Reviews

MRR #461 • October 2021

Absurd SS Absurd SS LP

This is what the apocalypse sounds like. Of course Absurd SS would sound as good as it does, since the members are seasoned noise veterans that played in the likes of GIFTGASATTACK, WARVICTIMS, FINAL SLUM WAR, DOZIX, NOCTURNAL SCUM, EARTH CRUST DISPLACEMENT, and SVART UT. I just got some tinnitus from just writing those bands down. This debut features fifteen raw punk chaos “songs” that could very well be on any FRAMTID or GLOOM record. Noise, not music!

Algara Absortos en el Tedio Eterno LP

I really half-assed one thing in my glowing review of Barcelona’s ALGARA’s previous EP. I didn’t bother to track down the actual quote I paraphrased which came from Emma Goldman—globally famous anarchist thinker and writer. The full quote was, “If I can’t dance…I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” It’s okay though, because the quote is even more apt for the band’s debut full-length, which takes anarchist theory and supercharges it for a generation that wants to shake their hips as capitalist society burns to ashes. This quartet does quite a few things really well, namely in terms of messaging and aesthetics, wherein each track feels like a bulletin from the HQ of a guerilla fighting force. More so than that, the group writes goddamn terrific songs that span a wide range of genres and tones. From impassioned drum machine coldwave stompers to agile shredders from the garage, this band is clearly well-read politically and musically. Even re-recorded material such as standout anthem “Expulsados” has only gotten harder and more ferocious. The results are AOTY-grade stuff and is the most perfect iteration of their vision to date. An actual shape of punk to come (one sincerely hopes).

Anno Omega Magia cassette

Space-punk from Milan, Italy that sounds like GEZA X battling ZOLAR X battling 8-bit monsters. I love this tape. According to their bio, these folks are in a long-standing punk collective that also dabbles in dungeon synth, and it shows in how adroitly the electronics are used with the traditional instruments. These anthems are punk-first blasts with synths and theremin accompaniment that sound upbeat, hopeful, and fun. “Centro Sociale” has bouncy-ball bass with a unique echoey male/female vocal approach full of character and trills. “Fascita” is fast punk backed with what sounds like a chiptune symphony that gives the proceedings an epic, grand feeling. It takes us on a side quest for glory and righteousness that just happens to finish up in under two minutes. The spooky B-movie theremin on “La Nazione è Pronta” and the shout-along chorus “Troppi Sbirri” hammer home how distinct each track sounds. The whole package is well-composed and arranged and avoids the eggy nerdiness that a lot of synth punk bands skew toward. And check out the rad underground comix-meets-Commodore 64 cover art. Rules. This is a super limited tape release, so act fast if you want a physical copy.

Anti Social Club Anti Social Club cassette

Spastic punk rock from Calgary. ANTI SOCIAL CLUB seems to refuse to pick which lane they want to be in. I hear elements of early American hardcore punk, Epitaph Records-style punk, metal-infused guitar licks, and there’s even some overly funky slap bass on one of the tracks. Vocals ranging from screamed hardcore call-and-repeat style to catchy “whoa-oh-oh”s. The LP of this looks to have been released in 2010, and this is the cassette version of the same record released by the same label, if this is up your alley and you missed a chance to get it on wax.

Anxious Pleasers Anxious Pleasers demo cassette

Seven-song demo cassette from the Great White North, specifically Hamilton, ON. ANXIOUS PLEASERS could easily fit in with other modern Canadian bands like PRIORS and TOMMY AND THE COMMIES, and musically they actually sound somewhere right in-between the aforementioned. Not as poppy/garage-y as TOMMY, not as heavy rock’n’roll as PRIORS, they fit right in that “best of both worlds” kind of sweet spot. A power trio of long-time recognizable Hamilton dudes who were in ROCKET REDUCERS, TV FREAKS, FLESH RAG, and surely a gaggle of others. My favorite to date, and even includes a PAGANS cover.

Baby Tyler Drumb Masheens LP

I suppose it’s fitting that this project is on the FDH record label, as BABY TYLER betrays a serious JAY REATARD fixation. Hell, a track like “In the Trunk” sounds like a sequel to “Hammer I Miss You,” but most of Drumb Masheens leans into the gnarlier aspects of solo JAY stuff like TERROR VISIONS. Although fairly slavish in its imitation, there’s good stuff here—these are songs not stylistic cul-de-sacs. “Gimme Gimme” has a cutting KBD-ness amidst the JAY-ness, while “Nothing” opens up just enough to break free of its aesthetic confines. Keep an eye on this kid.

Beautiful Delilahs The Reason Why LP

An entertaining slice of Texas cowpunk/rockasilly from Austin players that have been around long enough to do it right. The guitars are just dirty enough and the vocals achieve the tobacco-shredded quality to keep this from being wimpy like a lot of this genre can be. You could see Texacala Jones hoppin’ on stage to belt one out with these boys, and at times they’re reminiscent of a young REVEREND HORTON HEAT or DEXTER ROMWEBER, and others maybe a less punk POISON 13. It’s all that punked-up WILLIE DIXON vibe like much of this ilk, but never quite as damaged or unhinged as I would like. Still a nice listen, though.

Big Chungus Defecation Nation cassette

The CHUNGUS returns with more grody, grimy songs about excrement, vomit, jacking it, and more! Outsider punk from NJ, as easy to love as it is to hate. Five songs of nasty, mid-tempo, synth-squealing, drum-machine-driven punk with the snarkiest vocals you could ever possibly imagine. I would place my bets that this might be one of the most polarizing bands in all of punk currently. Punkers are either going to absolutely love this or be wildly disgusted by it! I’m not gonna tell you how you should think, but I will turn it on again while I continue pondering the hard-hitting questions asked by BIG CHUNGUS on this release, such as “why are you self-hating when you could be masturbating?”. Ya know, that’s a damn good question, CHUNGUS.

Bipolar In Absence of Peace cassette

BIPOLAR is what happens when DISCLOSE meets DISASTER. Total noise D-beat chaos. This raw punk outfit from Etah City, Greenland wears their influences on their sleeves, or rather on their ripped crustie pants. In Absence of Peace is a nine-track atomic explosion of pure crude fuzzy Kawakami worship. No melody, no gimmicks, just straight chaotic noise.

Blammo Onomatopoeia LP

A few years after unleashing their demo (or rather, Demmo) on the world, Atlanta art-punks BLAMMO are back with a pretty fab vinyl debut. A handful of tracks from Demmo reappear in new and improved forms on Onomatopoeia, and as a whole the trio sounds a little more controlled and concise this time around, but thankfully without completely tidying up the core elements of ramshackle oddness that are clearly hardwired into their collective DNA. The wildly tumbling rhythms and bassist Sarah’s jittered shrieks and sarcastically-edged yelps in “Get Along” and “Nickel” actualize the possible outcomes of PINK SECTION having come up through the New York no wave scene (or Atlanta’s punk underground in 2021; time is a circle), and “Im Nebel,” with its vocals entirely auf Deutsch, stark and trebly guitar, and a martial all-snare beat pushing everything along like factory machinery, is BLAMMO’s obvious love letter to the NDW/German-language post-punk tradition of bands like CARAMBOLAGE and LILIPUT. But even when they go comparatively linear, like with the barely minute-long “early K Records without the Peter Pan complex” primitive pop bash-and-twang of “Best Advice,” BLAMMO is still throwing plenty of signals to the weirdos. All of that, and limited to only 100 copies—things that future cult DIY obscurities are made of. 

Blood Ties Make Me Sane EP

There’s no lofty concepts or deep poetry to be found here, friends; just a good old-fashioned ass-kicking courtesy of Vancouver’s BLOOD TIES. Raw and direct in terms of sound and substance, these eleven tracks are laid bare for the tribe to devour. This band does a good amount of heavy stomping on this debut EP, but their meaty hardcore is really at its best in the few moments when they kick into full-blown D-beat mode. This collection of songs feels more like an intro to the band rather than a complete body of work, but they manage to work up quite a sweat during this brief session. By the end of the record, the poor fella doesn’t even know where he is.

Born Losers of America State of Mad CD

Three doses of old school t(h)rash punk from Washington (state), clocking in under three minutes and twenty seconds. Somewhere between VILENTLY ILL and “that local band who opened for that reformed third-tier ’80s band who played down the street that one time and were way better than the band you paid to see.”

Bricheros Live at Hensley 10″

If you’ve owned a copy of Don’t Back Down by the QUEERS, the LILLINGTONS’ Death by Television, or any album by TEENAGE BOTTLEROCKET, and you recognize that the rub in executing RAMONES homage is that it’s easy to create but much harder to perfect, then you’ll appreciate BRICHEROS. The three-piece (two brothers and a friend) who originated in Peru and now call Denver home have done their part in elevating and universalizing the three-chord, 1/8-note sound. This album was recorded during a live show at a now-defunct punk club in Lima, Peru which gives it that lo-fi impromptu appeal.

Broken Vessels Broken Vessels cassette

Reissue of the band’s demo originally from 2018. BROKEN VESSELS from Santa Ana, CA play fast, catchy, driving hardcore punk that feels rather timeless. I honestly could have probably been convinced that this had been recorded in just about any decade from the 1980s on. There are a lot of cool elements peppered in which make it a bit hard to fully pin down. “Greasy Little Addict” is such a killer song that’s gonna get a lot of play over here.

Bulbulators Homo Polonicus LP

Imagine if the only bands you’ve ever heard were SWINGIN’ UTTERS, ONE MAN ARMY, and DEAD TO ME, but on top of that you’ve only had access to certain records from each. Now imagine that you took those influences and started a band of your own, but opted to sing in your native language instead of English and recorded an album that could potentially stand up against those records. Well friends, imagine no more, for that is what Poland’s BULBULATORS have managed to do with Homo Polonicus. If you enjoy any of the aforementioned bands, then I implore you to give this a spin.

Chain Whip Two Step to Hell 12″

CHAIN WHIP has been cracking punk skulls since 2018 in an attempt to mix the Killed By Death sound with grimy punk. The result is fast-paced, in-your-face hardcore in the vein of POISON IDEA meets the GERMS, and it has riffs for days. Also, it definitely has a huge upbeat quality to it, akin to Californian beach punk, and this time their sound is tighter than ever, putting the pedal to the metal speedwise. Two Step to Hell consists of six tracks: three of them are re-recorded versions from their 2020 demo, two are brand new CHAIN WHIP recordings, and one is a SUBHUMANS cover. So to sum it up, something old, something new, and something borrowed. What more can you ask for? Vancouver, BC hardcore at its best!

Co-Ed Co-Ed cassette

Los Angeles-based CO-ED puts out their debut EP on the Philly cassette label Sludge People. The vocals are a little poppy, with fun pitch-bends at the end of lines, on top of driving, low-end guitars. Only one of the six tracks pushes past the two-and-half-minute mark, and just barely, so that it’s over before you know it. Two months after this release they put out a single as a taster for their upcoming LP, but according to an update on Sludge People, CO-ED has disbanded. I don’t know if there’s any chance the LP will be released, but one can hope. Hold it close if you were one of the lucky 100 people to grab this tape!

Cochonne Emergency 12″

A parting gift from North Carolina’s COCHONNE, who played their (unplanned) last show in February 2020 and then spent the ensuing void of a year recording and mixing these five tracks for posthumous vinyl release. Their late 2019 cassette debut was an endearing hodge-podge of femme-forward, late ’70s/early ’80s post-punk citations with a minor garage streak, apparently consisting of the first songs that bassist/vocalist Mimi ever wrote, and Emergency documents just how much COCHONNE had grown in a little over a year from those humble beginnings. The band’s bilingual English/French lyrics had always given them a certain Euro flair, but they really channeled the Neue Deutsche Welle (except en français) this time around—it’s not hard to imagine the suitably paranoid, MALARIA!-esque mix of sinister synth, shifting rhythms, and stern recitations that give way to urgent shrieks in “Qu’est-ce Que T’as Fait?” and “Trop” having been crafted from behind the Berlin Wall rather than in the present-day Triangle. Cavernous bass and jump-cut disco beats heighten the darkly serious drama of “KGB,” while “Asking for a Friend” navigates the dynamics of modern romance with an acidic sneer (“I’m looking for a real good time / It doesn’t have to be full-time”) over pangs of needling neo-no wave, and closer “Vampire” brings COCHONNE back to their initial DELINQUENTS/B-52’S raw art school charm with some wavy keys breaking into bashed drums and delirious laughter-as-vocals. You can’t say they didn’t go out on top! 

Code of the Jaguar Coffee is for Closers / Pulsations, Shadows, Breakers 7″

I’m not certain, but I think this is supposed to be a sort of funny thing. My brother likes to say that the toughest guys in the world come from Philadelphia. If that’s true, I’m struggling to reconcile that fact with the fact that these guys are from Philadelphia. More than anything, there’s nothing that really grabs me about this. Mid-tempo new wave/punk/indie rock that’s kind of catchy, but also kind of kitschy. For some reason, they remind me of the BARENAKED LADIES. I found something online that tells me that someone from PLOW UNITED is in the band. I believe that PLOW UNITED came from PLOW, a band that produced one of my favorite singles of all time. It looks like there were 100 copies pressed on vinyl.

Collapsed Collapsed LP

COLLAPSED delivers an ugly, stenchy, distorted mass of old school death metal and dirty crust punk. Hailing from Canada, these crusties know how to deliver the goods and play off on the stenchcore tropes very well, without sounding like everyone else. Just the right amount of crust and just the right amount of death metal. After a mid-tempo intro paying homage to AMEBIX and AXEGRINDER, they erupt into sickening crust violence similar to DOOM or HELLSHOCK. The freezing cold solos they added bring a whole new blackened dimension to the savage battlefield landscape they created. A record that will please crusties and death metalheads alike.

Contra Collective Unconscious EP

Not all hardcore needs to have a BFA these days—sometimes you just want uneducated bludgeoning force. Budapest’s CONTRA seems to have a fairly good grasp on what it takes to hit hard and fast and even pulls some melodic tricks in the guitar work to air out the otherwise fairly straight ahead metallic punk. The best part about these six tracks is the vocals which sound like a worthy descendant of the gritty bellowing BASTARD perfected back in the early ’90s. Where the EP falls just short is the recording. It’s all a bit too clean for my taste, and while that allows the craftsmanship to shine, I’d still like it to hit me more like the medieval cudgel depicted on the cover art than the stainless steel surgical tools the music evokes. Maybe I’m just a little filth pig, but a little extra muck would perfect this mean and muscly crew.

Cured Pink Current Climate CD

Upon the first listen, and a quick look at their Bandcamp page, I thought this was some NYC hipster shit (New York label), but upon investigation and eventually hearing it in their vocals, they are from Brisbane, for what it’s worth. There’s lots of different instrumentation throughout: horns, synths, samples, and otherwise led by bass and drums giving it a dub vibe. This isn’t really my bag, but if you’re looking to feel obscure, it may make some nice background music. If this is your thing, they’ve been making music for a decade, and this release comes in front of the lead’s new band, WITNESS K.

Cyst Cyst demo cassette

Primal, raw hardcore punk from Denver. The recording and presentation is every bit as chaotic as the contents, and they feed off of each other throughout these four tracks. “Sickening” opens with a full intro/fast/slow/slower/painfully slow format and then the drums fight through feedback on the intro to “Hard Kill” and I’m completely sold. This thing sounds fukkn nasty, so prepare yourself.

Dazy Maximumblastsuperloud: The First 24 Songs cassette

Absolutely ridiculous ’90s college rock hook-laden pop. BIG STAR, TEENAGE FANCLUB, maybe even a touch of the POSIES here and there; this is the backpage of Rolling Stone in 1989, where those of us trapped in MRR-free small towns would scour the College Radio Top Ten looking for something—anything—to help us break free of the commercial pop doldrums and hoping that the only record store in town could special order something that we thought sounded cool based on name alone. I would have ordered this—and I would have been stoked. DAZY is a COVID-era solo project, and this tape compiles the entirety of the output though Spring 2021…let’s just hope that there’s more, because this is the kind of nostalgia I can get behind.

Dead Heat World at War LP

DEAD HEAT has delivered an excellent crossover album with World at War. From beginning to end, it feels like a throwback to early ’90s SUICIDAL TENDENCIES with a modern flair rooted in the hardcore scene. Oftentimes when bands attempt this style, it misses the mark and comes off a bit flat and sometimes hokey. Fortunately, that is not the case here. Thrash-y throughout, groovy when it calls for it, gang vocals that don’t scream “hey, we don’t need to be here,” pretty noodling intros that aren’t just noodling for the sake of it, but all with a deep-down punk aesthetic. Listening to this brought me back to my pre-punk days and made me nostalgic for riding my bike down to the 7-11 for a Slurpee while blasting a MEGADETH tape in my Walkman. This record is gonna get a lot of action on my drives to and from work for sure. Good shit here, folks.

Dead Meat II EP

Meat-and-potatoes garage punk’n’roll out of London. As the title of the EP suggests, this is their second release. It’s also their second issued by long-running UK label No Front Teeth. Their Bandcamp page paints them as a modern KBD/Bloodstains act, but this sounds more like mid-aughts leopard-print shoes/bullet belt punk. It’s hard to find anything across these four tracks that really stands out positively or negatively—it’s a thoroughly fine record. It sounds like the NEW BOMB TURKS slowed down about 20% or one of those non-GG KING, post-CARBONAS bands where the songwriting isn’t quite up to snuff. The first pressing of the record comes packaged in a spray painted leather sleeve, so that’s something. If you’ve been jonesing for the sounds you’d get from some of the lower-tier Rip Off Records acts (not the easiest thing to come by these days!), this would probably scratch that same itch.

Dead United Fiend Nö.1 CD

This disc was assigned for review in September, but considering the content I figure it’s better that I waited until closer to Halloween. While the aesthetics don’t fully represent the content, rest assured that some poppy German horrorpunk is in your future with DEAD UNITED. Imagine a poppier AVENGED SEVENFOLD, singing about zombies and fiends and ghouls—it’s tongue-in-cheek (there’s a track called “Aaaahhhhhhh! Some Bees!”), and it’s fun and ghoul-y as shit.

Besthöven / DHK split EP

Two heavyweights from the South American punk underground still waving the black fly high. From Brazil, BESTHÖVEN is a one-man army of Dis-beat that has been around since 1990. Fofåo really nails the DISCLOSE-meets-SHITLICKERS formula and has done it on countless splits (including with DISCLOSE, FORÇA MACABRA, and WARVICTIMS, to name a few), and with this one is no different. Just pure D-beat worship done with such devotion that you will want to hear the full discography. On the other side, DHK or DESTRUYE HUYE KREA, from Peru, is another ferocious South American punk demonstration of anger and power. With a not as extensive a catalogue as BESTHÖVEN, they still show their full power on this one and hold up to the challenge of being along them. South American punk is alive and well, and as long as there is corruption, there will be the voice of punk shouting back.

Diensthund Horizont Aus Draht cassette

The album title translates to “Horizon Made of Wire,” and is mirrored in the wiry, stripped-down guitar licks and lo-fi feel. With its synth lines and frequent rests, this reminds me of the early DEVO demos on Hardcore Devo: Volume One, only heavier. There’s lots of negative space, and a general zaniness throughout this disturbing six-song Deutschpunk carnival ride, and I feel a little crazier on the other side of it…wait, what’s happening?

Dissuffer Sudden Threat cassette

DISSUFFER from Indonesia’s latest release is furious metallic D-beat mayhem. Perhaps due to the vocal style and the melodic approach of guitars along with the low-fidelity recording, it’s more reminiscent of black metal bands playing punk than HIS HERO IS GONE neo-crust territory at times. Dark metallic crust punk played by true punks.

Drah Brud LP

DRAH of Poland plays five tracks on a full LP, with very KILLING JOKE or even PESD vibes. Chords range from QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE to ZYGOTE—post-industrial downturned aggression. A lot of this is repetitive but in a drawn-out mathcore way. The bass recoils to GODFLESH and MORNE. The song structures are stagnant and struggling to break free. Perhaps that is the tension DRAH wants to build. I feel a bit stuck in a trap with each song. I also wish I could understand Polish, to be fair. There are moments that recall UNWOUND for a moment, but the pace is structured like a cold building and contrived, and I need to get out. I want something else to happen here in this maze. The last track “Czerwony” lets go a bit, but I must admit DRAH caught me under the weather, and this is not helping my migraine. The songs are good, but I want more, or any, harmonizing. I might want to edit this review heavily, but I’m not sure. I feel lost and at a loss with this one. The CAN soloing outro is cool. Oh, no reviewer copy? Sweet. It’s a sign.

E.F.S. Songs of Waiting CD

This effort reminds me a lot of the early demo/tape-trading days in the UK in the early ’80s, both for the lo-fi nature of this effort (it sounds as if it was recorded straight into a cassette player/ghetto blaster, just by sticking it in the room, and pressing play/record, as we used to do in the good old days), and for its eclectic content. Very few “songs” as such on the nine tracks, and despite listing four band members with the traditional rock instruments (bass, guitars, drums), all but a couple of the songs lack all of said components. A lot of almost experimental noise, or just vocals and one guitar (playing one note at a time, no chords), and what seems to be improvisational noisemaking—certainly no “traditional” song structures, in the verse/chorus school of rock. Definitely a sparse, spare DIY effort.

Eddie Mooney & the Grave Telephones / Down the Drain 7″

Wow. Close your eyes and pretend you’re in the Virgin Megastore circa 1979 looking for the latest power pop gem. This thing is infectiously catchy and melodic and easy to listen to. If pop music hadn’t shit the bed starting about 40 years ago, this thing just wouldn’t be reviewed by MRR. It’s pop music. But it’s really good and it’s performed by four (or five or whatever) dudes/women, not by a team of hundreds. Like it or not, you’ve got to like that it’s honest and sincere.

Esses Bloodletting for the Lonely CD

I really enjoyed the sophomore album of this Bay Area band with members of ALTAR DE FEY, BLACK ICE, the PHANTOM LIMBS, RED VOICE CHOIR, and the HOLY KISS. Their sound is immersive, mysterious, and when it’s needed, pummeling and violent. These are dark and gloomy goth rock practitioners, ready to take you to the bottomless pit of your soul. It’s an intense listen, with the striking and grab-you-by-the-throat vocals of Miss Kel, who uses her voice to explore some deep metaphysical ruminations. The opening song “The Source” is my favorite, with a circular and beautiful guitar riff and really creative build-up of the song as bass, drums, and voice work together in gaining intensity through the track. Great album that grows with every listen. 

Fashion Pimps & the Glamazons Jazz 4 Johnny LP

Twisted, expertly-played art-punk wotzit courtesy of known quantities from the long-lived Cle freak scene. The list of current/former bands of those involved would be quite lengthy but let’s note DONKEY BUGS, CLOUD NOTHINGS, and RAZAK SOLAR SYSTEM. The vocals have an undeniable SPRAY PAINT waver, but the music is slippery, wriggling like an angry eel. Dipping a handful of toes in synth punk while lunging towards noise rock spazzery, FASHION PIMPS are like KITCHEN & THE PLASTIC SPOONS moonlighting on the Subterranean Records roster.

Final Gasp Haunting Whisper EP

The bone-chilling intro “Descending” does its best to summon a Halloween-esque feeling, and quickly “Burning Body” picks up where the synth eeriness left off and dives into something very familiar. Is this what SAMHAIN would sound like if they just formed in the current days? Probably! Haunting Whisper reeks of SAMHAIN, MISFITS, and DANZIG, so if you need a fresh take on the cobweb-filled world that the three aforementioned bands created, this is the record for you. Five tracks of blood-curdling, hardcore-influenced goth-punk, or is it goth punk-influenced hardcore? Who cares anyway? This record slays and it sounds massive as hell, without a single filler. The fact that this review was written during the Halloween season just adds to the mystique that they achieved.

Ford’s Fuzz Inferno Deniers of Fuzz Will Be Executed EP

This Dutch drums-and-guitar duo bashes out five garage punk bangers in about five minutes. This is immediately catchy and likeable, proving you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make something great. “Neon Sky” sounds like the SPITS and demands to be played at max volume. “What Do You Feel?” has Johnny Ramone power chords and a JAY REATARD-style chorus breakdown. The title track is an instrumental with surf rock drums that sounds like the soundtrack to something incredible. Every track is stripped-down, no-bullshit rock’n’roll, and it rules. There is a timeless quality to these songs, and each concentrated capsule of punk joy sounds like it could have been written any time during the last 50 years. Highly recommended.

Freon PYK demo cassette

A lot of punks can play fast, but it takes specialists for fast to come across as legible. St. Louis speed punks FREON know how to give every sound enough space to keep the proceedings in sharp focus at a clip that less capable bands would allow to just smear and blur to oblivion. The sharp-as-tacks approach tends to land with a bit more impact, and with vocals echoing the great agitator Doc Corbin Dart of the CRUCIFUCKS fame, this EP cracks like a damn whip. The songs are fierce, the music engaging and fun without ever sounding the least bit goofy. Off-kilter song structures veer away from same-y verse-chorus into stranger territory. Killer players—especially in the rhythm department—keep the ear activated throughout the twists and turns of the group’s snare-tight anarchy. Featuring members of other fearsome units such as BAD EXAMPLE, RÜZ, and the WARDEN, it’s no wonder these six tracks cut quick and deep.

Gel Live! cassette

GEL, a hardcore group hailing from New Jersey, makes some totally bomb-ass punk. This tape isn’t technically a live record, but it was recorded live and has that raw feel to it. Clocking in at about twelve minutes long, there isn’t a moment that lets up. GEL came to fuck shit up, and fuck shit up they do. The band gives a truly primal performance. It’s almost animalistic. There’s not much diversity in the tracks, just a general face-pummeling, brain cell-destroying level of intensity. Fans of fast-paced hardcore will find a lot to love here.

Get Smart! Oh Yeah No CD

Lawrence, Kansas’s GET SMART! never finished these six songs when they were recorded back in 1987. They had released two albums when they began working on the third, but it never happened. When the band got back together last year, they got Steve Albini to finally mix them. The end result is a familiar sound if you are a fan of Lawrence bands. The music is poppy while being a bit off-kilter. The vocals have a relaxed quality to them. The songs are catchy. Music for living rooms and house parties. Fun stuff.

Girls in Synthesis Shift in State 12″

As a follow-up to their debut LP Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future, this mini-album is another GIRLS IN SYNTHESIS release of which the hardcopy is already sold out! Sticking true to super-limited pressings, this UK DIY band delivers with lots of ambient noise and grit—they’re pissed, and you better not get in the way, as in their closer track, “Don’t try!”

Grand Scheme Grand Scheme demo cassette

Fast, short, and pissed-sounding. The vocals remind me of INFEST a bit, although musically it’s a little slower with some two-steppin’ breakdown parts. It’s hard to believe that this is a demo, because it’s super tight. Six songs in all, and it appears that this tape was limited to 100 and is already sold out, but thanks to modern technology, I’m sure it’s not hard to track this down.

Guardian Singles Guardian Singles LP reissue

Like me and seemingly every other discerning garage and post-punk fan, Trouble in Mind was enthralled by Gonerfest 17’s New Zealand band showcase last year. I bought every release by every one of the bands that I could get my hands on. Trouble in Mind took it further by reissuing this, the debut album by Auckland’s GUARDIAN SINGLES. It was originally released in a tiny 150-copy pressing with only a few copies making it out of New Zealand. Now those who unluckily missed out the first time get another chance at this fabulous record. The music is breezy and jangly with a jagged edge. The singing is tense and determined, earnest and dreamy. The songs swirl around the room and my brain making beautiful patterns. I want and need more. Bonus points to the label for pressing this on heavy vinyl.

Hauntus Hauntus CD

Somewhere between pop skate punk/snotty Warped scene and thrashcore death mince, there is HAUNTUS. Obnoxious ripping metal punk that reminds me of GUTTERMOUTH meets GWAR, MUCKY PUP, and later DRI. There is a strong stench of humor on this CD. HAUNTUS plays well with a very produced product. At times, this harkens to the brilliant VIOLENT SOCIETY debut, and at others a schlocky BLANKS 77 drunken rampage. I’m not saying this band is drunk, they are tight as hell. I am saying they have a heavy party vibe and could probably destroy a small venue or clear the room in moments. There are thirteen intense tracks on this beast and the musicianship is very sharp, and so is the vocal pitch for that matter. I feel like these guys have been haunting for a while and will continue to linger. They have a lot of energy and a lot to let loose.

Heavenly Blue Heavenly Blue demo cassette

A heavy dose of ’70s rock influence went into the recipe of these five neat lo-fi garage numbers from Nova Scotia. HEAVENLY BLUE lets their freak flag fly on the upbeat rock jams on this tape-hiss-laden cassette, and I can picture these guys wearing headbands and shit. Too hippie for MRR? It’s definitely pushing it.

Heavy Metal V: Live at the Gas Station Fighting the Devil LP

I’ve never been too smitten with this band. I picked up their first LP back in 2016 after a punk distro or two said it was good, and, while I didn’t dislike it, it just never clicked with me. Mainly, I found the record confusing. With the bald over-the-topness of the songs and vocalist’s delivery falling somewhere between SLEAFORD MODS and the EDGE OF ETIQUETTE, I assumed that these guys were from the UK and probably fake, fake punk. But then I saw they were from Berlin—not a city or music scene known for its playfulness (or British accents)—so, like, what’s their deal? Turns out the band is made up of (at least) Jasper Hood (the BLACK JASPERS, SHAKIN NASTIES), originally from the UK, and Itchy Bugger (ITCHY BUGGER, DIÄT), originally from Australia. Jasper’s vocals don’t seem to be a bit (he sounds like this on every record he sings on), but maybe the band is. Whatever. I still didn’t love the songs and ducked out after that LP. Fast-forward to 2021: my compulsion to acquire every Total Punk record trumps my indifference to the band, and I grab this LP. Turns out it’s quite good! I think going in with that same indifference helped me to just sit back and hear this record for what it is—a collection of well-crafted songs that cover ’77 punk, glammy bubblegum, punksploitation, and contemporary weird punk. It’s good enough that I might even have to revisit their back catalog. If you only listen to one track, make it “Gebrannte Amore”—a cover of ELVIS’s “Burning Love” that they transform into a FIRST BASE-styled trashcan pop track.

HHH Intelectual Punks EP reissue

Great gem rescued by the essential Discos Enfermos—a 1986 EP by HHH, a band from Girona, Spain. Their debut EP in fact, after having recorded a demo, Sin Identidad, in 1985.  Here we have nine vicious, ultra-fast songs, very much in the vein of early D.R.I., where they scream against nuclear energy, industry, war, the city of Barcelona and the then-upcoming ’92 Olympics, and the punk scene itself. Real sonic beatings. A classic of Spanish hardcore.

Hits Cielo Nublado LP

HITS’ Sediment Seen cassette from last year was a perfectly melted hybrid of scrappy art-punk and spectral bedroom pop, and the Oakland trio’s new Cielo Nublado LP shifts that balance even further in the direction of the latter, with warm fever dream melodies over a sparse, shambling instrumental backing as if the MARINE GIRLS and DOLLY MIXTURE had decamped to Olympia for an early ’90s International Pop Underground convention. Minimal, electronically-accented drums and wandering rubbery bass hit at a series of uncertain angles, with guitarist Jen Weisberg’s vocals often multi-tracked to a haunting GRASS WIDOW-ish effect, most notably on “Drawstring Ties” and “500 Square Foot Labyrinth.” HITS have crafted a world where sprightly indie pop tributes to Alan Vega lead into playfully stark, OH-OK-styled post-punk explorations (the repetition of the line “we are the specimens of the world” in “Trotting Lemmings” is brilliant and sounds like it was sourced straight from Athens circa 1983), and I can’t really think of another world that I’d rather live in.

Hounds of War Rabid March EP

Three-song EP from this band composed by Claire Vastola on vocals and Max Parker on all other instruments, who you might recognize from their work in bands like PROCESS, SUBVERSIVE RITE, or VERMIN. This is hardcore in the vein of the great UK82 bands; fast, big riffs galore, metallic tone, and metal guitar solos. A great EP full of combative fury, vibrant and too short for my taste, but hey, that’s life.

Indoctrinate Failbringer cassette

Two doses of downtuned Euro crust/grind, with two bonus doses of the same unforgiving assault from 2014 included as a bonus on the physical version. High/low vocals and erratic metallic song construction all work together to create something not far removed from mid-’90s Per Koro fodder, but with a keener ear towards blistering metalcore and beatdown hardcore. It’s a lot, and Austria’s INDOCTRINATE crams it all in.

Imagine Leeches / The Jet Stars Aburaya split 7″

This is kind of genius. Aburaya, Oakland, CA’s Japanese fried chicken palace, teams up with Oakland’s kids’ music program 3 O’Clock Rock for some shameless self-promotion. JET STARS do “Aburaya Theme,” a surfy, breezy number clocking in at under a minute, perfect for use on Aubraya’s commercials. IMAGINE LEECHES do a garage-y ode to all the reasons they love Aburaya. They also remind you to “tip them for their labor.” It’s catchy, rockin’, and classy.

Judy and the Jerks Live in NWI cassette

If you are yet unfamiliar with JUDY AND THE JERKS, well then you’ve got some homework to do now, punk! With a killer 7″ and a slew of cassette releases under their belt, Hattiesburg, Mississippi’s golden children JUDY AND THE JERKS are truly unstoppable and have been putting Hattiesburg on the punk map for a number of years now. This new cassette is a live show from Hammond, Indiana recorded on January 6, 2020 by “Nervous” Erik Hart. Solid sound quality, a lot of fun, but let’s be honest here, not as fun as seeing the band live.

Kina Parlami Ancora LP reissue

Probably the most melodic KINA release, 1992’s Parlami Ancora owes a heavy debt to late ’80s USHC while cementing KINA’s status as one of the best unheralded ’80s Italian HC/punk bands.  While I’m still going to reach for the unhinged mania of Irreale Realtà damn near every time, the fact that KINA was able to progress and develop their sound and still create songs that are in-your-face and compelling. Wildly catchy and energetic punk, like a bit of MOVING TARGETS and mid-era HÜSKERs mingling with UPRIGHT CITIZENS and EA80…but still an Italian hardcore band. Most of their catalog is still relatively easy to come by, and these reissues make it even easier. High praise.

Kina Se Ho Vinto Se Ho Perso LP reissue

Refreshingly, I don’t know a damn thing about this Italian hardcore band that started in the mid-’80s. This was their fourth LP, and it’s an interesting example of the time period. KINA’s sound sources its inspiration from Washington DC’s world-famous post-hardcore scene; bands like DAG NASTY, SWIZ, and SOULSIDE. The band can still rock pretty hard, but they tend towards melodic guitar lines that complement the earnest vocals. Recalling the HATED, KINA is not afraid of acoustic guitar and other “un-punk” elements. A track like “Cosa Farete” is closer to morose college rock than, say, INDIGESTI, but you can imagine them playing a show together at some thatched-roof squat on an abandoned farm outside of Turin. Interestingly, KINA’s mix of these influences prefigures a band that would become massive on an underground level less than a decade later—AVAIL. There’s a similar anthemic quality that is pretty damn hard to pull off convincingly, but KINA manages.

Klonns Amon / Gehenna 7″

“New Wave of Japanese Hardcore.” This is what one can read on the enigmatic Japanese hardcore outfit KLONNS’ Bandcamp page. With eight releases to their name, this band is back with a killer 7”. The best way to describe this band is a Japanese version of HOAX; a grainy, disgusting mass of angry-sounding hardcore, fit for any violent moshpit. This 7″ includes two tracks: “Amon,” featuring Hate from MOONSCAPE, starts with a FRAMTID-esque build up but then explodes into mid-tempo hardcore Á  la HOAX. Then “Gehenna,” featuring Aisha from IGNITION BLOCK M, is another mid-tempo banger with female vocals to add a bit more flavour to the track. Definitely putting the hard in hardcore.

Koma Internment Failure LP

Take a breath before facing the brutal decadence of modern life. Prepare yourself to receive a blast of pestilence and moral rot. You still go forward and face it head on, because it’s the only thing you can do, right? You are alive. You resist. That’s how it feels to listen to these twelve tracks from the debut album of KOMA, a band from London/Leeds. This is noisy hardcore, the kind that can generate tinnitus, very much in the vein of Swedish hardcore and the more static-filled Japanese styles. The effect is brutal, claustrophobic, and frenetic, an assault on the senses without pause. Absolutely desperate, like these times.

Krieg Kopf War on Terrorism LP

First vinyl collection from this early 80s NYHC group, comprised of re-recorded songs from two cassette releases and a live track. Although this is most recommended to folks who were there at the time, War on Terror offers an interesting time capsule of regional punk full of influences from the era’s luminaries. Most of the songs are straight-ahead hardcore with a fast part, a slow breakdown, and a fast part again. Sonically, they sound similar to Victim in Pain-era AGNOSTIC FRONT, and I definitely hear MINOR THREAT, especially on songs like “Hasty Ambush,” where vocalist Jason Deranged adopts an Ian-style holler. While the template is familiar, the speed, tightness, and punchy bass of the band makes me wonder why they don’t have a higher historical profile. There are some West Coast fingerprints on this album too though, such as the frequent Greg Ginn-esque atonal psych guitar fills, Fresh Fruit snaky spy guitar lines, and a pronounced Jello-affected warble on “Immortal.” Short bursts like “Terrorism,” “Warhead,” “Gun Power,” and the great sing-along chorus of “The Work Song” (the standout from the album for me) are all quality, vintage adrenaline hits. The band stretches out on a few songs, over the three-minute mark with one track, with forays into spoken-word lyrics, funky bass, and guitar solos that, frankly, did not age well. Paranoia about Cold War-era nuclear proliferation in “The Atom Bomb” makes total sense for the time, but the quasi-rap in “Violent Reaction” with the line “I’ve got to break loose on the dance floor” about fighting at shows is tiresome. Check it out if you have a soft spot for classic NYHC.

L.I.C.E. L.I.V.E. L.A.U.G.H. L.I.C.E. cassette

When I was first sent this cassette for review, even after doing some research I would have sworn that this was a split cassette by two bands: MID CITY SHIT ROCKERS and ASYMMETRICAL INSURGENCY. Turns out those are the names of the two digital releases put out by the band L.I.C.E., compiled onto a single cassette tape. Alright, now that we’ve gotten to the bottom of that confusing puzzle, let’s try to make sense of the music! Mid City Shit Rockers was released in November of 2020, and the songs are super fast, aggressive hardcore punk teetering on the brink of but never quite crossing over into the powerviolence realm. Fast-forward a few months to January of 2021 and the release of Asymmetrical Insurgency, which dives right over that fence, into a world of blastbeats, sound clips, heavy, plodding slow parts, and nothing in-between. Absolutely crushing.

Las Ratapunks Fracaso 2020 EP

Badass punkers via smalltown Peru tear you a new one. Fast, raw, and in your hole, LAS RATAPUNKS blaze through six songs in like two minutes. “Las Niñas” is my personal fave. Like a slick, polished GRIMA with some ADOLESCENTS “whoa whoa”s and melodies. Cool-as-fuck artwork. Dig it.

Laxisme Premiere Sortie cassette

Fast, fun, and loaded with energy, LAXISME delivers a five-song cassette that is a little poppy, a little hardcore, and completely infectious. With bluesy howls to round out the choruses, I am already singing along to the French and German that I don’t know, wishing I were pushing through their crowd. Phantom seems to have their ear pressed firmly to the Berlin underground, and I hope they keep listening. More, please!

Leper Ögat//The Eye EP

Right from the evil opener “Suckling Pigs,” LEPER’s second release on Germany’s Kink label spills out fresh-sounding, fast, and nasty hardcore. Crisp production gives a biting edge to the fury of explosive tracks like “Turn To Dust,” and there are some surprising little nuances to the band’s sharp and pounding sound, like a subtle ZERO BOYS influence, perhaps? Either way, this thing rips pretty good and rocks a little, too.

Kochise / Les Partisans Live split cassette

Split cassette featuring French punk bands KOCHISE and LES PARTISANS. Both sets were recorded live at the Le Foch bar in Chaumont, France, on May 17th, 1996, at a gig both bands played together. KOCHISE was a French anarcho-punk band originally formed in 1987 who even did a split with CONFLICT at one point. The recording on this is a bit muddy and warbly, but it’s hard to tell if it’s an issue with the tape duplication or if the original live recording sounds that way. LES PARTISANS, not to be confused with classic UK82 punk band the PARTISANS, formed in 1994 and I believe are still a band to this day. They play mid-tempo street punk/Oi! and have ska elements with a horn section sporadically squonking along with the catchy melodies. This side of the tape sounds much clearer and seems like a good representation of the band. A cool idea, solid-looking packaging, and nice documentation of a classic gig from the past.

Alarm / Barren? / Douche Froide / Litovsk split 12″

Super gritty four-banger split from some newish, downbeat French punks. ALARM has dueling guitars and a great drum and bass bridge; BARREN? sings a bleak poem entitled “Illusion” (“You can wave goodbye to your hopes and dreams”); DOUCHE FROIDE is bass-forward with angelic vocals; LITOVSK is big, glassy guitar riffs and a jangling bass. I like that all of these songs are in the four-to-five minute range, as it gives you more to chew over. Though not all on these labels, each band’s got a previous record or two worth checking out.

Lost Sounds Rats Brains & Microchips LP reissue

A fresh reissue of a garage rock classic. LOST SOUNDS, for those who don’t already know, was a Memphis garage band that formed in the late ’90s and featured the likes of Jay Reatard and Alicja Trout. They stopped playing well before Jay Reatard’s untimely death, but not before putting out a number of seriously cool records. The band relies heavily on somewhat cheesy synthesizers, which gives this record the quirky feel it has. It’s a total blast of some old school garage rock done right. Some might ask, did this need a reissue? I think so, if for no reason other than to highlight this totally badass record. Definitely worth it.

Lysol Soup For My Family LP

LYSOL has been unleashing its freak vibe for awhile now, but it’s been a couple years since we last heard the gutter-dancing slop the band traffics in. Soup For My Family comes off like the U-MEN squeezed through a Crypt Records strainer. While foregrounding turbo-charged garage-punk (“C-4,” “Can’t Win”), the quartet finds enough cracks in the sidewalk to maintain their cool and swing like a rock band should. LYSOL is the kind of band that can turn a basement hardcore show into a whiskey-soaked bacchanal. While still outputting tons of wattage, LYSOL sounds kinda raggedy, but in a good way—like all those hangovers were worth it. I can’t imagine the members of MUDHONEY wouldn’t listen to “Glasgow Smile” and break into shit-eating grins. Or you, for that matter.

Mercenárias Cadê As Armas? LP reissue

The 1986 debut album from São Paulo’s femme-punk legends MERCENÁRIAS finally gets the reissue treatment that it so desperately needed, following a pair of killer releases from Nada Nada Discos in recent years that focused on the band’s unreleased and archival material. Slashing guitar, dance-to-destroy rhythms, and shouted gang vocals denouncing all manner of oppressive systems (the police, the Brazilian government, the Catholic church), executed with an absolutely vicious, fiery energy like BUSH TETRAS or the AU PAIRS playing at a hardcore pace—ten songs in eighteen minutes! The LP’s two most urgent and blistering tracks are probably their best-known, namely “Polícia,” which starts off with a bass-supplied klaxon call before launching into a frantic push/pull of disco beats and call-and-response chants, and “Pânico,” which counters its scrabbling guitar and deep bass throb with some disarmingly melodic backing harmonies, but the darker, chorused-out post-punk moments (“Imagem” and “Amor Inimigo,” in particular) are equally great, foreshadowing a more SIOUXSIE-adjacent direction that MERCENÁRIAS would take on their 1988 follow-up Trashland. Highest recommendation possible!

Merked Merked cassette

Walking that tightrope between powerviolence and straight up grindcore, MERKED seems to fit right in the middle somewhere with a style that I have seen referred to as grind-violence. Seventeen tracks of pummeling, heavy, slow, and brutal followed by relentless and fast riffs, very few of which break even the one-minute mark. Pepper in a bunch of sound clips and you can surely recognize the recipe. For fans of NO LESS, IN DISGUST, and anything in-between.

Müllheim Kron cassette

Five songs of wacky, drum-machine-driven, synth-heavy post-punk from Berlin. At least I think it’s a drum machine.  Unlabeled black cassette comes in a blank black O-card sleeve with a tiny sticker of the album art in one corner. Clearly, some research is necessary to figure out what we’ve got here. Hmm, the internet is absolutely no help, the band’s bare-bones Bandcamp is all that can be found, which makes it hard to even tell if their band name is spelled MÜLLHEIM or MÜELLHEIM. But wait, there is a booklet that comes with the cassette! Excitedly I dive in, hoping to unearth some sort of information. To my dismay, it is a fourteen-page mini-zine of scattered, stamped letter-art and no info whatsoever. It does look really cool though, and my intrigue is growing as I flip the tape for a third time. But wait, what’s this at the bottom of my box of cassettes to review? Three beer bottle labels peeled off of different German pilsners? Eureka! Handwritten letters from the band to Maximum Rocknroll

Label 1: “Hello, we are MÜLLHEIM. Berlin-based synth-punk from Berlin, Germany.”
Label 2: “Info: founded 2020. Band: Patient 1—Voc/Git. Patient 2—Bass/Synth. Patient 3—Drums.”
Label 3: “Thank you very much—MÜLLHEIM”

Finally, some information! I learned that…..well, I learned that it’s an actual drummer? Wait, what if Patient 3 is a drum machine?! Hmm, I guess I learned nothing except that MÜLLHEIM is absolutely incredible! I listened to the tape over and over while continuing to come up empty handed. Mysterious Guy Hardcore is dead, all hail Mysterious German Synth Punk!

Neon Belly The Boys Are Alright EP

North Carolina outfit that hits like 1978 freak punk (the MAD, BAGS, SCREAMERS) without sounding like any kind of a rehash. Tracks like “D.O.I.I.” and the title track are pure fire—one hundred percent in-your-face and shameless punk couched in unabashedly catchy four-on-the-floor burners. Best surprise this month, hands down.

Neurotic Existence At War With the World LP

NEUROTIC EXISTENCE of Bremen reminds me of MUSHROOM ATTACK meets CHAOS UK and CALLOUSED and DREAD MESSIAH. There are dual vocals at distinctly different ranges: the more leading vocal is gritty and tinged with lunacy, sometimes reminding me of SCATHA in the slower deliveries. The complimentary vocals strike at a various degree of octaves anywhere between FLEAS AND LICE and the MUFFS. This recording is not very dingy, and everything is produced quite clean, but the bass is really accentuated like ZMIV. I’m really digging this drawn-out epic track “(Sorry Mom) Never Homesick.” Although I feel this is supposed to be a classic ’90s-style Euro crust record, the warmth in the singing is inspired and the long bridge-style songs kind of take me away, and the diminutive chords (thinking BASTARD’s “Cause of Civilization”) hit me in the feels, not gonna hard-stance about this one. Ending on “Animal Freedom,” you can’t go wrong with what NEUROTIC EXISTENCE is about.

Night War Perversity of War Science cassette

With a pitch-black take on punishing D-beat in the “horrors of war” vein, NIGHT WAR from New Mexico takes us all the way to hell on this fiery debut tape. Crisp production makes these seven tight and terrifying tracks shine, and overlapping crusty death metal bellows and ghastly black metal shrieks create an awesome atmosphere of horror, putting you right into the “movie” (check out “Exploding Cemeteries” and you’ll get it.) With any luck, we’ll get a sequel soon.

Panic, Inc. Weight EP

From the city of my birth comes this Oakland hardcore-ish bunch. I’m not sure who’s in this and I can’t say I’m overjoyed by the name, but it’s some decent BL’AST-like ferocity with some later BLACK FLAG jazzy rhythms. Not fantastic, but not a bag of turds either. Maybe good live?

Part-Time Lover Living in the Past cassette

Living in the Past is a cassette collection of the complete recordings by Cleveland, Ohio-based PART-TIME LOVER. Seventeen tracks of catchy pop-psych from a project that has been releasing music for the better part of a decade. Some of the songs lean a little more on the indie/folk side of things than the psychedelic, but it all seems to work for them. If this band or this style of music is up your alley, this is almost definitely the tape for you.

Ponys Auf Pump Wirt Schon Wieder LP

Big surf rock guitars, synth leads, kazoos, riot grrrl power, and…was that a recorder? I don’t know what’s going on here—but I like it. “Kleine Maus” is maybe my favorite pick of the album, as it builds with fast guitar chops and big bass to a sing-along chorus with falsetto backing. Wirt Schon Wieder is the second full-length album from Berlin based PONYS AUF PUMP, and another gem brought to us by Phantom.

Precipice Precipice demo cassette

Mixed bag four-song demo from this Nantes, France crew. It definitely has its ups, with tracks like opener “One Customary Behavior in One Particular Situation,” delivering noisy, stompy hardcore with tinny guitars, bouncing bass, and gruff vocals. “Circus” follows this template well and adds dissonant guitar leads that produce some extra grime, like the ones MYSTIC INANE did so well. “In the Depth of Well” lost me a bit because the vocals are buried deep under the bass and guitar. It sounds like it was all recorded live in the same room, which is unfortunate, because the song sounds cool otherwise. Closing track “4” is a low-effort noise jam of someone lazily strumming open guitar strings and some backward vocals. At a little over a minute, it’s not a big deal, but when it comprises a quarter of your demo’s runtime, it becomes a statement. Of what, I’m not sure. The first few songs are enough for me to keep PRECIPICE in mind, though.

Psychotic Youth The Bellevue Tapes EP

PSYCHOTIC YOUTH is an old school Swedish pop punk group. The Spanish label Snap!! Records was kind enough to collect these tracks, which served as demo tapes to the band’s 1991 record Be in the Sun. Overall, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The songs are pretty high quality for demos, the band has got a ton of energy, but it all ends up feeling a little too nice around the edges. The sound is caught between a RAMONES throwback and a proto-GREEN DAY. If that sounds like something up your alley, by all means give it a try, but otherwise I wouldn’t suggest it.

Quarantine Agony LP

This might quite possibly be the best USHC release of the year! Heck, maybe the best in the last five or ten years. The record begins with an eerie intro followed by a huge, belching “agony” that quickly erupts into the finest mash-up of USHC aggression. The weirdness of UNITED MUTATION and WHITE PIGS moshing with the anger of NEGATIVE APPROACH and NECROS. A relentless yet catchy record filled with some of the strangest electronic segments heard on a hardcore record that sometimes come close to something DEVO would do. Their 2020 demo was killer but this record just elevates the bar for every other hardcore band out there. The quality of this LP comes as no surprise because it has members of IMPALERS and CHAIN RANK and you know they rage as hard as they can. Shoutout to Chris Ulsh slaying it on the drums and showing what he’s made of. After the quarantine, QUARANTINE will have everyone in the pit screaming “will to kill“—and remember, “Life is a one long-ass quarantine.”

Rath & the Wise Guys Rude, Crude, and Socially Unacceptable CD

Big Florida dudes who make baseball jerseys with their band name on it. Beards, full-sleeve tattoos, probably an occasional cigar or a blunt when the kids have gone to bed. Retirement skate punk. Every song sounds like a cover of a cover band playing 2000s MOTÖHEAD or DAMNED material with out-of-tune, off-time vocals. Yes, it’s real.

Reaksi Esok Hari Kepunyaan Kita EP

Three immigrant punks from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore delivering an Asian punk blow in Melbourne, Australia. During the devastating COVID lockdown, these three seasoned fellows, from the likes of ENZYME, KROMOSOM, PISSCHRρST, and INTRUSION, locked themselves in the studio and came up with REAKSI. The result was five hard-hitting, Oi!-infused UK82 anthems that deal with the harsh realities of being an immigrant and especially being anti-authoritarian in countries that leave no room left for freedom. Singing in Bahasa only adds more fuel to the fire. For fans of both CHAOS UK and BLITZ. Tomorrow belongs to them!

Rearranged Face A Rare Caged Fern 12″

The third release from Tomothy Records, continuing their locals-only focus on committing overlooked corners of the modern Los Angeles weird-punk underground to vinyl—one where entirely analog processes are used from start to finish for every component of their records, which are then packaged in exquisitely designed and printed sleeves, a reminder of what the term “DIY” actually meant before it was co-opted into a meaningless genre catch-all for bands trying to climb the status ladder. REARRANGED FACE shares at least one member with L.A.’s reigning Messthetics obsessives SHARK TOYS, and both groups definitely have a similar nervous, wound-up disposition. There’s some gestures toward DEVO in the anxiously hiccuped vocals, wavering synth lines, and deconstructed but thoroughly locked-in rhythms of tracks like “Titular Story” and “Dreadful Apparition,” but fortunately without any of the forced, egg-caked cartoonishness that too often accompanies a DEVO comparison in a post-CONEHEADS punk landscape, while “Chin Brute” works up some kicked-out disco beats and sharp cuts of guitar that could have been lifted from the other side of a split single with any number of late ’90s/early ’00s Southern Californian post-punk revival acts (GOGOGO AIRHEART, the RAPTURE, you get it). Certified flipped-out fun for art freaks and closet new wavers alike.

Prison Affair / Research Reactor Corp. split EP

Frantic collision of energetic scrambled egg-punk from these two bands. First up is RESEARCH REACTOR CORP., who sound like mad scientists in the middle of an experiment going terribly wrong. I like their garage-punk-meets-oscillator terror sound and their teenage basement songwriting aesthetic. This sounds like a neon poster collection and a stack of fourth generation VHS sci-fi dubs on shag carpet. There is some definite CONEHEADS influence, although the vocals are harsher and howled over the tight, trebly arrangements. And “Human to Raisin” is a great song title. So the first side is a winner. Side Two features Spain’s PRISON AFFAIR, who also rule, but in a totally different way. These three songs are super-melodic jammers that sound like trashy ’50s rock’n’roll sped up with drum machines. Each track has constant guitar leads and catchy melodies for days. “Encerrado Contigo” is a blast of high-volume, nostalgia-inducing pop that sounds like the best parts of being a teenager. It’s so good. These are the kinds of splits I like: two bands who don’t necessarily sound that similar but fit together in spirit. Definitely a fun listen.

Ricky Hell and the Voidboys L’Appel du Vide LP

The name might make you think this is some cheeky throwback act, but RICKY HELL AND THE VOIDBOYS is delightfully weird, smothering melodic pop in piles of scuzz and skronk. Tracks like “Strychnine” shine by marrying shoegaze-adjacent tones (think Methodrone-era BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE) with hyperactive synth cross chatter. What really makes me stand to attention here, though, is the restraint. RICKY’s voice barely comes up past a whisper, a calm center to a storm of psychedelic layers of sound that manage to stay cohesive throughout. Each track is heartfelt and often gorgeous, but never without being daringly its own beast. Try out “Alaska,” replete with clarinet and glockenspiel, and hear what fuzzy guitar pop music should always sound like.

Romero Honey / Neapolitan 7″

Issued by Cool Death back in February of 2020, ROMERO’s debut was meant for a world that it has yet to see. The two perfect punk pop tracks that make up this 7″ should be blasted on a joyride with friends, to a sweaty venue crowd, or over the speakers at a late-night house party. Alas, the actual world has precluded any such activities. Fortunately, these tracks also sound great blasting in your headphones to whatever safe solo outing you’re stuck going on. The A-side “Honey” is built atop the same trebly, mid-fi garage punk foundation favored by fellow soulful pop aussies ROYAL HEADACHE, but the structure that ROMERO erects is decidedly more new wave—the melodic guitar line that kicks in at the ten-second mark could have been pulled off  NEW ORDER’s Power, Corruption and Lies, and the singer belts out her lyrics like she’s channeling a mix of Debbie Harry and Fay Fife. It ends up sounding so bright and kind of life affirming. The B-side “Neapolitan” has more of a Stiff Records strut-pop vibe similar to what you’d hear from someone like the EXPLODING HEARTS or SHEER MAG. It maybe doesn’t quite match the highs of the A-side, but it’s still fantastic and serves as a nice complement. The greatness of this record is clearly the result of an ensemble cast, but it’s hard to deny that vocalist Alanna Oliver is the star. She has such a powerful voice and soulful delivery (apparently she cut her teeth in a BLUES BROTHERS tribute act!) that you can’t help but believe every word that’s coming out of her mouth. I hope more people can hear it. I imagine if these guys weather this shitty pandemic, more people will. One of the most essential releases to come out in the past few years!

Rommel セクシー スマイル / 甘いキッス 7″ reissue

So, Bitter Lake is a label that specializes in reissuing songs from the Japanese underground. Pretty sure the word specializes is the precise word to use here. I don’t know what to make of this one. It’s like cheesy pop music, with cheesy back-up vocals. I have no idea what they’re singing about, but I’m sure it’s cheesy. All that said, this thing is so catchy that I can’t not like it. And it makes me smile. I’m just sitting here listening and smiling. I may be in love with this record. Even if I can’t marry it, it’s my new favorite thing.

Set-Top Box Max Headroom EP

This has gotta be like—what—the fourth or fifth release by this guy just this year? For those who don’t know, SET-TOP BOX is one of the (at least) three solo recording projects of Ishka Edmeades (he also does stuff as TEE VEE REPAIRMAN and SATANIC TOGAS), which he finds time to work on while he’s not helping out in other bands/projects (RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION, GEE TEE, MAINFRAME, etc.), designing record sleeves (like this one—looks pretty good, right?), or running his label, Warttmann Inc. Dude is busy! But he’s still cranking out the hits. This four-song EP starts out with one of the catchiest tracks he’s written. “Nothin’ At All” takes that eggy start/stop jerk you can’t escape these days and smooths it out a bit with some rubbery cartoon funk, resulting in a little groove that would compel even the grumpiest of punks (like me) to nod along. It alone is probably worth the price of admission, but the rest of the EP is solid enough—it’s full of the Heathcliff-meets-DEVO punk you’ve come to expect from this project. He’s teetering on the edge of putting out too many things to pay attention to, but this EP ain’t tipping him over.

Sick Bags Only the Young Die Good 12″

Good rock n’ roll is like pie—even if I’m already full, I can always fit in one slice. Even if I’ve spent all day listening to the stuff, glutting myself on boogying beats and barroom riffs, along comes a swift six-song EP like this and I’ll happily throw it on. It’s not breaking the mold, but it’s fun and recorded well. At its best it reminds me of NEW BOMB TURKS, which is high praise in my book. Plenty of hooks and swagger abound, though I don’t know if I’d have seconds.

Sindrome De Abstinencia Sindrome De Abstinencia cassette

Thrashing hardcore punk from the calles of Chile, as raw as it is pissed-off. They go hard, they go fast, and with the occasional blastbeat to add insult to injury. The vocals are ravenous and convey all the angst a release like this needs. Gets you in the mood to skate down the street in the middle of traffic. Get your bandanas or SUICIDAL caps out and go tag some walls!

Skit of Resistance Unreleased Noisecore Live Recordings 1999 CD-R

Doesn’t the title tell you everything you need to know? Twenty-one minutes of D-beat-influenced noisecore recorded live and presented in questionable fidelity…which is exactly what you want, if you read this review past the title of the release.

Sloks A Knife in Your Hand CD

From Turin, Italy comes this fuzzed-out, noisy rock’n’roll mess. Like a very Euro take on the early bassless CRAMPS or art school debauchery of the GORIES or PUSSY GALORE, they rock the listener through eleven tracks of blown-out guitar, tribal drums, and vocals so echoed out they’re barely discernible at times. I only wish the songs were a little more interesting as I dig their recording style quite a bit. There are some moments such as in “Killer Vs. Killer” or “Last Grave” where they bend the formula slightly, waking up my ears, but overall it’s just kinda…eh.

Hooper / Spells Rock N Roll Swap Meet: Day 1 split EP

It’s a stunt release! Each band covers a song by the other and also plays a song written for them by the other band. What fun! Both bands have a ’90s indie rock sound. Their songs are earnest and heartfelt. There are harmonizing vocals and fuzzy, jangly guitars falling somewhere between SUPERCHUNK and J CHURCH.

Custody / Spells split 7″

Denver label Snappy Little Numbers brings you a split 7″ featuring a song apiece from Finnish band CUSTODY and the label owner’s band SPELLS. According to Discogs, the former band features members from NHL 95, CIGARETTE CROSSFIRE, and BAZED, while the latter pulls from MAIL ORDER CHILDREN, DUST HEART, and CHARLIE CONTINENTAL. I’ve never heard of any of those, but they all certainly sound like band names! Anyway, the CUSTODY side starts off promising enough—the first fifteen seconds sound like the band is gearing up to launch into a sick MAN OR ASTRO-MAN? rocker. Then the vocals kick in. Remember back in the mid-to-late ’90s when emo rock bands were trying to make it big by playing music that could slot in nicely next to VERTICAL HORIZON or LIFEHOUSE? No? Well, if you want to get a taste of what that sounded like, give this side a spin. SPELLS deliver on the promise of their name and start their side chanting out “C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-C-E” like the BAY CITY ROLLERS. They then launch into something that sounds an awful lot like early HOT WATER MUSIC trying their hand at posicore. I’m having trouble imagining who this 7″ would appeal to.

Sperma Sperma 12″ reissue

An archival release of Swiss punks SPERMA’s 1979 12″ EP, this record features three tracks of charmingly inept first-wave clamor. Slightly out-of-tune, off-beat, and recorded with traditional production values that don’t do the tunes any favors, this is a pretty good example of the kind of homegrown punk that was sprouting up all over the place at the time. These kids might have been listening to the BUZZCOCKS or some SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS, even. They weren’t the greatest at English but appear to have had a firm grasp on the F-word, which is important (see “No More Love”). This one has its charm, but it’s probably best suited for collectors who have to have all the ’70s punk.

SSSSSSS SSSSSSS cassette

SSSSSSS is a two-piece recording project where one member handles all the music and the other takes care of vocal duties. This tape jumps right into high gear with some revved-up, weirdo drum-machine-driven fast punk stuff which is super cool. Throughout the course of their ten-song cassette, SSSSSSS dabbles in a number of different genres that feel more inspired by drone or black metal, which feels less exciting to me. I wasn’t able to find out any info about the band, but I’m not entirely sure if that’s intentional or if they are just truly un-Google-able. My biggest gripe is that the demo is dubbed very quietly. When I realized it was the same program repeated on both sides my hopes got raised that maybe the B-side was dubbed a bit louder, but alas, it was not—in fact, it was even quieter than the A-side.

Stunted Youth We May Be Dumb But We Ain’t Slow cassette

From the sound of things, these Texas boys have captured a level-5 storm in a garbage can. On their debut tape, STUNTED YOUTH conjures up a Tasmanian devil-like swirl of chaotic thrashing, complete with surrounding dirt cloud. The songs themselves come from the same spiritual place as some of the coolest bits of O.G. acts like CIRCLE JERKS and BLACK FLAG, but with the added ferocious firepower of a truly insane drummer. The muffled production of the tape gives it all a claustrophobic feel that somehow works, but I’m gonna need an actual record from these guys ASAP.

Suitor Communion cassette

Debut EP from this Cleveland duo, initially available as a digital-only release, now expanded and issued on cassette for the first time by Just Because. The base sound here is post-punk, but over these ten tracks you get to hear it applied across a handful of subgenres. The album opener “Communion” pairs a CURE-like instrumental track with lush dream pop vocals, which is then followed by a slower, stripped-down post-hardcore number. Other tracks touch on WIPERS-esque punk, garage-y post-punk (in the vein of the A FRAMES), indie pop, and even a bit of Krautrock. In addition to the production, the vocalist really helps tie this thing together. Her super sweet voice floats alongside the track like a narcotic haze, making it easy to enjoy the ride, even when the drive could be a little smoother. Worth a listen!

The Dents 1979/80 LP

Previously unheard femme-fronted Midwestern synth damage from Cincinnati’s the DENTS, who never managed to release anything in real time but finally get their due on this new archival collection, featuring seventeen cuts recorded on a four-track run through the club mixer at two local gigs in late 1979 and early 1980. Just by virtue of forming in Ohio in the late ’70s, the DENTS were pretty much destined to be inherently weirder (and therefore cooler) than most bands of the era on a similar punk/new wave cusp who also existed outside of coastal urban centers, boasted multiple members with mullets, and played sets heavy on covers of fairly recent vintage (in the DENTS’ case, we get takes on the VOIDOIDS, the REAL KIDS, and PATTI SMITH, among others), and they absolutely deliver on that promise. A steady, fucked-up synth warble over the dilapidated rhythmic stomp of “Baby Wants” and “The Dented” sounds like the UNITS through a heavy Clevo proto-punk filter, “Sleeping Around” is a shoulda-been KBD classic on the MAGGOTS/EYES wavelength (Vivien Vinyl’s savage opening shout: “He was a fixture of the Cincinnati scene / I was a victim of the sex machine”), and the nagging, synth-spiked snarl of “Why Do You Do?” drops a pin on the map right in between late ’70s New York punk grit and early ’80s Bay Area art-wave mayhem. Midwest is best; true heads understand and should acquire this post-haste. 

The Freakees Freakee Deakee EP

The FREAKEES have been kicking around the Los Angeles punk scene for the past five or so years, and in that time they’ve put out a bunch of stuff. So, it’s a bit surprising to learn that this is their first solo vinyl outing. Everything else has been a feature on split, a cassette, or a digital-only release. Well, they’re starting off with a 7″ to be proud of! They’ve toned down the vocals a bit from earlier material. They’re still wild, but they’ve been pushed closer to the front and are no longer drowned in reverb. It’s a welcome change. The A-side features three quick tracks of bratty, hardcore-influenced garage punk.They have some of the trappings of egg-punk, particularly the warbly effects on the guitar, but they give off more of a REATARDS vibe than you’d get from your typical DEVO-core band. It’s solid stuff. But let’s talk about this B-side—holy moly is it good!  “Freakee Friday” slows things down to a snail’s pace and allows the band to really wallow around in the muck. While the rhythm section lumbers along and the vocalist emits pure negativity (who even cares what he’s saying), both guitarists just kind of do their own thing—one plays sustained, feedback-y notes and the other alternates between noodly licks and half-assed rhythm guitar. It sounds like In My Head BLACK FLAG at half speed, but, like, way dumber—a fantastic little downer punk dirge to rival BLACK PANTIES or LIFE STINKS.

The McGunks Going Out Early CD

This album reminds me of something that would have come out on Just Add Water or Mutant Pop or a label like that. It’s the kind of stuff that would fall under the umbrella of pop punk that has less of a RAMONES feel and more of a straight-up rock’n’roll influence. That’s not to say the RAMONES influence isn’t there—I mean, they have a song that name drops just about every song ever written by them. It’s pretty standard fare for this style, nothing particularly groundbreaking, but it did grow on me after repeated listens. The vocalist has a raspy style that definitely reminded me of the singer from A RADIO WITH GUTS, and once I figured it out, it all started to come together for me.

The Moröns Today’s Special LP

Slick, rock’n’roll-tinged punk with some “whoa-oh”s and “oi, oi”s peppered in sparingly. If you removed the vocalist, I would swear that this was a DWARVES album that Blag had yet to put vocals on. I imagine that dudes who dress like Guy Fieri would fucking love this. For real. I’m not even talking shit.

The Scaners X Ray Glasses: On EP

I’ve had enough of DEVO-core. Okay, I haven’t, but this single posits something maybe even more up my alley: NUMAN-core. Lyon’s the SCANERS hearken back to the TUBEWAY ARMY days while paying homage to garage rock in a way that sticks the landing beautifully. The B-sides work too, though not quite as much as the groovier/headier single, leaning more heavily on hard riffs than subterranean synth gloom. All-around nifty little release, though.

The Soul Patrol Mara / Take Back the Night 7″ reissue

If all we can be assured of in life is death and taxes, we can at least add one more certainty to that depressing list—obscure, unheard bands from the late ’70s waiting to be unearthed for the pleasure of a new generation of fuck-ups and malcontents (that’s you and me!). Unappreciated Louisiana punks the SOUL PATROL private-pressed this single in 1979 and it remained rare as hen’s teeth until Feel It decided to let the rest of us in on its secret. Pre-dating fellow bayou-based punks like the SHITDOGS, the SOUL PATROL kicked out a decent racket back in their day. SOUL PATROL hit a sweet spot between bunk-acid hard rock and carburetor-dung garage punk. “Mara” is a slurry rocker that sounds like a soundtrack to inhaling dirt-weed and lusting after the cashier at the local burger joint. “Take Back the Night” appropriates an anti-violence proto-hashtag and blends it with some greasy-ass guitar to lay down some total KBD destruction that is guaranteed to improve whatever punk mixtape you’re currently working on.

The Stools Feelin’ Fine EP

Detroit’s the STOOLS have a trashy and bugged-out punk sound not unlike New Zealand’s the CAVEMEN, but with a tighter musicianship powering the more traditional garage styles behind it. The A-side tracks “Can’t Feel Good” and “Half Track Mind” clock in at a formidable speed, marrying ’60s-inspired flair with ZEKE-like tempos, which I dig. On the flip side, they go a bit bluesy on “Rockpile,” and then they go groovy, sounding a lot like NYC’s DIRTY FENCES on the closing chant of “Eyeball Crush.” Real rock’n’roll cretins will want to get happily involved with this modern Motor City mutation.

The Wind-Ups Try Not to Think LP

A California project dreamed up during the 2020 lockdown, the WIND-UPS’ debut album presents an interesting brew of styles wrapped in fashionably weathered production and distorted ghostly vocals. The first few tracks have a post-punk/no wave feel, and then it suddenly gives way to some syrupy lo-fi power pop and RAMONES-y rock. At some point it leans back into more artsy territory, before finally ending off the record sounding like the BEACH BOYS on Quaaludes. The songs are brief, yet the album provides a lot to digest, and if you like the MARKED MEN, etc., this is for you.

The Yolks Take Your Time / Tell Me Now 7″

The YOLKS are a funny thing for me. Sometimes, I think they just sort of sound like that band whose name escapes me right now. Other times I think they’re catchy as all fuck and the greatest thing ever. As I dive into the first track, this is definitely one of those second times. The A-side is kind of a folky number, but Jezus, it’s great. And it’s over in less than a couple of minutes. Perfect. The B-side is more pure pop perfection. Just excellent. Oh, I think that band I couldn’t think of is the STROKES. Limited to 100 on vinyl. I’m getting one.

 

Thee Hearses Thee Hearses cassette

THEE HEARSES bring synth and darkwave influences that are truly unmatched. On first listen, this tape resembles bands like the SERFS or MOLCHAT DOMA, but they’re really working with their own sound. It’s choppy drum machine and synth-based music that really evokes the image of burnt out post-Soviet countries. It’s the soundtrack to an Eastern European post-apocalyptic nightmare. Anybody with even the slightest interest in really synth-heavy post-punk really has to check this out.

Tony Matura Riding the Secret Subway EP

This New York punk old-timer was a member of the mid-’80s band the OPTIC NERVE. They were a decently well-known 1960s folk/psych/garage revival band when bands like the CHESTERFIELD KINGS and the L.A. Paisley Underground bands were a thing. This, however, is a reworking of songs he wrote for his teenage Queens punk band SECRET SUBWAY in ’79/’80. The songs are catchy, with a ’60s garage feel that seems to have been a passion for TONY like many punkers of the day. The song “Nightmare” was supposedly directly inspired by the MISFITS after opening for them, and it’s maybe the best tune here, but sounds nothing like the Jersey ghouls. My only complaint is that the songs are a little stiff and slower than I’d like but, hey, that’s just my teen thrash metal mind speaking. Fans of bands like the NERVES or even the UNDEAD might dig this and, hey, these old dudes are dying off by the minute, so pay attention while you still can.

Toxic Waste Belfast LP reissue

Sealed Records is responsible for this vital reissue of Belfast, the 1987 posthumous album of the Northern Irish anarcho-punk band TOXIC WASTE. Formed in 1982 after a CRASS gig (so it goes), they immediately made the DIY ethic their own and began playing in a scene that included bands like STALAG 17. You have to think about the harsh context in which they created their noise, the Troubles, and all the political violence that the area experienced. Generating spaces of creative freedom and denunciation was of utmost importance and TOXIC WASTE did it under terrible conditions. They recorded some demos and participated in some splits and compilations with bands like ASYLUM, the latter released by the Warzone Collective, which also included a screenprinting studio, a practice space for bands, and a vegetarian cafe. After touring their homeland and Europe a couple of times, the band split up in 1986. Let’s go to the music. Side A contains tracks from their early recordings produced between 1985 and 1986 while Side B contains tracks from a later session between the band’s Roy Wallace and members of DIRT. The sound is furious and urgent, with a vital energy that magnifies the power of the internal dynamics of the songs, where there is enough room to pay attention to the band’s politicized lyrics, to sing along with them (the male/female vocals are incredible), and to degenerate into a good mosh pit when needed. I recommend above all the pair of songs that close the album, “Belfast/Plastic Bullets” and “We Will Be Free,” brutal and beautiful.

Tracks Brakes on You LP

TRACKS were a Boston band who released one 7″ single in 1977, moved to New York in 1978 to join the scene, and promptly broke up in 1979. The single tracks “Brakes on You” and “Bombs Away” are included here along with 1976 live recordings from Cambridge, MA’s The Club. Led by the snarling, tough gal vocals of Lorry Doll, TRACKS have a nasty, don’t-give-a-shit attitude. The music is sped-up hard rock with a bit of punkiness to it. These recordings are rough, but there is something there. Perhaps with a proper recording, some publicity, and the necessary luck, they could have made the history books. But you also get the feeling that isn’t what they were looking for.

V/A La Masacre Continua cassette

The great tradition of solidarity through punk compilations is one of the most profoundly beautiful, selfless, and powerful actions this type of music is capable of. Not only do they constitute forceful allegations in songs about, almost always, the repeated use of violence in social conflicts, they also map routes of musical scenes, establish lists of ethical companions in this twisted planet, and generate snapshots of crucial moments of youth culture. La Masacre Continua (“The Massacre Continues” in English) follows this line. It’s a fabulous compilation of 21 bands, mostly from the vital Colombian scene, but also from France, Spain, and the United States, united by language, all singing in Spanish, and by the urgent need to denounce the terrible state violence unleashed against social movements in Colombia this year, which has caused dozens of deaths. The selection of bands is impeccable, and just as a sample we’ll mention titans such as MURO, SYSTEMA, PRIMER RÉGIMEN, PORVENIR OSCURO, and LUMPEN. As for the sound palette, we have street punk, noisy hardcore, DIY lo-fi greatness, D-beat fury, Japanese-style madness, cavernous violent screams, powerviolence, and much, much more. Buying the cassette or downloading the album means supporting Colombia’s worthy fight against the state. You can also make a donation if you like. Either way, it is important that the message is heard. From Colombia to the world.

V/A Kinda Sorta Music 2020 Compilation CD-R

A compilation of ten bands “from the Los Angeles area.” No song titles, just band names, and that’s about it in terms of packaging and whatnot. Definitely of the demo tape/mixtape quality, aurally enhanced (or degraded, depending on your view of such things) by four of said tracks being live. Most of the bands range in the thrash/grindcore/noisy/sore throat/industrial end of things. The two standouts (certainly for me, partly because they don’t fall into those areas) are the early ARTICLES OF FAITH fury (and melody) of SCREAMING COWBELL, and the female-fronted TRAP GIRL, who similarly manage to sound driving and raging while keeping that sense of melody, like TILT covering the POISON GIRLS.

V/A Paid By Rock cassette

This one is all over the place, and I’m all over it. Pulsating ’80s hard industrial dance, ’90s grunge punk dirges, stripped-down art-punk, a stunning PRIMITIVES cover, outsider electro-pop, bombastic nasty garage punk…this comp just fukkn grabs you and then slams from start to finish. Highlights include the MAXINES, FREAK GENES, THREX, ADULKT LIFE, and GERM HOUSE, but it’s the whole damn thing that deserves your attention.

V/A Presence Not Absence: A Benefit Compilation for Trans BIPOC Housing Assistance cassette

This comp dropped last year, but the purpose is (sadly) more appropriate now than ever. Musically all over the place, much like the communities it is meant to support and lift up; driving electropop (NO NO BABY), ethereal dance (DOVE ARMITAGE), dark conscious hip hop (the UHURUVERSE—whose opening track “Obey” is an absolute stunner), noisy post-punk (VAGUESS), experimental vocals (UNO LADY), and the list goes on. Quality level is extremely high for all genres and musical modalities represented, and proceeds are going to the right place(s).

V/A Heroes of the Night: Punk, Pop & Wave from the UK Underground ’79–’83 LP

I’ve seen more than one reference to this new collection of femme-fronted UK obscurities as being a “female new wave Killed By Death” or some variation on that theme—sure, most of the 45s from which these tracks were pulled are certified triple-digit bonzers, but the content here would more generously qualify as “punky” (rather than “punk”) and the unfulfilled commercial aspirations on display across the board are much higher than scum stats would suggest, so don’t expect to find any raw and messy new wave counterparts to TEDDY AND THE FRAT GIRLS included. My take? If you flipped your lid for those Subnormal Girls comps from a few years back and you’re as down with skinny-tied guitar solos as art-schooled clatter while trawling the scattered histories of women making music in the post-punk era, you probably already know that this is a required pick-up. A couple of standouts therein: the soft-glow power pop of the RUSSIANS’ “No Title” essentially détournés (and one-ups) the BOYS’ canonical “Terminal Love,” CHEAP CINEMA’s “Fade Away” splits the difference between Bomp!-ed new wave bounce and early Paisley Underground melancholy, “Love is Necessary” by the CRY pairs delicate vocals with some slick and very ’80s keyboard action (YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS gone synth-pop?), and THREE PHASE brings sugary-sweet hooks to retrofuturist minimal wave on “All I Want to Do Is (Fall in Love With You).” I demand a second (and third, and fourth) volume.

Variolación Frenética cassette

I have reviewed several pandemic projects in the last few months, coming from different parts of the world, and they all share something: a feeling of brutal urgency to connect and shout out the current state of the world. And what’s more, they’re all great. VARIOLACIÓN does not escape this new paradigm. This is a four-piece hardcore band from Portland, Oregon, with components from other bands like PROHIBITED, TOTAL WAR, DEAD HUNT, and FALSE RITUAL. I love the nods to the past like that “Pretty Vacant” riff that opens the brutal “Sombra de Humo” or the repeated chorus of “Obsesión Mortal” reminiscent of OLHO SECO. Sonically, this is political hardcore that paints scenarios of everyday terror (misogyny, animal cruelty, war, etc.) through raw and primitive noise, very much in the vein of Mexican bands like M.E.L.I. and SS-20. “Massacre de Inocentes” has an ear-splitting guitar solo that is just fantastic. “Castillo Negro” has a pretty amazing First Wave of Black Metal riff vibe to it. To sum up, seven great songs from a band that hopefully won’t remain just a quarantine project.

Vonbrigði Hanagal 2xLP

I’m only four songs into this, and I’m going to file it under essential listening. This collection of Icelandic post-punk and hardcore was recorded in 1982—83 and sounds immediately vital and current. VONBRIGÁI is new to me, and apparently was not very well-known outside of ReykjavÁ­k’s punk scene, and that is a shame for the ages. The recording sounds fantastic: warm and full like it was recorded in a studio this week. The drums and bass sound especially great. As for the songs, they teem with post-punk unease and tension but drive with hardcore energy. The band comes across as super confident and tight. What a gem, seriously. The guitars are frequently dissonant and feedback-laden with flanger swirls around arpeggiated structures that predate noisy indie rock and post-hardcore by years. Syncopated beats lock in perfectly with driving bass lines that will make you bob your head and also scratch it because these folks are not a household name. If I’m making comparisons, it sounds like the first few ICEAGE records meshed with End Hits FUGAZI, but that’s not doing this album justice. Just go listen to it now and love it—it’s on Bandcamp. It looks like the double-LP is sold out, but hold out hope for a repress. Highly recommended.

Warcollapse Bound to Die EP

Sweden’s masters of gruesome, Vevarsle-style dismal Scandi-beat return with four tracks of feverous hardcore punk. I’ve enjoyed the grim, depressive tones of WARCOLLAPSE for decades now and this EP matures with particularly punchier percussion, faster in a way, and more experimental in the riffs which can border on stoner metal at times, but always played at an accelerated kängpunk pace. The vocals are more twisted and coarser than ever. Passages and vocal deliveries are also extended longer than on previous recordings, almost sung. This is carefree and embittered crust punk with more tilt into grease-stenched, MOTÖR-charged crustn’roll. I have a few comparisons to Eastern European crust LPs from the last decade or so, but I compared said bands to WARCOLLAPSE at the time! They have always been very associated with writing the script for this style, with pace changes bordering on other aspects of metal but always remaining true to form. Totally killer return EP from these Swede crust-as-fuck existence vets, start to finish.

Wineteeth Soft Bangers cassette

Debut full-length recording from Harrisonburg, VA natives WINETEETH. Navigating the oft-overused descriptive genre term the label uses to describe the band, I do not hear “garage rock” coming from this cassette. What I hear is more of an amalgamation of ’90s genres: a mixture of slower, distorted grunge-esque songs mixed with aggressive but crisp and clearly-recorded alt-rock. Feels almost like a period piece for the 1990s. The recording is super pro-sounding, with vocals sitting right up top. It wouldn’t feel at all out of place to me if one of these songs was slipped into rotation on an alternative rock radio station.

Wrong Band Let’s Go! EP

Super slick and produced punk with heavy glam rock roots. Intentionally sultry vocals are the clear focal point, stepping back briefly for the Sunset Strip leads to take over the spotlight. I feel like I could blink and Sweden’s WRONG BAND is the next JET or DARKNESS and headlining arenas.