Reviews

MRR #464 • January 2022

Abi Ooze R.I.P. EP

We may be more than a half-decade out from its heyday, but the NWI scene is still pretty potent. Not only are veterans like LIQUIDS still churning out vital releases, but there seems to be no shortage of cool new acts popping up, like this recording project from Hammond’s Jade Baisa (who’s actually played in LIQUIDS and is backed here by Mat Williams on drums). This EP contains eight tracks of lo-fi punk covering a variety of sounds—some fashionable, some less so. A track like “ABA” sounds like C.C.T.V. mixed with the manic multi-tracked vocals of JUDY AND THE JERKS, and the ramshackle garage-y punk of “Liquidate” sounds not unlike those great early NOTS singles. But she’s also not afraid to slow things down or get poppy. The opening track “Into” has a borderline CRIMPSHRINE vibe, and it’s followed by an earnest slow rocker that reminds me just the faintest bit of some of the emo bands that you’d hear in the late ’90s. I don’t mention that as a slight, more so to point out that the track (and most of the record) is played with a sincerity you don’t really get much these days. It’s actually kind of refreshing and, when paired with good songwriting ideas, makes for a neat record. Unfortunately, this appears to be the final release from the project (hence the title). Bummer.

Action Park You Must Be This Tall to Die LP

This album opens with a soundbite of a commercial for the fabled/doomed amusement park from which the band takes its name, and from there the listener is treated to twelve poppy, melodic, hook-laden songs that sound like they were just unearthed from a time capsule buried sometime in the mid-’90s. There’s enough here to keep me interested while listening, just not enough to make me reach for this for repeat listens. That said, 1995 me would have been all over this record, for sure.

Adam Roth and His Band of Men Down the Shore Original Soundtrack LP

A very nice reissue of this 1981 film soundtrack. The film is a trashy, low-budget teen sex flick more commonly known as Beach House. The music sounds much more professional. ADAM ROTH AND HIS BAND OF MEN, which includes Adam’s brother Charles, play very catchy power pop. The songs are punchy and fun. The title track lays out the plot humorously as a good movie theme should. Bonus fun fact: one of the songs on this LP, “Judy Won’t You Dance With Me?,” was co-written by Denis Leary. The film is silly fun and the soundtrack rocks.

Bärchen Und Die Milchbubis Endlich Komplett Betrunken LP

A new collection of the (almost) complete works of early ’80s German group BÄRCHEN UND DIE MILCHBUBIS, who brought a playful naivety and shambolic charm to the Neue Deutsche Welle—their smiling teddy bear mascot was like a knowing wink that they were operating on a different wavelength than, say, D.A.F. or MALARIA! The stripped-down, melodically off-kilter bash of their 1980 debut EP Jung Kaputt Spart Altersheime was very much of a piece with their Hannover scene peers and labelmates HANS-A-PLAST, and by 1981’s follow-up LP Dann Macht Es Bumm, BÄRCHEN UND DIE MILCHBUBIS had developed a more fully-realized sense of self, one that artfully encompassed 39 CLOCKS covers (taking the VELVETS-gone-electro drone of “DNS” and turning it out like NICO fronting KLEENEX), sparse drum machine pop (back to that local 39 CLOCKS connection!) breaking into a full-on pogo charge on “Manager”, solemn, brittle post-punk (“Tiefseefisch”), and proto-twee/C86 jangle (“Muskeln”), all without fully abandoning their initial wild, freewheeling punk spirit (see “Pogo Liebt Dich” and “Spaß” for proof positive). One of Dann Macht Es Bumm’s fourteen tracks got left behind on what is otherwise an exhaustive round-up of the MILCHBUBIS discography (where’s “Hab Doch Keine Angst”?!), but there’s a handful of live tracks circa ’80—’83 and a 2021 re-do of “DNS” to make up for it; more than enough bang for your buck.

Bashford Greener Grasses LP

With a recording shamelessly EQ-ed to Nevermind, BASHFORD manages to occasionally crawl out from that early ’90s shadow on Greener Grasses…but apparently direct light is too much. This is pure pre-commercial grunge with an extra dose of hate in the vocals. They nail it, to be clear, especially when they pick up the pace a bit.

Big Bopper New Mutations cassette

Spastic scrap/crap bursts of punk from somewhere in Texas. It’s hard to tell if the anonymity that is BIG BOPPER is an actual band or another one-man solo basement project spawned by quarantine. Regardless, it’s catchy, and its pointedly sardonic humor is infectious. The cover art of BIG BOPPER’s discography and the overall sharp spaz vibe lands it in the Lumpy Records camp, which is a great endorsement.

Big Jar of Mayo Cassingle cassette

This is actually quite good, but the name and packaging are way dumb, so I never would have heard it if not assigned for review. Everything’s a bit warped here, and I’m hearing something like if the FREEZE were art-punks with a splash of modern snot along the lines of LIQUIDS. Two solid songs in a little over two minutes. Mayo is fucking gross, though.

Black Mercy For the Man That Has Everything EP

Pretty stunning debut release from a crew of Austin veterans. Gruff, aggressive sounds that owe a heavy debt to ’90s emotive DIY (think JOHN HENRY WEST by way of ’80s Dischord?) without giving up the quest for fast, raw intensity, fronted by a set of pipes that land like Jerry A. on a heavy diet of DEATHREAT. Short, wild bursts (eight songs on a seven-incher—that’s some real ’90s shit) mashing all of the discordance and rage into those tiny-ass little grooves.

Blonde Revolver Red Ruby EP

What we have here is the debut release from new Melbourne label Rack Off, who are looking to shed light on female-identifying and gender-diverse acts, and the debut EP from BLONDE REVOLVER, a new Melbourne six-piece with members from FUTURE SUCK, DELIVERY, and GUTTER GIRLS (among others). They apparently started as a BLONDIE cover band but now play plainspoken, fairly straightforward Aussie punk with a bit of a post-punk edge courtesy of an ever present synth that provides a sinister undercurrent—it sounds like a mix of AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS and the LOST SOUNDS. The five originals here are solid enough, and they do a really cool cover of the URINALS’ “I’m a Bug,” kinda turning it into a GARY NUMAN track. But the highlight of the record (and maybe my favorite moment from any release in 2021) is the little “waaa” that the singer yelps to punctuate the (pretty great) line “I’m an alpha baby, and you’re a beta bitch” on “Pocket Rocket”. Fuck—it’s good!

Bosque Rojo Bosque Rojo cassette

BOSQUE ROJO is a band from Montreal that sings in Spanish. They released this cassette with the great label A World Divided, specialized in giving focus to bands from the Mediterranean (Southern Europe, North Africa, and Middle East). This is a band with a very classic Spanish sound: sharp political lyrics, a voice that spits fury and truths, a thunderous rhythm section, and guitar that creates quite addictive walls of noise, often with touches of dark post-punk. It’s forceful. It’s catchy. You can feel the knack for personal hits in all four songs, but I highlight “Solostalgia” and “Muertos en Vida,” sublime punches to the face of conformity. The truth is that I already want them to record a full album.

Boss Cash Em In / Red Signal 7″

The second single by glam-punk hooligans BOSS arrives three years after the first, with under five minutes of music to show for it, but that’s no bovver cause this 45rpm, two-song, thank-you-and-goodnight format is the canonical vehicle for this sound. Also, most or all of the members have been busy here and there: Jonah Falco’s recorded a stack of bands and played on releases like the sick new GAME 12″, Maxime Smadja has, well, also recorded a stack of bands, even if there’s no sign of a new RIXE record (are they still going?). “Cash Em In” is the pick of the pair here, with a spoken intro by Callum of the CHISEL before a riot of muscled-up boogie and wicked guitar phasing; B-side “Red Signal” is heads-down junkshop glam with great, impetuous “whoo-oo!” backing vocal interjections.

BRNDA Do You Like Salt? LP

This DC quartet is virtually indistinguishable from similar dance punk units such as BODEGA and GAUCHE and PILL, except that those bands are better and they also don’t have complicated relationships with vowels like a large segment of the indie scene of the last ten-plus years. (They’re just letters, guys, no need to be so frightened!) The title “Year of the Hot Dog by Burger Gang” suggests some kinda excoriating dissection of the garage rock scene and all of its sexual predator-enabling, but alas, it’s just a goofy half-song with about ten seconds of musique concrète overdubbing trying in vain to rescue it from its fate as yet another yawn-worthy entry on this pointless album. Do I like salt? I fucking love it! How about you throw some in the closest wound and write a song about it! “The Avocado” almost sounds like it’s having fun, but, again, this track is way past its sell-by date and even someone like me—who is quite fond of this style—has to return this mushy product to the proprietor from which it was purchased. Hey man, got any poppers?

Brute Spring The Perilous Transformations of Kid Spit cassette

Face-melting, hi-energy electro (punk?) blasts from BRUTE SPRING. There are elements that fall in line with late ’80s dancefloor industrial, with lots of skittish, erratic action that lives in a damaged world all its own. The mid-paced moments (“Furious Veins,” the six-plus-minute mindfukk “Spiritual Leader”) are where the band will likely find followers among fans of the damaged depths of the Play It Again Sam catalog and peripheral acts like CLOCK DVA, while the manic pummeling of “Orange Strain” and the opener “High Tension Wire Manipulator” hit like primitive industrial synth on a bathtub crank bender. This one is a total winner.

C4 Chaos Streaks EP

I always have room on my plate for a helping of hardcore that, quite frankly, revels in its own ignorance. I’ve written about this before; there is a push-and-pull between brains and guts in punk and especially hardcore. I have nothing but love for fellow overeducated bookworm punks, but sometimes you just want to throw something that lives up to its name. Boston’s C4 is simply explosive. They hate techno and mock BOB DYLAN, because nothing matters except riffs that make you go absolutely dumbass and dive bomb off a stage assembled in a church rec room. This is hard-hitting perfection, slamming hardcore that further proves the point: ignorance is bliss indeed. Get over yourself and turn it way up.

Carambolage Carambolage LP / Eilzustellung-Exprès LP reissues

The French word “carambolage“ basically translates to “collision” or “crash,” an etymology that suited the purposely disjointed sound of these early ’80s Neue Deutsche Welle practitioners exceedingly well. Their self-titled LP from 1980 bears a number of very of-the-era German post-punk hallmarks—unsettling synth flourishes; highly dramatic vocals (cf. NINA HAGEN) that are squealed, shouted, chanted and spit; stilted, choppy rhythms with forays into tangled no wave noise—and at their bleakest, like on “Tu Doch Nicht So,” there’s an early industrial-meets-deathrock vibe in the clattering, hypnotic drum patterns and general atmosphere of unease that’s dead-on West Berlin despite the band actually hailing from rural Fresenhagen. But CARAMBOLAGE wasn’t content to stay in one place for too long, as they careen from the the SLITS-like feral feminine energy of “Rampenlicht” with its insistent bass pulse and breathless girl-gang backing vocals, to organ-driven, carnivalesque (nightmarish?) kitsch in “Das Männlein,” to the see-sawing, KLEENEX-but-darker art-punk delirium of “Was Hat Das Für Einen Sinn.” The group then expanded from a trio to a quartet for 1982’s Eilzustellung-Exprès, a tighter and (at times, at least) more conventionally pop-minded, new wave-ready effort than their debut, but that’s all relative. The opening pairing of “Vollgeturnt” and “Eingeschneit” translates the GO-GO’S into German with girl-group-influenced harmonies and effervescent power pop jangle (a few years before LES CALAMITÉS would do much the same en français), and the English-sung “Take Me” is a slice of proto-DELMONAS swinging ’60s-via-’80s mod-pop, but there’s still plenty of lipstick traces left behind from the preceding record—the blurts of sax and stark rhythmic tumble in “Die Zeit,” the hyper-expressive vocals over the asymmetrical lurch of “Widerlich,” etc. CARAMBOLAGE hasn’t had the same sort of reverberant reach that made their contemporaries like MALARIA! and ABWÄRTS bootleg punk shirt staples in the present day, but hopefully these first-time reissues of their two proper LPs will do something to help turn that around.

Cherry Cheeks Cherry Cheeks cassette

Another pandemic solo “band” and I’m not complaining. Total NW Indiana feels with a freak show keyboard that pops in when it wants. Bass drives this one, guided by rock solid jerk punk drums and freak show riffs—it’s weird as hell and more addictive than it should be. I feel like the syrup from CHERRY CHEEKS is gonna clog your earholes, because it gets sticky as hell on tracks like “Two Bugs” (“We’re just two bugs on a strawberry / We’re just two bugs on a blackberry”) and you’ll never get these hits off of your fingers. Fans of LIQUIDS, BLURT, SPITS and the like need to dig into these sounds pronto.

Ciggie & the Darts Liquor, Leather, Denim & Darts cassette

I was expecting a pack of thick-accented Aussies with this band name. Instead, I get a trio of Canadians outta Ottawa, which has to be at least second best in toothless alcoholic status. Seriously, this thing smokes, and even looks like a full pack of reds. A nice mix of MÖTORHEAD, ANNIHILATION TIME, and pub rock like EDDIE AND THE HOTRODS. The singer sounds like GARY GLITTER and MEAT LOAF on a sulphate bender. A tight trio musically keeps everything at just the right level of sleazy. There’s even a fucking piano! Not a loser song in the bunch. Smoke up, Johnny. Ha.

Clear History Bad Advice Good People 12″

CLEAR HISTORY is a minimalist post-punk trio from Berlin. Sonically, their tunes have all the hallmarks of the genre: single-string guitar parts and slashed-out chords, dual vocals that bounce back and forth, safety-pinned together by steady, uncomplicated drumming and unfussy basslines. You can probably hear it in your head already as it creates a diagonal line in your ear space. The vocals are more impassioned than most of their genre, but I wish the music felt the same. The production is flat and more like a studio demo than what I’d expect from an LP. I wish there was more of a feeling of it sounding live or in a room, but it all sounds like it’s on the same stereo plane without a lot of action or dynamics. The limitations of the style just tend to remind me so much of what I’ve heard in the last five years from similar-sounding bands. I’m sure they’re compelling live and there is definitely an audience for it, but at the moment I’m not it.

Cold Brats Punk in the Digital Age Extended LP

Solid collection of negative hardcore from this Bucharest, Romania band. This LP is a compilation of tracks recorded over several years, and it shows because the sound and direction change a bit from song to song. What COLD BRATS do well is raw vocals over mid-tempo chugs, like HOAX with occasional sinister organ backing. “Split Saber” and “Republic of Dust” are great spooky bummer blasts. “Hollow Point” works in the same mode with a dissonant guitar figure that empowers the bad vibes into real bad vibes. Where the band loses me a bit are on tracks where they get silly with the vocals. “Life, and Nothing More” has a goofy spoken part with someone describing how a knock at the door interrupted them watching “Finding Nemo.” It’s Mike Muir-demanding-a-Pepsi silly and halts the momentum that the first few tracks build up. A skronky no wave sax wail and the return of screamed vocals in the chorus help it, but barely. “Banana” tries it again with a mostly instrumental, noisy surf-inspired song with the only lyric being the song title. It’s a weird shift in tone for those two tracks and would surely get the skip if this were a CD. Other than those two weirdo outliers, this is a good soundtrack for bad days.

Crispy Newspaper Ой Дуораан LP

Cool release from Siberian band CRISPY NEWSPAPER, who write songs in their native Sakha, a Siberian Turkic language. The songs are short blasts of politically-charged righteous anger that are sonically rooted in US hardcore but energetic and passionate enough to stand out on their own. Lyrical themes range from traditional punk fare like trouble with authority and personal freedom to political violence like the Charlie Hebdo killings. Most interesting are the moments of insight into local issues, like the desecration of Sakha land detailed in “Алроса,” and standing up against a rich and disconnected political regime in “Тобурах.” It’s fascinating to hear from members of a culture that is so geographically remote but still experiencing many of the same issues that punks everywhere can relate to. Great release that is highly recommended.

Danny’s Favorites There Still Punk cassette

English was my weak subject in college. I sometimes think I overcompensate for that now. Are they just trying to bug me with the There Still Punk title? Or are they being funny? It’s mostly irrelevant, I suppose, as it really has nothing to do with the music I’m listening to. I’m digging this. It’s melodic and up-tempo and catchy and the lyrics are pretty funny. This is my kind of thing. It’s got a sound that blends early punk and power pop nicely. They’re obviously not the first to do this, but their sound is one I like. And I’ll always be a fan of anyone willing to take on the Mormons. Looking at the credits, it looks like there are only two band members here, with Trevor Lake responsible for everything except the drums. This is worth looking for.

Dead Stare Dead Stare cassette

This is extremely raw and lo-fi crusty art noise. I say “art” because there is something unearthly, irreverent, and rebellious about this. It is so basic yet ensnaring. Riffs sound like early DISCHARGE or STONE THE CROWZ played through a blender with very raw black metal pedals. Lyrical pace is performative and reminds me of the FREEZE at times, and the percussion is primitive MURDER JUNKIE madness. I like this. It’s jangly and off-putting. It’s distorted and creepy. It is hardcore and mechanical. DEAD STARE is obtuse and deranged. This is a very bleak tape with sparks of brilliance throughout.

Deck in the Pit In a Lane 10″

DECK IN THE PIT skronks and undulates in the lineage of the MAGIC BAND as well as their Australian forefathers VENOM P. STINGER, especially in tumbling-down-the-stairs fake jazz drumming, which is really the most standout component. The bass farts along with the clanky knotted-up guitar, but it almost seems unnecessary. I appreciate the vocals not being goofy or growly, but there isn’t much presence or attack, as if there was an apprehension to the production and performance. Everything could be a bit nastier, freakier and more far-out for my tastes. This is a 2016 recording session being released in 2021, and as an archival document of a band that was, it’s fine, but I’d be a bit more interested in hearing what these folks have been creating more recently.

Deep Trench Deep Trench demo cassette

At first glance of the name, the cover art, and the opener’s instrumental, I thought this was some experimental, sci-fi shit—but I was way off. This is a grunge heavy-hitter served up from none other than Olympia, WA, with little else I can find on the band except that it features members of DOGJAW and RVIVR. The screaming lyrics come off like HOLE’s Courtney Love on Pretty on the Inside (controversy aside, just think of the voice). “Little Minds” is a good taster of the power within DEEP TRENCH.

Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice Remember the Future? Vol. 2 & 1 LP

It appears as though this Melbourne act has been kicking around for a few years now, but this is certainly the first I’m hearing of them. But given this project’s name and song titles like “Super Speedy Zippy Wipper,” I had a sinking feeling that getting through this was going to be an uphill battle. And I wasn’t wrong. To be fair, the ten tracks on this LP are impressively crafted songs that are a bit post-hardcore and a bit post-punk, and the production comes off as very professional. But this sounds like the KILLERS playing DISMEMBERMENT PLAN songs to me. And I know that punk lyrics aren’t generally the most subtle, but lines like “Chasing infinite growth in dirty energy / But there’s no infinite growth if it’s clean and free” are really hard to take when presented in such a clever-rock context (even if I totally agree with the sentiment). I get the impression that others would like this stuff a lot more than me. So, maybe give it a go—you’ll probably be able to tell within a song or two whether or not this is for you.

End Result Hellfire EP

Within a miasma of metaphysical chaos, you can hear screams, a grotesque guitar tone, a dirty bass, and brutalist drums. All these elements come together to create nine songs that represent the best soundtrack for moments of extreme personal nihilism. The people responsible are END RESULT, they are from Los Angeles and call themselves “Crasher Crusters.” Frantic raw punk, brutal D-beat, take-no-prisoners crust, call it what you want, I loved it. 

Exilent Beyond Reality LP

A story about life under capital in the present told with a tour de force of violent and dark songs by this band from Hannover in Germany. EXILENT specializes in apocalyptic and heavy crust, and knows how to be metallic enough when needed, like on “System D,” or a brutal thrasher like on “Common Blindness,” or more ethereal and dense like on “Hammock.”  This band turned ten years old in 2020, so this album is a good gateway to their sound if you don’t know them yet.

Exxxon More Gas cassette

Upon first listen, I thought I’d heard loads of groups like this before. Seemingly recorded through a turd filter, I thought this was “just” bass-and-drums minimalist punk with indecipherable yelping vocals. I keep coming back to it though, and the writing is wiry, clever, and it hits like a crunch to the skull. It’s funky, too! Like, you could and should dance to these less-than-lo-fi punk cries to burn down the corps that are killing us all. Don’t be like me, a jaded snob: let EXXXON into your heart and listen immediately and often. It will beat your ass and bleed your drums.

Fake Fruit Fake Fruit LP

Indie/pop gusto galore, Oakland, CA’s FAKE FRUIT make a lovely splash with this debut album. Stringy guitar lines, sparse drums, and bass-led tracks range from the quiet and melodic (“Swing and a Miss”), to the more upbeat and confrontational (“Yolk”). The center piece that is Hannah D’Amato’s vocals shines throughout—a spoken style like COURTNEY BARNETT with the edge of PYLON.

Fashion Change Coward cassette

Nasty collection of raw punk scabs from this Seattle band, recommended for fans of VILE GASH and HOLOGRAM. As soon as you push play, the fast 1-2-1-2 beats start with harsh, almost blackened vocals and blistering, relentless guitar right in your face/ears. “Medicine” slows it way down with a crawling menace of a beat, shrouded in feedback before it speeds up again and ends with a textural sheet metal guitar “solo.” A short intermission comes in the form of “***** *******,” a warbly, non-English language classic thrift store ballad wrapped in Tascam hiss. It’s a mysterious breather before the ripping starts again. Final track “Coward” is a pounding hate crush with lyrics like, “You’re just another coward” and “Detestable—a waste of human life.” Oof, I would hate to be on the receiving end of that one. Misanthropes, check this one out.

Decade / Fatum split 12″

Russia’s FATUM should be no strangers to fans of brutal clenched-fist stench, and I dare say this is some of their fiercest material to date. Powerful dark metal crust, with full attention paid to the “metal” part of that descriptor. Canadian crusters DECADE stink up their side of the split with a destroyed collection of blown-out, metallic D-beat with a signature high-end snarl—if this is commentary on some of the questionable eras in the archives of D-beat history, then I dare say they hit the mark (and that bass tone—oooof!). Polished power from FATUM, damaged churn from DECADE—Malaysia’s Black Konflik released this on CD last year, happy to see it’s getting the treatment it deserves.

Drogato / Forclose Tomorrow? split cassette

FORCLOSE plays metallic Dis-punk with highly distorted vocals on the higher register, to the tune of DISCLOSE or FINAL BOMBS meets NIHLIST or the riff style and bone-snapping hits of REPULSION. This is sizzling deathbeat-to-death with blazing solos and maniacal vocals. Great side. DROGATO follows up those three tracks of depression and anxiety with two hammers of solid lo-fi, monstrous dual-vocal crust delivery. Focus very strongly on the early DISRUPT EPs, DESTROY!, DISSENSION, and CONSUME, then add a bit more organization and rhythm change-ups that are a bit wilder and seemingly come out of nowhere Á  la MASSGRAV or SCUMBRIGADE. This entire split is Dis-crust for you fukker.

Ford’s Fuzz Inferno Flog Yourself With Fuzz EP

This is the second EP from this pair of ancient Dutch punkers, and it’s a fairly good listen, if not at all being my thing. These two gents have played in WASTE, BETTY FORD CLINIC, and SCOUNDRELS, some of which you may have heard of. It’s fuzzily distorted and catchy as all hell, maybe like a punker and meaner CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN, MUDHONEY, or SMASHING PUMPKINS. It’s definitely worth a whirl. Yay.

Fumes Fumes cassette

Yes!! Words cannot express how excited I was to see that this band has a cassette out! FUMES are a new-ish band from the current mecca of punk, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Last time I was down that way, I did a kooky recording project to which FUMES actually contributed two songs. It was the first recording the singer ever did, and he absolutely killed it right off the bat. This tape does not disappoint. Seven songs of driving, nasty, youthful hardcore punk, filled to the point of making an absolute mess with piss and vinegar. It’s unstoppable! Consider FUMES high atop my list of new bands that I am dying to see perform live.

Fuse This Segregation Will End 12″

New LP of hardcore fury from Lion City. Unique blend of classic ’80s NYHC with UK anarcho bands, and yet still having a contemporary, up-to-date-sounding approach. For fans of stompy breakdowns with raw and raging fast parts that also won’t let us punks down. Artwork by Nicky Rat.

Game Legerdemain 12″

GAME’s No One Wins LP from 2019 was and is one of the best hardcore releases of the last half-decade or so, and this successor—six songs at 45rpm—is hot on its tail in that respect. The internationalist London quartet (who include Polish vocalist and Quality Control label owner Ola Herbich, and Jonah Falco of FUCKED UP, et al. on drums) have dialed up the already profound metal factor: the title cut, which opens Legerdemain, moves to a hardcore beat but is Motörcharged in that glorious early ’80s NWOBHM gumby way, Callum Baird’s guitars especially. “The Caricaturist” is the catchiest number on here, and “Shard” the chuggiest, with Nicky Rat’s bass cutting through big time. Lyrics—five songs in English, one in Polish—are political in an allusive, as opposed to directly referential, way. You won’t learn anything from Ola’s words (screenprinted on a tasty A1-sized foldout poster, by the way) but there are dozens of choice individual phrases crammed into a stone killer 12″.

Genetica Genetica demo cassette

Just four short and ripping tracks of Midwestern hardcore, this tape brings enough energy to get you slamdancing alone in your room. There are flashes of SURFBORT and ALIEN NOSEJOB in the lo-fi sound of this tape. It seriously hisses with attitude. If you want some absolutely ballistic, bombastic, off-the-wall hardcore tracks, then this tape is what you need.

Germ House Record the Mistakes / Manage the Line 7″

Justin Hubbard’s solo project GERM HOUSE strikes a balance between earnest, lo-fi songwriting and bizarro erudite post-punk, in league with other homegrown pop structure experimenters like LAVENDER FLU or even SLEEPING BAG. This single exemplifies these dual aspects well, with the songs being both tuneful and strange in their almost-mechanical execution. The bass and drums, in particular, lock into a clockwork rhythm that still somehow feels loose. It’s a sort of magic trick and the technicality of it might be lost on a first listen. But there’s some really strong writing here backed by immaculate performance. The more you focus on any one element of the music, it shifts shape in front of you, beckoning you closer. Not to get too abstract about it all, but to put it simply: Hubbard continues to write really smart hard-to-pin-down outsider pop that requires your attention.

GlenXCoco You Can’t Sit With Us cassette

Grinding, low-end hardcore stomps with a killer high/low vocal attack and fierce lyrics (animal rights, rape apologists, street harassment, realities of wage-based classism). Nice metallic leads drop in just when you think you’re getting another crust assault. This one dropped in 2019, and they’ve cranked out a few more bangers since then—San Jose still reigns, y’all.

Good Looking Son Fantasy Weekend 12″

This is some fantastic pop music. It’s soft and pretty and kind of reminds me of bands like the SHINS. I’m guessing these guys grew up on a steady diet of ’60s garage music with a sprinkling of folk thrown in. It’s got a certain etherealness to it. It could be the vocals or it could be the controlled and measured pace. I really dig this.

Hounds of War Hounds of War demo cassette

With an intro featuring gunfire, you already know it’s going to be a good one. HOUNDS OF WAR is Claire Vastola and Max Parker, both from the excellent SUBVERSIVE RITE, one of the best SACRILEGE worshippers out there. This time around, they unleashed a three-song demo of metal-tinged hardcore punk with hints of DIRT and VICE SQUAD. The demo goes by quickly but the songs certainly get stuck in your head, as every song is fun from beginning to end.

Impulso Impulso cassette

I love Italian hardcore and was stoked when I got this one to review. There is a quality in Italian hardcore that is undeniable: the ferociousness. IMPULSO comes from Trento and they are filled to the brim with rage on this cassette. They play furious hardcore punk but with a modern stompy edge that could turn any pit into a mosh-fest. They occupy a place sonically somewhere in between WARTHOG and S.H.I.T., but sung in Italian for extra drama in the good tradition of WRETCHED or CCM. Just listen to the follow-up album Costante Ossessione and you can get a clearer picture of this monster of a band.

Kirkby Kiss Listen Closely CD

Dramatic post-hardcore from New Jersey with sludgy, guttery vocals and suspenseful breaks throughout. There is a level of anticipation to KIRKBY KISS that is waiting for something to break—when it finally releases, there is a feeling of relief. Solid hardcore with post-hardcore moods and solos. Songs cut off in an intense way and it is appreciated as not to drag on. Like I said, KIRKBY KISS plays with a lot of build and suspense that dive bombs or bursts into some calamity at the end. These careful structures containing an intensity of underlying fire is undeniably heard. I Listen(-ed) Closely and here are all sorts of levels of street punk, blue-collar hardcore, Oi!, and post-punk. Digging their combination of all these subgenres with sincere grit.

Kuebiko 4 Minute Warning cassette

KUEBIKO from Massachusetts sends out a clear message: a four-minute warning in just three minutes of unrelenting crust punk, in the best tradition of DOOM or E.N.T. with hints of kängpunk. These four tracks reek of crusty-as-fuck punk with all the tropes in place, like the fuzzy guitars and pummeling drums, plus an emphasis on the distorted vocals that make this one stand out from the rest. It goes by so fast that you have no time to escape.

Lappen The Lappen Supergroup cassette

Mid-tempo punk from Leipzig, Germany. These songs are pretty catchy, but it’s a little difficult to pigeonhole exactly what they sound like. It’s like an Oi!-inspired egg-punk band, or an egg-punk-inspired Oi! band, if you can picture either of those. Nine-song cassette which is over very quick and inspires an immediate second listen.

Leeches Return to Sludge cassette

LEECHES is a drum machine/synth punk recording project from Henrik Berg (the INSEMINOIDS) out of Gothenburg, Sweden. Dude’s been at it for about five years now, and he’s got quite a few releases under his belt, with this being his second for the Aussie cassette label Under Heat. The six tracks on this release are a cool mix of kitschy sci-fi punk, goth-y EBM, and late-night cable sleaze. This cassette might not be winning any points for originality, but these are some good-ass songs with a really big, almost cinematic sound. Worth checking out!

Liiek Deep Pore LP

Enjoyed the debut LP (or 12″ or whatever eight songs in fifteen minutes is best labelled as) by Berliners LIIEK nearly two years back, and they’ve more than consoled it with Deep Pore, a longer and slightly slicker eleven-tracker. Its post-punk rhythms can get decently funky, though you wouldn’t confuse this for quote-unquote dance music; basslines have a tonal depth that borders on gloomy, but the three-piece is too peppy to be goths or anarchos (compared to, say, either of the DρAT LPs, to studiously pick out another Berlin band). At their punkiest here, that being “Take on a Dramatic Scale” for my money, they’re not a country mile from a band like SARCASM, I guess. I’m enjoying this album a bunch, and if this review lacks direct praise for LIIEK’s stern, choppy bassline-driven songs, it’s only because I’m f(l)ailing to comfortably box up a release with lots of familiar sounds sewn together in a slightly unfamiliar way.

Living World Future Built for Self/Ubuntu cassette

LIVING WORLD is from Pittsburgh, baby, and they don’t care what you think about the majestic hoofed mammal on the cover of their cassette. They just want to hit you with the punk, which in this case is some messy, echoed vocals beamed over a frenzied hardcore thrashing drenched in panache. Unique breakdowns punctuate each distortion-strewn song and there’s a ton of character to these twelve tracks. One of them is a NEGATIVE FX cover, which should give you an idea of what we’re dealing with here. These guys have a knack for song titles too (“G-Bong,” “Crack Mountain,” “Crime Person,” etc.) Go listen to it, already.

Affect / Löckheed split EP

Two bands, one common goal: to make noise not music! AFFECT comes from Sweden, the land of kängpunk, but they could have easily come from Kōchi City. They deliver three songs of pure fuzzed-out, chaotic DISCLOSE worship with ripping shouted vocals that hit the sweet spot. LÖCKHEED comes from Portland, the land of neocrust, but they sure could have come from Sweden. Their three tracks are less chaotic but go straight to the jugular with their vicious kängpunk attack done in a perfect manner. Overall, a great split between two bands that complement each other really well. Do you wear ripped-up jeans with tons of patches? I guess you’d better get this one.

Man-Eaters Twelve More Observations on Healthy Living LP

Chicago’s bad boys of rock return to slay with their second LP! I don’t know if that’s really accurate, but it starts out this review with a nice bang. Members of CÜLO, TARANTÜLA, etc. give it another go as their hard-rockin’, head-scarf-wearing ’70s cock-rock alter egos. The combination of classic-era hard rock and punk is nothing new these days—bands like JACK SAINTS, FANTASY LANE, MÖWER, and most noticeably ANNIHILATION TIME have tread this well-worn path before. With BLACK FLAG, SAINT VITUS, and the OBSESSED as their godfathers, these Chicago gents do a fine job of dirtheaded guitar worship. It feels like MAN-EATERS are a little more on the tongue-in-cheek parody side of this genre though, and they definitely fall more on the THIN LIZZY side with lots of boogie guitar licks and high struttin’ tude. My complaints here are that the guitar is not loud enough and the effects on the vocals are annoying as fuck. It’s a little too long for my attention span, but the artwork is cool and they’re probably a hoot(?) live. Smoke it…get high.

Mankind? Discography LP

In ten-plus years, this is probably my most personally-invested review; one that brings back a lot of important memories for me, as I am sure this release will be for many of you readers, too. In 1996, I moved from NY to New Haven, CT for art school. But what I learned and gained in New Haven, besides some lifelong friends, was that the city’s punk scene was extremely active in socio-political activism, from benefit shows, Food Not Bombs, and protesting the retail and polluting spaces and industrial zones in the area. Various anarchist proactive reactions were happening. Punk was actually happening, in real life (prior to this cyber age we are in now, but I digress). A club downtown called the Tune Inn was where I would begin going from NY, and of course continued to, when I lived in New Haven. Politically, the scene was heavily anarcho-voiced, with sounds ranging from street punk to grinding crust. I was very interested in all of this. Distros, pamphlets, tabling; the message and this movement. MANKIND? was winding down around this time, but I befriended Chris “Picasso” who went on to form a couple lesser-known acts like ARCHAIC PAX and ANGUISH as well. Of course, Bill Chamberlain of BEHIND ENEMY LINES, the PIST, REACT, and DEVASTATION was on guitar and concurrent vocals in MANKIND?, with Al Ouimet and Rick Abott also of the PIST, Stacey of CALLOUSED (on vocals as well), and Jeff Wilcox of BRUTALLY FAMILIAR. In sound, MANKIND? initially could be compared to DIRT, with some balance of NAUSEA (their cover of “Electrodes” is included on this), though they were more contemporaries of CONFLICT, ICONS OF FILTH or AUS-ROTTEN in tone. But today I can only say this is MANKIND?—the one and only. Chris has full lungs on every measure and every track, and Stacey’s delivery is just as relentless, firing off passionate, detailed lyrics with backing exclamations throughout. Really, the balance between Stacey and Picasso is the voice of thousands and a conversation in solidarity. As the ’90s moved on into the millennium era, the lyrical writing style of many punk bands became pithier. Vaguer. Metaphoric. I am not saying this is lazy at all, but MANKIND? was far from that on every measure. The messages were clear and highly detailed. This was not a punk band I could simply agree with. MANKIND? and the surrounding scene forced me to question my own white suburban comforts. Animal liberation, sexism, and homophobia, Ecocide and nuclear power, The fucking death sentence. The remastering here is incredible! I have two MANKIND? EPs and the Pogo Attack compilation, but this sound engineering blows everything I’ve ever heard from the band to smithereens. The strings are incredibly fuzzy and crispy, the vocals, main and backing, are a forefront of rage and skepticism. The drums have never sounded so impactful. The playlist does not skip a beat of intense DIY attitude, Freedom, awareness and equality—outro-ing with their cover of CRASS’ “Punk is Dead.” Included you get a gorgeous collection of color photos, flyers, handwritten lyrics, setlists, photos of pins from that time period, all the liner art from releases and comp appearances, a thorough explanation of “WHY” [sic] they use a question mark in their name, and current ideas of how to make a difference in your area or on a larger scale. In short, this is an amazing collection of the efforts from MANKIND? and a reminder of the roots of punk, and really the point of caring about it, wherever you stand in DIY punk. “Hopefully I’ve made an impact and I’m not just wasting my breath…Punk’s not dead if you know the cause.” MANKIND? certainly got that then, and clearly still does. Yes, you need this!

Mižerija Mižerija demo cassette

The defiant and danceable sound of ’80s ex-YU post-punk, updated for the new dark ages by a group of punks affiliated with the Nigdjezemska autonomous space in Zadar, Croatia. Doomtown’s assertion that this is “likely the poppiest-sounding” thing they’ve put out is a bit of a red herring—relative to Scandi-hardcore copycats, sure, but it’s not like MIŽERIJA is TALULAH GOSH, either. There’s definitely a strong melodic pull in these four tracks, though much like that first HONEY BANE single, the hooks embedded in MIŽERIJA’s anarcho-pop jabs are further wrapped in razor wire, with nagging, klaxon-call guitar (especially on the perfectly paranoid-sounding “Izolacija”), driving deep-set bass, frenetic drumming, and intently shouted femme vocals, warbled with blown-out echo as if captured via a clandestine tape recording from under the floorboards. Very sick. 

Mr. Node I Don’t Go Out / Vaccinate Me flexi 7″

Two originals (plus a cover of DISCHARGE’s “I Don’t Care” with the digital version) from this freaky Brooklyn project. After a weird, French-accented appeal for MR. NODES’s help, “I Don’t Go Out,” starts with sloppy, snotty vocals gagging and choking over drum machine beats and fierce hardcore guitar. What sounds like straight chaos at first turns out to be a well-written, traditionally structured rock song. The chorus of “I don’t go out / They don’t come in” accentuates the feelings of isolation and loneliness the pandemic has brought on for a lot of us. The four-note guitar hook makes the whole thing catchier than the subject material would suggest. “Vaccinate Me!” is a fun synth punk anthem about COVID vaccines that should be a PSA. Imagine everyone chanting, “I want to go on a ride / I want to eat inside / I want to cheer on my team / I want to wet my dream.” Maybe MR. NODE really is here to save us. Oh, and the deranged, mega-reverbed DISCHARGE cover rules.

MxAxMxA Долгожданный первенец CD

This Russian band seems to spend as much time shredding your face as they do taking the piss out of…seemingly everything. Wild, technical death grind and pure noisecore experimentation coexist in the world of MXAXMXA, often in the same song. You’re going to need to take a pill before you dive into this one…hope you pick the right color.

Nameless Creations Pain-Powered Machine / Things That Serve 7″

Great new single from Warsaw’s NAMELESS CREATIONS. Having three LPs behind them, their droning post-punk sound comes well established, with songs that are longer and tend toward the macabre (look no further than the cover). The lyrical poetry is what captures me here, and with the vocals more spoken than sung, you hear every bit. The B-side is my pick of the two, with its wickedly depressing ender “Luck is lost, truth generates pain / Things that serve, bind like chains.” Dorian’s vocals aside, this group goes beyond guitars and drums (throughout their career), adding keys and violin here that do well to accompany their ghoulish sound.

Nervous Twitch Nervous Twitch LP

Super catchy pop punk from NERVOUS TWITCH on their fourth album. It’s hard to miss the ’60s pop influence—think the CHIFFONS or the SHANGRI-LAS, tinged with UK punk attitude. In this way, they sound like contemporaries of the SLITS, but are in fact contemporaries of one of 2020’s favorites, RIBBON STAGE. I love “Not Everyone’s Out to Get Me” for being so damn upbeat while singing “Fuck yes I’m at my best / Fuck you I’m stronger than ever.” Get TWITCH’n.

Never Ending Game Halo & Wings EP

On the surface this is some pretty cookie-cutter “tough guy hardcore.” It checks all the boxes. Breakdowns? Yep. Gang vocals? Sure. Lyrical content about being “hard”? You bet. Metallic riffs? Goddamn right. Borderline hokey drawing of some tattoo-like art on the cover? Of course. All the red flags are there that would turn me off to a record like this, but there’s something about this that I don’t completely loathe. I can’t quite pin it down, though. I wouldn’t go out of my way to put this on, but I wouldn’t turn it off if it was playing. I suppose that’s a win.

Nightwatchers Common Crusades LP

Driving anarcho-punk from this Toulouse, France quartet. NIGHTWATCHERS take the long view, with historical assessments of French imperialism and nationalism, which undoubtedly circle back to where we are now: in a milieu of nationalist vs. globalist thinking, our wheels spinning. Lyrics and politics aside, they play melodic, power pop punk—think of that heavy snare hit on every quarter-note beat. Nothing particularly ear-catching here, but at least they’re fighting the good fight!

Nisemono 偽者 Nisemono 偽者 demo cassette

New York City’s NISEMONO 偽者 may be a new band, but the players are veterans in the scene. This mighty duo shares members with the likes of L.O.T.I.O.N., DOLLHOUSE, and WARTHOG. Did I manage to get your attention now? Good! This demo has six tracks of hard-hitting hardcore punk with obvious Japanese hardcore influences, and Scandinavian ones as well. Feels like an alternative continuation to NOMAD (an earlier project of one of the members) as the same mindset is there, just with less fuzz and dirt. A quick search about the name reveals that it means “fake,” but there is nothing fake about them.

Onetwothree Onetwothree LP

Although they didn’t actually start a band together until 2018, Madlaina Peer, Sara Schär, and Klaudia Schifferle of ONETWOTHREE initially crossed paths as participants in Switzerland’s late ’70s/early ’80s punk scene—Klaudia played bass in KLEENEX/LILIPUT, Sara fronted TNT as a teenager and later joined the KICK on bass and vocals, and Madlaina was a member of NOKNOWS (with whom I’m completely unfamiliar; they seem to have never recorded). Onetwothree is a celebration of rhythm and the negative spaces created within it, primarily structured around the interplay of minimalist, elliptical bass grooves (from all three women!) and sung/chanted lyrics parsed into almost haiku-like phrases, with modest support from a drum machine that never really breaks out of the most basic “demo” setting and sparing strikes of guitar and keys that weave in only as necessary. Sleazy mutant disco synth pushes against the ESG-like hypnotic bass throb of “Give Paw” and lands right at the feet of early solo LIZZY MERCIER DESCLOUX, while the even more austere bass/vocals brutalism of tracks like “Adventure” or “Buy Buy Buy” (with its “buy this and this and this and that” incantation) is basically a dead ringer for SNEAKS. ONETWOTHREE could have easily just rebooted the classic Swiss wave of TNT or KLEENEX and offered up, like, “Hedi’s Head Pt. II,” and the femme/art-punk heads of today would have lost their collective minds over it, so the fact that they chose to honor the joyfully anarchic and liberatory spirit of their musical pasts in such a radically deconstructed context—even if it doesn’t quite reach the same giddy highs—is really the punkest move they could have made. (Madlaina Peer passed away at the very end of 2021, shortly after the release of this LP; rest in power.)

Paprika Paprika cassette

The latest and greatest in the new generation of noisy, tornado-strength punk. This NOLA-based group delivers echoing, grime-encrusted bangers that exemplify why contemporary hardcore is maybe the height of the genre. Fierce and filthy, this band gets straight to the point: aiming down sights at the violence of the capitalist grind while never outstaying their welcome. The way the final track “Insane Machine” cuts out makes you feel like you’re only worthy to catch a glimpse of the band and its many strengths—brilliantly leaving you alone in the silence wishing you could hear more. Unforgiving harsh punk that you must grab a copy of while you can.

Passionless Pointless Passionless Pointless cassette

German trio that lands somewhere in the damaged BABES IN TOYLAND and/or Bleach camp. There are some pretty obvious comparisons to a couple of particular femme punk vocalists from the same era, but it’s just the vocals—the tunes here are dirty power-trio slogs. If you experienced this the first time, then it fits like a cozy sweater. If this is your first time, though…”Married Alive” will give you chills.

Peacemaker See You Dead / Greed cassette

It’s truly a gift to be able to make antisocial hardcore bile come across like top 40 hits, and Milwaukee’s PEACEMAKER has it. These two songs are unabashedly hateful and also catchy as hell, reminding me of some of Drew from SICK THOUGHTS’ best efforts of the last decade. “Alright folks, that was Need To Know’ by DOJA CAT, and now here’s a real toe-tapper from PEACEMAKER, See You Dead’!”

Pestigor Nurgle’s Rot EP

Latest release by this Warhammer-themed hardcore punk band from Denmark. B-thrash chainsaw guitar parts with some classic metallic ’80s UKHC vibes. Non-polished, nasty, and gritty-as-fuck apocalyptic hardcore you can smell the stench of from miles away. Appropriate background music for the filthy, disgusting, devoted mutants of the chaos god, Nurgle.

Pizza Death Slice of Death LP

This is the band every fourteen-year-old stoner kid dreamt up in their room but never actually formed. Grown men from Melbourne’s PISSRASH, HAILGUN, and WOLFPACK unite for some ’80s-style death thrash metal attack. Yes, every song is about pizza, with pizza ads and TV soundbites in between tracks. Does the joke get old? Yes! Is it a little too long? Definitely, but these miscreants shred, and the songs are tight and entertaining. It’s like if S.O.D. gave up the cartoon fascism for snacks, or if MUNICIPAL WASTE were more topically-focused. It’s all a good time and you can tell they’re loving it. Not for the lactose intolerant. I hope there’s a vegan slice for me. Buy it.

Plastics Plastic World EP

God, this is good. Pummeling and crunchy, with winding riffs that dart around with speed and precision, and hollering vocals that reverberate off the walls with chilly stoicism. If societal collapse has brought us anything, it’s brought us the best global hardcore scene in history. Let’s be grateful for that silver lining on a toxic cloud. This stands strong amidst the newest crop of art-tinged hardcore bands that smartly knits post-punk angularity with ’80s-indebted ferociousness to great effect.

Potemkin Sludge Vol. 2 cassette

You read the title…right? Read it again. If anyone thought Sweden’s POTEMKIN was finished with sludge after Sludge Vol. 1…well, that was a foolish thought. Filthy, downtuned, distorted, ugly, mean. This music is like a pool of quicksand filled with glass. Sometimes heavy bands hit a stoner groove, but these fuckers just obliterate everything in their path on a tape filled with songs the length of power pop anthems. Looking forward to the third installment.

Print Head boringboring cassette

One of the like six or seven cassettes this project released in 2021. If you’re unfamiliar with PRINT HEAD, the anything-goes no-fi recordings of prolific Canadian Brandon Saucier, this is probably as good a place as any to start. The five tracks on this release are easier to digest than the potentially daunting (though very excellent) 25-track compilation cassette that Discos Peroquébien put out last year, and it’s less likely to rankle than his cassette of PARQUET COURTS covers. And you’re getting a pretty good idea of what PRINT HEAD is all about—minute-long vignettes exploring a variety of punkish sounds. The first few tracks hew a little closer to the garage-y end of the punk spectrum with a touch of DEVO-core (you just can’t get away from it these days!), but it’s never really eggy—think if early TYVEK was a little more herky-jerky. And the rest of the tracks take some of the tunefulness that you’d find in mid-’90s GUIDED BY VOICES and weds that to the concrete-slicing jazzy funk-punk of early MINUTEMEN. Really compelling stuff—give it a go!

Rats Tenera è La Notte LP

Second album from first-wave Italian post-punk outfit RATS, originally slated to come out in 1982 but completely shelved until Spittle’s archival efforts late last year. After their 1981 debut LP C’est Disco, which melded 99 Records-style downtown rhythms and careening art-punk abandon with the ascetic, mechanized throb of Euro minimal wave, RATS picked up a chorus pedal or two and shrouded themselves in a gauzy, soft-goth early 4AD/Factory haze for Tenera è La Notte. Vocalist and synthesizer player Claudia Lloyd would leave the band after this record, and the RATS discography that followed (they released new material up to 2013!) took a sharp decline in her absence—her often double-tracked vocals are both ethereal and commanding, bringing a radiant glow to the otherwise standard issue SIOUXSIE/JOY DIVISION signifiers (metronomic bass lines, death-disco drumming, melancholy guitar chime, etc. etc.) in tracks like “Notti Di Mostri” and “Specchiarci.” “La Lancia” has all of the dark and brooding urgency of XMAL DEUTSCHLAND minus the Teutonic severity, and the primitive pop beat of “Una Bella Serata” even comes close to beating the SHOP ASSISTANTS and the PASTELS to their own game by a couple of years. Truly undeservedly unreleased until now, bellissimo!

Realm of Terror Accelerated Extinction cassette

Loose, jangly crust Á  la early DOOM demos or ABRAHAM CROSS, with the buoyancy of some early ’90s grind like UNRUH or ACRID. Tight-as-fuck snare and grizzly basslines, sizzling feedback cross-channeling buzzsaw strings and ugly vocals. Lots of breakdowns in the DEVIATED INSTINCT/APARTMENT 213 sense, while constantly driving forth like DEFORMED EXISTENCE or CRUSADE. Low levels of subtle dirge, DISCLOSE riff-raining terror followed by more breakdowns. This is so good. Heavy as fuck with a hard stance toward animal liberation and this world of constantly accelerated pollution. This is worth your attention and speaker destruction. Six tracks of obliterating, downtuned crustcore guts, in a D-beat skeleton, a total distorted onslaught.

Reckoning Force Broken State LP

Imagine the early Dischord releases played through a filter that made them all sound like they were being played by DISCHARGE. Yeah, dude. Gnarly, right? Well, imagine no more friends, because RECKONING FORCE has achieved that goal and it fucking rules. Holy shit. Everyone should snatch up a copy of this before it’s out of print.

Reiz Das Kind wird ein Erfolg LP

Catchy melodic hardcore from this Mannheim, Germany band. Most of these songs have that Fat Wreck/Epitaph sound: bouncing bass, fast punk, and call-and-response vocals (in German). If you like LAGWAGON or WIZO, you’ll probably like this fun and well-produced record. Stand-out track, “Öffentlich und Daheim,” has a great pop punk melody with harmonized vocals. REIZ would fit right in on one of those ’90s skate rock comps and are definitely recommended if sunny, upbeat punk is your jam.

Richard Hamilton Kiss Touch 2000 cassette

Longingly lonely romantic pop rock songs from the prolific Clevelander RICKY HAMILTON. Hooky synthesizer melodies that you don’t mind getting stuck in your head. It lands somewhere beyond where post-punk ends and indie starts. Reminiscent of post-Seamonsters WEDDING PRESENT, where a cover “Montreal” would fit seamlessly into this album.

All Beat Up / Rival Squad split cassette

Monster San Diego split here. ALL BEAT UP plays heavy steamroller political hardcore with vocals that sound like they are trying to break into your mind. RIVAL SQUAD is stripped-down, Spanish-language (mostly) raw punk with a punishing popgun snare drum. I feel like anything I might be missing from one side can be found on the other, and the whole thing is gone in less than ten minutes…so I can listen to it again.

S.H.I.T. Hidden in Eternity / Eraser III 7″

The songs ain’t new, but now they’ve been properly fastened to a 7″ you can add to your disgusting S.H.I.T. collection. Featuring two tracks from these Toronto-based purveyors of jarring hardcore that were previously released in digital format only, this record showcases the style you expect with a slightly different feel. The vocals are laid much flatter than usual, and the band’s signature twisted stomp is produced with a clean, futuristic sheen that rings as borderline industrial at times, especially on the first track. The second one, “Eraser III,” is the third part of a song that dates back to their first cassette, affirming that though they’ve been in it for a minute now, they haven’t lost the plot.

Scalple Skillful Butchers LP

SCALPLE is back with a new LP, Skillful Butchers, after their devastating debut World Gone Bad. With members and ex-members of MEMBRANE, RAZORHEADS, URCHIN, INFERNÖH, EXTENDED HELL, and TERRORIST, one can only expect a great record. Ten songs of fast-paced hardcore with a thrashy feel, bordering on the ’80s fastcore sounds of RIPCORD, HERESY, or ELECTRO HIPPIES with USHC undertones. Dynamic and relentless drumming, overlayed with metallic riffage and growling vocals. The intros and interludes are done by Maggot Champagne a.k.a. PHARMAKON, who is no stranger to working with punk bands. Be it ’80s-influenced fastcore or ’80s USHC, this is an hardcore album in its essence and it fucking rips! Play fast or don’t!

Phantasmagoria / Sectss Nyk Lives split LP

Wildly dark apocalypse split featuring the work of Nyk Radar, who passed away last year. PHANTASMAGORIA dishes out a heavy CRAMPS-influenced assault, supremely damaged in a “who’s that band of zombies playing in the dungeon” kind of way, and Radar’s yowl will slide under your skin like a needle. SECTSS (with Radar on guitar) are a more primitive beast, with Radar’s guitar piercing through the mix with a death-surf vibe. There’s nothing pretty about this split, neither the premise nor the execution, and there’s a (black) magic quality to an artist being able to reach from the grave…and grab you by the throat.

SEMTEX 87 C.I.B. demo cassette

Scab-ripping HC that’s newly emerged from the Perth scene (Australia not Scotland—you probably realised this already) and bundles the city’s thrashier and effusive anarcho sides in one unit, with two EXTORTION dudes and one from COLD MEAT, to name but two. C.I.B. is a six-song demo tape whose title refers to the Commonwealth Investigation Branch in Perth, and more specifically a dude who drove a tank into the side of it by way of revenge for a past cop brutalizing. (Search “1993 Perth tank rampage” on Wikipedia if you feel so inclined.) It’s seething, raw ur-hardcore all the way, maybe like the FIX or someone but with gruff-as-hell vocals from Rhys Davies, putting me in mind of Nicholas Sarnella in ARMS RACE.

Shitdogs Reborn cassette

This tape collects both of the SHITDOGS’ classic 1981 EPs—Present the History of Cheese (previously reissued by Last Laugh on double-7″) and You Bet! Crawling out of the Baton Rouge swamp, both these records show a band knee-deep in muck but one that isn’t shy from writing good, catchy songs. History on Side A is packed with KBD gristle like “Raw Meat,” which brings the punk snot but also acknowledges the band’s garage rock roots. You Bet! delves even deeper into the SHITDOGS’ love of Nuggets, culminating in the cemetery-cruising “Under Slithery Moons,” but not before cracking a couple jokes on “Can Opener.” Pop this sucker in your Suzuki Samurai’s cassette deck and flip the next kegger on its head.

Silicon Heartbeat Implant EP

This 7″ is an improvement from SILICON HEARTBEAT’s last tape, but it still doesn’t quite tickle my funny bone the way I like it. Although he leans into the sci-fi punk trappings harder than most, it still sounds like a garage punk dude doing the one-man band thing, not like CHROME, which is an obvious inspiration. It’s hard to break those garage chains! CHROME didn’t give a fuck about garage rock (cept maybe “A Question of Temperature”); they were too busy taking acid and dressing up their mannequin friends for the cocaine orgy. Anyway, this record is alright, but it sounds like JAY REATARD just chugged some Robos and LOST SOUNDS is gonna take it easy at the show tonight, maybe skip last call and go home early. Hell, tomorrow’s gonna be a long day and we’re not getting any younger.

Spectres Hindsight LP

Vancouver outfit that blends anarcho lyricism with post-punk while leaving room for some ’80s pop beats. If in print this sounds a little wandering, I recommend giving the first, politically-driven track “Cold War” a listen compared to the last track “Tell Me,” which comes off as a new wave love song—hanging in the balance is an album that achieves this reach. If you’re hooked, they’ve got four previous LPs at the ready.

Static Shock Static Shock CD

From the first drop, Scotland’s STATIC SHOCK owns the speakers. Full-throated hardcore punk with a nasty vocal delivery and an approach that teeters on the edge of crossover (I’m talking guitars mostly) with a tinge of street punk while refusing to let go of their hardcore roots. You can picture the whole pub singing along to “I Still Believe In D.I.Y.” and it looks pretty great.

Suffocating Madness Destroy Me EP

Roachleg out of Brooklyn is a crucial living archive of the current wave of gutter scum world-ending hardcore coming out of New York, and this release is a perfect example of why. Clocking in at four tracks in just over five minutes, SUFFOCATING MADNESS is relentless metallic D-beat from hell that satisfies as it crushes your lungs. The short runtime is good, too, because the production here is hot, like ear fatigue hot from the wild cymbal work alone. Throw in the furious blown-out riffing and cavernous vocals and it’s a lot to take in. In a good way. Brain-erasing hardcore punk just the way it should be played.

Supercrush SODO Pop LP

SUPERCRUSH is made up of folks who cut their teeth coming up in the Pacific Northwest hardcore scene, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to their second full-length. This is some sugary-sweet alterna-rock that sounds like it was just unearthed from a time capsule buried sometime in the early-to-mid-’90s. Fuzzed-out, jangly guitars, breathy vocals, and hooks galore. This is the perfect record for driving on a warm spring day with the windows down and no destination, or just laying in some grass soaking up some rays, possibly while partaking in a jazz cigarette. I don’t know man, this record is just fucking really good, and I just feel relaxed when it’s on.

Svaveldioxid Första Dagen Efter Sista Bomben LP

This was one of the best kängpunk D-beat records of last year, if not the best in that category. Wanna know how I know? Because I put it on my 2021 top ten. More to my own point, this was one of the best D-beat albums of last year that I did not hear a lot about. Perhaps because no one can spell it? It’s a mystery to me. Swedish vevarsle at its finest, in the realms of DISFEAR, ANTI CIMEX, BOMBANFALL, and SVART PARAD (the band’s namesake is the first track on ANTI CIMEX’s first EP Anarkist Attack, as you know). To be brief and specific, this album fucking rips. The drum fills are subtle and smooth, yet a gut-punch at just the right moment. And those moments are never overdone, appreciated like a cold slap of reality. That is, kängpunk as fuck. Authentic and not tryhard. And certainly not hype—more likely taken for granted. Is that a china cymbal? From SVAVELDIOXID, this is their most vicious, ambitious and grimacing offering. It is more pushed forward, less muffled, distorted and jangling at all the right levels. This is a clobbering, galloping D-beat record that if you missed out on, you should check out. A classic sound that is just the right amounts of fucked-up crazy adrenaline.

Systema Ášltima Guerra LP

From the infamous hub of punk in Colombia known as Casa Rat Trap comes yet another great punk band, SYSTEMA. They live and breathe punk there, and it shows in the endless pit of talent they keep putting out on a consistent basis. SYSTEMA gathers members of AMENAZAS, MURO, DOOMSDAY, SINNACIÖN, and ALAMBRADA, all coming from Rat Trap. Ášltima Guerra sounds like a Colombian punk singing for a Finnish hardcore band from the ’80s. If you like your hardcore angry and raw,then go get this one!

The Antelopes Breaking News cassette

Early ’80s UK collective the ANTELOPES have a colorful and winding history, ending their brief run as CLASS OF ’76, but unfortunately the music doesn’t compel one to follow all the membership twists and turns. Musical history is always worth the effort of excavation, but the tunes themselves don’t quite deliver. There’s clumsy attempts at smoky Eastern European late-night tavern jazz alongside awkward stabs at disco and power-to-the-people funk. On “Mississippi Line,” these Brits lay down an awful blues pastiche that makes the ROLLING STONES’ most ham-fisted takes seem legit. The dubwise post-punk of “Hour of Light” is pleasant enough, but it’s followed by the schmaltzy mush of “Keys to the Kingdom” that warbles on for six long minutes. As evidenced by this collection, not all the unearthed post-punk that glitters is gold.

The Bananas Don’t Go Toward the Light cassette

I don’t know what aspect of this is more shocking: that I was sent an album to review by a band called the BANANAS—that yes, it is that BANANAS, who have been around for something like 30 years now—or that it kinda rips? While long-term fans may initially be a little bummed that it doesn’t have anywhere near the lo-fi grittiness of the likes of Forbidden Fruit, there are a bunch of a-peal-ing things about this new album (yeah, I’m gonna make crummy fruit puns in a BANANAS review, let me have this one). It is plenty driving and catchy, gets wackily fast at times, and is sure to make any fan of this long-time Sacramento garage-y pop punk band smile. This was a delightful listen, the BANANAS have apparently been ripening just fine over their 30 years.

The Cravats The Colossal Tunes Out LP reissue

The CRAVATS have never sat easy in the history of the anarcho-punk genre they’ve often found themselves in. While affiliated with CRASS via their label and Penny Rimbaud producing the single they released, their anarchy (if any) was less political than artistic, closer to the absurdism of Dada. Their sense of humor was also more upfront, in a silly surrealist Monty Python way than the often dour anarcho bands’ chants against bombs and starving nations. Musically, they were far more imaginative and complicated in their arrangements—Rob Dalloway’s guitar sound is both dissonant and twangy, featuring odd chords and the occasional rockabilly flourish, the Shend’s bass and Dave Bennett’s drums savored upfront, stomping and shifty in tempo. Svoor Naan’s saxophone has always been the band’s red herring, often lending them the ill fitting description of “jazz-punk,” with my argument against that being: would anyone call X-RAY SPEX “jazz” just because of Lora Logic’s horn lines? Due partly to this, the CRAVATS haven’t had the eternal back-patch legacy of their labelmates, or been able to stay in print perpetuity. The Colossal Tunes Out LP never even made it to CD aside from tracks on The Land of the Giants compilation, so this reissue by Overground is momentous in that respect at the least. Truth be told, I’m a huge CRAVATS fan, and interviewed lead vocalist the Shend for my zine 1ten years ago. When I saw this had been reissued, I scooped it up immediately as it’s my favorite of their releases. Not a real album as much as a compilation of their singles, there’s still a cohesion between the songs, and it’s the finest example of the CRAVATS’ off-kilter and adventurous musical world. The first side starts with the maniacally dubbed-out vortex of “Off the Beach,” the reverby surf punk riffs on “Terminus,” and the woozy cut n’ paste musique concrete of “Firemen.” The classic Crass Records single “Rub Me Out” (maybe their most well-known moment) highlights the B-side, and the psycho swarming clarinet and bugged-out swing of “Daddy’s Shoes” is maybe the closest thing to a real jazz-punk moment the band has. Any fan of the artier strains of post-punk like the FALL, SWELL MAPS, or PERE UBU, or mutant new wave like DEVO or the SUBURBAN LAWNS (even modern practitioners of the style Á  la CONEHEADS or URANIUM CLUB) would be wont to give the CRAVATS a serious listen. They even do an uptight and twisted cover of “Working in a Coalmine” like the spud boys from Akron did. If reading this review turns at least one more person on to the band, then my writing this is a success. Hopefully enough attention will come from this reissue that maybe we’ll get a chance to see the band’s multiple Peel Sessions come to vinyl in the future.

The Electronic Circus Direct Lines / Le Chorale 7″ reissue

This one-off synth-pop single from 1981 is one of your “underground by circumstance, not by design” scenarios, in that the main guy behind the ELECTRONIC CIRCUS, Chris Payne, was a biggish deal in the genre at the time (GARY NUMAN band member with a co-writing credit on VISAGE’s “Fade to Grey,” which I’m guessing has been a decent source of income since). He had a hit on his mind when releasing “Direct Lines,” it seems, but the world thought otherwise. Still, like plenty of other obscure early ’80s synth, it’s picked up an audience via YouTube, including Jensen from IRON LUNG, who’s given the single its second rerelease and first remaster. It’s solid stuff: briskly paced, with self-consciously space-age swirly keyboard FX and vocals erring on the dramatic side of paranoia. “Direct Lines” is of a piece with bands of the time like OMD, even if you can tell it was never likely to push the same pop chart buttons. “Le Chorale,” the B-side song, is a portentous instrumental built around pleasant electric piano.

The Ex Dignity of Labour LP reissue

A release of this nature—an artistic info-dump essentially—would overshadow many lesser bands’ music. There are scads of hardcore and crust records throughout the ’80s and ’90s where the information provided is important and relevant, but the music itself is a grab-bag of forgettable songs and stereotypical genre exercises. Alas, the EX are in a class by themselves, even back in 1983. Released concurrently with the excellent Tumult LP, all eight “Sucked Out Chucked Out” takes are dense with grinding machinery, as the band pushes its sound beyond agit-punk and into more experimental territory, employing accordions and tape loops. Originally released as a 7″ box set, Dignity of Labour was partially recorded in the remains of a Dutch paper factory that had stood since the 18th century, and even had played a role during the Netherlands’ battle against the Nazis. In the 1970s, the factory was purchased by a multinational corporation and began producing asbestos. In other words, a post-industrial death spiral, one which is detailed in the accompanying booklet. The EX soundtracks these events with rare prowess and raw ingenuity. As individual songs, these tracks aren’t as strong as the majority of the EX’s catalog, but taken together—as a material protest, as a piece of history, as an act of resistance—it is an impressive work.

The Fall Slates LP

Every winter, I return to the FALL. Their music has a rhythmic turn n’ churn and cynical sneer that sticks to your ribs and gets you through the cold months. This winter, I’ve been diving deep, in the midst of casually reading the FALL tome Excavate! and the chapbook Language Scraps 02, both of which are written by massive FALL-heads and have given me a broader scope to their wonderful, frightening, grotesque, unutterable world. It was perfect timing then that I got assigned this to review, since I’ve had them on my mind. The Slates EP was originally released on the inscrutable 10″ format in 1981, making it ineligible for the singles or album charts in Britain at the time. Mark E. Smith called it one of his favorite FALL releases, and the format choice seems to be a perfect symbol for his refusal to let the FALL fit in and make nice with the music industry, independent or not. Perhaps Slates was a clearinghouse for the band between moments: too many songs for a single, but not enough to fill out an album. For such a short release, Slates has a number of my favorite FALL tracks, from the white-heat gallop of “Prole Art Threat,” with the guitar spraying sparks as the rhythm section attempts to pull the brakes, to the mutated rockabilly licks and skiffle boogie of “Fit and Working Again,” and the Manchester motorik that closes out “Leave the Capitol.” But it’s the opening song “Middle Mass” and its seasick sway that’s stuck with me lately. Mark E. Smith’s penknife of critique jabbed at me from the timeslip with the line “The evil is not in extremes / It’s in the aftermath / The middle mass.” I can’t help but hear that and not relate it to the pandemic-strained, climate-collapsing police state we’re in, where corporate fascists and the ruling rich are continually given more power by the moderate moo-ers who vote with a sports team mentality out of apathy, comfort, or fear than for the betterment of their fellow people.

The Front Criteria Sessions EP

The internet has been a great archival tool, if nothing else. I find it really comforting to see an otherwise lost-to-time band such as this Miami power pop act able to document their 1980—1983 lifespan—even just on Bandcamp. This doesn’t simply feel like a vanity project, though. The tunes are good! If the DICTATORS had cleaned it up, they might have sounded something like this. These tracks are squeaky clean, but driving and melodic. The harmonies are on point, which is crucial, and there is even some interesting use of dissonant guitar leads on tracks like “Holiday Weekend” (the standout here). There is always a fear of losing music like this, of losing bands entirely as if they never existed. This probably won’t blow your mind like some unearthed gems, like when the world finally caught on to DEATH, but I’m happy to see releases like this. The FRONT were here, they stood in recording studios and on stages, and they recorded music and it sounded pretty damn good. We could all hope to be remembered to the same degree.

The Monsters You’re Class, I’m Trash CD

It feels like there’s been a steady flow of product out of the LIGHTNING/REVEREND BEAT-MAN camp as of late. Here’s another long-player of the best of the bunch, the MONSTERS. You get much of the same matching-suit Euro kind of garage trash rock. This is especially true on songs like “Smell My Tongue” and “Get Drunk on You,” which are great but nothing really special. It’s the noisier psych and horror-inspired numbers such as “Carpool Lane,” “Devil Baby,” and the two versions of the song “Dead” that make this really a thing. There’s two great Euro horror-inspired videos of these latter tracks online as well, which are pretty swell. COVID has been kind to the MONSTERS and allowed creativity to flow as to create some memorable art here. They’re just so Swiss! Look at their pictures and you’ll know exactly what I mean. I feel like the LSD has gotten pretty good there lately, so tune in, drop in…blahhh.

The Q-Tips There Are Those Who Drill Violently”‹!”‹ EP

The Q-TIPS are a synth punk duo from Munich, made up of Ms. Juliette (sequencing) and Mr. Brotzeit (programming). They also apparently refer to themselves as “The Kids of the Drill Hole.” Anyway, they play trash can/KBD punk similar to the SPITS but with a harsher industrial sound,  interspersed with cartoony bleeps and bloops. The production on these four tracks really packs a wallop—the overall sound is crunchy and satisfying—and the vocal performance is pretty great. But—I don’t know—the songs just aren’t there for me. Maybe if they played them a little more straight or really leaned into the numbskullery, but as-is I found this to be a pretty middling release. I know you’re generally not supposed to do this, but I think if you take a look at the cover, you’ll be able to judge whether or not this is for you.

The Shine The Shine cassette

We’re starting off with a very rock’n’roll/rockabilly vibe. This is reinforced by the packaging of the tape. Good for me that it moves beyond that. Almost every rockabilly band I’ve ever heard sounds like a cover band to me. The sound sort of bounces around with clear influences from rockabilly, power pop, ’60s soul, ska, and more. At times it’s got a great jangly catchiness. Overall, I like it, but I find the sound a bit scattered.

The Sorels Spring Break / Palo Santo 7″

When you present quality female-fronted pop punk to me, it can really only go one way. I’m a sucker for this shit. It’s my crack. Mid-tempo and super catchy, my head is bouncing around like it’s on autopilot. The B-side even has a certain ’70s catchiness to it. Let’s be clear about what this is and what it isn’t. It’s fun and it’s catchy and it’s easy and it’s well-done and it’s fun. I may have already mentioned that. It’s not going to challenge your perception of what music should be or break down other barriers. If this is your sort of thing, you’ll enjoy it. If it’s not your kind of thing, this isn’t going to change your mind about that. Take it for what it is. Put it on the turntable, turn up the volume, and sing like you think you know the words. Oh, and then crack a cold one.

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The Telefones She’s in Love (With the Rolling Stones) / The Ballad of Jerry Godzilla 7″ reissue

The TELEFONES were early punk pioneers, sometimes known as Texas’ first new wave group. Their sound pulls from a ton of different backgrounds—classic rock songwriting, new wave instrumentation, and punk ethos. This single is the group’s most well-known, and for good reason. The A-side, “She’s in Love (With the Rolling Stones),” is an upbeat number carried by a wailing saxophone line. “The Ballad of Jerry Godzilla” has darker undertones, playing much like a MODERN LOVERS track. This is worth checking out.

The Wirtschaftswunder Salmobray LP reissue

This is a reissue of a Neue Deutsche Welle group with the least number of German members in the scene, consisting of a Czech guitarist, Italian vocalist, Canadian keyboardist, and a German drummer. The tunes oscillate from melodic on the opener “Analphabet” to abrasive and experimental on “Die Leute Sind Interessant.” The keyboards are at the helm on this one, with a dirty and distorted electric piano sound like the SCREAMERS, and the vocals more wacky and out-of-key.

Tiananmen Squares sXe Til Payday CD

These well-cured, veteran Omaha scenesters play pop punk in a rough OPERATION IVY or SCREECHING WEASEL style with bouncing rhythms and traded vocals. The lyrics are often introspective with the “whoas” of growing old, working, and generally dealing with life. There’s humor in songs like the title track and anger in “Faces of Meth.” They do an upbeat version of the DWARVES’ “I Will Deny.” I could be mean due to my general dislike of pop punk, but I won’t be here, as these gentlemen are fighting an uphill battle against middle-age smack dab in the middle of the country and are doing the best they can. If you’re a fan of such music, you could pick far worse than the TIANANMEN SQUARES.

Tower 7 …Peace on Earth? LP

Entrance to a Living Organism was an excellent start of a career for TOWER 7. On D4MT Labs they were able to stand out as an outfit, as most of the bands that come from that label do. Fast-forward to …Peace On Earth?, the new LP out through both Roachleg Records and D4MT. This NY band goes straight for the jugular. The fast parts are fast as can be and the slow parts contrast really nicely. Insane tempo shifts that disorientate and an overall suffocating feeling about their music. TOWER 7 is a great fast-paced hardcore band worth the listen!

Toys That Kill The Citizen Abortion cassette

The debut from one of San Pedro’s best, given a cassette reissue for its twentieth anniversary. This album is still as great as it was when it originally came out. Rising from the ashes of the juggernaut that was F.Y.P., TOYS THAT KILL continued down the path of their predecessor by churning out snotty, fun pop punk that could have fit right in with the body of work of the previous band, and while Todd Congelliere’s vocals are unmistakable, it’s the addition of Sean Cole splitting up the vocal duties that really adds that extra element needed to not just write off this record as a new F.Y.P. album. Though twenty years have passed since this originally was released, it still sounds fresh, which is a feat especially when you consider the musical landscape twenty years ago—the mark of not only a great album, but a great band. If this album is not already in your collection and you’re down with cassettes, go get a copy now and hurry, because it’s limited to only 100 copies!

Tupperware Finicky EP

These Olympia punks (on a Wyoming-based label) have a knack for putting out releases where the artwork depicts the sound perfectly. The maze-dwelling, mace-wielding cretin from their previous cassette has been revealed as but one of many “X”-eyed demons, who have now progressed to menacing the world at large. The fact that they chose to illustrate their kitchen-convenience-invoking moniker sword and sorcery style also cracks me up.  Musically, much like the last one, this messy and manic hardcore tape is over before you know what hit you.

V/A It’s An Action Benefit Comp cassette

It’s An Action Tapes is a new non-profit label out of Michigan with a focus on effecting positive change via good music, and this comp puts them off to a solid start. 100% of the proceeds of this release go to help out local families who are housing kids formerly detained at the US/Mexico border as they try to reunite them with family. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s a great tape filled with favorites from the current punk landscape. There’s bangers from MUTANT STRAIN, NYC’s KALEIDOSCOPE, WHITE STAINS, CHRONOPHAGE, and more, as well as special treats like URANIUM CLUB live in Italy and a weird scrapped instrumental demo from Austin’s INSTITUTE. Great stuff, they’ve raised some decent money so far, and it looks like you can still grab one at the link below.

V/A Tarantula Tapes Presents: Tracknaphobia, Volume 1 cassette

A format that I am absolutely always a fan of, an introductory mixtape/sampler for a record label. Tarantula Tapes is a Canadian-based cassette label that began as a “pandemic project” for the people who started it. This cassette marks their one-year anniversary of being a label. My sincerest congratulations! Now onto the music! While not everything on this 21-song cassette is exactly my cup of Caesar (that’s what everyone drinks up there, right?), I love the idea of an eclectic, all-over-the-map tape label just putting out music because they believe in it and are helping cultivate their local scene. We’ve got catchy pop punk, rockabilly, some rendition of hardcore, twangy lewd folk-country, instrumental surf, heavy stoner rock, and that’s all just on the A-side! When I was younger and starting my record label, I used to make tapes of my releases and keep them on me at all times, giving them out to anyone vaguely alt-leaning. Skateboarders, mall punks, ween-bags in ironic punk-adjacent shirts, all in the hopes that it would get people more excited about the killer bands we had coming out of my hometown. I imagine this technique would be a top-notch move in Barrie, Ontario, and if this mix were given to young budding punkers, it would likely have a huge impact on them. Being from just south of the border and regularly touring through Canada, I definitely plan on hitting up Barrie once that is a possibility again.

V/A Greetings From a Late Stage Capitalist Wasteland LP

The first thing that struck me is that this compilation, for whatever reason, comes off as more of a label sampler than an actual compilation album. I don’t really know why that is, nor do I actually know if it is indeed a label sampler, it just gives off that vibe. Fourteen bands contributed either new or previously unreleased tracks. The collection of bands on here really is a mixed bag, as you have everything from acoustic acts, instrumental stuff, hardcore-adjacent stuff, stuff that would appeal to The Fest crowd, and even some borderline nu-metal-sounding stuff. Perhaps this is what is adding to my suspicions of this being a label sampler. It doesn’t really flow in the way a compilation should, and everything just kinda seems thrown on here just for the sake of having enough material. I will say that the last half of this album is the strongest, but even that really doesn’t make me want to check out anything from the label or bands.

Visions Visions LP

VISIONS is a post-punk band from Portland, Oregon formed by various members of the anarcho/post-punk goth band DEAD CULT. Great debut. Nine perfectly constructed songs of dark post-punk, very much in tune with the CHAMELEONS or SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES. There are expressive guitar riffs, punchy melodies, and a strong rhythmic base that brings a lot of energy to each track. Despite appealing to the dark side of existence and with a clear mission to explore the nooks and crannies of universal weariness, this album feels vital, full of life and contagious.  “Hidden Lake” and “Christian Militia” are the standout tracks in my humble opinion.

Werewolf Jones Stroh Down: Live at Outer Limits Lounge 2019 cassette

Strap yourself in for a live psych/grunge/garage freakout—”I Got It All” starts things off and shit never slows down. Energy level is through the roof, guitar and bass are EQ-ed to a general buzzsaw blur, and even (especially) when they slow down to a snarl, the shit is just mean and dirty. No frills here, just nasty, greasy damaged after-punk.

Wild Wings Foil Landscape LP

This ham-fisted Ohio power trio rocks big and burly, with elements of hard rockers like MOUNTAIN and PINK FAIRIES. They also have an early ’80s punk vibe sounding like ZERO BOYS or GEZA X. You can tell they rock hard in a live setting, as the sweat and hair would be flying gratuitously. Pick it up. Smells not included. 

Prisoner / Witchcake split EP

This one’s a toughie. There’s not much here to condemn fully or praise highly—some well-enough crafted songs from two bands that sound competent and well-read. PRISONER is from Texas, but weirdly not from Denton, which is shocking given their first track sounds dead-on for a MARKED MEN tribute band, and the overbaked acoustic-driven second track sounds like BAPTIST GENERALS. “Ten Years Done,” which opens the record, is fantastic. Hard-driven and tuneful if not altogether original. WITCHCAKE, hailing from Mississippi, takes on a more garage-leaning psych sound replete with splashy wet guitars and underwater vocals. Oh, and a pretty groovy organ. They sound fine. All of these songs, save for the excellent opener, sound fine. It’s all fine. Carry on, garage dudes.

Ztuped Are You Stupid? EP

ZTUPED really carries the torch of DC punk into the 21st century. They wear their influences heavily on their sleeves, but expand in slightly new directions. Their sound is more muscular than BAD BRAINS, more intense than MINOR THREAT. In true DC punk fashion, there are six tracks forced onto a 7″, each more blazing than the last. It’s quite a bit of raucous fun. Surely not one to miss!