Gomme Absent Healing 12″

Goth rockers from France with the requisite chorus pedal and the reverb. At first I was put off because 1) a lot of bands over the past decade have been going at this sound, and 2) the production struck me as a bit polished. But first impressions are misleading, because GOMME thankfully mixes it up with personality and outright intensity that bring to mind the more noisy and meandering parts of early MAGIK MARKERS while rejecting the verse-chorus-verse convention of foundational goth punks like SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES. Their vocals shift languages; between English, French, and German; between singer, and attack; spoken, sung in tune, sung out of tune, overlapping, and in once instance, erupting in sick laughter. They use and abuse synths to good, noisy effect. In under 20 minutes, Absent Healing is good for when you want something slightly out of the norm, but not something so harsh or noisy to break your train of thought. It’s enough to make a trip to the post office the right amount of creepy.

Liiek Liiek LP

The fine line between efficiency and parsimony is walked by LIIEK on their debut long-player, if that’s the best term. Eight songs, fifteen minutes—bam!—could’ve left me wanting more in a less-than-good way, but this type of sharp, skeletal post-punk makes the whole experience work. A Berlin trio who sing in English; a typical LIIEK song weds a clean guitar line to a disciplined rhythm section, with semi-spoken vocals and occasionally chunkier riff breakdowns. “Waterfall” and “Dynamite” have a paranoid funk about them, comparable to SHOPPING, darker/starker moments come closer to someone like NEGATIVE SPACE, and closing number “The Goods Were Properly Packed” rides a choppy disco-punk groove. That, or the presence of songs titled “Crisis” and “Wire” is LIIEK putting their cards face-up on the table. Either way, there seems to be a bunch of neato punk weirdness coming out of Berlin right now, and this band appears fairly embedded in it.

Liiek Deep Pore LP

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

Pigeon Deny All Knowledge of Complicity LP

Berlin post-punk efficiency featuring two members of LIIEK, and sitting in a sweet spot when it comes to the old compare’n’contrast: similar enough to that sibling band to have their enthusiasts keen to sign up, without the resemblance being close to the point where you ask why they’re doing this. PIGEON’s songs are taut and bassline-driven, but also well-produced and full of hooks that soar (can hooks do that? Musicological minds want to know). I think they’re nodding in the direction of UK post-punk’s biggest names, but by accident or design I get a ’90s Dischord vibe, say CIRCUS LUPUS, from several of these songs, or even AT THE DRIVE-IN on Deny All Knowledge of Complicity’s title track. It’ll probably add up to something overly collegiate for a lot of your tastes but is pleasingly bouncy for something so moody, if you follow.

Slow Worries Careful Climb LP

Crisp, deftly performed indie rock that leans heavily on ’90s sonic motifs, in the shadows of TEAM DRESCH, SLEATER-KINNEY, LIZ PHAIR, the BREEDERS, or SHUDDER TO THINK. If you told me this was a lost classic from that era, I’d be inclined to believe you. The recording, musicianship, and especially the singing is completely on-point. I admit to being slightly thrown off by how American the band sounds, despite being from Holland; I don’t just mean the singer’s accent (I have lived in Amsterdam and know that many Dutch speak impeccable English), but even lyrical references. If anything, this album is a little more polished than the usual MRR fare, but recommended for fans of the aforementioned groups nonetheless.

The Shifters Open Vault 2xLP

In the early stages of 2020’s pandemic lockdowns that put live gigs and recording plans on pause indefinitely, the SHIFTERS offered up Open Vault as a sprawling digital content dump/stop-gap release of alternate takes, demos, and live cuts culled from 2016 to 2019. Most of these 25 tracks were never intended for public consumption (despite now being on a double-LP, of all formats!), and while odds-and-sods collections have a tendency to be half-baked and/or exercises in self-indulgence, Open Vault functions surprisingly well as a cohesive album, never seeming like some sort of hodge-podge of inconsequential throwaways—even when the presentation is decidedly shambolic and smudged-up, like the home recordings captured via built-in laptop and cell phone mics with drums literally thudded out on a kid-sized Spongebob Squarepants kit, the SHIFTERS’ songwriting is always uncannily sharp, with a lyrical focus that’s just as pointed (the repercussions of imperialism/colonialism and the shallow realities of late-stage capitalist life are both recurring themes). The Flying Nun-descended (and comparatively more polished) jangle pop that had been increasingly centered on the band’s last few records is largely de-emphasized in this particular context, with the FALL/COUNTRY TEASERS trebly twang of their 2015 debut cassette fully at the forefront in the minimal, repetitive clamor of tracks like “Induced” and “Faux American History;” the perfectly primitive (by which I mean, “Spongebob-kitted”) spin on “Work, Life, Gym, Etc.” from their Trouble in Mind full-length Have A Cunning Plan is particularly great. SHIFTERS scraps are honestly better than a lot of like-minded bands’ A-list material, and I have a feeling that this isn’t even the half of it here.

Viceprez Juger LP

These Lyon-based punks hit several pleasure centers at once. Their sound is scrappy and fierce, with enough rumble and groove to air things out while also seriously delivering on the hooks! Citing fellow French energetic melodic punks YOUTH AVOIDERS, and accurately so, this record also hits almost as hard as modern Oi! purveyors such as CHUBBY & THE GANG and the CHISEL. Each track is fun ‘n’ fierce and you’d have a hard time tracing the DNA from some of the members’ tenure in the much more indie outfit SPORT. Most of the music is gritty and full-force, with some interesting detours such as the menacingly repetitive “Driving Around,” which is also the only track that breaks the three-minute mark. Be sure to try out “Rice,” a poverty food anthem that rings true to a hungry belly and sounds straight from the time machine from 1979. Eleven tracks of no bullshit that’s a hell of a lot of fun. If you want more than that, you’re greedy.

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.