passers like RECKLESS UPSTARTS’ “No Spirit,” “Proud Boys, Proud of What?” by FATAL BLOW, and Germany’s CURB STOMP doing “Sharp,” but most of this is pretty forgettable. This label does really good charity work for good causes, so what do I know? Give it a listen yourself.

V/A The Stowaways Presents: Listen Up! A Benefit For Democracy Now! LP

Fifteen-band collection of catchy punk/indie/alt to benefit, as the title suggests, a public radio news program. The only artist I was familiar with was the FYP dude (yo, Todd—I’m still down to look after Boris if anything nasty happens), but I got turned on to loads of new shits. JASON ANDERSON wrote a straight commercial pop hit in “Buzzin,” PASTEURIZED MILK and RX are both minimal and addictive, LAYMAN and POST LIFE are favorites as well—the record cruises along between lo-fi indie and shoegaze and would-be mainstream songwriters with ease. All put together by a schoolteacher and zinester who uses independent reporting and media in the classroom to (hopefully) help a new generation of non-shitty humans find their collective voice/s, with art from Sophia Zarders, liner notes from Donna Ramone, and an issue of The Stowaways masquerading as a lyrics booklet. Thumbs up.

Witness Marker Witness Marker LP

Like growing up listening to hardcore and then moving to D.C. and discovering Dischord Records. Feels of RITES OF SPRING and an insightful, angsty DAG NASTY. Tempos varied well through songs, they’re able to slow it down and still bring a heavy attack often in the same track. A solid debut from Chris Werner and Bruce Ewell formerly of NO ONE’S HERO.

Wolfhead59 Power is Not Yours LP

I, for one, am always appreciative of any band in the punk world that attempts to break the guitar/drums/bass rock band format. The recently reissued SCREAMERS demo is a prime example. WOLFHEAD59 is a UK duo that plays hardcore techno punk, which at its best can be compared to L.O.T.I.O.N., LE TIGRE, and ATARI TEENAGE RIOT. At its worst, it’s shitty video game music overlaid with distorted, shrieking vocals. I’ll say this one’s about half and half. They do a really interesting cover of AGNOSTIC FRONT’S “Gotta Go” and I enjoyed some of the trippier numbers like “Na Zawsze,” but this is hard for me to get through in one listening, much as some of the late ’90s clubs I suffered through in order to score hard drugs. Overall worth a listen, though.

Worst Self Everyone is Replaceable LP

Modern hardcore that fluctuates from fast thrashy parts to metallic breakdown parts to softer quieter parts to almost jammy parts. Fans of bands like TOUCHE AMORE and MODERN LIFE IS WAR would probably dig this. The album artwork and the actual LP is what really caught my eye, though. The screenprinting on the LP is pretty cool. The OASIS “homage” of the band logo on the jacket and labels is cute. I assume that was intentional, but these days who knows. Limited to 100 copies, so if you wanna grab one, I’d suggest you do so pretty quick.

Zero Again Out of the Crooked Timber of Humanity… EP

ZERO AGAIN from Bristol are an anarcho band consisting of members of UKHC veterans such as WARWOUND, DECADENCE WITHIN, REGRET, BRING TO RUIN, and others. Perhaps due to the use of modern instruments and higher level of musicianship, it sits on the metallic side of anarcho-punk, maybe even a tad modern metal-sounding for the fans of Ian Glasper’s publications (he is a member of the band). Yet the songs are still not unlike the mid-’80s UKHC/anarcho-punk sounds of SACRILEGE, ICONS OF FILTH, RUDIMENTARY PENI, or WARWOUND, if they used modern gear and recorded on DAW software. Fierce anarcho-punk songs driven by a world of emptiness, frustration with endless police oppression, COVID isolation, etc. Songs reflect the same angry, dark realities of the world that have yet to be really improved since the first WARWOUND demo was recorded.