Reviews

Cleopatra

1919 Futurecide CD

The latest full-length from Bradford post-punk legends 1919 slinks forth with catchy melodic abrasion. Harmonies as mesmerizing as the CHURCH; serpentine cradle-shaking akin to BAUHAUS; contemporary angst reminding of the ESTRANGED, MOIRA SCAR, and SEX GANG CHILDREN; the twitching ennui of MIDNIGHT OIL; and even the pop spin cycle Á  la CULTURE ABUSE, with a slack standard of SUEDE. 1919 have composed at times an optimistic, albeit still-life and morose effort that’s smoother than their tribal ’80s death rock sound, exploring a goth-gazing that is absolutely worth checking out. Introduce yourself as if they were the newest sensation in this darkwave movement, as if they weren’t around 35 years ago already nailing that fresh pine coffin.

Adolescents Russian Spider Dump CD

A covers album, basically of songs that Tony (singer and original) really liked back in the day, and still likes now. Most of ’em are from the West Coast (including Canada’s SUBHUMANS, of course!) and from the late ’70s/’80s. Pretty much all the songs sound great, with modern production and playing. Though not sure the world really needs yet another iteration of “Fuck You” or the DILS’ “Class War,” but then again, mebbe there can’t be enough of either sentiment. I think the DICKIES’ “Just Say Yes” was improved immeasurably by this iteration, and it’s great to hear TOXIC REASONS again. HUMPERS, GERMS, F-WORD, REDD KROSS, SIMPLETONES, the MIDDLE CLASS, the DRAGONS and the FLYBOYS also get a good doing, too.

The Vibrators / Chris Spedding Mars Casino LP

I want to be kind about this record; I am genuinely glad that the gentlemen of first-wave English punk band the VIBRATORS are still at it, and happy enough that they have drafted lifelong comrade, erstwhile PISTOLS producer, “Motor Biker” and Womble CHRIS SPEDDING in for the session. The songs are written and performed well enough, by people who clearly know what they are doing; In his advancing years(!), KNOX is starting to sound a lot like NICK LOWE on his recent solo outings. However, I am not sure I can recommend this to MRR’s readership—there’s an almost total lack of urgency, immediacy, or energy. This album will be a useful stocking filler for punk dads who are bummed about missing Rebellion Festival because of lockdown, but after one or two plays it will likely be shelved in favor of one of the band’s essential early singles.

Chrome Scaropy CD

As society continues to suck on a tailpipe, you’ve gotta ask yourself: does CHROME age like fine wine? Accompanied by a cast of characters that includes the bassist from CHROME’s early ’80s firebomb heyday, Helios Creed keeps the flame, if not quite burning bright, at least lit. “H Of Spades,” with its tractor-beam guitar set to maximum gravitational pull, seems teleported in from one of his late ’80s AmRep albums. But the majority of Scaropy (oof) is tired goth rock with industrial overtones, like some kinda bargain bin ALIEN SEX FIEND (who already take up plenty of shelf space in the discount aisle). Much of this album sounds like backing tracks for a stripper scene in a straight-to-video dystopian thriller. “An Open Letter” has a decent edge even if its chorus is “I won’t / Take your shit.” As the end approaches, CHROME finally delves into the sounds that first distinguished the group all those years ago. “They’re Coming To Get You” takes an android shuffle and slathers it with the kind of warped voices that is practically a trademark, while “Kilauea” sinks even deeper into paranoid murk. Not a bad batch after all, but far from a triumph.

Chrome The Visitation LP reissue

CHROME’s 1976 debut LP sounds like coke sweats made flesh, like paranoia dripping from a ravaged sinus cavity, like the ’70s got sucked into a blacklight poster and emerged from a wormhole on the other side of the galaxy. It seems improbable that CHROME could exist without Helios Creed’s guitar wizardry front and center (or panned hard left/right), but this first version of CHROME has plenty to offer the wayward weirdos of the world. Like a speedfreak SILVER APPLES, “How Many Years Too Soon” comes thundering in on a jet plane and the panic rock only escalates from there. Someone left The Visitation out in the sun for too long—it’s got such a peculiar flavor, like it’s curdled but still delicious. Coming off like a degenerate PERE UBU, “Return To Zanzibar” is a moody garage-rocker that got kidnapped by space pirates armed with radio samples and primitive synthesizers, while “Caroline” is a pit stop at the sleaziest club in the quadrant. “Riding You” opens with a windblown sound piece that you’d expect to hear on a new age meditation tape, until it turns menacing like something nasty is coming over the horizon; the song itself is a slinking, winking rocker as if ALICE COOPER tried to write a disco track to impress someone. “Kinky Lover” takes that sound to its logical conclusion and only WICKED WITCH could dare draw back the heavy curtains that shrouds it. Sure, GEORGE BRIGMAN could have written “Sun Control,” but would he have bothered to add the backwards tapes and the chirping synths? CHROME creator Damon Edge is going for broke on this album, playing half the instruments and taking charge of the mic like he failed the KING CRIMSON audition and now he’s into punk so watch the fuck out. Final track “Memory Cords Over the Bay” perfectly sets the scene for Helios Creed to enter, stage left (hard-panned).

Germs Cat’s Clause 2xEP+CD box set

The narrator-via-interview of the GERMS portion of The Decline of Western Civilization, Nicole Panter comes across as both calmly accustomed to the band’s rowdy antics and resigned to the custodial nature of her role as manager, regularly tasked with facilitating and then cleaning up the ramifications of the messes that Darby and co. created while onstage. Capturing the essence of those legendary messes, this collection delivers the dirt in a neat multi-media package. Spreading thirteen tracks of live GERMS recordings across two 7″’s and a CD, Cat’s Clause brings us a snapshot of the chaotic atmosphere that seemed to follow the band during its brief but well-documented tenure. In these ’79—’80 recordings, Darby’s distinct snarls can be heard decrying spitters in the audience, freestyling over a “never-ending” version of “Shut Down,” and demanding that the band be paid while refusing to perform on the five-minute non-musical track entitled “Germs Riot” that depicts some sort of incident at a spot called The Great Gatsby. The bulk of these raw performances are from the Hong Kong Cafe and the Starwood, and it finishes up with two rehearsal songs caught on tape at L.A.’s infamous Canterbury apartment building. Packaged with an arm-band patch, sticker, button, and 32-page color booklet filled with photos, lyrics, and more, this box has plenty of fun to sink your fandom into, and the CD containing all the 7″ tracks plus four more is pretty convenient as well. Anyone with nostalgia for this band or scene, whether real or imagined, is sure to find a good time in this sprawling archival set.

James Williamson & Deniz Tek Two to One CD

The second collaboration between JAMES WILLIAMSON (Raw Power STOOGE, IGGY POP collaborator) and DENIZ TEK (RADIO BIRDMAN). The music is pretty good. It’s got TEK’s signature guitar sound. WILLIAMSON and TEK know how to write a riff. There are some nice ones on here. They try to hit on some relevant topics (“Climate Change”) as well as personal stuff. It’s the vocals that are lacking. I hate to trash one of my all-time favorite musicians, but there was a reason TEK wasn’t the singer of RADIO BIRDMAN. That said, I give them both credit for trying new stuff and not just rehashing their infamous pasts. Keep making music, guys.

Mourning Noise Mourning Noise CD

At long last, these Lodi, New Jersey legends get a proper retrospective release. You may have heard some of this previously on the Grand Theft Audio CD from long, long ago, and I guess there was a fan-released cassette comp at one point as well. This band’s claim to fame, at least in modern terms, is that they were the project of a young Steve Zing, drummer for SAMHAIN and current bassist for DANZIG. There’s even liner notes from the pint-sized master of darkness himself. As you might guess from these previous facts, there is a certain resemblance to the MISFITS in songwriting and lyrical content. Bobby Steele even lends some guitar tracks here. They are no clones, though, which you’ll see on some tracks from their hard-to-find 1982 classic EP included here, showing them going towards a darker sound that Glenn Danzig would later explore in SAMHAIN. Then there’s the goofy sing-along horror shlock of “Monster Madness” which seems to be a crowd favorite, appearing four times in different forms here. You get great-sounding demos, an unreleased LP, and a great WFMU set from 1982. There’s surf, punk, hardcore, metal, and of course MISFITS(!) influences throughout. What more could you want? Buy it and go grave-robbing in your local boneyard.

Rosetta Stone Cryptology CD

With a minimum of internet sleuthing, I discovered that ROSETTA STONE is a British “Gothic rock band” that would appear to have formed in the late ’80s. Which explains why they sound like a very deft marriage (of convenience) of SISTERS OF MERCY and JOY DIVISION. Bass-driven dark music, with Ian Curtis vocal stylings and spare synth and guitar. This is a new album, and is a return to their sounds of yore. No idea what they were doing in between, but if you have either of the aforementioned in your record collection, this’ll go down real easy.

Skids Songs From a Haunted Ballroom CD

The SKIDS, for those not in the know, were a punk band forged in Fife, Scotland, in the late ’70s, who were a little bit different, sonically, and whose main claim to fame was that when they broke up in the early ’80s (after three excellent LPs), the guitarist went on to form BIG COUNTRY. The chiming guitars for which they became famous (“guitars that sound like bagpipes”—even though the band claimed they were emulating violins!), very much evident in the SKIDS. I guess they’ve now reformed with the original singer Richard Jobson (Stuart Adamson of BIG COUNTRY committed suicide—suffering from depression—in the early 2000s). This new record is largely a “covers” album, centered around the Kinema Ballroom in their hometown of Dunfermline. The songs pay tribute not only to their early influences (and bands they played with, such as the CLASH, and the ADVERTS), but to the working class (and gang) culture of the times. As well as reworkings of the SEX PISTOLS and MAGAZINE, there’s the ’70s glam of MOTT THE HOOPLE and DAVID ESSEX, the early New Romantic art of ULTRAVOX and the pub rock of NICK LOWE. And, appropriately enough, there’s reworkings of two of the early SKIDS classics—”The Saints Are Coming” and “Into The Valley.” A classic slice of culture from the era, all supercharged with 21st century production, and the songs suitably revved. I have to say, it largely reminded me of what a fucking great song “Complete Control” is!

The 69 Cats Seven Year Itch CD

Man, this is some hokey shit. Spooky rockabilly-tinged rock featuring members of HEADCAT and NEKROMANTIX. “Graveyard Blues,” “Vampire Shuffle,” “Teddy Boy Boogie”…you get the picture. The vocals are done all deadpan talky style like a cross between ELVIS, ORVILLE PECK, and the guy from DEADBOLT. The musical backing sounds like a BLUE ÖYSTER CULT or STEVIE RAY VAUGHN house cover band at some awful L.A. rock club, but maybe not even that cool. Predictably, this is on the masters of washed-up spooky label, Cleopatra Records. Make me die now! And not in any kind of black-clad, makeup-wearing kind of way.

The Fuzztones NYC CD

This CD is the FUZZTONES’ tribute to their hometown of New York City. They do covers of RAMONES, the CRAMPS, DEAD BOYS, HEARTBREAKERS, the FUGS, PATTI SMITH, among others in a mellow garage rock style. They have changed some song’s lyrics. “Microdot” instead of “Chinese Rocks”? “53rd & 3rd” sounds extra creepy done in this slowed down in the “Crimson and Clover” melody. They even cover FRANK SINATRA’s “New York, New York” as the album opener. This is for fans only.

The Members Version CD

Folks that might remember (or recognize) the MEMBERS for (the admittedly sublime) “Sound of the Suburbs” or even “Solitary Confinement” might be in for a bit of a shock. Not a rude one, but certainly a stylistic one. This is yet another covers disc, in this case, largely of classics from the ’60s and ’70s—BUZZOCKS, the RAMONES, the LURKERS, DAVID BOWIE, PRINCE, the VELVET UNDERGROUND, JOHN HOLT, GREGORY ISAACS, BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS, DILLINGER, GRANDMASTER FLASH and ABBA. A fairly eclectic mix, but which all make perfect sense for those lucky enough (and there’s still time!) to be familiar with the back catalog and oeuvre of THE MEMBERS. Unsurprisingly, the most faithful of the covers are the reggae and dub efforts, while the PRINCE, ABBA and punk songs get more of a FAD GADGET ’80s electronica treatment (along with some dub!). And it largely works. And I say this as both a huge ABBA fan, and a MEMBERS aficionado!

The Tea Set Back in Time for Tea CD

Time for tea! What we have here is a collection of singles and EPs by the TEA SET between ’78 and ’81, along with a couple of extra tracks tacked on. Often overlooked in the punk/post-punk pantheon (perhaps because they never released an album, although they did appear on a Messthetics comp), these art students specialized in DIY clatter with a dramatic flourish; channeling post-BUDGIE prog-punk on “On Them,” and making the everyday seem esoteric on the disco funk of “Tri X Pan.” While it’s great to have all these fantastic singles in one place, I would love to see them presented in a more elaborate package in keeping with the fantastic artwork that accompanied the original singles; The slim booklet that comes in the digipak CD doesn’t do them justice.

UK Subs Subversions II CD

A second album of newly recorded covers from these UK punk old timers. Still a great band after all these years, we are treated to versions of “Immigrant Song,” “Search and Destroy,” “This Is Rock ’n’ Roll,” and the uptempo version of “We Will Rock You” as well as eight other tasteful oldies. It’s a lot of fun, and it sure beats the usual “live cover” on the flip side.