Belly Button

Mitraille Hoopschroot EP

High-powered, blistering power pop out of Antwerp, Belgium. Their songs are incredibly charged and fuzzed-out with sharp guitar leads. Track three, “Paranoia,” has these fantastic high notes being shot out of one guitar, while the other chugs along in a lo-fi, grungy rhythm. Then they slow things way down with “Nothing To Do” which has a tempo at about half the velocity of the first three songs, though the vocals are just consistent screaming which more than makes up for the lack of speed. “Mors In Olla” breaks pattern yet again, but this time as an instrumental that includes dueling trumpets, minimal percussion, and sparse guitar with a layer of distortion and feedback over top. I could see these guys fitting in perfectly with fans of MARKED MEN, FYP, and DRAKULAS. Loved every second of it.

Mitraille Mitraille LP

Debut LP from this Belgian act who’ve been at it for about five years now, with a handful of EPs under their belt. My internet sleuthing didn’t turn up too much about the band, but everything I did come across wanted to inform me in some flippant manner that these guys play garage punk. And they do. It’s just not nearly as tossed-off and cool as their Bandcamp copy would have you believe. Actually, this is some pretty slick-sounding shit—you can tell some real work went into both the production and the songwriting here. These guys wanted these tracks to sound good. The problem is they just sound fine. They’re clearly aspiring to some big, catchy sound (or like the underground garage punk equivalent), but the songwriting isn’t quite up to the task and something about the execution sounds insincere. A rougher production might have helped hide these shortcomings, but the approach taken here really lays them bare. It ends up sounding  like a facsimile of the BLACK LIPS at their most anodyne, or an antiseptic band like PARQUET COURTS covering the URANIUM CLUB. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever heard, just exceedingly OK.

Moar Baby I Am Cheap LP

It’s funny to me when bands are purposefully herky-jerky. It’s not easy to pull off. This record reminds me of bands like DEVO and AUSMUTEANTS, and you could even throw in the BRIEFS (without the herky-jerkiness.) It’s punk, it’s pop, and it’s new wave, all at the same time. Three of the ten cuts clock in at exactly 1:27 each, and seven of the ten are less than two minutes. That’s perfect for someone with my attention span. Excellent record.

Nubot555 No Way Back cassette

Okay, this one tested my patience, but hear me out because some of the freakiest among you egg-punks might dig it. NUBOT555 is an Antwerp, Belgium-based sci-fi punk band with a vocal approach unlike anything I have ever heard. The synth-based tracks bubble along with bouncy bass, buzzing keys, and a tinny electronic drum sound. Not bad, but nothing new—until the vocals kick in. Each song is a duet between two voices: one like a vintage Speak & Spell delivering platitudes about resurrection and human life, and one that sounds like what you would make a sock puppet say to a child, but pitch-shifted. Think about it for a second. Computer voice plus silly puppet voice doing call-and-response vocals over thrift store electronics. You’re either in or you’re out; consider this the line in the sand.

Plexi Stad Probation Baby EP

It’s interesting to see bands revisit eras of music that led to the aberrant and still notable explosion of radio rock bands in the early ’00s who decided to tap into icons like TELEVISION and the FEELIES rather than, I don’t know, whatever SOUNDGARDEN was obsessed with. It’s a mine still worth digging in, for sure, and the results are often not radio-ready in the way they once were (it even seems quaint to reference radio in the age of streaming, but here we are). PLEXI STAD, from Antwerp, taps into a compellingly angular strain of punk that echoes the aforementioned bands while still sounding vital and punchy. There is sizzle to this steak and some real grit in the production that hooks you into its world of skronky guitar and mobile bass lines. It’s not breaking ground, but rather retreading it in a way that is worth tuning in.

Vision 3D Hypnose LP

Well, I’m a big dumb idiot. I sat on this record for nearly a month before giving it a spin because I was dreading reviewing it. I’d never heard of the band, their name seemed annoyingly generic, and I could easily imagine this cover being slapped on a record I hated. Plus it’s a whole damn LP! That means that I’m going to have to endure eleven songs and 30-plus minutes of music that probably sucks over the course of multiple listens. Except, it doesn’t suck. Not even a little bit. Turns out VISION 3D, a trio out of Toulouse, France, has cobbled together one of the best guitar rock records I’ve heard in a long time, by combining nearly everything I’ve loved about garage punk over the past twenty years. Throughout the record you’ll get snatches of the COUNTRY TEASERS’ detuned cowpoke post-punk, THEE OH SEES’ trebly reverbed-to-hell garage-psych freakouts, the early BLACK LIPS’ “I’ve Got a Knife” attitude, and, for good measure, MAN OR ASTRO-MANS?’s outer space raygun surf. Then that’s all topped with some great multi-tracked vocals that would fit in somewhere among a KLEENEX-ish yelp, the too-cool-for-school contemporary post-punk vocals of the WORLD, and the avant-garage-pop chanson of STEREOLAB or the LIMIÑANAS. Just an absolutely fantastic record put out by a band with an actually fitting name that, in retrospect, has a perfect cover. I wish I’d had an additional month with it.

Warm Exit Sonny Cynar EP

Four tracks of synth-fueled punk rock pop that harkens the weirdness of early B-52’S with the angular-ness of GANG OF FOUR. It also has that current knowledge and feeling that “everything might fall apart at any moment” that one gets from NO AGE. Hoping they put out a full-length at some point. During my own travels and playing shows, I have often visited Rockerill in Charleroi, Belgium on European tours. Rockerill is that kind of place, not infrequent in Europe, where a huge industrial factory is tuned into a true DIY art/music/cultural center hosting art events and punk shows, and also, as it turns out, a recording studio and record label where this album was made.