Reviews

Anti-Fade

Alien Nosejob Once Again the Present Becomes the Past LP

The HC45 single was one of the best hardcore records I’ve heard in recent times and Mr. Nosejob brings those quick, nimble riffs to full-length form. The description for Once Again notes that it began as a concept record referencing both WWII bombings and comedian Norm Macdonald. It sounds like if MODERN WARFARE or the MOB (NYC) had Mike D. of the BEASTIE BOYS on vocals and were emulating DISCHARGE singles. Or if DEVO had been a metal band. Or if the MINNEAPOLIS URANIUM CLUB wrote a hardcore record. It’s wacky and has nice subtleties and moments that’ll make your ears and eyes pop. The guitar solo in “Pointed Shears” reminds me of the guitar in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers theme song (which now that I listen back on that theme song sounds like it could’ve been a scrapped tune from Military Affairs Neurotic if it was a bit slower). This record will draw a line in the sand for many hardcore fans, probably multiple lines, once again illuminating the dreaded egg v. chain dichotomy.

Alien Nosejob Suddenly Everything is Twice as Loud LP

For the uninitiated, ALIEN NOSEJOB is the anything-goes solo project of Jake Robertson (AUSMUTEANTS, HIEROPHANTS, SMARTS). So far he’s put out records covering KBD punk, indie pop, straightforward hardcore, new wave, and disco. While previous releases have been more genre-focused (like the excellent USHC workout HC45 EP), this LP takes a more whimsical route through a handful of similar sounds. We’ve got some straight up RAMONES-core (“Television Sets,” “Black Sheep”), earnest indie pop (“Weight Of The World,” “Blending In”), and even some Horrendous New Wave-y new wave (“Spin Cycle”). Not every track is great, but when you take as many shots as this dude, you’re bound to chuck up a brick or two every now and then. Even still, this LP highlights what a gifted songwriter, musician, and producer Jake is. I’m stoked to see what direction he takes the project in next!

Alien Nosejob Paint It Clear LP

I reviewed this Australian band’s HC45-2 EP early this year and expected this LP to contain the same kind of manic, freaky garage hardcore. Nope, totally wrong. Paint It Clear sounds like a whole different band, one fed on NEW ORDER and BUGGLES records instead of trashy KBD tapes. Whatever inspired this record, it works—this is a bouncy, fun collection of super catchy pop, complete with crispy drum machine beats, 808 claps, and infectious guitar lines. Paint It Clear is full of charm, with tracks like “Leather Gunn” and “Duplicating Satan” that are pure ’80s Euro-leaning synth-pop. I didn’t think I would be making this reference today, but the loping piano and keyboard ballad, “The Butcher,” sounds like it could have been written by George Harrison with lines like “It is hard to see the sun here / It’s hard to hear the sea here.” If you like power pop or miss the days of acid wash and crunchy bangs, check it out immediately. If you are a rocker with a sweet tooth, give it a listen for something different.

Cereal Killer The Beginning & End of Cereal Killer LP

Eruptive ’tweener stylings from this Australian gang, affiliates of the WET BLANKETS and AUSMUTEANTS charm academies. If this is truly the beginning and end, CEREAL KILLER should feel accomplished and proud, as their take on hardcore—tuneful, mildly freaky—is endearing and fun. Seems “lite” in mood, but 100% serious in delivery, as all the performances are damn impressive. “Being Cool” has a perfect NWOBHM-inspired riff, something that carries over to “Should Punks Be Allies.” Along with the smarmy electronic swipes they sprinkle in, these injected deviations make this something you wanna listen to as well as thrash around to. Fast fun for fuckfaces.

Exek Some Beautiful Species Left LP

Orstralian post-punk drone trip that feels like a slowed-down THIS HEAT nitemare with occasional FRIPP guitars and dubbed-out sorta POP GROUP incantations. A modern throwback to sounds made in another neocon fascist era, ominous horror is ours forever and here is the soundtrack… It’s bleak, dense, and not comfortable. This is obviously a great record, but I can’t decide if this paranoia sound is what I want right now, though.

Gonzo Do It Better Again LP

Four young-ish tykes from Geelong here with an album recorded in an old stable. Polished shards of pointed rock stab insistently from the speakers over tense, clipped rhythms. There’s a tension here between the physical urge to rock out (at least one of the guitarists here can obviously shred) and the cerebral insistence on minimalist restraint. GONZO are clearly clever, but not too clever; like the older cousins of the CHATS, the ones who went to Uni instead of wasting away on the dole. Math-rock time changes and post-punk sparseness compete for attention with meaty Aussie rock in the tradition of X or COSMIC PSYCHOS or EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING, and it all makes for a great listen. Once again, the land down under is flying the flag for rock music, much as it has for most of the last 30-odd years.

Living Eyes Peak Hour Traffic / Almanac 7″

DIY Geelong garage rockers the LIVING EYES deliver the goods with their latest 7″ single. Both tracks were unreleased demos that suddenly saw the green light just before the band embarked on a Japanese tour, executed and recorded in record time.  First, a song about the modern day frustration that is getting stuck in traffic during peak hours. A guitar-driven upbeat rock anthem that makes being in traffic not so bad if the right tune is playing on the radio. Seems like something we all can relate to. Then, on “Almanac,” a more serious tone is set with a post-punkier edge to it. A cool companion for the morning commute indeed!

Parsnip Adding Up EP

Ah, for some levity! These are sunshine people and the garden gourds are growing. I know that a PARSNIP is not a gourd, but bands like this do not grow alone! This great pop group has flourished since 2016 amongst the mulchy multi-member goodness of other Melbourne groups like BANANAGUN and SCHOOL DAMAGE and wow yes, significant others. Deep roots in acid-laced soil aided by budget fertiliser, their cutest single yet does further deep dipping into a psychy landscape that we already got a sample of on their last LP. Their reworking of “Treacle Toffee World” by FIRE is especially resplendent. PARSNIP’s cheery bounce doesn’t jar in this seemingly endless crisis time because it feels grounded, smiling but still ready to call out the “Crossword Cheater,” because what’s the point if you can’t play fair? Like the friend that really gets it, but still invites you to ride a brighter wave.

Power Supply In the Time of the Sabre-Toothed Tiger LP

The name of this band along with the title of this LP made me expect some kind of caveman-themed metal band. Instead, this Melbourne foursome (featuring members of DRUG SWEAT, OOGA BOOGAS, and VOICE IMITATOR) delivers a relaxed and sunny brand of garage rock that never takes itself too seriously. Singer Leon Stackpole sounds effortlessly laid-back, while Mikey Young’s guitar work is impressive without being showy. While some songs are straightforward rockers (“Land of the Fire,” “Conservative Instincts“), they also get to stretch out into some more experimental territory on “Infinity and 90” and “Swimming in a Bathful of Ghosts.” It’s all exceedingly pleasant and playful while never being dull. I’m reminded of Rotterdam’s LEWSBERG and fellow Australians THIGH MASTER. A fantastic debut.

Primo! Sogni LP

Australia has been reigning supreme for the last several years when it comes to exporting scrappy pop perfection, with Melbourne’s PRIMO! being one of the best bands going in a scene with no shortage of heavy hitters. Sogni continues further down the path set by their 2018 debut LP Amici, with dreamy, intertwining harmonies and spartan rhythms that can be traced back to a number of spiritual antecedents: the ramshackle spirit of the K Records-affiliated international pop underground in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the kaleidoscopic jangle of classic Flying Nun bands like LOOK BLUE GO PURPLE from neighboring New Zealand, the stark minimalism of YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS-style post-punk. These are all charmingly threadbare pop songs at their core, but with enough of a jagged, off-kilter edge to keep things from becoming overly twee and sickly sweet—wiry guitars intersect with airy group vocals in the economical “Perfect Paper,” and “1000 Words” is an stop/start rush of insistently catchy anxiety-punk in the mold of recent Aussie DIY combos like UV RACE and TERRY (the latter, not coincidentally, happen to share half of their line-up with PRIMO!). An absolute joy!

R.M.F.C. Reader / Faux Freaks 7″

End-times late-teen buzz from New South Wales. Rock Music Fan Club, probably the world’s loneliest fan club, still manages some decent flash on this 45, though. “Reader” and “Faux Freaks” both sorta reek of JAY REATARD influence, a pure and well-executed outgrowth of that style and sound. Neither tune is terribly neg-vibe reliant, but there is certainly a bent tunefulness to both that falls in line with many modern punk herk-jerkers. Jury’s still out on if this one has any real legs, but it certainly scratches the itch for now.

Smarts Who Needs Smarts Anyway? LP

I’m not exactly sure when meme-spawned punk subgenre classifications first officially entered the unironic press material lexicon, but we might have reached peak egg-punk with the debut LP from SMARTS—there’s an “egghead” joke just waiting to be made there. As seemingly mandated in Australia, there’s substantial member crossover between SMARTS and a number of recent OZ DIY all-stars, some less eggy (PARSNIP) than others (AUSMUTEANTS, HIEROPHANTS, ALIEN NOSEJOB, etc.), and while Who Needs Smarts Anyway? isn’t a major departure from anything that the latter subset has produced, it does kind of seem like it could have been generated through a machine learning algorithm designed to come up with a prototypical band in this style. The sort of uptight, hardcore-velocity anxiety hammering employed by URANIUM CLUB, blaring new wave-via-Lumpy Records (by way of the DEADBEATS) sax that’s not nearly as abrasive or punctuated as this kind of panic-punk truly calls for, snotty rapid-fire vocals delivering lyrics focused on the omnipresence of pocket computers (“Smart Phone”), the minutiae of everyday life as expressed through household products (“Cling Wrap”), and the inescapable iconography of corporate culture (“Golden Arches”)—check, check, double check. Been searching for a band even more to the right of the CONEHEADS and UROCHROMES on the egg/chain spectrum?

Spiritual Mafia Al Fresco LP

Real Rorschach blot test music, this: I feel like one person could listen to SPIRITUAL MAFIA’s debut album and hear bleak, glazed-eye noise rock drudgery, and someone else could take in the exact same 32 minutes and walk away having experienced transcendent psych/Kraut heat damage. The pointedly mundane, repetitive lyrics thoroughly underscore this too, especially on Al Fresco’s opening and closing cuts, “Lunch” and “Bath Boy”—the latter of which runs past ten minutes, cycles through all manner of delicious dub manoeuvres and treats the act of jumping in the tub as a solipsist’s charter. “Hybrid Animal,” no one-pump chump itself at nearly nine minutes, is kinda HAWKWIND guitar frazzle with BIG BLACK subject matter (reputedly based on the time a friend’s neighbour called round, in the nude, to inform him she was pregnant with her three-legged dog’s offspring) and sounds like someone’s playing pool in the background at one point. “Smiles” and “Poolside” are shorter, thuddier arch-rockers that feel most emblematic of the Melbourne swamp SPIRITUAL MAFIA come from, thinking here of CONSTANT MONGREL and VOICE IMITATOR’s most recent releases. This one was a slowburner but I’m all about it now.

The Snakes The Snakes LP

Anti-Fade is one of a handful of labels that I follow religiously. But every so often I’ll have a crisis of faith and find myself willfully ignoring a release for no reason other than, say, unappealing cover art or a generic band name. The Snakes by the SNAKES was such a release. Fortunately, MRR intervened and I now see the error of my ways. This is quite a delightful LP! The SNAKES are a five-piece outfit from Melbourne, and they play an odd mix of organ-driven garage punk, sleazy proto-punk, and circus-y new wave. It reminds me at times of mid-’80s CURE, the MIGHTY GO-GO PLAYERS, the soundtrack to Liquid Sky, and Richard Hell (particularly the vocalist). I don’t know how much replay value this one has, but it’s definitely worth a listen if you’re down for an interesting time. I’m certainly keen to see what they do next!

Vintage Crop Kibitzer LP

While other bands playing similar stuff have popped up, gotten more attention, and fizzled out, this Geelong act has quietly kept its nose to the grindstone. Kibitzer is the band’s fourth LP in six years, and it’s just as solid as anything they’ve put out. As with their previous records, they’re still peddling a mix of URANIUM CLUB-esque intricate, post-punk-y smart-guy rock and EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING-ish garage-y people’s punk—a contradictory meshing of attitudes that I think non-Aussies would have trouble getting away with. What maybe differentiates this record from some of their earlier releases is a more overt new wave influence. That’s fine when it takes the form of DEVO-aping, as it does on a track like “Casting Calls,” but less so when it shows up as some superfluous, squiggly-ass synth shit (why y’all gotta do “The Duke” like that!?). Also, vocalist Jack Cherry really tests the limit of how many words/syllables you can jam into a single line, a style choice likely borrowed from Brendan Current. I don’t remember that bothering me on previous records, but I didn’t love it here. Still, those small complaints aside, this is a pretty strong record that sounds great. Should appeal to folks who’ve been into the aforementioned bands or acts like PERVERTS AGAIN or SMARTS.