Reviews

FDH

Baby Tyler Drumb Masheens LP

I suppose it’s fitting that this project is on the FDH record label, as BABY TYLER betrays a serious JAY REATARD fixation. Hell, a track like “In the Trunk” sounds like a sequel to “Hammer I Miss You,” but most of Drumb Masheens leans into the gnarlier aspects of solo JAY stuff like TERROR VISIONS. Although fairly slavish in its imitation, there’s good stuff here—these are songs not stylistic cul-de-sacs. “Gimme Gimme” has a cutting KBD-ness amidst the JAY-ness, while “Nothing” opens up just enough to break free of its aesthetic confines. Keep an eye on this kid.

Dark Web Decoy LP

It seems like whenever I discover a new punk record that’s exciting and innovative it happens to come from Philadelphia. This record is no exception. Extremely tight and punchy riffs and fast off-kilter grooves make this LP a totally fun way to spend 25 minutes. Mastered by Mikey Young of TOTAL CONTROL, you can hear the influence of Young’s jaded style of synth punk around the record. The vocals are sarcastic, almost taunting the listener. Spitting attitude, this is a release you don’t want to miss!

Gape Attack 2008—2010 LP

Philadelphia’s FDH Records brings us the total recorded output of Seattle lo-fi synth punkers/DIY new wavers GAPE ATTACK in a limited edition pressing of just 100 copies (looks like some are still available on FDH’s Bandcamp page!). While the overarching genre here is synth-driven post-punk, these guys are otherwise a little all over the map. There are a couple of punker tracks that sound like the SPITS (or their side project SPIDER), a handful of gloomy tracks that sound not unlike the Soviet-era darkwave that MOLCHAT DOMA has been peddling lately, and a couple peppier tracks that sound like early JOY DIVISION backed by Speak & Spell-era DEPECHE MODE. Fortunately their commitment to a DIY aesthetic really ties this all together, and this collection ends up sounding like an ode to the killer 1981 comp The Thing From the Crypt. It’s a very cool record. If you only listen to one track, make it the cover of “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” It is great!

Girlfriends and Boyfriends Fallacy of Fairness LP

A very polished new wave style-revival (new-new wave?) from Vancouver, Canada. Definitely some heavy English influence, with guitar riffs that don’t stop, dreamy synths, and melodramatic vocals. Some of it errs on the cheesy side, like in “Colour Shining Bright,” which sounds synth-attack-y in the way DEAD OR ALIVE does. If you like this, and want to harken back to that English influence, check out the SAD LOVERS & GIANTS record I reviewed recently. Anyway, Fallacy of Fairness is an all-around fun and sappy album.

Lost Sounds Black Wave 2xLP reissue

Jay Lindsey may well be remembered by some for his solo work as JAY REATARD and his ominously-titled final album Watch Me Fall that came out on Matador shortly before his death in 2010. Or the scrappier punks may lean toward the fatalistic crash-down sounds of his first band the REATARDS that helped solidify the Memphis/Goner Records scene in the late ’90s. On the timeline between these two bands lies LOST SOUNDS. Alicja Trout, Rich Crook, and Jonas Garland joined Lindsey from ’99—’05 and released several dark synth futuristic/apocalyptic punk records that put them between the post-punk and garage scenes of the early aughts. Trout brought in the synth keyboard influence from her old band the CLEARS to craft an evil circus carnival tent revival sound reminiscent of the SCREAMERS, but a lot more pissed-off and skeptical of a post-9/11 world. This double-LP is a reissue of the now out-of-print 2001 album originally on Empty Records and is a great place to start for a newcomer. Side note: Trout, Crook, and Garland are currently playing as SWEET KNIVES, who sound and feel like LOST SOUNDS without Lindsey and are well worth checking out.

Lost Sounds Rats Brains & Microchips LP reissue

A fresh reissue of a garage rock classic. LOST SOUNDS, for those who don’t already know, was a Memphis garage band that formed in the late ’90s and featured the likes of Jay Reatard and Alicja Trout. They stopped playing well before Jay Reatard’s untimely death, but not before putting out a number of seriously cool records. The band relies heavily on somewhat cheesy synthesizers, which gives this record the quirky feel it has. It’s a total blast of some old school garage rock done right. Some might ask, did this need a reissue? I think so, if for no reason other than to highlight this totally badass record. Definitely worth it.

The Manikins Bad Times LP

Mostly due to their tour de force album Crocodiles, this Swedish band stood out from their peers in the mid-2000s stripped-down power-garage-pop period—thinking bands like TRANZMITORS, the SHOCKS, and the HEX DISPENSERS who were reinterpreting the BUZZCOCKS for a post-Bush world. Crocodiles came out in 2008 and I thought the band had hung it up. Over a decade later they are back with a batch of new songs, but had the supporting tour sidelined by the pandemic. The album lacks the production earnestness of Crocodiles, but despite cleaning it up, there is an angsty darkness throughout the album captured best in the tracks “It’s Not Gonna Be OK” and “Worse Than I”. The songwriting and change-ups have allowed the band to expand their sound and even style a bit. The standout track is the mid-tempo “Make a Run for It”. An excellent album that manages not to rehash or revisit a long-gone time but moves forward in a newly defined way.

The Units Live at the Deaf Club 1979 LP

This is an uncovered live recording of the UNITS playing a completely ripping set at early SF punk spot the Deaf Club. Whatever synths they were using must’ve been able to take a beating, because it sounds like they are pummeling the keys and tearing the knobs off the panel here. The set comprises mostly what would be their first LP, and the band is fully frenzied from the start of opener “Cannibals.” The short-circuited arpeggiator, bent timbres, and careening synth squelches are maniacal and still ahead of their time to hear even now. Even with all their futuristic machine sounds, their very human drummer puts a physical power behind the band, giving the songs life and energy. They close out with the all-time hit “High Pressure Days,” with that monstrous backbeat wallop on it that no drum machine could replicate. The recording is astoundingly good, a clear but still gritty document that proves the power of the band in a live setting. The songs are so energetic, catchy, and danceable, and their sound so one of a kind, it still blows my mind that more of the world didn’t catch on to the UNITS at the time, even in the burgeoning rebranding of punk as new wave. Yes, in a better world, we would’ve had a fully-realized SCREAMERS studio album, but in this world, at least the UNITS are getting proper reissues of theirs, and hopefully well-deserved fair due as pioneers.

Trash Knife EP / EP LP

A collection of two EPs from Philadelphia band TRASH KNIFE. The first thing you will notice about this record is that the songs are tight as fuck. The band keeps in rhythm with the precision of a math-rock band and tracks flow one after the next with ease. The songs come down with pummeling chaos and frenetic energy. Think MELT BANANA meets LIGHTNING BOLT in some strange intersection of noise and hardcore. This is a really fun and energetic record. Enough to get you bouncing off the wall and furiously headbanging as any good record should do.

Wristwatch Wristwatch LP

WRISTWATCH asks the question, “What if the SPITS went for more of a synthy dance party vibe?” This is punk rock that turned down the RAMONES and added a lot more DEVO. This is what ATOM AND HIS PACKAGE would sound like much angrier and looking for a fight. This synth-garage duo is charmingly grating and forcibly danceable. You will fail to keep your hips still while jamming to this one. Coming from Madison, Wisconsin, they bring the music like only the Midwest can. If we can get this duo on tour with DEVON KAY & THE SOLUTIONS, KITTEN FOREVER, and DIRECT HIT!, it will be the greatest lineup the greater Milwaukee/Chicago area has spit up in a long time. This is the first release from WRISTWATCH, but if the two members can sit still without going back to their multiple other bands or just creating a few more, this project can have some long and interesting legs. Start with the track “Screwed,” and see if you can stop listening. You won’t. Blast it loud and preferably while standing up with nothing fragile nearby. Better yet, find a show and throw your show dollars at them so they keep it up.