45 Grave Sleep in Safety LP

At their best, 45 GRAVE excel at creating distinctive amalgams of pop and horror rock, but their debut album seems altogether limp and lacking in power. Sadly, Dinah Cancer’s vocal renditions are rather lackluster, and the best tracks here (“Evil” and “45 Grave”) have been released in far better versions on previous records. The annoying intrusion of synthesizers only serves to hammer one more nail into the coffin of this disappointing LP. Too bad.

Agent Orange When You Least Expect It… LP

AGENT ORANGE again clock in with that irresistible ’60s surf-rock sound on this new EP. Two engaging instrumentals spice up the package (“Out of Limits” and “Bite the Hand…”), but the real surprise here is a rockin’ rendition of the JEFFERSON AIRPLANE’s “Somebody to Love,” which AGENT ORANGE make uniquely their own. Solid, catchy, and fun.

Big Boys No Matter How Long the Line at the Cafeteria, There’s Always a Seat LP

This post-mortem (?) LP recorded in August ’84 is a potpourri of the many directions this band was heading. Sometimes, the record seems incohesive, but there’s great talent here. They do some killer raps, a HÜSKER DÜ-type pop song, partying-style wildness, great punk anthems, and dissonant jazzy stuff. Not their best as a concept, but still not to be missed.

Channel 3 Airborne 12″

This ultra-produced effort by CH3 is very disappointing in comparison to their past output. All four tracks are unfortunately oriented to the college and commercial new wave radio markets, with their rich instrumental sonorities, acoustic breaks, and studied poppishness. In that context, songs like “I Wanna Know Why” beat the hell out of the competition, but it’s definitely a step down. Beware!

Corrosion of Conformity Animosity LP

Smack! Wallop!…Rough punches of raw lightning-fast metallic energy as this new C.O.C. broadens their audience range. Now a three-piece with bassist Mike Dean coughing out the vocals, the excitement never stops while Woody grinds out the gritty chords and Reed pounding that skin-kit. Might seem a bit different, but no band keeps it abrasive like C.O.C.

DRI Dealing With It! LP

The layoff and new drummer has not daunted DRI a bit. They’re back as powerful as ever, with 25 songs as wickedly sharp as ever. There are a couple of slower metalish tunes (DRI are big with headbangers), but most are short sharp shocks, and include a couple of reworkings of tunes off their debut release.

Effigies We’re Da Machine 12″

This four-track EP doesn’t live up to the EFFIGIES’ standard. The record’s title track has a notable guitar riff, and the thick, heavy metal-punk instrumentation keeps the excitement rolling; the compositions are less distinctive than usual, however. Rambunctious, but not exceptional.

Effigies For Ever Grounded LP

On this album, the EFFIGIES continue to develop musically, though not everyone will view this development positively. The material here is pretty diverse. Most of it has a post-punky feel and emphasizes Earl’s metallic guitar playing; only a few songs are in the traditional EFFIGIES vein (“Patternless,” “Rather See None,” etc.). I personally prefer these latter, but the other cuts have grown on me with repeated listens.

Effigies Fly on a Wire LP

This band is walking the tightrope of trying to delve more and more into rock and post-punk while maintaining the punk power of their earlier years. Overall, they manage to pull it off here, with the one or two less exciting tunes made up for by a tasteful cover of early JOY DIVISION’s “No Love Lost.”

Electric Peace Rest in Peace 12″

This release is their third, and continues along in the advanced stages of psychedelic damage. Combining psychedelia, progressive rock, metal, ’60s punk, and bad singing, this outfit is adventurous to say the least. The guitarist is the strong point, whipping out some occasionally gnarly runs (Á  la ’69), but the singing makes me take the needle off.

Green On Red Gas Food Lodging LP

This second LP by GREEN ON RED pushes the guitar sound up front and uses the keyboards only for emphasis. This is one of the few bands lumped into the “American Western” style (TRUE WEST, LONG RYDERS, etc.) that really go after their own style, using other influences (NEIL YOUNG, BOB DYLAN, even LITTLE FEAT) as reference points.

Greg Sage Straight Ahead LP

This Portland talent and brain of the WIPERS has filled this LP with ballads. Tough lyrics, as is his trademark, as well as strummin’ that ol’ geetar. I’ve always been one of Greg’s biggest fans and when I’m sad and need consolation, this will be on the turntable. I wouldn’t live without it.

Hypnotics Indoor Fiends LP

A hot garage punk album by a hitherto unknown bunch of nerds. Their uptempo sound, which is driven by two or three guitars and a synthesizer wall-of-sound à la METAL URBAIN, is extremely dense and chunky. The lyrics are satirical and usually funny, thought some songs (“Nazi Snotzy”) go too far and make them sound like insensitive geeks. The final verdict? Entertaining as hell!

Marginal Man Double Image LP

Maybe a tad slower than their debut album, this release retains MARGINAL MAN’s melodic approach to punk without losing too much of an edge. The vocals continue to snarl despite the melodic guitar and almost rock-structured songs. Controlled but not wimpy.

Nip Drivers Oh Blessed Freak Show LP

NIP DRIVERS are as fun, crazy, and rockin’ as ever. This new LP shows better compositions and recording than the last, and there’s a good variety of material that’s embellished with their traditional tidbits of vocal and musical comedy. “Bone Spider,” my fave, is a great neo-psychedelic number. Recommended.

Tex and the Horseheads Tex and the Horseheads LP

Yet another example of one of this year’s new trends—cowpunk. In the tradition of GUN CLUB, BLOOD ON THE SADDLE, and the new MEAT PUPPETS, TEX & THE HORSEHEADS are taking countrified structures and attempting to infuse them with punk energy, and again the results are mixed. Songs like “Oh Mother” and “Short Train” are engaging amalgams with a driving beat, a bittersweet mood, loud but tasty folk guitars, and Texacala’s husky vocals, but their attempts at more traditional blues (JIMMY REED’s “Big Boss man”) and country (“Guitar Obsession”) fall flat.

The Cramps Smell of Female 12″

This is a live recording of new songs and a few covers. The CRAMPS understand real rock ’n’ roll so well that they write songs that can easily be mistaken for ’60s classics. OK, so the production lacks the usual CRAMPS punch. So what? It sounds great on my lousy stereo. You hopin’ that Jack Douglas will produce ’em? What makes this different from other CRAMPS records is that here you can follow and comprehend Lux Interior’s comic book scenarios with ease. The kind of rebellion the CRAMPS inspire is wanting to be a kid as long as you live. That’s cool.

The Dead Milkmen Big Lizard in My Backyard LP

I believe this is what Jeff calls “funnypunk.” These 20 satire-laced songs are real crack-ups, and backed up by tight playing that incorporates funk, country, and lots of other styles Into their punk approach. Let’s go to the shore!

TSOL Change Today LP

The revamped line-up of T.S.O.L. makes its debut on this highly-produced album. I was prepared to dislike this after seeing the rock-star atmosphere they projected live, but there’s a lot on here that’s likable. On about half of the songs, they pack a good punch and the new singer’s annoying Jim Morrison delivery is minimized, but others are less worthwhile. Although it’s better than expected, give me their first 12″ any day.

V/A Desperate Teenage Lovedolls LP

The soundtrack to We Got Powers video extravaganza, there’s lots of great rock ’n’ roll. REDD KROSS appropriately dominates this disc, not only with their own tunes, but with members sitting in with WHITE FLAG as well. They are joined by BLACK FLAG, SIN 34 (WGPs “house band”), NIP DRIVERS, and DARKSIDE (?). Cool teen stuff!

V/A Hell Comes to Your House Part II

A worthy successor to Volume 1. Eight groups contribute a total of fourteen diverse tracks on this compilation, ranging in style from straight-ahead rockers to power-pop and even Country & Western. While this album is a mite inconsistent from cut to cut, standout tracks by the JONESES, the MINUTEMEN, and the SCREAMIN’ SIRENS might make this eclectic, engaging record worth owning for some. I found its party mood delightful.

V/A English as a Second Language 2xLP

The follow-up to last year’s Voices of the Angels double-album, this is mainly a spoken word extravaganza. While some tracks have instrumentation (acoustic folk, electric noise, jazz, rap, etc.), the accent is always on the lyrics. This record features people from several alternative bands, including BLACK FLAG, the MINUTEMEN, X, the FLESH EATERS, D.I., the PLUGZ, the DREAM SYNDICATE, the LAST, and the BANGLES; it may be LA’s answer to England’s “ranting” poetry. I’d like to see this kind of stuff incorporated into live shows, perhaps between bands.

V/A Eastern Front LP

In general, this is much stronger than the first Eastern Front compilation album, especially in the production department. There are good performances by WASTED YOUTH, JFA, CH3, the FARTZ, CIRCLE ONE, BATTALION OF SAINTS, FREE BEER, the LEWD, and England’s CHRON GEN. The only drawback (again!) is the lack of an info sheet on the bands.

Wipers Wipers LP

This is a live recording, and the songs are versions of material that has appeared on all previous 12″-size WIPERS releases, as well as a few newies. WIPERS are a straightforward, driving rock’n’roll band with punk overtones and attitudes. And like a previous straightforward band, CREEDENCE CLEARWATER, WIPERS sound very much alike both live and in the studio.