Reviews

Dirt Cult

An Uneasy Peace Speaking in Tongues EP

I’ve heard whispers about this project, and was very excited to let it sink into my ears. A recording project featuring Lance Hahn (J CHURCH) and Stan Wright (SIGNAL LOST, DEATHREAT, ARCTIC FLOWERS), Dave Wuttke (DRUNKEN BOAT, LIVING UNDER LIES) and Mike Warm (DEFECT DEFECT, OBSERVERS), this was a collection of hardcore songs that Lance wrote, songs that presumably didn’t fit his vision for J CHURCH. The man was a master, a punk historian, aficionado and mostly a fan, and I can only imagine that the other players were more than happy to help him realize his vision. It’s great. It’s like Lance from J CHURCH writing hardcore songs. “Fighting Sleep” is the choicest cut, harnessing a TALK IS POISON-esque energy right from the opening breakdown, but ultimately AN UNEASY PEACE is 80s USHC steeped in anarcho-punk and 90s DIY…which is exactly what it sounds like.

Bothers Bothers LP

I know this record is billed as a garage-y, WIPERS-doing-hardcore release, but to me there’s something Oi! about it. I think it’s the rock’n’roll style chord progressions with heavy distortion (there’s even a little MOTÖRHEAD-style lick in “Brain Matter”). I would say it’s like ANTI-NOWHERE LEAGUE with John Reis (DRIVE LIKE JEHU, ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT, a bunch of other stuff) on guitar. The lyrics read like a bad acid trip: introspective in a dark, twisted kind of way. Some standout lines include “Infant feeding from the arms of the gutter,” “My brain’s ain’t straight / I can hear it bleed,” and “Disappeared in a fistful of wet brain matter and glue.” I’m also a sucker for a good, catchy chorus, and “No Trust” has one of the best I’ve heard all year.

Columna Las Cosas Que Perdemos LP

Spanish punks offer a fresh take on post-punk (minus the flanger) that is heavily based on pop, but never really dredges too deep into either side of the divide. Devoid of any tinges of goth and cleanly recorded, COLUMNA have a continuum of bangers that keeps Las Cosas Que Perdemos churning, and upbeat. RATA NEGRA with a tinge of ÖTZI but perhaps more polished.

Daydream Mystic Operative LP

Blink and you’ll miss this blur of controlled chaos from Portland’s DAYDREAM. There’s a lot going on, but the hyper-propulsive drums, DEVO-lved guitar stabs, and urgent vocals clatter together in an explosive concoction of progressive punk noise. Thick-necked, spiraling bass riffage and off-kilter weirdness remind me of (a less brooding) DEAD AND GONE, or an anarcho-BOREDOMS. Get your ’90s fix without succumbing to nostalgia. Great stuff.

Dead Years Dead Years LP

There’s something about this band that reminds me of a lot of different bands, but the weird thing is that none of the bands that they remind me of play the same style—that makes me super curious about them. They really make me wanna be on a roadtrip listening to them with my friends. I really liked this album, ‘cause every song leaves you with a different feeling, and I also think the vocals bring something really special to the songs.

Dots Dots LP

Cool yet wild spasm sound that is somewhere between NOTS and certain eras of RAKTA?! Though maybe DOTS are more sorta art punks unable to hide their BLACK FLAG roots… Vicious sounds! Wild looping collapsing rhythm sectional idea explosions! Theramin! GINN-ish guitars! Spaced-out vocal incantations c/o the punkest Camylle (also of MIDNITE SNAXXX and prob a million other groups?!). Doomed Bay Area sounds that will make you wanna dance and fuck shit up.

Era Bleak Era Bleak LP

What a great fucking name for a band right now. This is Candy and Justin from the TRIGGERS, SLEEPWALKERS R.I.P., and DARK/LIGHT so you know you’re getting a quality product. This release is more on the punky side as opposed to some of the gothier post-punk of some of their previous bands, and it rips. A really nice balance of classic Dangerhouse style slam and pogo and bit of SADO NATION combined with that classic only in the Northwest WIPERS-like dreariness. Zach from PISS TEST does some serious Sage channelling on songs like “Struggle” and pretty much rages throughout this record. The lyrics are brilliant—bleak and optimistic at the same time, if that even makes any sense. Just listen and sing along to some of my favorites here, like their theme song “Era Bleak, “MRI” and “Opinions,” and you’ll get a nice “we’re all gonna die but it’s kinda fun” vibe that’s pretty swell. Not a stinker here and as we brace for the coming military state and poisoned planet we now have a nice soundtrack as we sift through the rubble. Now go vote.

Fleshies Introducing The Fleshies LP

Yes yes yes! I think you should know that, although I am indeed a huge FLESHIES fan, I came pretty damn late to the party, and I don’t have a proper excuse. Their trademarked loud’n’ugly noise, ramming headfirst and at lightspeed into downright lovely anthemic ballads and a penchant for DEVO-esque quirk and spazz is right up my alley. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a great album, but a lot of the precious goof is missing. The sweet, tender quirk-and-jerk just aren’t in full force. I could chalk this up to a bad mix, as not only the drums, but also John’s absolutely killer strained rat vocals are buried pretty damn deep in the mix, or maybe they are just embracing their darker, tougher exterior in these trying times. But all in all, this is an entirely rad slab; I just found myself seriously missing those fucked up tics that sets this stellar band apart from nearly every other loud-ass rock band on the planet.

Inject the Light The Apocalypse is Boring cassette

Well, it sure is fun and somewhat uncomfortable when you get assigned your friends to review. Some might even say it’s funcomfortable. This is Chris Mason, head of Portland’s killer label Dirt Cult, as well as the bands LOW CULTURE and MACHO BOYS, performing five quarantine songs he wrote and recorded in one night. When you have such extensive experience penning awesome songs, I imagine it’s not too hard to crank out tunes about the nightmare year we’ve all been living through. But then he goes and makes them really good on top of it. Recommended listening for when the world we’re trapped in becomes too much to deal with.

Jenny Trajinero / Kids of Today 7″

A nifty single of power pop that’s truly powerful. Justin Maurer, whom I mostly know from Oakland’s CLOROX GIRLS, understands how to get the most bang for a buck when playing jangling guitar pop. In true contrarian fashion, the B-side here is what really grabs me. “Kids of Today” runs the gamut of pleasure, from great use of discordance and resolution in the main lick to the palm-muted chug and ringing out triumph back-and-forth that makes up the meat of the track. It’s anthemic in a way that actually pays off its title. The single is great too, with luscious keys and a head-bobbing swing that puts a smile on your face. What’s not to like here?

Kira Jari Spooky Freaky EP

Not every great band is from Denton, TX, yet every band from Denton that I’ve heard is great. There must be something in the rock’n’roll water out there. KIRA JARI just popped onto my radar with this collection of four searingly quick punk songs. As a four-piece, they’re able to let some of the guitar melodies breathe while either layering some sweet solos or strong rhythm parts over the top. The song “Seasick” sounds so much like something I’ve heard before but just can’t place, and a lot of that musical amnesia comes from the fact that they switch things up so much in the span of just over two minutes. Like there’s some weirdness of the MINNEAPOLIS URANIUM CLUB, mixed with sharp leads Á  la MARKED MEN (sorry, couldn’t help but think of the kings of Denton, but also Jeff Burke recorded this), and a lot of the scrappiness you’d find in BENT OUTTA SHAPE. And I’m probably gonna get a few raised eyebrows on this one, but I hear some SHEER MAG, if nothing besides the effects on their vocal harmonies. Just like you can always trust bands from Denton, Dirt Cult delivers another awesome release from a band I might not have otherwise heard about.

Modern Cynics Auditory Postcards cassette

MODERN CYNICS’ grimy econo-pop sound is damn near perfect on this eighteen-track tape. On average, the songs clock in tight and tidy—usually around a minute and a half (sometimes under 60 seconds)—showing off songwriter Matty Grace’s chops for penning overdriven tunes that are full of muscle and melody. The whole affair washes over you, and is honestly best consumed in one go rather than shuffling through cuts. What stands out here is the blend of breezy disaffected execution, mainly in Grace’s vocal delivery, with a perfect dose of urgency and punch. Some of these tracks truly rip, while others are ideal mope anthems. It’s got it all, a tape to keep in the deck for weeks at a time.

More Kicks More Kicks LP

This three-piece from London delivers some solid power pop with a bubblegum sheen. You get a very polished and clean recording all the way through, which can feel a little clinical, but there’s a fair amount of fuzz here, as well as occasional vocal distortion. The bass comes through really strong, almost too heavily in the mix. Overall, I think the tracks are well-balanced and inspire singalongs on the first spin. Guitar is piercingly clear, though not as gritty as I’d like it to be. They sound like mod revival and more on the ’60s garage end of the power pop equation. Typically I’m into stuff with faster riffs when it comes to this genre, but I like it just fine. Though it’s not credited on the the liner notes, it sounds like there are keys on the track “She’s a Reaction,” and it’s a nice melody to fit in. My favorite song is “I’m on the Brink,” though I still do wish it was just a smidge faster. Cool band, good way to start off sunny days.

Needles//Pins Needles//Pins LP

There is a lot going on here. To say this is just a punk record is doing a disservice to all those involved here, but to say this is a rock record isn’t a fair assessment either. Melodic and catchy are words that I’d freely use to describe this, and while there are hooks abound here, it’s got just enough grit to keep it honest. If this record isn’t in heavy rotation on rock stations across their native Canada, that’s a crime. Truly.

Neighborhood Brats Confines of Life LP

Their first album since Claw Marks (one of the best albums in 2018) came out finds the band only getting more diverse in sound and higher in impact and energy. George Rager’s guitar and Jenny Angelillo’s voice are a brutal one-two punch through twelve tracks that will get a pit circling while covering topics of capitalism and housing, misogyny and sexism, commercialism and labeling. I’ve heard they are an insanely intense live show and I’m hoping they get to play some venues stateside soon.

Pandemix In Condemnation LP

Blending perfect amounts of artsy peace-punk weirdness and brutal aggression, Boston’s PANDEMIX deliver a sound that is all at once angry, transgressive, fun, and exciting. This record reminds me why I love punk: it’s got some real out-of-the-box peace-punk moments, dissonant chord combos, irresistible melodic hooks, dark creepy riffs, and fast hardcore parts. The track “Synthetix” juxtaposes full-blast hardcore riffs with a punchy, CRASS-like mid-tempo interlude, while “Column of Light” is a slow and scathing screed, with just vocals and guitar. Pretty much something for everyone. Seriously, do not miss out on this!

Postage Postage LP

Gruff, melodic, catchy pop punk with an edge. The kind that appeals to the “Fest crowd,” no doubt. Their song “80-85” is a surefire anthem. Limited to 300 copies, and I’m sure the packaging will annoy more than a few people, but it’s a good sing-along record and that should make up for the less-than-conventional packaging.

Primitive Teeth Bubble of Me EP

Wow! PRIMITIVE TEETH appears to be staffed by a gaggle of Chicago DIY scene vets, and they clearly know what they’re up to. Out of the gate, the first song sets the tone with propulsive bass and off-kilter drums driving their anthemic, atmospheric post-punk. The band sits somewhere at the intersection of SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES, SLANT 6, and SAVAGES. There are only four songs on this 7″ but it still manages to feel epic; destined for bigger things, methinks.

Schedule 1 Schedule 1 12″

SCHEDULE 1 formed right before pandemic lockdowns, and managed to put out this debut LP in the interim. There seems to be some Vancouver, BC new-wave-that-leans-towards-emo melodic “thing” happening, and this certainly shakes that tree. Think of the KILLERS mashed up with NEW ORDER. For me it’s a little too whiny, shiny, and overproduced. All said, it’s a tight album, and SCHEDULE 1 makes some catchy dance beats.

Suspect Parts You Know I Can’t Say No EP

There are two bands that come to mind as I listen through this one: LET’S ACTIVE and the YUM YUMS. That’s high praise. This is well done power pop that is catchy as all hell. It’s mid-tempo and extremely well done. The third and final cut—sung in German—even reminds me a bit of DIE TOTENHOSEN. This is worth looking for.

The Roxies Don’t Wanna Dance Because I’m Told To LP

This is definitely a nod to the melodic punk bands of the late ’70s. The singer sounds vaguely familiar, but I think that is due to his style of delivery more than anything else. While the band is from Berlin, one of the greatest cities in the world, the singer is from Yorkshire, England. It doesn’t sound like it’s from 1977, but it’s definitely got that vibe. It’s mid-tempo and very catchy and melodic. That said, when it gets a little softer, it reminds me a bit of the CHILLS, high praise. This is nicely done and I’m a fan of the sound, so it’s right up my alley.

The Yearners 2020 EP cassette

Three-song cassette on Dirt Cult Records. Very much what you would expect from the label—incredibly catchy indie-leaning pop punk, exactly what I thought I was getting. Only three songs? What a tease! It seems the band members live far apart from one another, but hopefully they get together again soon and crank out more songs ’cause this is really poppy and fun and I’ve already listened to it three times in a row.

Weird Numbers Minotaur Dreams EP

If you are familiar with L.A.’s power pop punk band MANIAC, then you will instantly recognize Zache Davis’s fuzzed and angular vocals. He has such a signature sound I don’t think he could (or should) ever shake it. “Dolphin Encounters,” “Minotaur Dreams,” and “Switching the Code” all are heavy on power pop downstroke, with well-crafted hooks and earworm melodies that give their melodic pop punk a fuller and more complex sound. My favorite on this EP is “Obsolete Man,” which is the sweetest of the bunch, with full weaving angular melodies and just a damn good pop song. WEIRD NUMBERS is a modern twist on retro power pop, and it’s solid. This particular arrangement of Zache Davis (MANIC, GIRLS), Colin Griffiths (GIRLS), and Ethan Jocobsen (TOURIST) is a Seattle outfit. However with Zache’s roots in L.A., I have a feeling that they’ll be cruising up and down the West Coast soon.