Reviews

Chunklet Industries

Germ House Record the Mistakes / Manage the Line 7″

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

Germ House Lost Title EP

Warren, RI’s Justin Hubbard currently helms two solo recording projects that were once full bands—FAR CORNERS, reserved for his clangy post-punk musings, and GERM HOUSE, which leans a little more UK DIY. There’s never been all that much differentiating those two projects, but this five-song EP really blurs whatever line separated them. The two tracks that open the record are built on a foundation that’s equal parts bouncy TELEVISION PERSONALITIES jangle and trebly DESPERATE BICYCLES ramshackle (there’s even a weedy little keyboard running underneath the opening track that’s very “Don’t Back the Front”-ish), but the cold, multi-tracked vocals and psych-ish freakouts give the tracks an overall vibe that’s more garage-y post-punk. Fortunately, these are two sounds that sound great together—it’s maybe my favorite thing he’s put out. Highlight of the record for me is “Stacking Mistakes.” At first blush, it almost sounds like it could have been pulled off an early A FRAMES 7”, but it’s also somehow got this strange IRON BUTTERFLY quality to it—it’s great. Real cool record!

Johnny Thunders Live From ZÁ¼rich 1985 LP

Exhumed and remastered from a tape that had been stored in a private stash box that JOHNNY simply labeled “Thunders Tapes,” Live From Zürich 1985 captures a live Swiss radio session recorded six years before his passing. Thanks to a sharp remastering job, the sound is super-crisp, and THUNDERS’ usual disaffected and snotty charm is on full display throughout. The fourteen songs here are a bit of mixed bag, ranging from highlights like the opening rocker “Blame It On Mom” and the Jerry “Needles” Nolan co-written “Countdown Love,” to obligatory DOLLS and HEARTBREAKERS covers, to duds like the ill-advised dub of “Cool Operator.” Die-hard fans will dig it, and this is the first of a series of these “forgotten” recordings to come, so they can look forward to digging more.

Shark Toys Out of Time EP

It’s been a real treat to watch SHARK TOYS evolve over the last ten years or so, from their beginnings as a decent garage-accented wobbly pop band to their current higher state of lean, trebly art-punk attack. The DESPERATE BICYCLES (whose UK DIY anthem “Advice on Arrest” gets a completely frenetic cover here) definitely serve as one of the stylistic compass points for this new EP, along with the URINALS, the FALL (pre-Brix), and WIRE circa Pink Flag, if I had to name the other three—jumpy, economical rhythms, guitar that slashes and jangles in equal measure, and vocals that are dryly conversational even while shouted, all urgently ticking along. The title track is a textbook-perfect exercise in razor-edged Rough Trade-ism (props to that killer single-string anti-solo), while the galloping twang of “Black” most obviously gives away the band’s status as residents of Los Angeles by virtue of sounding like a four-decades-late contribution to the Keats Rides a Harley comp. A band truly after my own heart.

Skiftande Enheter Lögn / Bättre Förr 7″

The latest from Gothenburg’s SKIFTANDE ENHETER was this lathe-cut single in an edition of 50 (already gone) copies, so save for a future repress on a less bespoke format, if you don’t already have it, you likely never will. That said, it’s an ace pair of songs—having started out as a URINALS/DESPERATE BICYCLES-style primitive punk combo before taking up the mantle of heavily FELT-accented C86 jangle, we now find our Swedish DIY heroes putting a Nordic spin on the sort of darkly psychedelic garage-drone that would usually bear a Flying Nun logo. There’s smudged GALAXIE 500 fingerprints all over the molasses-slow strum and extremely Naomi Yang-worthy bass line of “Lögn” punctuated by some organ-saturated and ever-so slightly VELVET UNDERGROUND-ed rave-ups, with “Bättre Förr” channeling the moodier side of the CLEAN’s scrappy, homespun pop trances. Evolution is real!

Spodee Boy Dark Times EP

Chunklet brings you the latest from Nashville recording project SPODEE BOY (Conor Cummins of G.U.N., SNOOPER), a five-song EP that’s offered in lathe-cut edition of…50! The physical version is of course long gone, but fortunately, you can still find it via all streaming services. And it’s worth seeking out! The opening track, “Dark Days,” takes the side-winding COUNTRY TEASERS worship of the Rides Again 7″ and cranks the tempo up to a hardcore pace—it’s really an incredible song, easily the best on the record. “Dark Nights,” “Man Of Tomorrow,” and “Suicide” are all variations on a Mark Winter theme but, still, solid takes on the sound. “Waiting Around to Die” is perhaps the most bold cut on the record. It’s a SMITHS-y dirge that’s probably the polar opposite of what’s popular these days and is also very goofy. Nevertheless, there’s something here, and you have to applaud his willingness to take a chance, which in and of itself is refreshing. Keep an ear to the ground for future releases from this guy—I get the sense they’re only going to get better.

Stirling One Percenter EP

Unearthed 1996 recordings from this short-lived Essex band. Five quick tracks of noisy, dumbed-down punk ’n’ B. Sits somewhere between PUSSY GALORE’s garage-y din and early OBLIVIANS’ cro-magnon punk. Highlights are “R-E-V-E-N-G-E” and “Go Away,” the latter of which even sounds like an Eric O-penned tune. Maybe not an essential release, but certainly a welcome one! Fun fact: one of the guitarists on this release, Sam Knee, compiled the book A Scene In Between and runs the (great!) Instagram account @sceneinbetween, where he catalogs UK fashion and alternative youth culture from the ’80s indie scene.

Xerobot Xerobot LP

This discography collection is a goddamn public service. Presented within: 37 tightly-packed spasms as songs; 37 claustrophobic angular conniptions in miniature; a sonic Xerox of an EKG traced in crayon by an epileptic genius. And yet, despite all that blather, this is the sound of a band climbing up the stairs, not falling down them. XEROBOT is so methodical it’s as if AD(H)D itself was made flesh, formed a punk band, and then practiced incessantly with BLACK FLAG-like dedication. And all of this happened in the 1990s in the state of Wisconsin. It’s like a fairytale told by the janitor at your high school who is actually a mad scientist during his off-hours. This is maniacal and borderline insane music made by very smart young men who had problems, fetishes, and phobias that they couldn’t adequately express—except within these minute-long explosions of precise motion that walk the razor’s edge between innocent, demented fun and downright psychotic behavior. I find this music exhilarating, exhausting and absolutely hilarious. Included for your edutainment is an informative booklet-cum-oral history (alas, a zine) that puts it all in perspective for you. Take some time to peer through this cracked periscope. Crucial release.