MRR #485 • October 2023

1000s of Cats Next of Cat LP

The first LP for this female-fronted two-piece from Japan, with Sonoko Nebashi writing, singing, and playing guitar and Dave Gatchell of the SELBY TIGERS on drums. The songs have the stripped-down, straightforward guitar playing and earnest vocal delivery of P.S. ELIOT or early BRATMOBILE and witty, observant lyrics that verge on the slightly dark side of unrequited love like the ones that bands such as CUB or BUCK would sing. If it was released twenty years ago, it would have found a home on Sympathy for the Record Industry, but fortunately MPLS Ltd picked it up, which means US fans won’t have to pay exorbitant shipping fees.

A/WAY Regresar 12″

A/WAY’s beats arrive fast, with the bounce and rhythm that can make HC such an unexpectedly danceable genre. Of course, they’re mostly blasting 4/4 tempos, but they start, stop, and weave enough to avoid total uniformity. The guitars are satisfyingly thick, with a lead or metallic touch from time to time. The vocals are wrapped in (not drowned out by) the guitar and drums. A good listen for angry walking or tackling last week’s dishes.

Abism Abism LP

Before I get lost in excited rambling, here’s a conclusion right at the beginning: this is a great LP. Listen to and get it somehow, anyhow. ABISM put out a rehearsal tape in 2021 and went straight into writing a debut full-length. This is a rare, and therefore respectable move. Crafting an LP is a real test for a band, and ABISM easily passes. They consist of members of previously acclaimed bands such as CRAZY SPIRIT/DAWN OF HUMANS, SALVAJE PUNK/100%, IVY/NUTS zine, and GARRAPATA. Another gem from the scene of a dozen people making three dozen amazing bands, released by Toxic State, who document this sub-scene—documenting how your friends create a scene is pretty much a major point of contemporary punk. There is a slight chance that your songs might not abolish the current existing order of the world, so you should rather save yourself, your community, or at least the music you make. In that sense, ABISM is a perfect result. Nothing on this record sounds as if you could not play it. But they are playing it, not you, and the whole flow and energy of the record is so effortless and flawless. There are no riffs you wish you could come up with, but hearing these super sick riffs inspires you to get down to the rehearsal room and blast such primitive jams at high volume. The intensity is maintained even with the longer tracks that fill half of the record. “Hypnotic,” as they state, and it works; it remains raw hardcore and has odd vibes even without unleashed chaos. The mixing sounds great, and while the music has a lot of space due to the hypnotic/repetitive and not too complicated parts, there is a buzz that offers an easy connection to the band’s energy. The vocals bind the record together in a great way, leaving a lot of space for the music while maintaining an angry presence. I loved the GARRAPATA demo, so it’s nice to hear the same voice here. Regardless of any reference, ABISM sounds unique in a way that they are not uncategorizable, but could be matched to the essence of many different genres. It’s tight, aggressive, and raw, but has no challenging or alienating element—maybe I am misunderstanding the world around me, but this should excite all punks and hardcore heads who are not afraid of dirt and mesmerizing simplicity. Maybe even your krautrock-loving acquaintances would dig this. It’s been on constant repeat since the first time I heard it, and it’s not only great music, but makes me appreciate punk, too. I want to go to the rehearsal room and jam, and you should do it too, but first check out this record for a little motivation. Oh, and the cover looks great. 

Abolitionist A Pernicious Truth LP

New LP from Oregon’s prolific ABOLITIONIST, this being their eighth LP (if I’m counting right), with releases dating back to 2010. If you’re new to this group, they have that polished (dare I say commercial?) post-hardcore sound in the style of TITLE FIGHT or AT THE DRIVE-IN, while maintaining releases on independent labels. Listening back to some older ABOLITIONIST material, this production sound may have come with age, as it tends to, and I’m sure any tie to “commercial” is against the group’s anarchist themes (so, sorry guys). That said, I can appreciate their political attitude/anger that has an obvious place within the genre. They address “liberty” a lot, which led me to the liner notes: “A follow up to events that transpired in the lyrics of 2015’s “The Vicious Rumor” (but years later, and in the form of a letter written by Nestor to Liberty)…” I tried researching this letter, but don’t want to misrepresent anybody if I’m looking at it wrong. All to say, these lyrics are clearly written with intention and a historical perspective—all well and good for intention, but the music is not for me.

Abuso Demo 1988 EP

I absolutely love it, but self-reflection indicates it might be the peak of human consumerism to press old hardcore demos to vinyl. I love this era of Mexican punk; many great recordings were made there between 1988 and 1990. One common thing was that almost all of the bands had super tight, dense, almost robotic constant beats and hecticly played back-and-forth riffs. ABUSO fits into this mold, yet their anger makes them unique and it makes me appreciate their scene. This does not mean you will hear anything you cannot imagine or have not heard before. But it’s honest, entertaining hardcore that makes you feel like you’re in a rehearsal room with the band. Despite how adolescent it sounds, the vibe of the record still carries importance. Due to recording and equipment quality, the demo (probably) sounds rougher than they might have wanted it, but it provides a great mask for the slower, plain parts of the record. Nothing revolutionary here, but it’s a great addition to the already impressive history of Mexican punk.

Advertisement Escorts LP

The second full-length by ADVERTISEMENT is a straight-up rock’n’roll album. Channeling glam rock, TELEVISION, ROXY MUSIC, and other ’70s guitar-driven sounds into a twisting knot of contemporary tunes, ADVERTISEMENT blends Escorts into an album that is easy for listening while maintaining a danceable nod. Your hips are guaranteed to start swinging when the rhythm of “Where is My Baby?” kicks in. Listening, you may find yourself laying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, with all your focus on the density of tonal content, all while allowing the dark, surreal, yet comedic lyrics to sweep through your synapses.

Affect This is Värmland Noise CD

There is a “make it or break it” aspect to doing D-beat. And I’m not talking about using D-beat in your hardcore, I’m talking about playing proper D-beat, the way Kawakami intended. AFFECT, the Swedish D-beat band, does it the right way! With a sound that draws clear inspiration from the blueprint left by DISCLOSE, they deliver a relentless onslaught of punk aggression. This is Värmland Noise is a discography compilation that gathers their four releases as a barrage of D-beat madness. This compilation is a testament to the enduring power of D-beat and AFFECT’s place in its lineage.

Agur Garena Gara LP

The Bandcamp info tells me these guys are from Spain. All the Zs and Xs in the song titles lead me to believe they might be Basque. A little internet research confirms that. Not all, but lots of Spanish punk really lands with me. This one is extremely catchy, with lots of “whoaaa, whoaaa” backing vocals, but also some snarling lead vocals, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s one that I like a lot. At times very mid-tempo and other times quite a bit faster, but it maintains that catchiness, even when the mood is somewhat frantic. Only six cuts, but they’re all winners for me.

Alicja-Pop I’m Here I’m There / Not Gonna Be Dumb 7″

Guitarist and vocalist Alicja Trout has played with such luminaries as JAY REATARD, the CC RIDERS, and DESTRUCTION UNIT, and also still leads the RIVER CITY TANLINES. Needless to say, ALICJA is full of rock’n’roll chops. ALICJA-POP finds her leading a group of studio musicians on this two-track 45. “I’m Here I’m There” is a rock dreamscape with driving rhythms and jangly guitars setting the tone for ALICJA’s sugary sweet vocal delivery, while “Not Gonna Be Dumb” finds a more angular guitar tone backing and even more syrupy vocalizations. There is a PATTI SMITH vibe hidden in these two tracks, as well as some psych-rock reminiscent of the band WOODS. If you’re a fan of lo-fi pop with a garage rock feel, then definitely check this out.

Anguished Life Shroud of Death LP

Dense and punishing, L.A.’s ANGUISHED LIFE ignites a D-beat bomb blast with this ten-song album. They don’t stray from the traditional sound, instead fully embracing the DISCHARGE blueprint in aesthetics and texture. The result is a merciless assault that never relents and rarely modulates. Fine by me. This shit rips! The riffs are on-point, with the rhythm section locked in with thunderous, pounding drums and some truly wild bass lines. The vocals are drenched in the kind of reverb that puts the right amount of space around them in the mix. Delivering bleak messages about the horrors of war and the corruption of its soulless enablers, the guttural shouts seem truly anguished. This one will be played loud and often.

Antagonizör Heavy Metal Bootlicker cassette

Charged metal punk’n’roll from this all-female chaos trio from Gainesville, Florida, delivering leftist songs fueled by fire. Suggested tracks: “Pearl Clutcher” and “Heavy Metal Bootlicker,” exuding the feeling of sounds from another era; special mention to “Ammunition” for being so clear about gun policies, like open carry and such. Nice metalpunk full of catharsis and the spillage of anger, with soft remembrances of the everlasting MOTÖRHEAD vibe but in another trance and with newer sounds. Politically-charged hardcore-meets-metal with charged lyrics and vocal work at the front, plus thick bass lines.

Asylum Closure CD

In Stoke-on-Trent, no one can hear you scream, I guess. Closure is a discography CD of Stoke’s most feared punk band of the ’80s, ASYLUM. With 31 songs of rough-as-fuck, noise-loving, sometimes barely listenable UK hardcore, this is definitely not an easy one, especially since the running order is sometimes a bit random and you don’t always know which songs are taken from which sessions (assuming it really matters). Even I could not take the thing in one sitting, and I am a resilient fellow when it comes to shit-fi hardcore. There are people among us who can actually tune their instruments and see songwriting as an essential part of the form of art known as music. ASYLUM were not these people. For a long time, ASYLUM were that sort of obscure, short-lived cult band that pioneered noisecore and made CHAOS UK and DISORDER sound like school choirs. In retrospect, their chaotic and obnoxious sped-up take on their neighbours DISCHARGE sounds both childish and incredibly ahead of its time. ASYLUM were the ultimate noise-not-music band, a stance, if not a way of life, that they proudly wore on their sleeves. Their finest (well…) recording Is This the Price? was reissued on vinyl in late 2021, and Closure is the definitive retrospective. The aforementioned session can be seen as an early example of proto-D-beat music, like EU’S ARSE, SUBVERSION, or SHITLICKERS, with a heavy focus on the most chaotic, noisiest side of it, and also as trailblazing of the harsh noise-not-music hardcore sound of LÄRM, RAPT, or PLASMID that would appear in the mid-’80s. The comparisons with the classic Japanese noisy hardcore bands (GAI and the like) are not irrelevant, either. They even influenced SCUM DRIBBLERS, an even more intense aural racket, who themselves influenced NAPALM DEATH, but then we all tend to retroactively create connections that might not be relevant (although they are definitely necessary in punk storytelling). This is an essential piece of history and a work that had to be done. If you are not already a fan of raw-as-fuck, DISCHARGE-ish hardcore, you should probably avoid this like the plague or your mother-in-law, but if you are interested in a band that sounds like a piss-soaked live tape of DISORDER hastily covering DISCHARGE, then Closure will be a sound investment. And it’s got a massive booklet full of details about the band’s “career” and an obi.

Atomic Tide Night Crimes CD

Second release from the San Francisco group ATOMIC TIDE, with members from AVENGERS, ANGRY AMPUTEES, GLITTER WIZARD, and the PLEASURE KILLS. This is a bombastic approach to punk with tinges of surf-y, psych rock guitars, and is gripped by the power of Lydia Taylor’s vocals, reminiscent of Yula Be’eri in NANUCHKA—deep, rich, and resonant. Their first self-titled cassette release came out in 2019, so it’s good to see this group survived lockdown and made it out with five new rippers! This is night music, if the title didn’t make that clear, so once the sun sets, pop this CD in your 2008 hatchback and let ATOMIC TIDE do the troublemaking for you.

Bad Anxiety Demonstration II cassette

Straight smoker of a tape here from BAD ANXIETY out of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. These five songs are all A+ jams. It’s sharp and frantic hardcore punk played in intervals of whipping speed and head-bobbing stomps, feeling like a frenzied blend of original DC and NY style with bratty vocals along the lines of the ANGRY SAMOANS. When it first comes on, as the opening bass line on “Big Dumb” rumbles in, an overdubbed voice lets you know that “this is gonna rule,” and then it does.

Bad Bad Men Messed Up LP

A gritty, hard-rocking slew of songs from the veteran old guard of the Omaha scene. A brutally honest swagger that comes with years of putting in the Midwestern reps, akin to Austin’s SONS OF HERCULES. It’s the kind of swagger and self-pummeling sludge that’s reminiscent of the STOOGES, MUDHONEY, and MOTÖRHEAD.

Berliner Doom Wer Das H​ö​rt ist Doom EP

For a band with no synths, it’s uncanny how much BERLINER DOOM evokes a very specific moment of early ’00s art-damaged electro-punk—someone really needs to tear a rift in the time/space continuum so this lot can have the circa-2004 split 7” with LES GEORGES LENINGRAD or NUMBERS that they deserve. There’s twelve tracks on this debut EP, only two of which (barely) crack a minute, a literal dozen beyond-econo jams triangulated between cavernous, blown-out bass loops, no wave guitar strangulation, and rattling bare-bones beats, with deadpan femme vocals from bassist ARM intoned almost exclusively in German. I’m partial to the sparse and thoroughly Zickzack’d neo-Neue Deutsche Welle of “Zu Spät vorm Späti” and the budget dance punk sass of “Deine Libido,” but for extra credit, seek out the “extended radio edit” of “Alte Weisse Frau, Bitte Sch​ö​n!” that they’ve made available online, and not just because they managed to work in lyrical references to both CULTURE BEAT and SONIC YOUTH!

Beton / Beyond Description split EP

The first side of this EP has Slovakia’s BETON blasting out some wild D-beat/death metal, sounding like it was recorded in a sewer tunnel. Although they have a wall-of-sound thing going on, the drums clacked away clearly. “Safari” was the most interesting musically, as it seemed to have something sounding like a banjo in the mix, and by the end of the song, the guitars sounded like a foghorn, but in a good way. On the flipside, Japan’s BEYOND DESCRIPTION serves up their brand of crusty hardcore. I don’t know what they were yelling about, but the unrelenting speed and aggression are legit. Very powerful.

Beyond the Pale Pain EP

Hard to find another genre other than powerviolence that is actually pretty good but has a rather weird reputation. BEYOND THE PALE is not your typical stop-and-go, few words, blastbeat, cool riffs and then it’s over band, but this six-minute EP has eleven songs with only one above a minute, and they do mess up their sick riffs with meticulously calculated song structures which still remain super violent and catchy. INFEST and CROSSED OUT are summoned, and like those bands, this record also has a solid foot in the hardcore field. If you are a fan of  the sub-genre any bit, then most likely you will dig this record, and if you are not already, then this could be a great gateway. It’s well-constructed and performed. Maybe the only difference is that they come from a fan perspective, which makes the band a bit meta, but that is the fate of all genres that have existed long enough to create such institutions. Also, I will not blame anybody for not being meth-heads or mentally unstable. In that sense, even if we would distance BEYOND THE PALE from powerviolence, this would be a very good hardcore record with unusual twists and turns. I listened to it ten times already and liked it more with each spin.

Black Button Rejoice LP

Filthy bummer-punk from this Richmond band, for fans of NO TREND and FLIPPER. Caustic guitars carry misanthropic vocals, some shouted, some long-form spoken word. Songs like “Again and Again” and “Forever in Time” have simple guitar and bass interplay that dirge into the ground before speeding to hardcore tempos. Several lyrical diatribes concern a complicated relationship with religion and faith. “Testimony” is a self-aware examination of a person’s experience with Christianity that leaves them with more questions than answers: “The Lord is my shepherd / But all sheep will meet the executioner’s hand / We are sinners in the hands of a vengeful, angry, and distrustful God / And to live a good life / We must recognize the consequences of each action we take.” The theme returns several times throughout the record, adding heft to the Rejoice title. Gnarled, introspective noise for desolation punks.

Blue Dolphin Robert’s Lafitte LP

Robert’s Laffite rounds up three small-run cassettes and a few previously unreleased tracks from this Houston/Austin quartet, who existed for a short spell (2016–2017) around its members’ stints in big-deal ’10s DIY sensations like MYSTIC INANE, PATSY, INSTITUTE, C.C.T.V., CHRONOPHAGE, etc. (and that’s just the abridged list). Vocalist Sarah Sissy’s delivery has a blasé, almost Su Tissue-ish edge, standing strong as the eye of the storm while the rest of the band spirals into wild, detuned abandon with the pointed primitivism of the URINALS, some MINUTEMEN-inspired trebly breakneck grooves, and a sheet of blotter paper worth of sun-baked eccentricity à la early MEAT PUPPETS—the freewheeling art-punk scramble of “Cindy” and “Ida” melts down into the dusty twang-pop of “Buying Time” and “Virginal Mystery,” with tracks like “Emerald Cherry” and “Licking & Kissing” left to gallop in the spaces in between, presaging (just barely) Houston’s fellow blink-and-you-missed-them Keats Rides a Harley resurrectionists VIVIENNE STYG. The recordings are emphatically lo-fi, buried deep in layers of tape hiss and analog warble, and listening to Robert’s Laffite is an almost voyeuristic experience of picking out distinct forms from little more than shadows and light, but rewarding one at that.

Brorlab Working Out in Heaven LP

High levels of egg found here…screamy, high-pitched vocals? Check. Heavily reverbed synth work that’s exquisitely executed. Totally punchy computer punk drums are on. A heavyweight competitor coming from Belgium enters the egg-punk ring with such rotundity that you’ll be amazed. Seven new songs, plus their debut demo that results in another nine tracks that are less vicious than the first seven, but still, they are tight. Frantic egg-punk with heavy, Dadaistic computer synthwave and drums. La Vida Es Un Mus did it again. Highly recommended for egg-punk lovers.

Busted Head Racket Junk Food 10″

Ah, the distinct pleasure one derives from holding the most loathsome vinyl format in their grubby hands…the reviled 10” record. Bands typically avoid the bewitching allure of the cursed middle size by either writing a few more songs and making a proper full-length album, or by exercising restraint and editing down to an EP. Well, BUSTED HEAD RACKET (or BHR) said “fuck all that!” So, a 10” it is. Eight songs of synth-driven, lo-fi, new wave-inspired punk. The vocals oscillate between understated/deadpan and howlingly feral, with flashes of harmony that compliments the undercurrent of pop that courses through the release. BHR would fit well on a bill with fellow Aussies ITCHY AND THE NITS, or really any band of the Warttmann Inc.’s roster of scrambled deviants. The closest reference point is SNOOPER, or perhaps one of the Northwest Indiana bands that undoubtedly inspired them, like C.C.T.V. Concise and energetic, BHR aren’t overly serious—the title track is essentially a shopping list of snack foods—and the goofy fun is quite contagious. A solid release that would make a worthy addition to the three or four other 10”s you might own.

C.O.F.F.I.N. Australia Stops LP

I imagine this is a big deal to a lot of people. It’s classically Australian in many ways. It’s driving. It’s melodic. It’s intense. It’s furious. It’s unrelenting. But more than anything, it’s rock’n’roll. At times, the pace is mild. Other times, it gets quite quick. At times, it’s like AC/DC. Other times it’s like MOTÖRHEAD, particularly with the snarly, growling vocals. There’s a lot to like about this record. On the flipside, at least for me, it’s a little too rock’n’roll. I could use a little more punk. I could use a little less extracurricular lead guitar work. I realize for a lot of people, neither of things are drawbacks. I’d love to see these guys in a small bar in the middle of nowhere.

C57BL/6 LP1 cassette

The name C57BL/6 comes from the scientific designation for the most commonly used research lab mouse. It’s a cool name, but it’s also one I will forget right away. “Have you heard that lab mouse band? C-something?” I’ve only listened to the first track so far, and I pressed pause to write about it. It rules. “Open World” is a seven-minute (!) DIY hardcore song with a basic two-chord structure that rarely alters, other than two short breakdown/chorus sections. Impassioned, shouted vocals fly over the steady, lurching chords. Near mechanical simplicity almost like something NEU! would do, building tension from bare-bones rock music through unwavering repetition. If you make it to the end, you’re in, transfixed and aghast at how the other music you listen to does so little with so much more. Totally recommended already, but let me listen to the rest. No surprises, it’s awesome. After the opening juggernaut, the rest of the album consists of shorter blasts with drum-machine and synth backing the guitar and bass with vocals that sound like RUDIMENTARY PENI. “Deep Fake” has a great two-note synth lead and “Basement” is unhinged enough to keep me the hell out of their basement. Killer release, invigorating in its economy. Highly recommended.

Castillo Pleasure and Pain LP

Los Angeles guitarist Alex Zambrano (COMBAT FORCE, CRIMINAL OUTFIT, REPEAT OFFENDER) started CASTILLO during the lockdown of Spring 2020. Enlisting a buddy on drums, he assumed all other duties (including songwriting and vocals) on the initial self-titled EP, creating some of the strongest Oi! the world has heard in decades in the process. Fleshed out as a five-man band on Pleasure and Pain, the unit delivers traditional street style with a clean and rugged sound, pinning seven solid tracks to a 45 RPM 12”. After kicking down the door with the savage stomp of the title track, songs like the wistful “Endless Days” and “I’ve Learnt Today” recall O.G. acts like the BUSINESS at their anthemic and inspiring best, adding in their own rough charms to toe the line between tough and melodic in brilliant fashion. Even when they go full lovey-dovey on the bright and saccharine “Call Lane,” they still come off as impeccably cool. With this potent platter, CASTILLO maintains their flawless track record—the outfit has yet to release anything less than pure class.

Christopher Alan Durham & the Peacetime Consumers Kicks or Macabre LP

Here we have some dirtbag rock music with visions of private press glory dancing in its mulleted head. This kind of rock rolls out of bed with a complete Canadian tuxedo surgically attached to its skin. I bet this guy had his water shut off by the city and brushes his teeth with Budweiser. The one-sheet throws out JIM SHEPARD’s name, but this stuff is Miller Lite compared to Shep’s moonshine-grade libations. Even in his mellowest moments, SHEPARD was still breathing fire, still consumed with accessing some hidden truth. On Kicks or Macabre, DURHAM sounds like he discovered SYD BARRETT’s leftover Mandrax supply and downed the entire bottle. Throughout the album, there’s flashes of the kind of wonky groove a band like the CLAP achieved so naturally, but they are fleeting. One of the better tracks, “Shoot Through Me,” gives off downer GEORGE BRIGMAN vibes but still comes off light as a feather. I imagine “Party Store Suicide” is supposed to sound despondent, like it’s living on the edge of the gutter, but it just sounds deflated, hardly worth even stepping over on your way to purchase some whip-its. “C Street Blues” goes for a shitkicking barrelhouse ramble, but ends up sounding like a pisstake. There’s a difference between desperation and listlessness.

Cluster Bomb Unit Abgesang LP

D-beat raw crust stalwarts CLUSTER BOMB UNIT return with a new LP, after churning out distorted chaos since the late ’80s. I have a few records by CLUSTER BOMB UNIT, including a 10” and some EPs, but I think this is the first full-length I’ve listened to by them. Anyway, I was not familiar with their new vocalist Julia, and they kill it. At one point on the opening track, their vocal harshness blends seamlessly into a bombarding guitar solo. This happened a few times on the album—vocals melding into and sounding like a screeching guitar. This EP sounds eerie and off-kilter. The snare is high and tight, almost like CRASS, while the strings buzz à la CONFUSE. The overall tempo is like meets KURO and STATE OF FEAR. Grim riffs and singed solos, as you’d come to expect. This return LP stands out with primitive flair; slight stumbles and organic flowing make it punker than ever. Raw clamor and a grumbling Dis-onslaught with some hits of prog noise between the verses. Fifteen tracks of ear-melting punk racket. For fans of LEBENDEN TOTEN and CLUSTER BOMB UNIT over the decades.

Continued Without a Finding CWAF LP

Grind-sludge out of Massachusetts. Originally recorded in 2007, this album was recently mixed and mastered for a 2023 release. Could have fooled me, so kudos to the engineering team—these recordings sound very modern. Took me a couple listens to really sink my teeth into this one. Sure, there are your typical grindcore elements, like the insane chops of drummer John Gillis (of late-era AXCX/YOU’RE FIRED infamy). But the riffs are borderline nu-metal, and sound like songs PANTERA left on the cutting room floor. The vocals are layered with so many effects that they sound as if they recorded them from a payphone and then drenched them in an astounding amount of reverb and echo. However, tracks like “Just Another Day in the Orifice” and “Copulate” have more of a crushing, grindy/doomy edge and really make me rethink how I view this record. All in all, there are a couple stand-out tracks here, but CWAF opted for more quantity over quality.

Corker Falser Truths LP

Falser Truths explores the depths of post-punk while infusing it with highly experimental and genre-bending elements. The LP’s sonic palette is a tapestry of moody atmospheres, intricate guitar work, and emotive vocals. It’s evident that CORKER has honed their craft to perfection, as each track unfolds with a sense of purpose and artistic vision. What makes this LP stand out is the fearless approach to musical experimentation. This Cincinnati-based band is hard to describe but easy to listen to.

Crossczech Partie Bez Ví​t​ě​zů LP

Prague SHARP skins released the follow-up to their debut a full decade later, so clearly not one for rushing into things. Forgive me for being a critical Christopher here, but one might have fairly assumed if you’ve taken a full ten years to work on a sequel to your first LP, you might have used some of that time to become better? However, this is much the same from this bunch, a relatively nondescript blend of watered-down Oi!, street punk, and some absolutely terrible ska. Perfect for after seven to twelve pilsners so you don’t really care what it sounds like. Despite all this, I will give them enormous credit for being openly left-wing in a scene where weirdo loser flag-botherers are getting more prominent and need stamping out.

Demon Demonstration cassette

Going into a Roachleg release, I was expecting some raw (like, cold hamburger in a red pool) hardcore-adjacent music. I was pretty right on with the sound quality—seriously, avoid if you’re not into the noisier side of punk. The recording is more akin to ’90s black metal demos than your average hardcore demo. Rather than using that sonic palette to bring you something fast and ferocious though, there is some groove to this. Somewhat more plodding but no less heavy than some of the best of NY’s best contemporary punk, the band also features some moaning, nearly psychedelic guitar leads to go with its mid-tempo assault of damaged fuzzed-out punk. The vocals are engaging, while unintelligible, but while these types of recordings can sometimes feel like they come from some sort of “we’re too cool to sound good” bullshit mentality, this just feels true to what the band is trying to convey. Cramped, noisy, and fucked-up hardcore.

Dirt Box Disco Rokapokolips CD

This is definitely a “don’t judge a book by its cover” situation. The cover and title of this album come off as something a hair-metal-loving bar band would use. Fortunately, the contents of the album are far from being what one would imagine by looking at said album cover. Instead, what is offered up is some solid, catchy, sing-along punk with subtle rock’n’roll, glam, and Oi! influences that all mesh together quite well without sounding dated. This is the type of album that gets better with every listen, but if I came across it in a record store, I’d sadly pass it over due to the artwork. That’s a shame, because it is actually a pretty good record, but I’m just being honest. Even with modern technology being what it is and almost everything being available at one’s fingertips at all times, sometimes the age-old tactic of checking something out due to what the cover looks like wins out, and in this case that would be a shame.

Disappearances Meat Clown cassette

I can safely say I had no idea what to expect from Philly’s DISAPPEARANCES based on the unsettling cover of their latest release, Meat Clown. It definitely wasn’t the ’90s-influenced powerviolence/hardcore featured across ten tracks of blastbeats, quick tempo changes, and shrieking vocals. At times, it reminded me of the LOCUST, a band I’ve always had a soft spot for. While not really in my wheelhouse, I enjoyed it.

Dogs The Melodies Massacre Years LP

For those unfamiliar, DOGS (always sans the “the”) were a long-running punky power pop act out of Rouen, France. They formed back in 1975 around Dominique Laboubée, the primary songwriter and only consistent member, and were active pretty much until he passed away in 2002. Over that time, they released dozens of singles and nine LPs. This album compiles their first two releases, 1977’s Charlie Was a Good Boy EP and 1978’s Go Where You Want to Go 12”, both of which were, as the title of this LP suggests, released on the independent French label Melodies Massacre. And this is clearly when the band was at its most vital. The eight tracks on this record are a raw and immediate mix of early rock’n’roll-influenced punk with just a touch of pop around the edges. It brings to mind stuff like early SAINTS, the VIBRATORS, or the HEARTBREAKERS. Honestly, the thing that this record, particularly the more up-tempo tracks, reminded me of the most is TEENGENERATE. Like, imagine if those records were a little less blown-out and slowed down just a hair, and you’re pretty close to what DOGS are laying down. I even had to check to make sure Fink and co. hadn’t actually covered these guys before. I couldn’t turn up anything, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that they had some DOGS in them. Still, as much as I love all the fast tracks, the highlight of the record for me is the slower JOHNNY THUNDERS-meets-Pissed on Another Planet SCIENTISTS number “Go Where You Want to Go.” If for some reason you only listen to one track, make it that one! Anyway, I’ve loved so much of what Reminder puts out that it’s pretty much a guarantee at this point that I’ll recommend you pick up any of their stuff, but seriously, this is one you really shouldn’t miss.

Eastern Syndrome Brain Driller cassette

EASTERN SYNDROME, out of Berlin, Germany, features members of KOBRA and SUBSTITUTE. Their first release, this five-song cassette, is a heavy dose of darkened anarcho-punk that explores a wide spectrum of noise. From bopping post-punk riffs to wall-of-noise wailing, there’s a little taste of everything. The closing song “War Victims” arranges familiar sounds, tones, and rhythms into a rocking delivery that is unique and addicting.

Enemic Interior II EP

Great fucking name. The band behind it  puts out some pretty standard fare, working dad Oi!  The influences are worn in, tried and true with all the comforts. “Les Ombres” shifts things slightly with a well-tied riff that summons as much of the COCKSPARRER gods as can fit into a minute and forty seconds. Wanted to like it.

Entry Exit Interview EP

ENTRY follow up their highly acclaimed 2020 LP Detriment with Exit Interview, a six-track EP recorded, mixed, and mastered by the band themselves, in what would best be described as a modern USHC style. Blending traditional ’80s hardcore punk with some D-beat and a little powerviolence, ENTRY’s sound isn’t terribly dissimilar to labelmates GEL or Baltimore’s JIVEBOMB: scorched vocals, muscular guitar work, and breakneck drumming. Lyrically, vocalist Sara G lets loose on the greedy, profit-driven forces that are damaging people and the environment, namely on final songs “Ashes Fill the Sky” and “Greed Only Grows.” Highly recommended if you like a healthy dose of anti-capitalist sentiment in your hardcore.

Es War Mord Die Utopie der Kosmonauten LP

Third LP from Berliners ES WAR MORD, with a title that translates to “The Utopia of the Cosmonauts.” My first passive listen didn’t draw me in, but taking time with it, I found technical breaks, guitar chugging (like on “Hinterlist”) that sounds lifted from a DEAD KENNEDYS rhythm, surprising pinch harmonics, and strained vocals like a German LEATHERFACE. Mid-tempo, gruff, with some melancholic melodies and guitar solos mixed in. Truly a lot to offer, yet they are concise and super tight. “Derselbe Atem” is a good taster, if you’re not ready to dive into the fourteen tracks within. Everything’s sung in German, so I couldn’t tell you what they’re getting on about, but either way, I’m in for it.

Evil Spirit Black Cross demo cassette

Seven-minute total demo with an eerie intro from Avernus, poorly recorded in hell with the sense that this was an old tape found after a crash in Brooklyn, NY by these Satanic punks. Surely interesting live—put your headphones on for this crazy, lo-fi (but good) ripper recording. Seems like a lost gem of a doomer age, and if you dig proto-Satanic sounds, this might be right up your alley. Frenzied metalpunk, with solid ranting guitars, metal-infused sections that slay, and a crazy demonic voice melted on the tape. Crazy eerie shit sounds all around, making mayhem…or climax.

Existence Go to Heaven LP

Here comes the debut full-length release from Sweden’s infamous EXISTENCE, and it does not disappoint. Go to Heaven takes the sound established in the band’s previous releases and builds upon it with great success. Jam-packed with stomping riffs and a diverse sound, this record is a great example of metallic hardcore done right in the modern day and age. It’s a lengthy listen, but it does a great job at keeping the listener’s attention—something even the most revered ’90s hardcore bands struggle to achieve. Recommended highly to fans of ’90s heavy/metallic hardcore, not recommended to fans of the GRATEFUL DEAD album of the same name.

Flash Eztek Ber Besteik cassette

Basque Country’s FLASH released this three-track cassette for a West Coast USA tour, and it’s a lo-fi attack of catchy, fully driven, snotty mid-tempo punk rock songs, sonically akin to local legends such as LA PERRARA as well as ZERO BOYS. Lyrics are in Spanish as well as the Basque language. Heard this for the first time, but I already know that these are catchy, classic punk anthems—no filler, all bangers, no bullshit right here, a straight-up explosion of fist-pumping pure energy for punks to pogo and sing along to.

Fredag Den 13​:​e Mänskiga Gränstillstånd LP

Nearly two decades in, this Gothenburg D-beat crew delivers nothing less ferocious than anything in their discography. What I love about Swedish D-beat is the almost operatic melancholy at much of its core sound. This band doesn’t dilute any impact with sprawling melodic structure, all while driving everything home like a steam hammer with unrelenting rhythm (yes, often that sweet “doon-kah-doonka-dah” we never get sick of). The mournful lead guitar in tracks like “Våldsmonopol” lends much to the overall effect of cathartic hardcore, as only feels fit coming from the bleak heart of Scandinavia. Everything here is dialed-in, throat-in-tatters vocal delivery and black metal frostiness in tracks like “Tryst Vår,” and of course the drums at the forefront like artillery, all while never shying away from a full-on rock’n’roll heartbeat. If you’re into this rich regional wing of hardcore (and why the hell wouldn’t you be?), this record is a must.

General Concern About Time… LP

Pacific Northwest rippers GENERAL CONCERN only succeeded in getting a 7” out during their initial run, but they did manage to record an LP’s worth of material with POISON IDEA’s Thee Slayer Hippy at the helm, and now, just for fun, you can see what the hell they were cooking up back in 1989. While definitely a product of its era, About Time… still delivers the goods in a myriad of ways. While nominally a hardcore outfit, many of GENERAL CONCERN’s songs bear similarities to bands like CRIMPSHRINE and CRINGER, straining at anthemic melodies with an earnest, energetic charm. The DC influence is also apparent, but GENERAL CONCERN tamps down the po-faced aspects, while retaining some of the elevated musicianship of that scene. There’s an endearingly snarky attitude to these quirky songs that erupt in bursts of speed and sometimes sound like SNFU gone (first wave) emo. Outside of the occasional region rock standout, this style of punk has fallen by the wayside, and even a cynical bastard such as myself feels pangs of reticence at its loss.

Aborted Tortoise / Ghoulies Euro Tour split EP

Hey dummy. You like what the hell is going on over in the garages of Australia? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Then get right immediately, because here’s a split featuring two of the best of the seemingly endlessly fertile scene of garage punks keeping the genre alive, all brought to you by the evergreen tastemaker Goodbye Boozy. These two bands in particular share members, and it sure sounds like it. Both sides are deliciously spiky, bratty, and econo. Throw in some syrupy synth, and you’ve got yourself the exact kind of potent brew I’m reaching for any day of the week. If you’re already in the club, you already picked this one up. If not, have a listen and get on board speedy-like.

Guile Guile cassette

Solid hardcore with blackened vocals from this Vancouver band. Similar negative vibes, if not quite as unhinged, as GEHENNA or TRAP THEM, with the death metal-leaning vocals stealing the show. Four tracks of nihilistic punk taking aim at religion, hypocrisy, prejudice, and humans in general. Warm, thick recording of bad attitudes in action. Strong first release.

Hans Predator HVNZ EP

This Carbondale, IL band has been pumping out self-released cassettes since pre-plague times (2013), but here we get their first foray into melted plastic. Lucky for us, they’ve been honing their trashy garage skills and sharpening their fangs in preparation for the all-out assault rendered here. They may have started in 2013 and may be from the southern half of the state, but they’d be right at home in the Chicago Horizontal Action scene of the ’90s. Well, someone younger than myself informed me the ’90s are back, as we watched kids in oversized jeans and KORN shirts slam to ABISM. These people aren’t on some weak nostalgia trip though, and they can actually play their chosen noise-making devices. Oh, their name was originally CHRIS HANSEN AND THE PREDATOR, after one of the most uncomfortable TV shows ever. “Dead Fuck” and “Watch You Die” are my favorites, which shouldn’t be too surprising to longtime readers. They look like they are having a real good time as well. I want to hang, HANS PREDATOR.

Hot Earth That’s Hot cassette

Amazing crust-caked madness on this smoker of a tape from Atlanta’s HOT EARTH. They let you know right where you’re at as soon as the opening “BAFII” (which stands for “Burning Alive and the Floor is Ice”) hits your ears—a chaotic and cracked realm of hardcore hell. While endowed with a bit more plunky bass and a slightly lower degree of caustic burn, the band’s battering attack reminds me of Missouri favorites PROTON, which is among the highest endorsements I can currently offer. As an added bonus, all of the songs are overdubbed with a sample of infamous brat heiress Paris Hilton delivering her vapid ’00s catchphrase “that’s hot,” with some of the tracks featuring this, uh, enhancement multiple times—an effective added blast of “what the fuck” that just makes this situation even greater. I’m going to need another round of this ruckus ASAP.

Hundred Eyes Faking and Pretending LP

I think how the guitars on this album play is a little more important than what they’re playing. The music is what you’d find on a lot of punk and punk-adjacent records: simple melodies paired with more aggressive ones via varying degrees of distortion. But the rhythm and speed vary frequently and signal a change in each song’s mood. The drums help that along. They can play at a steady pace with some expressive flourishes, or ramp up to standard punk tempo, depending on the song. The vocals might be the only consistent part, maintaining an anguished howl for all twelve tracks. I felt hoarse just listening to them.

Hyper Tensions Sick Soother LP

HYPER TENSIONS have some of the rougher, ominous qualities of contemporary garage. This gives them a slightly darker sound than simple ’60s revivalists. Still, this record sounds like it was made to dance to. The beats have just a little lift and space between them, which probably make live shows very fun. The guitars frequently have a primary melody with a secondary one laid on top. The band manages this arrangement well. I never felt like the music was needlessly complex or overdone. They describe themselves as psychedelic, but aside from meeting their reverb quotas, HYPER TENSIONS leave out most of the instrumentalism and indulgence of that genre. I think that choice left them with a shorter and sharper record.

Intention Brand New Story LP

Precast and hackneyed Japanese hardcore punk straight from Nagoya. Chaotic yet very well-executed classic hardcore punk cadences with predominantly early ’90s references. Solid vocals mixing both English and Japanese, and excessive crazy solos that make the flow between the songs vanish from time to time. I enjoyed the song with all-Japanese lyrics better than the others—what happens with this LP is that sometimes the mixture of sounds and ideas don’t necessarily blend in the right way.

Interlocked Live on KXLU 1991 LP

A document of a relatively short-lived straightedge band from East L.A. This LP, as the title states, is their performance on L.A.-based college radio station KXLU, with six songs played live on air that were recorded onto a cassette by a friend of the band. Surprisingly, for a recording that is 32 years old, this doesn’t sound too bad. Aside from this recording, the band only released a demo (which is included on the digital version of this LP). INTERLOCKED doesn’t sound like the typical early ’90s straightedge band, as they utilize some effects pedals and the songs have really slow, drawn-out parts that all of the sudden burst into some blazing fast, almost powerviolence-ish parts. Reading the booklet that accompanies the LP, the band and the labels behind the release went back and forth as to which recording to release on vinyl, the demo or the radio performance—after listening to both, I think the right choice was made. This is a must-have for any fan or amateur historian of either early ’90s hardcore or East L.A. punk/hardcore. A well-put-together piece of obscure L.A. hardcore history.

Intuition Demo 2022 cassette

Viennese and Berliner members in this lo-fi punk project rubbed with garage, containing crazy, ample guitars that keep ranting even when overlapped. The vocals sound like constant nagging and I couldn’t enjoy it that much, though it has something in the Poly Styrene line of styled vocals that could be promising. The use of synths and pedal boards are sufficient. It lacks explosion material for this ragged hardcore brain.

Inu メシ喰うな! LP reissue

Mesh-Key pulls out yet another mind-bender from the vaults of rare Japanese punk—this time it’s メシ喰うな! (“Don’t Eat Food!”), the 1981 LP from Osaka’s INU, who started in 1979 as a group of frustrated teens reacting to what they viewed as empty, trad rock’n’roll posturing from many of the Tokyo Rockers bands occupying the inner circle of Japan’s early punk scene. Tracks like “つるつるの壺” (“Lift the Lid”) and “305” hit a razor-hooked, almost GENERATION X-ish beat that bleeds between first wave punk and new wave, with a killer animated mile-a-minute delivery from vocalist Machizo Machida (a.k.a. Kou Machida, actor and award-winning author after his time in INU), while the unsettling death-drone crawl “夢の中へ” (“Into Dreams”) and junkyard clamor of the title track are laced with more than a bit of PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED circa Metal Box, and the no wave scratch of “気い狂て” (“Gonna Crack”) and contorting stop/start twitch of “おっさんとおばはん” (“Old Man, Old Woman”) establish INU’s clear affinity with their more caustic compatriots of the era like FRICTION. The provided English translations of Machida’s lyrics really illuminate the no-future desperation at work here, if it wasn’t already apparent in the music itself—“Today follows on from yesterday / Will tomorrow just be more of the same?” (“フェイド・アウト”/“Fade Out”), all the way to “Japan’s history is a crime drenched in blood” (“ダムダム弾”/“Dumdum Bullet”). Get it or regret it.

Jake Pinkney War! CD

I don’t understand the solo moniker when releasing something that’s not an acoustic record. I’d get it if you played everything, but it comes off as very ego-stroking to me. How hard is it to come up with a stupid band name? Maybe this doesn’t bother other folks, but there’s just something disingenuous about it to me. I will say that these songs are well-written, both musically and lyrically. The dude’s voice is a little grating, though. There’s a cover of AGENT ORANGE’s “Bloodstains” which is pretty spot-on, but for some reason makes me believe that this kid is in high school. I don’t know why I assume this, I just do.

Kato Demo ’23 cassette

Four tracks of Finnish hardcore thrashing bombardment fury. Straight-up 1982-era Propaganda Records, Totaalinen Kaaos 7” meets Valtion Vankina LP, Super Fuzz-style fuzzed-out guitars with psychedelic howling vocals. A convulsion of explosive chaotic energy with pure intensity. Jakke is rolling in his grave every time you play this, and Lazze will most likely say it’s right up his alley.

Keno Scared to Update cassette

UK-based cassette label Gob Nation issues the debut release from this London three-piece that seems to feature at least one Aussie (either that, or the vocalist is adopting a fake accent). KENO plays a heavy mix of plodding noise rock and gloomy hardcore, with some goth-y trappings, like echoed, multi-tracked vocals and faint haunted house synths. If there was a midpoint between TOTAL CONTROL at their most ADOLESCENTS-y and PERVERTS AGAIN at their most metronomic, you’d probably find this tape there. For the most part, it’s a solid release, and I’d recommend you give it a listen. But I also think they could have tightened things up a bit and wound up with a much better record. For instance, just imagine if they dropped the keyboard on “Still Life,” stripped out most of the vocal overdubs, and the lead singer just really dove into his performance. It probably would have ended up sounding like a different thing altogether, maybe something more like WATERY LOVE, but I absolutely would’ve been into that.

Kinetic Orbital Strike The True Disaster EP

D-beat crust from Philly with Chris Ulsh from POWER TRIP on guitar. The EP is tough, with enough grit and vitriol to spread to the masses. All  tracks are  from the same recording sessions as KINETIC ORBITAL STRIKE’s first demo that came out in ’22. Each song on the EP is sizable with the usual comforts of the genre, and for me brings to mind DISFEAR’s Soul Scars era. I think the tad slowed-down track “True Disaster” takes the cake. Get it.

Lame Dejad Que Vengan 12″

LAME is made up of members of GLAM/BARCELONA, ORDEN MUNDIAL/BARRERA, and MORREADORAS. Currently, it is an international project between Berlin/Mallorca/London. I am a huge fan of the era of Iberian hardcore the members’ former bands are from, so I was really excited to check out LAME. Six (plus an introduction) short songs of energetic, bouncy hardcore with enough clever oddity to make them unique. The guitars operate with simple and punchy riffs that tend to turn into chaotic shredding or venture away from back-and-forth power chords, while the rhythm section makes sudden changes or stops to spice the already effective songs. The vocals are in Spanish and done in a determined spoken/yelling voice that has as much anger as shouting, yet it’s more commanding and strict. The songs are mostly mid-tempo, but the clash of energy and fragmented rhythms create an eventful mix. I like this release, but compared to the members’ previous bands, it’s less head-spinning because it is different. Still has a lot of originality and is a great addition to the history of Iberian hardcore.

Languid Resist Mental Slaughter LP reissue

This reissue of the debut LP from LANGUID of Canada contains bonus material of their first demo as well, and the remastered production (by Kenko from EXPLOATÖR/VERDICT) rips. If you are not familiar, LANGUID play raw, distorted D-beat crust in the style of DISFEAR, TOTALITÄR, DISGUST, DISASTER, or ASPECTS OF WAR, with some hints of MELAKKA…you know the drill. It’s great. I only have the follow-up LP to this and then their third, so this comes at a perfect time as something I could never get. What was even more great was when I caught their set in Oakland—an endless barrage of rhythmic noise, which cut to silence for brief arrests only to detonate once more. LANGUID stands out on drum fills, sizzling feedback with a piercing edge, DOOM-ing vocal pace, a full grumbling sound that is equal parts fluid and harsh. The title track is particularly haunting. Did I mention all LANGUID cover art rules? You can’t go wrong here if you never got this or the demo. Like me.

Late Show Late Show demo cassette

Sorta so-so trash garage from Seattle. It’s not bad, just not super memorable. Good vocals, nice guitar sound, but they just need a hard kick. Sorta like the CANDY SNATCHERS if they smoked weed instead of meth. Don’t give up on my account. Gurgle sounds…cough, cough, hack.

Los Ignorantes Fenómenos Para Anormales EP

Paul Messis of Market Square Records and the SUBURBAN HOMES relocated from the UK to Gijon, Spain in the past few years, and recently started Manzana Podrida, another 7”-only label, this time featuring exclusively Spanish (or maybe just Gijon) acts. This EP is the label’s debut. LOS IGNORANTES, a five-piece out of Gijon, play ’66-style, Farfisa-driven Back From the Grave-worship (Tim Warren even mastered this thing!). It’s part LARRY AND THE BLUE NOTES, part LOS SAICOS, part SAM THE SHAM, and 100% a good time. I don’t know that it’s gonna win over any casuals, but garage turkeys will surely gobble this thing up.

Love Interest Motherwound 12″

I was immediately drawn to the illuminated sheer drape on the cover and thought, “Is this going to be a moody, dark catharsis?” Yup. This well-presented debut EP comes from Detroit’s LOVE INTEREST, and is “a meditation on motherhood within a hostile world” (from their Bandcamp page). Tom-heavy drums set the undertone for icy guitar lines, punchy bass, Houses of the Holy-esque synth, layer upon layer of operatic backing chants, and a strong frontwoman with a killer range. By no means is this paired-down or sparse—it’s that wall-of-sound production that works really well with this dreamy, gothic, darkwave-in-sound, post-punk-in-lyricism styling. These four songs have meat to them, are on the longer side, and require your attention. Lovely music for the fall season.

Illvilja / M:40 split EP

M:40 is presented first here, as a char-core discordant mosh cacophony. As far as newer crust goes, this registers on the blackened epic side. SLUTET comes to mind, but more abysmal and desperate, like ACCURSED or MARTYRDÖD in mood, but add some bone-grinding blastbeats and take away all glints of hope and light. M:40 is a lesson in Scandinavian blackened crust. ILLVILJA has an intro that creates a new dawn of sorts on this split, but equally reminiscent of ACCURSED. Epic chords and melancholy journeys across a desolate crust landscape. ILLVILJA plays remarkably more optimistically, if that means I’ve come to terms with the complete dread of the world. Not a feel-good split—here it is, drowning whirlpools of dark crust anguish for your embittered nihilistic enjoyment.

Mage Commander Moon Worship cassette

I remember this one-man-band’s demo tape for two things: the rad anarchist frog, and Rotten Ron absolutely roasting it. Have you ever walked into a Guitar Center during one of their big sales events? Shredders from all walks of life and every subgenre creep out of the sewers to show off their technical prowess (usually by playing the intro to “One” by METALLICA). Imagine that sound on a tape, and you’d have MAGE COMMANDER. Rudimentary, angry hardcore with constant thrash leads. Not crossover, or thrash itself, or blackened punk—three-chord USHC with intertwining solos, bent notes, and finger-tapped phrases tangling around very simple punk. It’s just an odd mix that is never compelling enough to rise above to being an odd mix in a good way. I admire the tenacity of sending in a full-length when the demo was not well-received, but it’s unfortunately destined to stay in the bedroom studio. The frog is cool, though.

Meat House Meat House 12″

Comprised of players based in North Carolina and Pittsburgh, MEAT HOUSE brings us seven cuts of biting and rocking punk with belligerent vocals on their debut 12”. This band is a gathering of modern hardcore veterans, featuring members from WHITE STAINS, PUBLIC ACID, SCARECROW, MUTANT STRAIN, and more. The sound here is strong and agile, flipping from loose, head-bobbing rock stomps to ripping speed on a dime in a way that kinda flaunts and celebrates the group’s collective pedigree. They really nail the ideal balance between fresh and classic. The music snarls and snaps, the lyrics are slurred, and it’s a home run from these “Punk Stars.”

Miss España Niebla Mental LP

I have a soft spot for bands with female vocals, that are bass-heavy, danceable, and bouncy but at their core still aggressive punk music, that are fun but simultaneously say “fuck you” to the world, especially bands from the turn of the ’00s and ’10s. MISS ESPAÑA reminds me of that era, from WETDOG to XYX. The bass/synth/drums trio keeps a constant groove that is as danceable as no wave mutant disco, although with a gloomy atmosphere—aggressively hitting beats are all over the record like clouds above a doomed party. The whole album is really tight, with clever songwriting that makes melancholy bouncy. Another scene that comes to my mind is Swiss post-punk, with the obvious melodies of CHIN CHIN and the KICK along with the rough fun of GLUEAMS. So many references, but MISS ESPAÑA does stand out from the masses (I rarely hear such music, at least). Great record.

Mock Execution Rebels Without a Cause cassette

After delivering a blistering full-length last year (which I previously wrote about as one of my favourites of 2022), Chicago’s MOCK EXECUTION returns with four more blasts of damaging noise. The title track is the main highlight, a modern-day punk rocker anthem if there ever was one. Speeding and blasting away with mischievous delight, Rebels Without a Cause doesn’t quite measure up to the landmark Killed by Mock Execution LP, but it’s still a winner and gets a glowing recommendation from this reviewer. Since this cassette’s release, it’s been reissued on 7″ vinyl by La Vida Es Un Mus as the Circle of Madness EP (featuring one extra track)—go cop this ranger on whichever format you prefer!

Mononegatives Crossing Visual Field LP

This album is great! Speed-fed, first-gen-styled punk that is noisy, fast, and catchy. Imagine an even more caffeinated TOY DOLLS with the amps turned all the way up. Or maybe it sounds like A FRAMES with more tonal variations. Perhaps this is SPITS-worship, but without any schtick. Any way it gets chopped up, Crossing Visual Field is an absolute must-have in my collection.

Mother’s Milk Render Void at Gate LP

Atlanta, GA-based MOTHER’S MILK is fronted by (or comprised entirely of?) Josh Feigert, who also runs the State Laughter label. While he’s been credited for other projects like CAMARO CROTCH, GG KING, and UNIFORM to name a few, this is the debut LP for MOTHER’S MILK. Render Void at Gate is an experimental, noisy, fantasy narrative that was written and recorded during pandemic lockdowns. Spoken word over synth is placed as bookends for the album, and gives context to the strange realm within—at times the vocals sound like BUILT TO SPILL’s Doug Martsch, set to an EVOL-era SONIC YOUTH soundscape. Feigert tells his story about the album on the State Laughter website, and is worth a look if the music captures you. This isn’t a casual listen by any means, but is an interesting concept album for lovers of science fiction and off-the-beaten-path seekers.

Munchkin Head Not Gonna Cry Dad cassette

Imagine music set to a Bart Simpson side-scroller arcade game, and you might come close to MUNCHKIN HEAD’s sound. Drum machine, Casiotone keys, dirt-chewing guitar crunch with little derivation, and high-pitched vocals with a filter that makes it sound like dude’s gotta clear his fucking throat! I like the DIY nature of the magazine clip-out cassette cover and of the music itself, and the earnestness of the “devotional cockrock” tag, but the music is grating, and not in a good way. I’m a little annoyed, and clearly that’s what the band was going for, so, good job?

Negative Glow Volume 1 cassette

“Born out of a mutual love for ARCHERS OF LOAF” states their Let’s Pretend write-up— NEGATIVE GLOW certainly pays a killer tribute while leaving their own mark on this cassette. Super-fuzz guitars, right up front in the mix, straightforward drums, and male/female trade-off vocals with a love-lost kind of heartache, as in “The colors are so bright when you’re around” from “Hover.” This takes a moody walk right up my alley—I really, really enjoy it. It’s simple, catchy, and just droning enough. Even though it stands in the shadows of ’90s slacker rock, and therefore you could say is nothing new, any revival of this downcast sound has a place for me.

Niner Niner The Muck LP

Upon first listen, my thoughts were that this wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t without its faults though, as I started to think that every song was just maybe a hair too long and could have been trimmed—at a point, some of them went on so long that I wasn’t sure if it was the same song or a new one. As time went on, the singer’s voice also started to wear on me. It’s a very ’80s glam metal-sounding voice. Then the epiphany came: this in fact was very much a weird amalgamation of ’80s glam metal and generic alterna-rock that I’m sure would appeal to some group of human beings, but I am certainly not one of them.

No Reality Daddy Longnose EP

A new project headed by Blaine from SMIRK, SPIRITUAL CRAMP, and others, NO REALITY’s debut 7” gives us a little taste of this Bay Area outfit’s weighty and weird hardcore. Covered in rumbling, meaty vocals, their tough punk sound bounces and jerks around, seemingly leaving trails of drool hanging in its wake. The closing “Fashion Rocker” has an interesting “egg meets chain” type of aura that makes more sense once you learn that it was originally a SMIRK outtake. I have no idea who the hell “Daddy Longnose” is supposed to be, but there’s surely promise on this here rough little EP.

Norcos y Horchata Aloha Motherfuckers EP

On paper, this Detroit trio has the goods. Blunt-force, three-chord punk with melodic vocals at the forefront. Unfortunately, the vocals are a bit too forefront, giving them a stilted feeling in the mix and also placing undue emphasis on them. They’re not bad, but the lyrics and melodies are a bit rote for this style and leave the whole affair sounding a bit dated. The band is more than capable, sounding like they can leave a barroom or two in splinters on the right night, but I just find myself kept at an arm’s length from really engaging with the material. It treads similar ground to greats like DILLINGER FOUR and DARK THOUGHTS, but doesn’t quite connect the punch. With some tweaks to production and songs that have a bit more meat on them, this group could really bring it.

Nurse Nurse 12″

What a pleasant surprise—this is my first time hearing NURSE from Atlanta, a band that is truly unique and defies genre. Hardcore goth, I guess? Regardless of labels, this shit is awesome. Moody post-punk perfectly meshed with hardcore sensibilities. In addition to the out-of-left-field shredded vocals, they nail the creeping bass lines, clinically cold guitars, and general atmosphere of doom and gloom. I’m struggling to find another band to compare this to, which is a compliment of the highest order. Check out standout “Big Fish,” there’s really nothing quite like it. Highly recommended.

Oi!l Change Unfinished LP

I’ve gotta be real, I didn’t have a great time listening to this album. Unfortunately, OI!L CHANGE, a three-piece from Grand Rapids, Michigan, sound quite bland on their LP Unfinished, which actually seems a little unfinished. These songs all sound like they’re missing something, some flourishes or extra bits or anything to differentiate track to track. The only part I remember standing out was a BLITZ-style guitar intro on “Lovable Losers.” Beyond that, these songs are all unremarkable street punk-lite, with pirate-y vocals and songs about loyalty and being punk. Sorry to say, not my cup of tea.

P.S.Y.W.A.R. Defcon EP

Posthumous release of a (probably) short-lived band, with a strict military image. It’s a quick, five-song 7” of aggressive, heavy hardcore. The primary character of the record comes from it going into the red zone with overdriven mixing, which pairs well with their unstoppable nature, and this in-your-face wall of noise is pretty overwhelming. Nothing mid-tempo, no bridges, no complications, just head straight into the wall, hitting a crack and going through it. Might sound easy, although it’s hard to really shine from the mass of such bands. While the record sizzles from the aforementioned overdrive, the mixing makes a distinction between each instrument, and the clever, galloping riffs can be heard when they act as stabbing knives. The military image supports the idea that this is a sonic presentation of a blitzkrieg. It’s systematic and merciless. Maybe a bit too conceptual if you spend enough time with the non-sonic aesthetics of the record, but beyond those forms, the content is still rock solid. If you like full-frontal USHC with heaps of distortion, you will be satisfied with Defcon. Not sure how it will age due to the modernist sound, but currently, this is a very intense record.

Pack Rat Bite My Tongue EP

I’m sure most punks can remember the genesis of their obsession with the genre; mine was a compilation I got one teenage Christmas featuring the likes of the SAINTS, EDDIE AND THE HOT RODS, and the JAM, amongst others. It defined my taste in music, and here, two decades later, I’m pleased as can be to be writing about Bite My Tongue, an EP from PACK RAT that essentially throws every band on that comp into a blender, resulting in four tracks of bouncy, power-poppy rippers with great hooks and pop sensibility, inspired by the less abrasive, more melodically driven side of ’70s punk. Opening title track “Bite My Tongue” features frontman Patrick McEachnie’s stuttering vocals and reverb-soaked guitar strutting their way through the song before reaching a DAMNED-worthy chorus. “New Kind (Of Love)” sounds like a lost RUDI or UNDERTONES cut with a surf-y lead, and “Parasite City” wraps up with a guitar line that would make Steve Diggle of BUZZCOCKS proud. Closing track “Sleepless,” sung by guitarist Bella, takes a heap of REZILLOS, a dash of X, and a sprinkle of SCIENTISTS to create a sugary sweet power-pop-punk confection. Bite My Tongue is an excellent EP that is a treat for the old-heads and is sure to turn some young punks on to the scene. Highly recommended!

Pal Pals cassette

Kooky, driving synth punk from Cleveland, Ohio. What a debut release! Completely unhinged subject matter and vocals on top of bopping, herky-jerky eggy punk stuff. It gets a little too artsy for me at times, but these songs have a way of feeling incredibly zany without losing their pop sensibility. I think this is great and plan on listening to it quite a few times. Excited to see what comes next for PAL.

Parasit En Falsk Utopi LP

An absolutely crushing entry to a discography replete with scorching råpunk. Sweden’s PARASIT have been cranking out killer records for over ten years, and En Falsk Utopi shows a level of refinement that comes from waging battle in the D-beat wars for a decade. The thick, burly production adds some extra gas to the flame, and this sucker is burning white-hot. Every track is bursting at the seams with pummeling guitar hooks and riffs stacked on top of riffs. The singer sounds remarkably similar to Thomas Lindberg. Surely any fan of SKITSYSTEM, DISFEAR, or even AT THE GATES will be salivating over this, as it straddles the line between blackened crust and metal. Brutal from beginning to end.

Pat and the Pissers Growth EP

A set of five new rockers from Indianapolis punks PAT AND THE PISSERS. What’s not to like? Unpretentious Midwestern hardcore that is instantly enjoyable while sounding fresh. Opener “Breaking Free” has a heavy breakdown that showcases everything good about this tape: snotty vocals that can turn vicious in a beat, razor guitars, and a fat bass line that occasionally does a sneaky, funk-dabbling scale run. “Context” has a classic, crunchy riff in the chorus that is so good it would fit in any guitar-based music genre, from country to metal. “Grow” features sung vocals over bluesy clean guitar that explodes into familiar punk sounds; the stretching out and quality playing is appreciated. Every track is a winner.

Perp Walk The Chain of Infection EP

Cardiff’s PERP WALK have done quite well making a name for themselves in a relatively short amount of time, opening for the likes of the CHISEL, FUCKED UP, and CHAIN WHIP. They’re poised to become headliners themselves considering the strength of their debut EP, The Chain of Infection. Playing straight hardcore punk with a sprinkle of garage rock weirdness (think the aforementioned CHAIN WHIP with a dash of TY SEGALL/OH SEES energy), PERP WALK has a fully realized sound that is both politically charged and rabid. Check out “Dogwhistle” and “Moral Compass” to hear what I mean.

Eyes and Flys / Personal Style Labor Day / White Strawberries 7”

Lo-fi garage psych from Long Beach, California. Musically, this is in the vein of BLACK ANGELS on the top side, with the flip, “White Strawberries,” being a more uptempo, straightforward garage affair. Both songs are hampered by a lackluster vocal delivery, where the vocalist tends to sing the riff. Coupled with a fairly obnoxious megaphone-sounding treatment, the songs are relegated to mediocrity at best. There’s a reason that most neo-psych bands drench their vocals in reverb and delay. If nothing else, this release makes a strong case for doing so.

Phase Demo 2023 cassette

From Germany, PHASE sounds pretty well-polished on their introductory four-track demo. This tape emits a brief and tidy blast of straightforward punk that’s just tough enough to be called hardcore. The songs have a clean and triumphant sound that is in contrast to their lyrics that paint a bleak picture, commenting on the conflict between a world drowning in capitalism and one’s own self-worth. It culminates in the reassuring “A World Unknown,” with its promise that “if your heart is breaking, I’ll be on your team” and encouragement to “seize the day.” In a genre that has always been abundant in depictions of struggle, adding in a glimmer of hope can be a nice touch.

Piss Me Off 2 Much Power LP

Shredding, solo-heavy hardcore from Cleveland that brings to mind classic skate rock and crossover in its no-frills approach to punk. These ten tracks rip, straight up, and the entire package (including the artwork) could have come out anytime from the mid-’80s to now, with its focus on chugging rhythm guitars, wailing solos, crowd-killing breakdowns, and shouted vocals. If you like carving bowls (or smoking them) to the SHRINE, the FACTION, or SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, you’ll like this. Conversion van, sweatpants hardcore (CVSPHC) in 2023—let’s go!

Powerplant Grass EP

Dark, melodic post-punk out of London. Has a similar feel to the dozens of other drum-machine-laden bands that are everywhere these days, but POWERPLANT comes off more nuanced than their electronic peers. Less DEVO, and more SMITHS meets ALIEN SEX FIEND. I might catch some flak for this, but they also remind me of a rustic THOMAS DOLBY. That’s supposed to be a compliment, but I understand if it’s not taken as such! I need to give POWERPLANT their due for using sleigh bells throughout “Walk Around (Hang My Head).” You don’t hear enough of those in punk these days. No fooling!

Privacy Warning Promo 2023 cassette

Much like GAG, PRIVACY WARNING excels at capturing the raw energy and unfiltered aggression of hardcore. The songs are short, sharp shocks to the system, and they waste no time in delivering their stomp. It’s a sonic onslaught that’s designed to incite a primal response. Indonesia is quickly becoming a hotbed for this type of hardcore, and PRIVACY WARNING does a great job bearing the flag.

Pure Intention No S***! CD

First thing is the cover art—it’s a drawing of three dudes, presumably the band members, pissing on a wall. It reminded me of both the Punk Uprisings compilation and the first MASKED INTRUDER album. So going into this, I was prepared for some snotty, probably RAMONES-inspired pop punk. Well, I couldn’t have been more off-point with that assumption. Instead, what I found was what I guess I would classify as “grunge punk”? It’s rocking with heavy distortion, some rockabilly-ish elements, and what sounds like echo effects on the vocals. I imagine this is similar to what it would sound like if Bleach-era NIRVANA played SUPERSUCKERS songs. At first it was a little off-putting, but after repeated listens, it’s grown on me…a bit. Only five songs, so it doesn’t run the risk of wearing out its welcome, although I will say that if they scrapped the first song “Pure Intention” and the third song “George Jesterson” and instead put the remaining three songs on a 7”, I would be way more into this.

Pus Demo 2023 cassette

PUS’s demo on German label STTW consists of five tracks of metallic, almost NYHC-style hardcore fury sung in a Slavic language. Despite the fact that one might consider this to be in the metallic hardcore realm, the gritty, overdriven guitars and the shouting vocals tend to make them a unique-sounding band compared to many counterparts that have a typical crossover sound. Many parts for two-stepping, border-destroying mosh tracks, a combustion of tough, energetic output.

Rabid Assault We Are Party LP

The cover depicts the band playing at a skatepark flanked by cartoon skeletons enjoying beer, pizza, and blood, the album is called We Are Party, and the first song is called “Curbs and Coping”— this is straight-up skate punk out of Bakersfield that’s completely devoid of pretense or posturing. These guys are what they are, and what they are is some hardcore thrashers having a good time playing the soundtrack to sick ramp sessions. It’s fast, metal-ish, and gauche in the spirit of early SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, except it’s 2023 and I’m too old and jaded to really appreciate it.

Red Rot [Title not identified] cassette

Imagine a protest chant set to music, and you’ll get pretty close to RED ROT. In style and substance, this band sounds like they assembled for the express purpose of playing a rally or march. The guitars are there, but felt like an accent on the drums and vocals. Those last two parts dominate the recording, repeating their grievances. It’s snotty, oppositional, and on-the-nose.

Riverhead Cancer LP

This album starts like a bomb going off and doesn’t let up for ten blistering tracks clocking in under a half hour. The furious energy is amplified by the exceptional musicianship of the Copenhagen-based members, pulling influences from punk, metal, and post-punk into a hardcore coup that pulls no punches. The precise bass lines dodge serpentine between heavy emotive guitar riffs and rapid-fire drumming. The gruff delivery of the lyrical content circling around self-doubt, world angst, and the absurdity of life brings it all together into a Camus-like concept album with poignant cover art by Liz Corso.

Rot//Woven No Hope For a Better Past LP

Fiadh Productions has released a slew of gorgeously produced cassettes and records this year, and No Hope For a Better Past by ROT//WOVEN is among them. ROT//WOVEN plays crusty anarcho-punk with a healthy addition of melodic hardcore punk in the mix, creating an impassioned sound of indignation. Vocals range from all-out raging screams to a more traditional gravely punk delivery, with lyrical content including topics like abortion and women’s rights, human and animal liberation, and a big middle finger to the pigs. Sonically, ROT//WOVEN is a three-piece with fuzz-maxed guitar grinding, chunky bass riffs, and speedy drum breaks. “Sinking” is a ripper of a song that invites a more melancholic tone to the band and is reminiscent of CIRCLE TAKES THE SQUARE but with a predilection towards riffing. In all, a highly enjoyable first full-length from these Oregon punks!

S.G.A.T.V. S.G.A.T.V. LP

Synth-driven new wave and dirty punk rock combine to form a sound that skips the day-glo and instead fuels itself on frustration. After spending the past few years creating in Switzerland, S.G.A.T.V. has finally released a full-length LP, and it goes hard. From the opening track “Never Trust the Rich” to the closer “The Twilight of Infinite Loneliness,” you’re in for a fun trip exploring the depth of sole creative Severin Beerli’s feelings about the contemporary world. If the BOOMTOWN RATS mated with the EPOXIES, the progeny might come out sounding something like this.

S.H.I.T. Demo 2023 cassette

I love modern D-beat that doesn’t default to sounding exactly like the oldies. Great demo here from Toronto’s S.H.I.T. Brutal and fresh, but there’s something buried in here that makes these songs sound like they’ve come straight from the ’80s. I think it’s the vocals, as they sound classic and familiar, yet timeless and unique. A real crusty paradox! Lots of hardcore elements as well, with the guitars almost having a youth-crew-esque edge. Very full recording, and surprisingly heavy at points. Two originals and a couple covers from CRUCIFIX and BLITZ, respectively. Their Bandcamp URL is brilliant.

Disaffect / Sanctus Iuda Fuck All Borders split LP

To many punk veterans, this one will feel like a ’90s wet dream, like a time machine to a different—and yet not so different—DIY punk scene. I am a little too young for rose-tinted glasses since I got into anarcho-punk in the early ’00s and both DISAFFECT and SANCTUS IUDA had already split up, although I was aware of both band’s relevance and importance. DISAFFECT was quite popular in France and definitely a favourite of mine, and even though I don’t play them that often these days, I was a very happy (not to mention emotional) lad when they played in Paris this year and realized I still knew all of the words. If you have never heard the Scots, they epitomise all that was great about ’90s political punk, and if you were to illustrate what that sounds like, just introduce DISAFFECT: genre-defining fast, thrashing hardcore punk with anarchist lyrics and absolutely brilliant dual male/female vocals (Lynne’s voice is so unique). It also works with HOMOMILITIA, FLEAS AND LICE, or ANTI-PRODUCT. Of course, this new recording sounds cleaner than their old material, which makes sense as you cannot really expect people to stay exactly the same as they were 25 years earlier with the very same instruments and gear and even shirts and haircuts. DISAFFECT’s songwriting is pretty similar, maybe a little more tuneful and intricate which is a wise choice, and does not sound like a parody of itself. At times, the modern production is a bit too clean for my taste, but overall it still sounds aggressive and angry enough as the band has not lost any of their bite and politics. A solid first side. On the other side is SANCTUS IUDA, who belonged to the same generation of cracking Polish crust bands in the ’90s as the aforementioned HOMOMILITIA, SILNA WOLA, or HOSTILITY—a prolific scene and one of the genre’s major strongholds in Europe at the time. On this new recording, SANCTUS IUDA (who I incidentally also saw after they reformed) do not sound as openly anarcho-Eurocrust as in their glory days, as they lie more on the dark hardcore side of the spectrum with an ’00s epic vibe that is almost reminiscent of Spanish neocrust. You can sense the anger, but the band loses me a little with this change of direction. Don’t get me wrong, SANCTUS IUDA is still at home with the crust punk sound and aesthetics, and I enjoy the global moodiness, but I suppose I was expecting something different. Both bands have meaningful lyrics and the title of the LP, Fuck All Borders on both sides, could not be clearer. Fuck the borders indeed. Refugees welcome.

Shove It No Comply LP

Given the band name and album title I was expecting this to be some raging skatecore à la BONES BRIGADE, but instead, SHOVE IT hits us with snotty punk rock that has a melodic bent. Fairly standard stuff that isn’t exactly pushing the envelope…but hey, it’s not like every band has to strive to break new ground. At their best, SHOVE IT sounds like a stripped-down version of HICKEY. That’s a high compliment! At their worst, they sound like one of the post-Larry Livermore Lookout! Records bands that never got traction. Mostly, they fall into the mediocre middle of producing by-the-numbers punk rock that in 2023 is bound to get lost in the fray.

Silicone Prairie Vol. II LP

Ian Teeple’s one talented dude. His unconventional guitar work is largely responsible for making WARM BODIES one of the most unique hardcore acts and all-around best bands of the ’10s. NATURAL MAN BAND, his egg-punk follow-up project, stood out in a genre largely defined by its sameness, even feeling somewhat like high art compared to the other records coming out of that same scene due to Ian’s unique, freewheelin’ style of making music. His first record as SILICONE PRAIRIE, a bit of a COVID-era solo-recording extension of what he was doing with NATURAL MAN BAND, saw him expanding his sonic palette, freeing him of some of genre constraints that were potentially hemming in his earlier work. Even through its Pure Guava-esque bedroom pop tape warble, you could tell My Life on the Silicone Prairie was an intricately produced labor of love absolutely brimming with creativity. Vol. II continues this trend—he’s jettisoned more of the herky-jerky punk that he made his bones with, and has replaced it with even more intricate compositions. A track like “Mirror on the Wall” starts out as another breathy WEEN pop number until some jaunty flute melody that wouldn’t sound out of place on a SUFJAN STEVENS track gets layered in, alongside some guitar that sounds like it was pulled from a sped-up version of the ISLEY BROTHERS’ “That Lady.” It’s certainly a unique sound. Overall, the record has more of a jazzy soft rock vibe than the last record, and it reminded me at times of stuff like the SEA AND CAKE’s Oui, STEELY DAN, a new-age infomercial, and even the STEVE MILLER BAND. It’s a record that I truly do have an appreciation for, and in a lot of respects it’s infinitely bolder and more creative than most of the stuff I like. But I have to stop short of saying that I enjoyed the album, because I do not really like any of the things that I reference above (except for maybe new-age infomercials—those rule).

Skullture Skullture LP

SKULLTURE is a San Franciscan guitar/drums duo who do San Franciscan things like play generator shows in out of the way places and just generally make a big ‘ol racket with their portable set-up. These guys got passion steaming out of their pores, with songs about hot-button issues like climate change, Ursula K. Le Guin, incels, the murder of Jamal Kashoggi, the Mother of All Bombs, and Donald fucking Trump. The music walks a line between stripped-down garage punk and full-bore noise rock. After riding BART, you’d be stoked to find these dudes cutting loose on the street. Throw a couple bucks in the hat and let the rage dissipate.

Slith Slith demo cassette

Stenchcore hardcore punk full of tweaks and even some resemblances to the MISFITS, but with a style of its own. Killer drums in a psych ward, demonic voices from hell, frenzied killing cadences, and a crazy chamber-like feeling all around. Dead Air Studios hits again in the raw punk department. Vibes from the vocals mix with the sounds delivered by the instruments—deep-pitched screams from hell plus rabid chords and smashing guitars and bass lines. Suggested tracks: “Miserable Fuck” and “Umbilicus.”

Sludge Sludge CD

Japan’s SLUDGE have been releasing high-energy metallic hardcore punk cuts since 2011, all of which are conveniently compiled here. Hailing from the southwestern region of Kinan Wakayama, it’s cool to hear this style coming from a non-major city for a change. Raw and violent with plenty of metal riffing and confident punishing vocals, fans of GISM and the other usual suspects of gnarly Japanese crust will love it.

Slutavverkning Levande Charader LP

Their Bandcamp description reads “Swedish anti-capitalist jazz-punk fury!,” which is pretty accurate. With playing that hovers between jazz-rock fusion and bass-heavy noise rock with exploratory sax and clarinet soloing, SLUTAVERKNING has a unique sound and vision, held together by the deranged screamed/sung vocals concerning a pig farmer. The album opens with rolling drums and skronky sax, setting up the expectation for exploratory noise-jazz à la JOHN ZORN, but becomes much more structured and even funky on tracks like “Psykisk terror” and “Om Natten.” “Längtans Törst” features a warm, beautiful sax solo, raging vocals, and even nonsensical BOREDOMS-style vocalizing before its end. Instrumental “Attika” is a churning exercise in tension with a looming clarinet hanging over distorted bass and drums like a smoky neo-noir scene. Seeing as punk and jazz have both been anti-corporate, revolutionary forces in their best forms, the melding of genres makes sense and works well here. Recommended for noise rockers and freaky jazz nerds alike.

Smirk Polyrhythmic Ticks EP

More drum machine egg-punk, which seems to be completely dominating underground rock’n’roll at the moment. I loved it when all those Total Punk bands did it, but I think it’s time for us to move on to a different style. They’re all starting to sound exactly the same. Most of this EP is very drab and dry, and is void of anything catchy. “Bored By Everything” is the standout track, and is a much more energetic and engaging anthem than the other three. I’m all about bands experimenting, but “Bored By Everything” sounds much more like their prior work and I think it suits them better. Coincidentally enough, I’m just bored with this EP.

Sparrowhawk Sparrowhawk LP

Wow. This is a super catchy and compelling combination of power pop and punk. Mid-tempo and melodic, it’s no surprise to me that at least one of the dudes in this band was in MYSTERY DATE (their other members also have impressive resumes, but we can’t talk all day about what other bands they used to be in…). At times it’s mid-tempo, other times they pick it up a bit. That’s often done within a song, something I don’t always appreciate, but I like it here. In addition to power pop and punk, I think you can hear mod elements, glam elements, street elements, and just plain old rock’n’roll. The lead guitar is there, but it’s not too much, and the transitions within songs are just really nicely done. Similarly, the lead vocals and how they incorporate the backing vocals is seamless. I’m not that big a fan of the JAM, so it surprises me that I hear them here. And a DICTATORS cover? Nice. Excellent record.

Steel Pole Bath Tub The Skulls Tape 12″

For a band that attained a modicum of notoriety and exposure during their early ’90s heyday, STEEL POLE BATH TUB has sunk a bit deep into the moors of history. There have been some reissues, but this 12” on No Coast digs up an early peak for the band. After decamping from their hometown of Bozeman, Montana for the foggy hills and cheap thrills of punk mecca San Francisco, STEEL POLE BATH TUB announced their presence on the scene with a self-released tape. Excellently entitled We Own Drrrills in its original incarnation, the EP now bears a more straightforward nomenclature (everyone loves skulls!). The sidelong “Kung Fu Love” demonstrates one of STEEL POLE’s signatures—employing television samples as texture and reference. As the trio hammers away at their jackknifed jams, fight flick snippets bubble up through the din. The flip features four relatively normal rock songs, by turns noisy or funky or melodic (“Rain Song” has a REPLACEMENTS lilt to it), and not far removed from Sub Pop bands of the era. A cool archival release for all the former subscribers to Your Flesh mag.

Summer of Death Bolt Nine Chambers + The Demo Collection CD

Crossover thrash band from Tokyo presenting their 2019 EP and previous demo releases, so the range here is wide and goes from fast-paced crossover thrash to heavy metal-infused cadences and even some SUICIDAL TENDENCIES vibes in some of their songs. The cover artwork depicts a charged punk reminiscent of the ’80s Earache era, and this material exudes skateboarding brothered with extreme metal—SUMMER OF DEATH are keepers of the party mental attitude. For lovers of that specific era and style.

Suzi Moon & Billy Hopeless Nothing Left to Lose 7″

There’s something comical to me about these two making a 7” record with two duets. Reminds me of my childhood. It’s like ELTON JOHN and KIKI DEE all over again. The A-side starts off kind of cute and then quickly heads south, going into a haunting tale of a one-sided love affair. Titled “Love is a Stranger,” it’s got a deliberate tempo and honestly reminds me of the movie Stranger Than Paradise. The B-side is much different. It’s bouncy and sweet and fun.

Sweepers Demonstration cassette

Wow! It’s been a minute since I’ve been this bowled over by a release. I don’t know what I was expecting of this Philadelphia four-piece, but it definitely wasn’t oddball, free-jazzy clean hardcore on the subject of keeping a neat house (primarily by way of broom). This cassette is eight tidy tracks that zip by in a spick-and-span seven-and-a-half minutes and sound like some amalgam of MINUTEMEN, DEVO, NEON CHRIST, and a little contemporary herky-jerk. It’s strange, funny without being jokey, and absolutely exceptional. Get on it, you neat freaks!

Sympos Hard as Nail Punts EP

This EP paints itself into a corner pretty early into the first track. Tough guys singing about tough shit amongst the “Oi! Oi! Oi!”s, and bellyachings. The EP comes off as a satire (maybe that’s the point?) before we hit the halfway mark, and it is hard to take any of it with a straight face. Why does it all come off as antagonizing? Hope I don’t get beat up now.

Texture Freq Masochistic Episode cassette

Six songs of demented, mid-tempo, plodding, disturbing queer punk. This is outstanding. It’s like Minneapolis, MN’s answer to Cleveland’s mighty CRUELSTER. The way the singer barks the repetitive and seemingly idiotic phrasing over and over, you could have even potentially convinced me that this cassette was CRUELSTER taking a slightly different direction than their previous output. Don’t be fooled tho, there are some very obvious and important differences between these two bands, one being that TEXTURE FREQ’s debut cassette comes with a zine entitled The Immediate Stages of the Hardcore Singer, whereas I’m not entirely convinced that the members of CRUELSTER know how to read, let alone write. The zine, written by the band’s singer Jimmy Cooper, has all the lyrics to the demo at the end, but first takes the reader on a bit of a journey which, as an idiot, was a little bit difficult for me to follow. Talks of opera singers, Kierkegaard, and Medusa are peppered through the discussions about queer struggles, formation of a band, lyrical writing, and even a reference to other published reading material to check out. Some of this may be over my head, but I absolutely love it regardless. I would be happy to pass the zine portion along to a credible zine reviewer if someone would be interested in doing a better job of reviewing written words. As for the music, don’t snooze on this. TEXTURE FREQ is top-notch.

The Kids Flabbergasted! Live at AB 2001 LP

One of the pioneering punk bands, the KIDS started in Belgium in 1976. That means that even when this was recorded in 2001, the band was 25 years old. And that was 22 years ago. Jesus. There was a time when live records were mostly complete shit. Well, that must have been a long time ago, because in 2001 they had figured it out. Great record full of songs that are powerful and melodic and just super catchy. There’s a togetherness on this record that takes the sum of the parts and makes it better. I know I’ve got this backwards, but I hear the LAZY COWGIRLS here. I could listen to this all day long.

The Shakewells Who the Hell Are? cassette

Surfy garage rock that reminds me of the VENTURES, the MUMMIES, and MAN OR ASTRO-MAN? all rolled into one. Very impressive musicianship here; very tight and never cluttered. I think it can be a challenge when you throw an organ player into the mix, but the SHAKEWELLS do a good job of not playing over each other. Otherwise, this is your typical spooky-adjacent rock’n’roll release. Not bad by any means, but nothing really groundbreaking. If you enjoy the genre, you’ll probably love this. A perfect soundtrack for the Halloween season.

The Spackles Happy to See You / The Shakes CD

Let me just get this out of the way: this is two songs. That’s not a fucking CD. It’s a single. Musically, this is mid-tempo power pop. It’s catchy, but it’s got a certain herky-jerkiness to it. That can be hit or miss with me. I’m not sure this one’s a hit. I also find the vocals, both the female lead and the male backing, kind of contrived. They’re talented, no doubt, and they’re tight, but there’s something in it that’s missing for me. They don’t remind me of the BOOMTOWN RATS musically, but they do remind me of them in the sense that some of their songs I really liked and other ones I found that they just had too much going on.

The Steves In a Room EP reissue

My first thought listening to this EP was “Wow, every band really does want to be DEVO these days.” Then I noticed this was a reissue from 1980, and thought “Wow, this band wanted to be DEVO during DEVO’s peak.” Which, honestly—bold move, STEVES. I can’t fault you for trying. But I also can’t help but laugh at the press release, claiming the STEVES sounded too unruly to be considered for radio play. Freedom of Choice literally came out that same year! Maybe it’s all tongue-in-cheek and I can’t pick up sarcasm the way I used to. I will say though, it was daring of them to put a disco track on the B-side in 1980. Now that’s bold.

The Stiffs The Singles Collection 1979–1985 LP

The STIFFS were a punky power pop band out of Lancashire, UK, initially active from 1976 to 1988 (they reunited in the late ’90s and are still somewhat active today). As the title suggests, this collection compiles their singles output from the first act of their career (plus their 1981 “Innocent Bystander” 7” that was shelved by their label), and, seeing as how they never issued any LPs, essentially functions as a complete discography. The stuff these guys play is pretty typical for the genre and time period—imagine a less catchy INCREDIBLE KIDDA BAND with maybe a touch more street punk/Oi! pedigree. What helps them stand out from similar acts, though, is also what I like least about these tunes. The vocal melodies (which, again, aren’t the catchiest) are almost always delivered in a nearly alien multi-part harmony, with the band members singing just enough out of sync to make it all just sound like a big mess. It’s a shame really, because I otherwise dig the tracks, especially the sub-three-minute rippers. Anyway, John Peel apparently really loved these guys, even going so far as to claim that “Inside Out” is “the greatest record in the history of the universe.” And who am I to disagree with that guy!

Thirsty Giants Infinite Monkey Theorem CD

Self-described as “basement punk,” THIRSTY GIANTS sound like they’re having a great time making goofy tunes in the cellar. Organically lo-fi, most of Infinite Monkey Theorem is mid-tempo garage rock with some elements of ’90s alternative rock sprinkled in here and there. A couple of the songs bring to mind a stripped-down version of TIMMY’S ORGANISM. With so many bands taking themselves way too seriously, it’s refreshing to encounter a group that does their thing in pursuit of fun rather than notoriety.

Thlurm Botched Sacrifice LP

Fresh out of the Avernus oven, blackened hardcore punk with heavy metal and powerviolence traces, blasting a chainsaw-from-hell sound all around. Panic and pain-induced vocals, relentless drums testing your ear resistance, mad demon invocation guitars and bass lines. This Terre Haute, IN trio had me baffled and wanting more with their first abominably delicious LP. Recommended sadistically to Satan’s way.

Top Left Club Turn and Burn LP

Beer-soaked from Brighton’s shores, TOP LEFT CLUB deals out pop-inflected pub punk rock. This brings me back to the all-ages club of my pimply punk rock teens. The songs are what you would expect, with a tinge of retro-ish Farfisa synth touches. Kind of EPOXIES meets “take your pick of early ’90s Lookout!”—fun for a few cuts, but probably not an album’s worth. I would’ve happily shoulder-tapped a Night Train and seen them live, however.

Traidora Un Cuerpo Trans Lleno de Odio cassette

TRAIDORA presents seven tracks of stripped-down D-beat with a certain goth or deathrock quality—maybe it’s the cover art or the black metal-esque vocals. The record’s tone feels desperate and direct. The vocals echo and the guitars come with maximal treble, like a 33 RPM recording of a chainsaw sped up to 45 RPM. The drums are playing a one-two-one-two lurch, sounding like a pair of Docs clonk clonk clonking down an empty hallway.

Tube Alloys Magnetic Point LP

L.A. (by way of Australia) post-punkers with a knack for all the Colin Newman-isms. The songs on Magnetic Point deliver an encomium to the post-punk gods of yesteryear, with production that matches the time and place. Lots to like, for sure—a little GANG OF FOUR, with a lot of WIRE. If Mark Perry sang for SWELL MAPS, this would be the sound. The music is provoking and doesn’t get stuck in the rut of parody while mixing electronic ambient breaks like “The Redactor” and “Machine Learning” throughout the record. Was a good listen.

Überflüssig Love, Peace, & Pleasure EP

Five songs that run the gamut of influences. The first song, “On the Way (Seeking of Tranquility)” has jangly guitars that make it sound like NEW ORDER wrote “Punk Rock Girl.” The next few songs continue with a “DEAD MILKMEN meets TOY DOLLS in a Fat Wreck harmonies class” type of vibe. The final song, “Go For a Walk (The Ballad of Maya Hawke)” is the only real skipper here. It’s a slower, mostly acoustic song that throws off the rest of this EP, not to mention that it’s over seven minutes long.

Unspec Century of Torture cassette

Indonesia’s UNSPEC brings a relentless attack of stompy hardcore. It could have easily become metallic chugging mayhem, but instead it went towards a raw, noisy, evil hardcore approach, along the lines of HOAX or GAG. A sonic expression of raw, full-force ferocious madness.

V/A Illusion of Choice: A Girlsville Benefit Compilation for Feline Rescue, Inc. LP

Girlsville does the whole comp-for-a-cause thing the way it ought to be done, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering this is the same label that put out the excellent Be Gay Do Crime comp back in 2020. This time the cause is Feline Rescue Inc., a Saint Paul-based organization that runs a no-kill shelter and foster program for cats in need of adoption and compassionate care. The fifteen tracks on here come from a wide array of acts, some of which you’re bound to have heard of before and some of which you’ll likely be exposed to for the first time, covering a fairly broad swath of sounds—a lot of post-punk/dream pop/UK DIY, but there’s also a handful of straightforward punk and contemporary weird (eggy) tracks—with a good mix of fun covers, cool originals, and interesting demos. Highlights include an excellent BLONDIE cover from STAR PARTY, a clangy lo-fi post-punker from GERM HOUSE, and the exquisite dancy no wave freakout title track from CONDITIONER DISCO GROUP. Not to mention stuff from NEUTRALS, BILLIAM, and tons more! Do yourself and some cats a favor and pick this up!

V/A Skate Ratz, Vol. 2 LP

Very much in the spirit of Thrasher magazine’s old Skate Rock comps, Skate Ratz Volume Two brings us fourteen tracks from seven different “skateboard bands” from across the USA. It’s a diverse assemblage of skate-friendly styles, packed complete with a little zine that tells a little bit about each band. Arizona goof-punk veterans DEPHINGER throw down some high-octane, low-brow stoner rock on their two tracks. STREET FREAK plays melodic So Cal-style hardcore with metallic guitars à la the OFFSPRING. The SM PROJECT, solo project of Shane Medanich from cool-ass NYC punkers PEACE SIGN, closes out Side A with the stripped-down and catchy “Satan Was a Hippie,” and then opens up Side B with the weird march of “Crestroy.” The laid-back, blown-out grooves of Portland’s LÁGOON hit a vibe that lands somewhere between Dirty-era SONIC YOUTH and the most recent WEREWOLF JONES LP. From Boston, LABOR HEX emits some angsty ’90s indie rock that ends up sounding like the FOO FIGHTERS on the closing track. It’s a cool spin, and it looks like there’s another volume with a whole new set of bands lined up for 2024.

Viceprez Tropical Connexion LP

I really liked VICEPREZ’s previous full-length, and this latest is no different. Well, actually, it is a little different. The vocals have a little more bite to them (thanks primarily to centering a different vocalist), and there’s an angular danciness that really suits their no-bullshit garage-y punk. Third track stunner “Love Again” would have been a surprise hit in the ’90s—big crashing drums, snarling vocals, and a big fat hook. The balance of pissed-off energy and melody does have a kind of firm nod to the ’90s in general, but it never sounds dated. There’s even a little bit of HOT SNAKES (a heartfelt RIP to Rick Froberg) afterglow to tracks like “Thru the Cracks,” which nails that band’s particular ability to inspire moshing and pogoing in equal measure—and yes, those are different vibes! Overall, this is a great follow-up to Juger. Nothing has been thrown away outright, but enough has been added to the mix that it’s an exciting evolution without completely having to reinvent from the ground up. Get it in ya.

Virgin Whores Last Chance to Dance LP

There are songs on here that remind me at points of the fast, “uber-punk” QUEERS songs— at least stylistically, and especially the opening track “Gee Ma.” Having said this, this is not a pop punk record. There are hooks for sure, but it’s also gritty. I can see this appealing to various types of punks for different reasons. A real unifier, if you will. Personally, the thing that won me over was the last song “Pissed at the Pub,” which just happens to be a Christmas song, and I’m a sucker for a punk rock Christmas song, particularly with the lyric “Santa’s getting drunk tonight.” Top-notch.

Wet Specimens Over Pale Bodies LP

If you’ve spent any time on social media in the past couple of months, then you’ll know WET SPECIMENS have released this LP. However, if you spend most of your time in a cave or a catacomb, then you may be unfamiliar with this release, so let me give you a brief description. Brutally loud hardcore, complete with screaming guitars and bashing beats, combines with deathrock to form the WET SPECIMENS sound. Like if INTEGRITY decided to fight CHRISTIAN DEATH in a pit and the last standing members shook hands and formed a band. Over Pale Bodies represents several years worth of playing and recording, and is a complete artifact ready for rotation on your turntable.

What Tyrants Lo-Fi High CD

Indie rock-ish stuff that’s kinda lo-fi at times, mainly in the somewhat fuzzy vocals. The vocal delivery reminds me of Ian Svenonius at times and Howlin’ Pelle at others. Typically, this kind of stuff isn’t really my cup of tea, but I do find myself strangely intrigued by this—the resurgence of this type of pseudo-’90s alt-rock stuff, while mainly boring, does tend to have a few diamonds in the rough here and there. This might be one of them.

Wrong Worshippers (Not Actually) Live From Hep’s Garage CD

As the title states, this is not an actual live album, rather an album with skits and the sound of audience members thrown in here and there. This concept is fucking stupid. It’s not humorous and adds nothing to this recording. Now let’s move on to the band. Bass, drums, vocals. OK. It’s actually not that bad, but for me, this is also something I would probably ever listen to again. Part of it is the dude’s vocals. They’re annoying in a less shrill, wannabe Biafra kind of a way. I just can’t do it. Musically, it’s fine. The whole thing just leans way more towards goofy alt-rock than I personally prefer…and there’s an “interesting” cover of TAYLOR SWIFT. Weird.

Yankee Cowboy Yankee Cowboy cassette

YANKEE COWBOY openly call themselves “Calgary’s answer to the ALPACA BROTHERS,” and if that incredibly niche reference means anything to you (it certainly commanded my full attention), you probably don’t need me to convince you to jump on this one. Five originals and a cover of RUDIMENTARY PENI’s “1/4 Dead”(!!), all infused with the dark-edged, ragged tension of various mid-’80s NZ bands who leaned less purely pop (the ALPACA BROTHERS, true to form, but also SCORCHED EARTH POLICY, the MAX BLOCK, the TERMINALS, etc.), with tape-warbled echoes of TIMES NEW VIKING’s 21st century revival of much of the same source material serving as another vital link in the chain. The hopscotching bass line of “Me and Pinocchio” carries the song’s melody like the CLEAN smudged with post-punk fingerprints, the sweetly off-kilter dual/dueling vocals of “Critters” gradually dissolve into a storm of gnarled, BAILTER SPACE-worthy feedback, and the blown-out jangle of “Not a Whole” is textbook Flying Nun, just spiritually relocated to the plains of the Canadian Prairies—full-force faux-Kiwi. 

Yellowcake Can You See the Future? EP

Seven tracks of combusting, raging crust war mayhem from YELLOWCAKE from Phoenix. Raging mangel thrash-style beats mangling with an Osaka-style wall of noise-not-music, yet still sounding original. This is not another bullshit recording that sounds like it’s recorded in a tin can—the sound quality is crisp without losing the intensity of spending loud night. Top-notch sun-fried, cactus thorn raw punk noise devastation from the desert. Recommended.

Мир Mindecision LP

This unsung classic of ’80s USHC has me absolutely floored. Roanoke, Virginia’s Мир (pronounced “mihr”) are the archetypical small-town punk band that made a singular, killer recording that was nearly lost to the sands of time. The story essentially writes itself. Mindecision was recorded in 1984 by four high-schoolers from the middle of nowhere. Dredging up the forgotten gems can be a dicey affair, though. Often enough, the context is more compelling than the content—but not in this case! Мир is absolutely savage. The level of craftsmanship in the songwriting, coupled with impressive technical chops in the rhythm section, really sets this apart. The guitar tone is lush and colored just enough to make it sound unique. There are surf elements to the riffs that gesture toward some West Coast influences. I think of Мир as occupying a space that is the midpoint between BATTALION OF SAINTS and ARTICLES OF FAITH. They fit right into the regional context, with bands like the LANDLORDS from Charlottesville, and Richmond’s WHITE CROSS. Мир shared a bill with CORROSION OF CONFORMITY a number of times, as well. Add in what was happening at the time a few hours north in DC, and it makes sense that Мир would emerge from the cultural void of Southwest Virginia. Full disclosure, I live in Roanoke, and seeing this release get a proper treatment, including a fold-out insert with tons of photos and fliers, resonates in a significant way for me and takes me back to a time in the mid ’90s when as a teenager, I’d hear about bands like Мир from the older punks that were still kicking around. But trust me, this far exceeds the nostalgia-inducement factor. Beach Impediment has truly done us all a great service with this release. Any fan of ripping USHC will want to pick this up. Unquestionably one of the top releases of 2023.