Reviews

Feel It

Advertisement Escorts LP

The second full-length by ADVERTISEMENT is a straight-up rock’n’roll album. Channeling glam rock, TELEVISION, ROXY MUSIC, and other ’70s guitar-driven sounds into a twisting knot of contemporary tunes, ADVERTISEMENT blends Escorts into an album that is easy for listening while maintaining a danceable nod. Your hips are guaranteed to start swinging when the rhythm of “Where is My Baby?” kicks in. Listening, you may find yourself laying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, with all your focus on the density of tonal content, all while allowing the dark, surreal, yet comedic lyrics to sweep through your synapses.

Alicja-Pop I’m Here I’m There / Not Gonna Be Dumb 7″

Guitarist and vocalist Alicja Trout has played with such luminaries as JAY REATARD, the CC RIDERS, and DESTRUCTION UNIT, and also still leads the RIVER CITY TANLINES. Needless to say, ALICJA is full of rock’n’roll chops. ALICJA-POP finds her leading a group of studio musicians on this two-track 45. “I’m Here I’m There” is a rock dreamscape with driving rhythms and jangly guitars setting the tone for ALICJA’s sugary sweet vocal delivery, while “Not Gonna Be Dumb” finds a more angular guitar tone backing and even more syrupy vocalizations. There is a PATTI SMITH vibe hidden in these two tracks, as well as some psych-rock reminiscent of the band WOODS. If you’re a fan of lo-fi pop with a garage rock feel, then definitely check this out.

Alien Nosejob Paint It Clear LP

I reviewed this Australian band’s HC45-2 EP early this year and expected this LP to contain the same kind of manic, freaky garage hardcore. Nope, totally wrong. Paint It Clear sounds like a whole different band, one fed on NEW ORDER and BUGGLES records instead of trashy KBD tapes. Whatever inspired this record, it works—this is a bouncy, fun collection of super catchy pop, complete with crispy drum machine beats, 808 claps, and infectious guitar lines. Paint It Clear is full of charm, with tracks like “Leather Gunn” and “Duplicating Satan” that are pure ’80s Euro-leaning synth-pop. I didn’t think I would be making this reference today, but the loping piano and keyboard ballad, “The Butcher,” sounds like it could have been written by George Harrison with lines like “It is hard to see the sun here / It’s hard to hear the sea here.” If you like power pop or miss the days of acid wash and crunchy bangs, check it out immediately. If you are a rocker with a sweet tooth, give it a listen for something different.

Beef Beef LP

Coming at you straight from the punk rock abattoir that is current-day Cincinnati, BEEF displays flecks of fine gristle amid its marbled fat. Strain the RAMONES out of the SPITS’ playbook, up the DEVO portion, throw in a pinch of spice, and you’re most of the way towards completing this dish. Not much on this LP is gonna last under the heat lamp, but it’ll keep you satisfied. There’s a pleasingly grimey texture to the eight servings offered here—you’ll be grinning like a fool with all that dirt stuck in your teeth. The stakes here are medium, but at least the eggs are relegated to brunch service only.

Cement Shoes Too LP

Fresh, rocking hardcore tunes from Richmond, VA. Right off the leash they remind my Bay-Area-bubble-living ass how fuckheaded life in the South must be with “Unite the Right in Hell,” which actually sounds akin to Damaged-era BLACK FLAG. “Big men all die / Pig men all die / Alt-right all die / I’ll take your head / I’ll take yo’ hat!” Staccato caveman vocal delivery blurts over varied tempos, boosting the character of what could otherwise be a really good but pedestrian punk record. Bizzare but musical punk with a punchy, thick production and enough hardcore sensibilities to appeal to a wider audience. Totally into it.

Choncy 20x Multiplier LP

Those groovy weirdos from Cincinnati CHONCY are back with a 12” vinyl follow-up to last year’s hit tape. Decked out in glitchy scratch-off ticket chic, this rollicking record further demonstrates the band’s “kitchen sink” style, in which elements of punk, post-punk, and hardcore are pieced together to create an ambitious sonic collage. Smart, uninhibited, and overflowing with ideas and energy, this set of songs defies succinct description, offering a poignant surge of originality in each track. Foaming at the mouth one moment and snapping into a friendly guitar jangle the next, there’s never a dull moment. Having an average weekend? Put this on the turntable and monotony doesn’t stand a chance.

Choncy Community Chest cassette

Debut eight-track release which keeps the listener guessing the whole time. We’ve got catchy post-punk, angular artsy punk, driving garage rock, weirdo nasty hardcore/noise rock stuff, this tape is all over the damn place! And I mean that in a good way, in case that didn’t come across as obvious as it was intended. It makes a lot of sense to me that CHONCY is from the wacky city of Cincinnati, OH, one of the more interesting punk scenes in the country currently. After releasing that new album by the DRIN, this seems a lovely addition to the catalog of the powerhouse that is Feel It Records, now that they have relocated to the same aforementioned city. Keep ‘em coming, Sam!

Citric Dummies Zen and the Arcade of Beating Your Ass LP

Killer LP from Minneapolis punks CITRIC DUMMIES, who sound like an amphetamine-fueled MISFITS. I mean it, the singer is pretty much doing a DANZIG impersonation here. Don’t ask me how, but it works. Throughout fourteen tracks, CITRIC DUMMIES stick to their successful formula of straightforward, rabid punk with an occasional pop of color, like the saxophone on “Drugs in the Snow” and the keyboards on “My True Love is Depression” and “Doing Dope at Chucky Cheese.” Overall I recommend it, especially if you need something to play at your next kegger.

Class If You’ve Got Nothing LP

Brilliant follow-up to their fantastic debut—CLASS drops a banger of an album courtesy of Feel It Records. Channeling some truly classic-sounding tones colored in the rosiest tint of ’77-style punk, If You’ve Got Nothing careens from sounding like the BOYS to the sneering power pop of WHITE HEAT. The wizardry of songcrafting is something to behold, with layers of harmonies propelling ordinary melodies into the orbit of a higher plane. CLASS doesn’t sound that much like the EXPLODING HEARTS, but they draw from the same wellspring of influences. The ratio of punk to pop varies from song to song, while the balance is kept consistent. This creates a cohesion that eludes most bands. Subsequently, If You’ve Got Nothing is more than a mere collection of songs that work well together. It’s a proper album, striking gold where others have come up empty-handed. There’s a deftness to what CLASS has achieved here that indicates there will be quite a bit more to come. It’ll be hard to top this, but I’ll be eagerly awaiting the attempt.

Class Epoca de Los Vaqueros LP

Call it hometown pride, but Tucson has really been showing up lately on the broad landscape of excellent rock‘n’roll. This crew in particular is a fast favorite, with a strong debut EP and now this full-length that perfectly walks the tightrope of melodically pleasant and snotty punk. From track to track, CLASS manages to reference the gold standards of the late ’70s (even going so far as to brilliantly steal from “Guns of Brixton” in broad daylight on the track “Incomplete Extraction”). There’s more going on here than hero worship, though, and this band pulls out new tricks and layers of instrumentation that beef up their lush, driving sound at every turn. The songs are so strong, and the ear for detail just sends them home with a charge. I hope 2023 is another prolific year from this keen quartet, because I’m dying to hear more.

Class Class cassette

RIK AND THE PIGS join forces with Jim Colby, one of the all around best musicians I know, to bring us CLASS, with a new cassette tape released on the mighty Feel It Records. Buckle up, folks, and take a little ride with me. Everyone reading MRR knows RIK at this point, and his instantly recognizable voice crooning at you almost intimidatingly on the songs he sings will immediately win over PIGS fans. I’m not entirely sure how many of his Hog Boys RIK was able to wrangle into this project, but teaming them up with Mr. Colby was a helluva move. If Jim Colby is not a household name for you, then that’s a house I’m not sure I care to enter. Jim has been involved with seemingly countless bands spanning many different genres of music, but most notably to the avid Maximum Rocknroll reader, he was the blastermind behind the absolutely killer new wave group from Tucson, AZ, NEW DOUBT, who did a slew of cassette releases, and he was the saxophone player with BROWN SUGAR both live and on the band’s LP. CLASS might first come off as a little confusing, but I urge you to listen to this cassette a few times before you make your mind up about it. A departure from the incredibly nasty lo-fi recordings that helped make RIK AND THE PIGS so special (don’t even get me started on how much I love that last LP), this cassette has impeccably clean production value, each instrument coming through as clear as day. CLASS has different vocalists featured on multiple songs on this tape and feels like there are more than one songwriters taking the reins from song to song. It comes off like a glam rock band or a modern-day version of KISS without the glitter or the gimmick. Well, I haven’t seen them perform live, so maybe there is glitter and makeup and fancy clothes….hmm. I would honestly be quite open to seeing these beautiful ghouls try something like that. Can you tell I’m a fan over here? Pardon me while I flip the tape for yet another listen.

Cold Feet Punk Entity LP

Early-’80s-style USHC that injects XClaim sensibilities aligned most closely with My America: that wall of guitar, vocals in the middle of the snotty-tough spectrum, a specific Bostonian dissonance in some of the chord progressions (which can also be heard on Get It Away), with a more loose and irreverent up-and-down-the-West-Coast sensibility from the same time period, or perhaps some of the slightly later between-LP POISON IDEA odds-and-ends, which were probably drawing from the same well as the latter. In any event, one of the best hardcore bands to come out of Baltimore in years.

Corker Falser Truths LP

Falser Truths explores the depths of post-punk while infusing it with highly experimental and genre-bending elements. The LP’s sonic palette is a tapestry of moody atmospheres, intricate guitar work, and emotive vocals. It’s evident that CORKER has honed their craft to perfection, as each track unfolds with a sense of purpose and artistic vision. What makes this LP stand out is the fearless approach to musical experimentation. This Cincinnati-based band is hard to describe but easy to listen to.

Crime of Passing Crime of Passing LP

A quick internet search will show that these Cincinnatian’s debut LP has garnished a lot of attention, from the likes of the ad-laden music blog site Stereogum, whose home page has a T-SWIFT post this week, to the more obscure minded Post-Trash site, to the questionable composure of myself here at MRR. Why, then? Because, simply, it is very, very good. With a moodiness and cadence like FEHLFARBEN and the energy of SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES, this band has a lot of bases covered: coldwave icy and reverbed-out drums, sculptured post-punk guitar riffs atop driving, high-octave bass, with the disdain of darkwave synth and vocals cast over everything in trailing slow motion. With Dylan McCartney and Dakota Carlyle of fellow Ohio DIY outfits the SERFS and the DRIN, this project is led by frontwoman Andie Luman who, gathering the full force of the band, lulls us into a state of hypnosis and reverie. Although this came out in the spring of 2022, this album is meant for the gray days of fall, the soundtrack of a thunderstorm and cracked brown leaves whipping through the sky.

Delivery Forever Giving Handshakes LP

Melbourne, Australia five-piece that plays in a comfortable place between garage and indie. With all five members contributing to vocals, these songs keep you guessing. “Wear It Well,” and generally the female-sung tracks, remind me of contemporaries AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS, and are scrappier than the male-led songs, which have a more breezy, indie flavor. Lots of trebly guitar riffs on these longer-format songs, with plenty of instrumental breaks between verses featuring carnival keyboard lines. “Baader Meinhof” has a music video on their Bandcamp site, if you want to see these Aussies in action. It took me a few listens, but I think there’s a lot of fun stuff here.

Delivery Personal Effects / The Topic 7″

This Melbourne act follows up a strong debut (2021’s Yes We Do EP), with a new 7”, a split release between Feel It and Spoilsport. You’re getting a song per side on this one. “Personal Effects” is a slower, sax-laden garage-y post-punk number—sounds a lot like Homo-era UV RACE, when that band was at their most VELVET UNDERGROUND-y. “The Topic” sees the band leaning into some of the noiser aspects of that same sound, speeding things up a bit, and underpinning the proceedings with a brooding new wave synth. The vocals are largely rhythmic, chanted by at least two of the members in unison, but there’s an understated melody to them that I found really compelling—like, you wouldn’t call it poppy, but it’s definitely hummable and plays nicely against the harsher elements of the track. Cool stuff! Can we get an LP, please?

Disintegration Time Moves For Me 12″

When I pressed play on the opener “Carry With You,” I was hit with a drum machine and a dirty, farty synth line—like something you’d hear on a NINE INCH NAILS record—then Haley Himiko (PLEASURE LEFTISTS) came in with deep and dark vocals, crooning through the mechanical soundscape from Noah Anthony (PROFILIGATE), Christopher Brown (CLOUD NOTHINGS), and Paul Ryan (solo project under his name). A little coldwave, a little goth, a little synth punk, and a lot Cleveland. Songs are on the longer side, the shortest being three-and-a-half minutes, so you get good mileage out of these four tracks. The last song (“Make a Wish”) has a music video, if you want to see the team at work. I believe this is the first recording from the group, and I hope they keep at it. Lovers of the off-kilter and avant-garde, apply within.

Erik Nervous Immaturity LP

ERIK NERVOUS returns to a solo project for this interesting, self-taught Indiana DIY release that actually rips. Everything was done by ERIK NERVOUS himself, except the mastering—it’s an exquisite mix of new wave, punk rock, and synth punk that really works. Energetic with a sick punch and a very well-achieved sound, heavily recommended for synth punk lovers. Favorite tracks: “Comfortable” and “Third Layer.”

Fashion Pimps & the Glamazons Jazz 4 Johnny LP

Twisted, expertly-played art-punk wotzit courtesy of known quantities from the long-lived Cle freak scene. The list of current/former bands of those involved would be quite lengthy but let’s note DONKEY BUGS, CLOUD NOTHINGS, and RAZAK SOLAR SYSTEM. The vocals have an undeniable SPRAY PAINT waver, but the music is slippery, wriggling like an angry eel. Dipping a handful of toes in synth punk while lunging towards noise rock spazzery, FASHION PIMPS are like KITCHEN & THE PLASTIC SPOONS moonlighting on the Subterranean Records roster.

Flea Collar Flea Collar LP

Spot, Sparky, Cookie, and Blitz—members of BAD NOIDS, BROWN SUGAR, and WOODSTOCK ’99 and current Cleveland weirdos—drop their debut LP on Feel It. Nine tracks of gremlin-y hardcore bound to induce the zoomies in all you puppers and doggos. Sounds like a mix of ’80s hard rock, the STALIN, and a survey of USHC from ’81–’95. Closing track “In the Abyss of the Eclipse” even has a bit of a dum-dum “Third Stone From the Sun” vibe because, well, why wouldn’t it? Real good stuff! Best of all, you get to see this gorgeous watercolor cover art and the lyrics lovingly rendered on a gatefold sleeve so you have no trouble reading along with tracks like “Buttcrack Man” and “Jacken It”!

Freak Genes Hologram LP

Having formed in 2016, this is FREAK GENES’ fifth LP, on which we find eclectic synth punk from the duo of Charlie Murphy and Andrew Anderson. These dudes have played in a bunch of bands (RED CORDS, HIPSHAKES, HOLIDAY GHOST, and PROTO IDIOT), none of which I’ve listened to, but all that is to say that they seem to have a plethora of creative output. This is one of those bands that has created their own universe, and plays by the rules of their creation: there may not be gravity, there may be hover-cars with cassette decks, and there’s definitely something in the drinking water. I looked up footage of live shows, and I was really hoping for some DEVO-style showmanship with matching outfits and dance moves, but sadly, this was not the case. Just saying, I think y’all could pull it off. If synth punk is your thing, this will surely scratch the itch.

Freak Genes Power Station LP

Andrew Anderson (HIPSHAKES, PROTO IDIOT) and Charlie Murphy (RED CORDS), a couple of garage punkers turned synth-poppers, bring us their fourth LP as FREAK GENES and their first for Feel It. Anything that gets Mr. Feel It’s seal of approval warrants your attention, so I went into this with an open mind after (unfairly) writing these dudes off due to a string of bad album covers. I really dig this cover, though—great use of foil stamping! Anyway, the tunes! This is a solid collection of budget electro-pop. It’s punker than YAZ and poppier than FRONT 242. A couple of the tracks can get a little goofy/grating, but if you like well-constructed, catchy tunes and can stomach cheesy synths, there’s plenty to like on this LP.

Fried Egg Square One LP

This is one of the best releases I’ve heard in 2019. Imagine Damaged-era BLACK FLAG, with vocals that sound like HOAX, and some VOID-esque riffs thrown in the mix. The whole package—the music, the lyrics, the album art—sort of has this sense of yuckiness to it: the discomfort you might feel from, say, stepping in puke. Two things really bring that out: the sporadic BLACK FLAG-y single-note lead riffs, and the raw screaming of hella self-deprecating lyrics such as “Tongue turns to jelly / The thoughts in my belly / Fist to my forehead / Frustration” and “Existing for existence’s sake / Consuming for consumption’s sake / When it comes to things / I only take.”

Good Looking Son Fantasy Weekend 12″

This is some fantastic pop music. It’s soft and pretty and kind of reminds me of bands like the SHINS. I’m guessing these guys grew up on a steady diet of ’60s garage music with a sprinkling of folk thrown in. It’s got a certain etherealness to it. It could be the vocals or it could be the controlled and measured pace. I really dig this.

Grazia In Poor Taste EP

Debut EP from London’s GRAZIA. Four tracks of bleeding-mascara garage pop dressed in thrift store chic spandex and leather. Nervous little guitar jabs, mid-tempo drums, wobbly synth, and almost vocal-fry-esque vocals that are resonant and syrupy. Fun release, check out the two music videos of “Cheap” and “Stupid Paradise” to get in the spirit.  Worried the record jacket won’t match your favorite neon? No problem, choose between fuchsia, lemon, or green!

Green/Blue Paper Thin LP

GREEN/BLUE’s second release of 2022, and third album to date, Paper Thin is a chilly take on post-punk. The songs achieve a balance between bleak Midwestern moodiness and tranquility-inspiring tenderness. “Floating Eye” comes as an interlude, and is the most brilliant song of the lot, with a slowly plucked bassline, soft vocals, and no drums—it lulls me into a state of peace and happiness. If that sounds nice, then give this a listen, and if you’ve enjoyed their previous work, there’s no doubt this will be in your new rotation.

Green/Blue Worry / Gimme Hell 7″

This Minneapolis act featuring folks from the BLIND SHAKE and the SOVIETTES is once again teaming up with Feel It, bringing you their third release of 2022! And it’s a bit of a tonal shift from their prior two LPs. Where those records borrowed heavily from new wave, shoegaze, and indie pop to make dark but airy compositions, the two tracks on this 7” are much more straightforward, stripped-down, and anthemic. There’s still some darkness to be found here thanks to some overdriven one(ish)-chord riffs and thick, primitive drumming, both of which sound like they’ve been pulled straight from White Light/White Heat, really imbuing these tracks with some of that record’s seediness. Most of that is tempered by the vocals though, which are anything but dark. Annie Holoien and Jim Blaha tackle vocal duties together, simultaneously belting out melodies that are pretty sweet and uplifting. The end result is something like a bizarro-world version of the VELVET UNDERGROUND put together by the folks behind UP WITH PEOPLE. It’s a combination that I’d probably shy away from if I’d just read about it, but turns out it really works in practice. Give it a listen!

Heavy Mother This Time Around LP

This Bloomington outfit features an original member of the GIZMOS and some of the COWBOYS and, if I understand the weird write-up correctly, is a resurrected old band from the ’70s. It’s pretty close to some of the GIZMOS in sound, but leaning more towards the SEEDS and SONICS’ (whom they cover) garage with maybe a little NEW YORK DOLLS or HEARTBREAKERS thrown in, like on “Don’t Talk To Me.” Drinking corn liquor in a field and heading to a roadhouse is the vibe here, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Skip the hangover and pick this up instead.

Heavy Mother Comical Uncertainty cassette

On the heels of their debut album from last year, HEAVY MOTHER drops a hefty slab of scuzzy rock’n’roll that just oozes with mojo. Three originals and three covers spread across twenty-six minutes of rowdy, raunchy garage punk featuring a bona fide all-star cast. Their lead vocalist, Eddie Flowers, was in the GIZMOS, for fuck’s sake! There’s a guest appearance by Craig Bell of ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS! We’re talking a Midwestern proto-punk hall of fame here, not to mention that half the members were in the COWBOYS. I’m often disappointed by these groups that sound so good on paper, yet HEAVY MOTHER exceeds expectations by exacting the sonic punishment their pedigree dictates: perfectly trashy, obnoxious, loud rock’n’roll. From the brilliantly depraved opening track “Friday Night (Blackout!),” to the phenomenal rendition of the VELVET UNDERGROUND’s “Foggy Notion,” HEAVY MOTHER is firing on all cylinders. An indefectibly stripped-down production gives Comical Uncertainty a ’60s-inspired haze, fueled by reverb. Toss DEAD MOON and ELECTRIC EELS into the cauldron along with the aforementioned bands and you’ll get a whiff of what HEAVY MOTHER is cooking up. Spicy!

It Thing Constant State / P.C.H. 7″

Anger and energy-infused female-fronted punk from the island of Tasmania, echoing the spirit of the GITS, BRATMOBILE, and X-RAY SPEX with an angrier Poly Styrene delivering the vocals. The two fast, assertive, and tough tracks will make you want to check out their entire catalog (especially 2021’s stellar full-length Syrup) or dust off your LUNACHICKS CDs from the early ’90s.

Leopardo Malcantone LP

I picture LEOPARDO being some kind of hippy, freeform communal group. Their music is an eclectic collection of styles. There’s the usual instrumentation—guitars, bass, drums—but also banjo, synths, percussion, drum machine. It gives you a feel of people just bringing whatever they want to the group and seeing what happens. Yet, this record still seems cohesive. There’s poppy songs. There’s psychedelic songs. Some are slow. Some are upbeat. It’s a record for listening while lying down.

Lysol Down the Street EP

Straight up-and-down punk rock, a little offbeat, and sounding like it was recorded in a storage unit. LYSOL has that gloomy Pacific NW dirge and nihilism in spades. It’s Kings of Punk for the new young turks sniffin’ glue. I would pay to see them. Maybe break some glass on the stage and see what happens. Keep an eye on these cats.

Lysol Soup For My Family LP

LYSOL has been unleashing its freak vibe for awhile now, but it’s been a couple years since we last heard the gutter-dancing slop the band traffics in. Soup For My Family comes off like the U-MEN squeezed through a Crypt Records strainer. While foregrounding turbo-charged garage-punk (“C-4,” “Can’t Win”), the quartet finds enough cracks in the sidewalk to maintain their cool and swing like a rock band should. LYSOL is the kind of band that can turn a basement hardcore show into a whiskey-soaked bacchanal. While still outputting tons of wattage, LYSOL sounds kinda raggedy, but in a good way—like all those hangovers were worth it. I can’t imagine the members of MUDHONEY wouldn’t listen to “Glasgow Smile” and break into shit-eating grins. Or you, for that matter.

Man-Eaters Twelve More Observations on Healthy Living LP

Chicago’s bad boys of rock return to slay with their second LP! I don’t know if that’s really accurate, but it starts out this review with a nice bang. Members of CÜLO, TARANTÜLA, etc. give it another go as their hard-rockin’, head-scarf-wearing ’70s cock-rock alter egos. The combination of classic-era hard rock and punk is nothing new these days—bands like JACK SAINTS, FANTASY LANE, MÖWER, and most noticeably ANNIHILATION TIME have tread this well-worn path before. With BLACK FLAG, SAINT VITUS, and the OBSESSED as their godfathers, these Chicago gents do a fine job of dirtheaded guitar worship. It feels like MAN-EATERS are a little more on the tongue-in-cheek parody side of this genre though, and they definitely fall more on the THIN LIZZY side with lots of boogie guitar licks and high struttin’ tude. My complaints here are that the guitar is not loud enough and the effects on the vocals are annoying as fuck. It’s a little too long for my attention span, but the artwork is cool and they’re probably a hoot(?) live. Smoke it…get high.

Man-Eaters Gentle Ballads for the Simple Soul LP

MAN-EATERS emerged from the corpse of TARANTÜLA who emerged from the corpse of CÜLO and if you know the lore of those bands you’ll be primed for Gentle Ballads for the Simple Soul being a sinewy salvo of chemically-altered rocking hardcore punk. You’ll get that, to a point, but you may be unprepared for how vast and preening the riffs are on this thing. A clear-as-daylight love of ’70s arena rock and proto-metal is baked into each of these ten songs: some of the solos could have been ripped from a NAZARETH record, or something equally archaic and pointedly pre-hardcore. The movie sample intros are like something you’d hear on an ELECTRIC WIZARD joint, and “Man-Eaters” (who among us doesn’t love a self-titled song?) tips things into FU MANCHU levels of gum-chewing dudeliness, but tempos here are generally amphetamine-fast. Danny Babirusa—formerly of BLEEDING GUMS, and the only non-ex-TARANTÜLA member—is the perfect vocalist for this sound, one which plenty of bands from POISON IDEA to TURBONEGRO to ANNIHILATION TIME have offered up before, but if anyone’s doing it as well as MAN-EATERS right now they’ve evaded my ears.

Morwan Зола-Земля (Zola-Zemlya) LP

MORWAN is the solo project of Kiev-based artist Alex Ashtaui. My worry prior to listening to this was that it was gonna be more ’80s Eastern Bloc post-punk cosplay, Á  la MOLCHAT DOMA (whom I like, but don’t need more of!). This is resoundingly not that! Tonally, it’s not dissimilar—it’s definitely on the gothier end of the punk spectrum, and I can see TikTok teens co-opting snippets to soundtrack their #sovietvibes videos. But the sound here is much more organic and relies on post-punk as a foundation to build atop rather than a sound to emulate. Vocals are multi-tracked chants that echo as though recorded in some imposing brutalist atrium. The guitar and bass lines remind me of the surf/psych instrumentals coming out of Pakistan in the late ’60s (like the MODS or the PANTHERS), and the drum patterns are intricate to the point of sounding programmed (in that respect, it even reminds me of AMON TOBIN’s 2005 album Chaos Theory). All of these elements are extremely rhythmic yet are woven together to create a sound that’s overtly melodic and much warmer than you’d think given its “Eastern European Post-Punk” label. But maybe most strikingly, this album makes me want to move—not necessarily dance—just…move. Really, it’s hard to overstate how original this record sounds and just how impressive it is. Absolutely fantastic!

Morwan Svitaye, Palaye cassette

Kyiv-based MORWAN’s third release of post-punk/darkwave was recently made during the most challenging circumstances any band could face (for obvious reasons). This is Alex Ashtaui’s document of life during wartime, and for that reason alone, it should have your full attention. The record pounds an atmospheric, tribal, surf-inflected psych sound into each track, addressing war and the havoc that surrounds it.  The cassette needs to be heard in full, with each song building on the next. It is one of the more impressive pieces of music that I have heard this year. Start with “Полетіли” and “Земля палає,” and it’s hard not to see the importance of this recording.

Motorbike Motorbike LP

Not quite what I expected here, prematurely judging it from the primitive biker scrawl of a cover. This Cincinnati band made up of Ohioan and Welsh members who’ve done time in other bands you might know (look it up, lazy) has made the connection between MOTÖRHEAD/ROSE TATTOO-style hard-charging rock’n’roll and the shoegazing Britpop of OASIS/MY BLOODY VALENTINE. No, really. It’s post-punk metal-ish hard rock that leads one (well, me) into visions of a subtler, more introspective MC roaring through the Ohio flatlands, stopping only to talk philosophy at the local coffee mill. The title track, “Throttle,” “Life Is Hell,” and “Pressure Cooker” are tops. Swell. Vrrooooom.

Optic Sink Glass Blocks LP

OPTIC SINK conjures memories of the minimalist electronic delivery of SUICIDE or the art-punk vibe of CRASH COURSE IN SCIENCE. “A Silver Key Can Open an Iron Lock, Somewhere” is a cover of Switzerland’s LILIPUT, and connects OPTIC SINK’s sound to the icy pop of Northern Europe. There are elements of austere post-punk which draw parallels to bands like DELTA 5. While most bands are busy attempting to develop an overwhelmingly full sound, OPTIC SINK takes the opposite course and leaves vast expanses of audible space. Pop delivery is tempered with frosty dissociation, all while synthesized noises develop fresh euphonious environments.

Pleasant Mob Irene / Trees & Flowers cassette

A two-song cassingle of chiming psychedelic softness with all the fixins—McGuinn-ish twelve-string, a groovy bass line for you to sway to, some tambourine shimmer. There’s even a flute! Second song is a strummy hummy “la-la-la”-laden cover of a STRAWBERRY SWITCHBLADE tune.

Pleasure Leftists The Gate LP

In their first release since 2015, PLEASURE LEFTISTS return with ten brooding yet upbeat post-punk tracks. The songs are awash with emotion and interweaving layers of instruments, while singer Haley’s vocals cut through with dramatic melodies. The deathrock sound is still present, with a strong SIOUSXIE AND THE BANSHEES, ’80s-style undertow. What the band gains through restraint and thoughtfulness here leads to a sound that is solid, but a bit less adventurous than their original 2015 full-length, The Woods of Heaven. Recorded by Stan Wright of ARCTIC FLOWERS, it’s beautifully and intentionally produced without sounding over-produced.

Power The Fool / Give It All to Me 7″

Motherfucking POWER is back! I have to admit, I lost track of these Aussie faves after their supreme Road Dog EP. and heard rumors that they’d even broken up?! But fret not, for our heroes haven’t faded to dust, they’ve simply metamorphosed from mullet-headed Lobby Lloyd worshipers into a two-wheeled, leather-clad, NWOBHM loving monster. No poodle heads or spandex here, though. “The Fool” is fucking MOTÖRHEAD. Like if MOTÖRHEAD went on a three-day bender and had to sell a bass drum for speed money. Shredding. “Give it All to Me” is SWEET SAVAGE, FIST, and the first BLITZKRIEG single all rolled together, but hard and street, maybe a little like “Shylock” by BUFFALO. Totally great record that I’ve been spinning nonstop for almost a month now. I should try to sleep, but I can’t wait to see what these mates have in store next.

Private Lives Hit Record LP

Feel It Records continues a white-hot streak of releases with this Montreal act’s latest release, a spiky, lovely, and scuffed batch of garage pop tracks. It’s impressive to hear big, bold ideas captured again and again within two-minute runtimes, blending influences from ’90s alt sounds to ’80s post-punk and convincingly noisy production on tracks like the chilly “Head/Body” and “Misfortune.” It’s a solid outing and doesn’t wear out its welcome, and while it might not immediately jump to classic status to my ear, it definitely claws me back for repeated listening.

Private Lives Private Lives cassette

Debut release from this Montréal group that started as a husband-and-wife project during the pandemic. Now actualized as a four-piece, PRIVATE LIVES present five garage-y, post-punk songs with surf-pop drums and fuzzed-out guitars that drop into wiry riffs between distorted vocals, reminding me of CO-ED who I reviewed a while back. In general, this is hard to not enjoy: poppy enough to be catchy, heavy enough to be rollicking, rough enough to retain its edge. Looking forward to what’s next from these Quebecers.

Protruders Poison Future LP

A loose and odd duckling from Montreal. PROTRUDERS try their hand at all manner of agitated sounds: A pumpin’ take on trad’ rock’n’roll that’s instinctively punk and off in the right sorta way. Their attitudinal reference points seem to (mostly) sprout from the world of Cle’ proto-punk, with “Wrong Way Sign” (the six plus minute centerpiece) recalling so much MIRRORS or ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS magic that I’m liable to cite that alone as worth the price of admission. After repeated listens (yes, it prompts them), I dig the longer, room-to-roam moments over the more direct numbers, but even the chopped and speedy “Stabilizer” crumbles coolly. Quality beef here, folks, ’specially for the zonked hairballs out there.

Qlowski Quale Futuro? LP

First, the future was denied. Then a different one was fought for. Then realist capitalism settled among us and absorbed and neutralized any hint of rebellion until it flattened reality and returned us to a path that is, in fact, a dark tunnel to nothingness. Nihil. The London band QLOWSKI wonders what future or futures can be envisaged under the current circumstances. And they do it with an impeccably well-constructed work, full of urgent, edgy, tense songs that use the tools of post-punk and new wave to create little treatises on the things that matter: the everyday vignette that glimpses a potent poetic image, frustration and weariness transmuted into dreams that invade real life, noise as a knife to tear the veil of suffocating reality, creating cracks for desire, possibility and hope to seep through. It is truly beautiful. Referentially, you can detect the early OMD melodic spirit, the cubist punk edge of SWELL MAPS, the majestic simplicity of New Zealand punk, the dark romanticism of after punk. The references are just that, references that serve to orient you in the hanging garden of QLOWSKI, a garden full of pleasures oscillating between melancholy and the golden light of twee, whatever that may mean to you. Two good songs to enter this world are “Larry’s Hair Everywhere,” with that wonderful noise freakout in the middle, and the track that closes the album, a Lynch-esque tour de force, “In a Cab to Work ft Les Miserable.”

Romero Turn It On! LP

From Australia, this female-fronted band delivers eleven tracks of solid, traditional power pop with an occasional nod to new wave. At times, I’m reminded of both the EPOXIES and the PLASTIC TONES. It’s super catchy and uptempo for the most part, but they can slow it down at times. Some of the slower cuts have a certain moodiness to them. They’re super tight and the production is crisp without sounding over-produced. That can be a fine line. Really nicely done.

Silicone Prairie Vol. II LP

Ian Teeple’s one talented dude. His unconventional guitar work is largely responsible for making WARM BODIES one of the most unique hardcore acts and all-around best bands of the ’10s. NATURAL MAN BAND, his egg-punk follow-up project, stood out in a genre largely defined by its sameness, even feeling somewhat like high art compared to the other records coming out of that same scene due to Ian’s unique, freewheelin’ style of making music. His first record as SILICONE PRAIRIE, a bit of a COVID-era solo-recording extension of what he was doing with NATURAL MAN BAND, saw him expanding his sonic palette, freeing him of some of genre constraints that were potentially hemming in his earlier work. Even through its Pure Guava-esque bedroom pop tape warble, you could tell My Life on the Silicone Prairie was an intricately produced labor of love absolutely brimming with creativity. Vol. II continues this trend—he’s jettisoned more of the herky-jerky punk that he made his bones with, and has replaced it with even more intricate compositions. A track like “Mirror on the Wall” starts out as another breathy WEEN pop number until some jaunty flute melody that wouldn’t sound out of place on a SUFJAN STEVENS track gets layered in, alongside some guitar that sounds like it was pulled from a sped-up version of the ISLEY BROTHERS’ “That Lady.” It’s certainly a unique sound. Overall, the record has more of a jazzy soft rock vibe than the last record, and it reminded me at times of stuff like the SEA AND CAKE’s Oui, STEELY DAN, a new-age infomercial, and even the STEVE MILLER BAND. It’s a record that I truly do have an appreciation for, and in a lot of respects it’s infinitely bolder and more creative than most of the stuff I like. But I have to stop short of saying that I enjoyed the album, because I do not really like any of the things that I reference above (except for maybe new-age infomercials—those rule).

Silicone Prairie My Life on the Silicone Prairie LP

Keeping the Midwestern punk freak flag flying high, Kansas CIty’s SILICONE PRAIRIE arrives with a dense, hooky, high-speed genre-hopping LP mixing elements of the FEELIES, DEVO, synth pop, folk, and even glam rock. This is the work of Ian Teeple from WARM BODIES and NATURAL MAN BAND, but unlike those outfits, SILICONE PRAIRIE takes a bit more work to untangle and get into. The songs are dizzying helium bursts of energy, taking wild turns combining familiar but irreconcilable (or so I thought) genres. It’s kind of an amazing act of dexterity. It made my head hurt at first, but so did PERE UBU the first time I heard The Modern Dance. It truly is one of those records that grows on you and reveals itself after a bunch of listens. I can’t quite figure out what is and isn’t satire here, but it is nothing if not inspired. “Silicone Prairie”—the song, not the band—is hook city, but could also pass for a phased-out- sounding theme to a ’70s sitcom. The song ejects before the two-minute mark and gives way to a folky number that smacks of 4-track lo-fidelity. Then there’s my favorite, “Song for Patrick Cowley,” a tribute to the electronic music pioneer that lacks the ironic detachment of the rest of the record. “Come Away” ends the whole affair on some worn-down cassette bedroom pop. A daring and oddball collection of music. I approve.

Single Bullet Theory c. ’79 12″

Here’s an interesting slice of rock’n’roll history, mined from the vault of a largely overlooked band hailing from Richmond, Virginia circa 1979 (hence the title). The story of SINGLE BULLET THEORY is one of near misses and many woes, exemplifying a struggle that I imagine was all too common in the world of late ’70s rock music—trying to forge a path in the music biz while holding down a day job, being on the cusp of breaking through without ever really breaking through. Despite supporting the PRETENDERS on multiple tours, and opening for the RAMONES, TALKING HEADS, and PATTI SMITH, things never quite fell into place for SINGLE BULLET THEORY. Their sole full-length from 1982 didn’t seem to capture the apparent energy of their live performances, and from what I’ve read, the band was often pulled in opposing directions by various producers and record execs trying to wring some cash out of their sound. The four songs here may well be the best representation of the band to find its way onto vinyl, 44 years later. These tunes would be right at home on one of the Teenage Treats comps, blending power pop, garage, and new wave with some impressive musical chops. Hints of the RAMONES, the PLIMSOULS, and the RASPBERRIES shine through and there’s just enough grit in the production to retain their own character in spite of the aging patina of corporate monkeying from yesteryear.

Slump Flashbacks from Black Dust County LP

It’s funny. Since I quit doing drugs some time back, I find myself drawn more and more to dirgy, druggy music, especially of the lysergic variety. While this RVA band is nothing that I would listen to while tripping balls, this is a pretty great record. LSD-fused music rarely hits it right, as one person’s idea of what good acid rock is usually completely different from another’s. While mine is the BUTTHOLE SURFERS, ROKY, the FROGS, Saturday morning cartoons, or the sound of a running toilet, yours may be HAWKWIND or SPACEMEN 3, to which much of this platter definitely pays tribute, with all the endless Moog effects. CAPTAGON did this on their excellent demo tape a few years back but, alas, rocked much harder than these guys. Side two picks up the pace a little, and catches the ears a lot harder, but overall I really dig this record. For fans of the aforementioned bands, and ’90s favorites like the FLUID or CULT. Dare I say groovy. Ughh.

Smarts Who Needs Smarts Anyway? LP

I’m not exactly sure when meme-spawned punk sub-genre classifications first officially entered the unironic press material lexicon, but we might have reached peak egg-punk with the debut LP from SMARTS—there’s an “egghead” joke just waiting to be made there. As seemingly mandated in Australia, there’s substantial member crossover between SMARTS and a number of recent OZ DIY all-stars, some less eggy (PARSNIP) than others (AUSMUTEANTS, HIEROPHANTS, ALIEN NOSEJOB, etc.), and while Who Needs Smarts Anyway? isn’t a major departure from anything that the latter subset has produced, it does kind of seem like it could have been generated through a machine learning algorithm designed to come up with a prototypical band in this style. The sort of uptight, hardcore-velocity anxiety hammering employed by URANIUM CLUB, blaring new wave-via-Lumpy Records (by way of the DEADBEATS) sax that’s not nearly as abrasive or punctuated as this kind of panic-punk truly calls for, snotty rapid-fire vocals delivering lyrics focused on the omnipresence of pocket computers (“Smart Phone”), the minutiae of everyday life as expressed through household products (“Cling Wrap”), and the inescapable iconography of corporate culture (“Golden Arches”)—check, check, double check. Been searching for a band even more to the right of the CONEHEADS and UROCHROMES on the egg/chain spectrum?

Smirk Material LP

When George W. Bush took office in 2001, there was a certain subset of punks that, in a beleaguered search for a silver lining, would say “at least we’ll get some good bands out of this.” Along the same line of thinking, I suppose one could consider that Ronald Reagan was a bigger influence on hardcore than, say, John Lydon. In 2023, the impact of the (ongoing) COVID-19 pandemic on music is just beginning to come into focus. One aspect of this that has become clear is the proliferation of solo recording projects. Case in point: Nick Vicario’s SMIRK. What began as home-recorded “cassettes-de-quarantine” has become a fully realized entity. On the heels of 2021’s utterly fantastic seven-song EP on Total Punk, SMIRK has graced us with a proper full-length album. Material showcases Vicario’s songwriting brilliance on a whole new level. Everything here is so exquisitely dialed-in. The ten songs encompass a broad range of sounds. Flitting from the starkly angular, anxiety-ridden opener “Material World’s Unfair,” to the power-pop-inspired jangle of “Souvenir,” Vicario weaves it all together seamlessly. There are nods along the way to sonic pioneers like WIRE and MAGAZINE, but Material is largely free of anything approaching nostalgia. This is an album very much of its time. I’m not one to jump at a chance to call something classic, and certainly time will tell when it comes to how well pandemic-era projects hold up in the long term, but this record has been burning up many more turntables than my own, and sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade. Nick Vicario is an alchemist and SMIRK is pure fucking gold.

Smirk Smirk LP

This one is too upbeat to be classified as a pandemic project. Yet, I suppose when you start something in 2020 it is impossible to avoid the connection. Under that sunny exterior lurks some annoyance and frustration. SMIRK is the solo project of PUBLIC EYE’s Nick Vicario, playing jangly, bright, minimalist pop. The vocals are a bit bratty. My fave is “Goons on the Beach,” which I will assume is about watching spring break idiots on TV. Good times.

Spllit Infinite Hatch LP

Challenging, avant-garde post-post-punk, pushing beyond the outer bounds of the sonic parameter staked out on their previous album, Spllit Sides, also on Feel It. This is a dense collection of songs! Although SPLLIT sounds nothing like CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, I assume this would appeal to someone for whom Trout Mask Replica is casual listening. Or maybe fans of the RESIDENTS? Angular anti-pop with swirling, chirping synths and alternating male/female vocals. In their more motorik moments, I think of FAUST and NEU!, though SPLLIT is more often scratchy and abrasive, with jerky tempo changes and atypical time signatures. Is this what math rock for egg-punks sounds like?

Spllit Spllit Sides LP

Genuine oddball art-punk out of Baton Rouge, LA of all places. This duo, who’ve been making music together since 2019, wowed Feel It into issuing their vinyl debut, so you know it’s gonna be good. And it is! Slotting in somewhere among the contemporary minimal post-punk of the WORLD, the weirder tracks on the Red Snerts compilation, and, like, an all-marimba C.C.T.V. cover band, it’s easily the most “out there” thing Sam has released this year (not an easy feat when you look back on what he’s put out!). I want to say that the easiest comparison to make is to THIS HEAT’s Deceit, but that’s not quite right. This is maybe as experimental as that record, but Spllit Sides is much breezier and just more fun. And as much as I like Deceit and know it’s an absolute classic, I’m almost certain to revisit this LP more often. Anyway, this record has confounded me enough that I’m having trouble weaving these in organically, so I’m just going to list out the rest of the things it reminded me of at times: the German band TRIO, some prog rock band that I couldn’t put my finger on, WEEN (sans their cringy lyrics), the soundtrack to an Atari game. Just buy it already!

Spread Joy II LP

Chicago’s SPREAD JOY appeared on the scene with their self-titled debut last year, and now they’ve returned with a second full-length on Feel It. And much like their first, this is not a record that overstays its welcome, clocking in at just over seventeen tightly-wound minutes. Channeling LILIPUT and SUBURBAN LAWNS, Briana Hernandez wails, whines, and squeals alongside jittery, scrabbling guitar lines and clean, taut drum beats. Forty-five-second-long opener “Ow” is frenzied and breathless, a burst of delirious punk energy. Lead single “Repetition” is at least initially powered by a riff similar to “Unoriginal” from the first record (which was itself swiped from “Three Girl Rhumba”), before it mutates into something altogether more punchy and abrasive (and still doesn’t surpass two minutes).The two longest tracks on the album, “Ich Sehe Dich” and “Languages,” show what the band can accomplish when given a little more space to stretch out and explore. II is a worthwhile sophomore effort, and proves to me that SPREAD JOY are one of the most invigorating bands operating in the neo-post-punk sphere today. Joyful!

Spread Joy Spread Joy LP

Après-punk Chicago-style, triangulated somewhere between the loopy contempo new wave of various Lumpy-backed outfits (PINEAPPLE RNR, NATURAL MAN, etc.) and the recent Midwestern iteration of cutting, tightly-wound post-DEVO precision (think URANIUM CLUB, but with a major Rough Trade fixation). Briana Hernandez’s giddy, animated shrieks and matter-of-fact narrations have a definite Su Tissue edge, slipping into German on the brightly Neue Deutsche Welle-tinted “Kanst Du” and even subverting the “don’t you want to wait around” vocal hook from KLEENEX’s “Ain’t You” on “Unoriginal” (with a knowing wink in that title?)—if you’re going to steal, steal from the greats. Ten songs in under fourteen minutes, truly econo-jamming, but when the anxious, spring-loaded rhythms relent just slightly and SPREAD JOY hits a looser, spiraling art-punk scratch on “Ba-Ba” and “Music for the Body,” I can’t help but wish that some of those minute-long tracks had been stretched to at least double or triple their running time for maximum human movement potential. Indulge!

Star Party Meadow Flower LP

As soon as I heard this Seattle duo’s late-2020 demo cassette, I was all in. Their punky blend of pops, both dream and indie (imagine LUSH or RIDE playing SHOP ASSISTANTS tracks), was exactly what I needed at the time. While the production seemed to imply large, cavernous spaces that mirrored the cold, empty world I was seeing outside my apartment, the shimmery guitars and cozy melodies swaddled me in warmth, reassuring me that we’d be outside soon enough, enjoying a world full of the bright flowers depicted on the demo’s cover. My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough of it—I needed more! Thankfully, Carrie Brennan and Ian Corrigan (GEN POP, VEXX) got to work, and about a year-and-a-half later, delivered just that. Meadow Flower is eight more tracks of dreamy, life-affirming pop—a perfect soundtrack to get back out in the world and revel in all the things it has to offer, fittingly released at the beginning of a literal and metaphorical Spring. It’s just lovely.

Star Party Demo 2020 cassette

STAR PARTY is a GEN POP offshoot that throws down a glittering gauntlet on this teaser tape. Drenched in sheets of glorious early Creation Records fuzz, “No Excuse” hits hardcore velocity while singer Carrie Brennan is perfectly dialed in on the reverb. But it’s “Veil of Gauze” that really impresses. “Gauze” is so good that it can hold its own with the excellent version of the SHOP ASSISTANTS’ “Something To Do” that precedes it. And just when you think you know the score, STAR PARTY covers a BOB DYLAN-penned early CHER tune (“All I Really Wanna Do”) and conjures fond memories of the AISLERS SET. When’s the single?

Sugar Tradition More Sugar LP

Wow. This one is a rocker. There is guitar and bass and drums and harmonica and even tambourine. I’m not sure I’ve ever described a record as being heavy, but here it is. This record is heavy. It’s also a catchy and melodic rager. This is contained insanity. If you had told me this was released in 1969, I’d have believed you. It’s totally authentic that way, but not in a Nuggets or Pebbles sort of way, in a heavy sort of way. As the LYRES were to Boston, so are SUGAR TRADITION to Detroit. That’s rad.

Sweeping Promises Hunger for a Way Out LP

SWEEPING PROMISES is the latest project from Lira Mondal and Caufield Schnug, who have been behind an ever-growing list of groups responsible for some of the best music to come out of Boston over the past few years (in particular, last year’s cassette collection from their coldwave outfit DEE-PARTS demands your attention). Hunger for a Way Out was recorded using a single microphone in a vacant concrete lab just before mass isolation became our collective reality, and the band’s stark, direct approach perfectly reflects both of the physical setting in which their debut LP took shape, as well as the greater social context in which it would be later received. One of my favorite PYLON songs is an ultra-lo-fi, pre-Gyrate practice space demo called “Functionality,” and SWEEPING PROMISES have extended the raw material of that one track into an entire full-length record: shocks of bare-wire guitar, rhythms guided by infinite-loop bass lines, and the deadly-serious repetition of lyrical demands (check that “Pick your jaw up off the ground / Take your seat” line in “Out Again”). Part of what made the school of ’78-’82 so inspiring was the idea of working within and embracing limitations (whether inherent or self-imposed) to create something interesting, and those lessons have definitely been applied in the overall minimalism-in-mono aesthetic of Hunger for a Way Out, but Lira’s powerful, expressive vocals ultimately push things to a place that transcends any typical off-kilter and untrained DIY art-punk reference points—her voice is so effortlessly perfect that any of these songs could have been massive pop hits if they’d been presented in a slightly different form. Album of the fucking year, y’all.

Teenage Cenobite Live cassette

Driving, nasty synth-punk. Richmond, VA has got something special here. Six songs recorded live and sounding better than a majority of demos I usually hear. TEENAGE CENOBITE originally began as a solo project, but after releasing their first cassette has become a full-on live band that, from the sound of this tape, are an unrelenting powerhouse. Not surprising that this is as good as it is having been released by Feel It Records, one of the most consistent labels these days.

The Cowboy Wi-Fi on the Prairie LP

Sophomore album from these former HOMOSTUPIDS folks. I have wavered on this lot’s prior efforts but am firmly on-board here. Wi-Fi On The Prairie seems a hell of a lot more focused, which is not to say there is a lack of flailing—their (very) specific attack is just executed perfectly. Can you be blind wasted and still completely “lock in”? Every cut here points to the affirmative: all-guitar steamrolling punk, seriously powerful sounds with occasional off-rail absurdities. A tough one to shake as well, repeating spins required. One that will probably rear its head come annual best-of time, assuming any of us live that long.

The Cowboy Wi-Fi on the Prairie 12″

The simplicity of it all makes this hard to describe. Elements of HOMOSTUPIDS are apparent but this sounds even less blown out than the previous COWBOY release. Wi-Fi reminds me a lot of Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts in that it’s so simple and so catchy but there’s just little janky things that make it sort of odd, unconventional and seemingly unattractive. Imagine one those trippy SST Records “members of” groups but instead it’s What Makes a Man Start Fires-era MINUTEMEN combining with Metal Circus-era HÜSKER DÜ. That’s a bad description but you’ve got nothing but time now so you should just listen to it. Art by John Morton as well. An all-around great release.

The Cowboy Feel the Chi Releasing From You flexi EP

I won’t buy a flexi disc just because it’s what’s available. It is the most annoying format. The band and their songs need to make it worth the hassle. I’m happy to report that the COWBOY passes the test. Three catchy, post-punk-ish-style songs. Jittery and choppy music with bended guitar strings and spoken lyrics. I’ll flop this piece of plastic on my turntable any time.

The Cowboy Riddles from the Universe LP

It’s almost hard to describe how much this record kicks ass. Across thirteen tracks, the LP wanders from just about every subgenre of punk, nailing everything from noise rock to garage rock in the best of ways. At times I hear the influence of bands like UNWOUND and POLVO, other times it’s a straight rip of JAY REATARD, done in the COWBOY style. It’s just lo­-fi enough to give the record a rough edge, but still polished enough to convey the intensity this record puts off. This is not the time to stand all high and mighty and be that picky listener. Put it on your to do list, mark your calendar, write it on your forehead for all I care; whatever you’ve got to do to remember this: listen to this fucking record.

The Cowboys Room of Clons LP

I don’t think I was familiar with this Bloomington band before I put their new record on, despite it being their fifth album or something. I must have listened to it five or six times since; I’m stuck at home with thousands of records and every song on the internet but I find myself coming back to this one over and over, and I discover something new each time. Ostensibly a garage punk act, this ambitious effort by the COWBOYS sees them traverse many songwriting styles, from the terse, staccato science-fiction post-punk of “Wise Guy Algorithm” to the pop-glam BOWIE worship of “Devil Book.” It’s unlikely there’s another record reviewed in these digital pages that spreads itself across so many genres. Part DEVO, part SPARKS; part ENO, part SOFT BOYS: Clever, but not too clever; art pop for the now generation.

The Cowboys The Bottom of a Rotten Flower LP

Holy pop, Batman! A new one from Bloomington Indiana’s COWBOYS, and it’s all pop. Somehow, they seem to channel more of an Anglo-centric UK sound, recalling some end of the ’70s first- wave poppers with a mix of straight riff o’ rama Á  la PROTEX/ UNDERTONES, and more angular sounds like XTC or THE JAM. The best part is they stay true to form, and these songs all top out around three minutes, so if you’re not feeling one song, it’s only about a minute to the next. Comes with a cool fold-out poster and the hype sticker is penned by Eddie Flowers of the GIZMOS.

The Cowboys Lovers in Marble cassette

The COWBOYS LP on Lumpy was a damn fine slab of weirdo garage punk. I friggin’ love that thing. I dug their further adventures but lost track of the band a few years back. Well, thankfully for us, the COWBOYS are still out there, still plugging away, still consistently putting out quality music. In fact, they released an LP in 2020, so this tape can be seen as riding sidecar. But make no mistake, these aren’t scraps. I’m pleased to report that the COWBOYS still got “it.” They’ve settled into what is perhaps their final form as advanced students of moody ’60s psych-pop. The sound honors the era, but still comes off as contemporary. There’s elements of the KINKS (“Lovers In Marble”) and early BEE GEES (“The Bell Rings Less”), while the best song here, “Saintlike Said,” recalls the brooding PRETTY THINGS. Nice job, boys.

The Cowboys Sultan of Squat LP

This is super catchy pop, with vocals that totally remind me of another band I discovered recently, GOOD LOOKING SON. Ha, there’s a reason for that. It’s the same dude! While the two bands are different, I’d suggest that if you like one, you’ll like the other. If you don’t know either and are a fan of great pop songs that are pleasant but not overly sugary, well, this is worth your while for sure. Seriously, good stuff. I’m starting to like this Feel It label.

The Drin Today My Friend You Drunk the Venom LP

Moody post-(pretentious)-punk from Cincinnati, but it’s not as bad as you’d think. The usual required deadpan vocals are accompanied by a bit of Australian VENOM P. STINGER/KIM SALMON musical leanings leaking through along, with the usual JOY DIVISION/WIRE/FALL influence. Some songs have almost a spooky RESIDENTS vibe, and there’s a little classic Ohio ELECTRIC EELS and PERE UBU in there somewhere. Nice. The heavier songs like “Peaceful, Easy, Feeling” are my faves here, and I could write something about beautifully textured musical landscapes or some such bullshit, but basically it’s a nice bleak winter day kinda listen but nothing to kill yourself over though. Lol.

The Follies Permanent Present Tense LP

The FOLLIES are a little FLAMIN’ GROOVIES with some BOB MOULD, and a little LOVE.  Lots of jangly pop to be had here, and I am not ashamed to admit liking the majority of it.  There might be a couple of songs that fall short (“I Idled,” “I Tried”), but all in all, Permanent Present Tense is a tightly-wound ball o’ power pop. Give us more vocals from Jess Poplowski, who contributed to  one of the better moments to be had on the record, “Bad Habits.”

The Generics Cost Cutter EP

Previously released without a picture sleeve, Feel It Records has reissued this ultra-rare nugget with some enticing art and two previously unreleased tracks. I was previously unaware of this. The story goes: in 1983, three fresh-faced skater kids from Cross Lanes, West Virginia get introduced to some classic punk, get some instruments, play some parties and school events, record seven tracks in a studio, release two of them on a single limited to 200 copies, and then break up. The overall vibe of these tracks is somewhat limp, but the adolescent charm saves it as a historical document. That said, none of this material is going to be featured on my next mixtape or played on my non-existent DJ night. Still worth the top-quality release treatment for posterity’s sake.

The Soul Patrol Mara / Take Back the Night 7″ reissue

If all we can be assured of in life is death and taxes, we can at least add one more certainty to that depressing list—obscure, unheard bands from the late ’70s waiting to be unearthed for the pleasure of a new generation of fuck-ups and malcontents (that’s you and me!). Unappreciated Louisiana punks the SOUL PATROL private-pressed this single in 1979 and it remained rare as hen’s teeth until Feel It decided to let the rest of us in on its secret. Pre-dating fellow bayou-based punks like the SHITDOGS, the SOUL PATROL kicked out a decent racket back in their day. SOUL PATROL hit a sweet spot between bunk-acid hard rock and carburetor-dung garage punk. “Mara” is a slurry rocker that sounds like a soundtrack to inhaling dirt-weed and lusting after the cashier at the local burger joint. “Take Back the Night” appropriates an anti-violence proto-hashtag and blends it with some greasy-ass guitar to lay down some total KBD destruction that is guaranteed to improve whatever punk mixtape you’re currently working on.

The Stools R U Saved? LP

This record took a couple rounds to get my footing, but I’m connecting the dots. The STOOLS have put out a pretty substantial amount of material since 2017—I slightly remember the split they did with TOEHEADS and really digging it. This is a great record straight through, with a style that always does it for me. R U Saved? will make a fan out of anyone who loves the SCIENTISTS, ZZ TOP, or LAUGHING HYENAS. This is pugnacious, beer-stained Detroit punk. Blues à la John Brannon. Listen to “Tunnels,” and I will bet you five bucks you will agree.

The Toms The Toms 2xLP reissue

A relic from ‘79 gets the reissue treatment from Feel It. Who the hell are the TOMS? From what I have gathered, this project is from an older Jersey guy, Tom Marolda—songwriter, composer, performer, movie soundtrack writer, etc. Not finding much on any other musicians involved in the project. This is really sweet music, cloying in fact. Like consuming a box of glazed donuts, I can feel my teeth hurting after the long march of heavy-duty power popness that makes up the 24 tracks on this LP. There are moments to be had for sure, but in the end, the production is squeaky clean and the songs way too repetitive. This might be for some, but I need more sharp edges.

The Toms The 1979 Sessions LP

This album apparently collects the “chaff” from Tommy Marolda’s three-day solo recording session that led to the TOMS’ self-titled album. I must admit I was not familiar with that LP, but it seems to be considered a power pop classic among aficionados. After listening to The 1979 Sessions, I had to immediately go and listen to it, because if these are the rejects, the songs that made the album had to be something else. The fourteen tracks here are a masterclass in jangling ’60s British Invasion guitar pop with an unmistakable BEATLES influence, with forays into spacier PROCOL HARUM or CREAM territory—it’s almost impossible to believe that one person played and recorded a couple of albums’ worth of this stuff in his home studio over a weekend (to make use of studio time vacated by a SMITHEREENS cancellation), but that’s how the legend has it, and if rock’n’roll isn’t about legends, what is it for? It doesn’t even sound home-recorded—it could have been tracked at Abbey Road. Essential stuff for the power pop fan.

The Zits Back in Blackhead LP

Hands down the winner for “Most Adorable Punk Record of the Year.” The ZITS are well (or not) known for their Killed by Death masterpiece, the “Sick on You / Beat Your Face” single, which the band pre-sold to their friends to get the dough to make. Both songs appear here remastered from the original eight-track tape, along with tons of surprisingly good-sounding demos and live tracks with hilarious in-between song banter. While the rest of the country was embacing the sounds of hardcore, these Oakton High School teens were cranking out sugary, innocently offensive numbers like “Bertha Was a Slut” inspired by early RAMONES and UNDERTONES (they cover “Can’t Get Over You” here). Other greats like “Opera Show” and “Euh Baby Euh” are criminal in the fact that they weren’t released until now. Feel It Records spared no expense in packaging and content, and there’s a great band history that I won’t bore you with here. Needless to say, the ZITS tragically ended when high school ended for these boys. If you can picture Ralph Malph and Richie Cunningham starting a punk band, you’d get an idea of what to expect here. It’s a clear sell, or is that Clearasil? Har har har.

V/A Days of a Quiet Sun LP

Days of a Quiet Sun is a compilation of recordings made by music producer Martin Gary between 1966 and 1973. Gary was the son of a record store owner who grew up immersed in the retail side of the music business. From there, he expanded to record producer and label owner by recording bands from his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. The tracks on this compilation feature some of his earliest recordings and some are unreleased. They are surprisingly polished for a kid who was just learning the ropes, though probably a direct result of his record store experience. In the detailed liner notes, Gary recalls his processes of bringing bands he enjoyed seeing into studios in Washington, DC and Delaware due to lack of studios in Richmond. Gary would then release the records on his own labels and after getting local radio airplay, with some even becoming hits on the stations, he would bring the records to major labels trying to get the bands contracts. Though he was ultimately not successful in doing so, he was successful in his promotion of and preservation of these bands who might otherwise have been forgotten. Included here are the HAZARDS, the BARRACUDAS, KING EDWARD & HIS B.D.’S, BERNARD SMITH & JOKERS WILD, GROUP NINE, DUCK BAKER and the BOSOM BLUES BAND. Most started as teens playing at dances and frat parties. The music included is rock’n’roll, soul and blues similar to other bands at the time. The album title track by the BARRACUDAS features early use of a Moog synthesizer. Not surprisingly, the original records go for big bucks today. As a music connoisseur, I am always interested in the history of different scenes, what happened and why. Knowing next to nothing about the early Richmond music scene, I enjoy getting a sense of it through the ears of ones of its fans and participants. It is a nice collection.

 

Vanity Anticlimax / A Seat at the Table 7″

I think this is the most interesting thing they’ve put out? This version of VANITY features one of the most exciting/inventive guitarists of the past few years whose prior band VEXX was one of my faves. Definitely adds a sharper/wilder edge to their OASIS impulses ’n’ woozy rock’n’roll, and it feels more like a band than an attempt to recreate a sound which I think is the curse of the modern age! But…. I am still not sure I would reach for this again? It was a good time! But now it’s over.

Waste Man One Day It’ll All Be You LP

Not sure how they keep doing it, but Feel It has done it again; this album by New Orleans’ WASTE MAN achieves the rare feat of managing to be forward-thinking and diverse-sounding, while still being direct and danceable. I hate to use the word “mature” in a Maximum Rocknroll review, but (especially unusual for a debut LP) it kind of fits? Catchy seventies power pop songwriting stylings get a sharp elbow in the ribs from tetchy post-punk jitterings. Arty without being arch, punchy without punching anyone out—maybe if ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS hadn’t branched off to PERE UBU but channelled that weirdness into a Midwestern hardcore band?

Wet Dip Smell of Money LP

Sisters Erica and Sylvia Rodriguez, along with Daniel Doyle (DANIEL FRANCIS DOYLE & THE DREAMERS, EARLY LINES) present their debut LP, Smell of Money. Austin, Texas-based WET DIP sings half in English, half in Spanish, and delivers a no-fucks-given-wave, cool-as-they-come sound. Guitars scratch and jitter over anxious bass and drums with a mixture of spoken word, innocent melodies, and downright venom, like on the closer that yells “smells like shit” until you too are ready to choke out an ethereal greed. The sparse and wandering PIXIES track “Silver” gets covered, as well as an angular take on “Pelo Suelto” by Latin pop star GLORIA TREVI—both covers fit nicely and give a contextual range of influence. Solid sound and a great debut.

Why Bother? A Year of Mutations LP

Honestly, what’s more likely—that Feel It’s insatiable desire to release cool new music has reached a point where they can no longer find real bands to churn out product and have instead turned to throwing darts at a map and list of genres in order to foist a backstory on session musicians, or that Mason City, Iowa (the sixteenth most populous city in the country’s second most boring state) is full of enough cool people to fill out a band who just so happen to be into the odd combination of UK DIY and SPITS-y dum-dum sci-fi punk? Conveniently, the “band,” a supposed four-piece, is also content to be an 8-track recording project and has no intentions of playing live, so we may never find out. Anyway, regardless of how it came to be, the record is stellar. It sounds like a punked-up version of EXHIBIT A/SOLID SPACE with snatches of the same laid-back, boozy garage pop that made those early JOHN WESLEY COLEMAN recordings so compelling (particularly on a track like “Hum Drum”). Get on it!

Why Bother? Calling All Goons LP

More psychotic sci-fi punk from the twisted mid-western minds of WHY BOTHER? Like a psychedelic showdown between TIMMY’S ORGANISM and the SPITS, Calling All Goons oscillates between hook-ladden stompers like “Enter Xterminator,” and disquieting somber numbers like “Climbing Out of the Sky,” where the synth adds the bulk of the color. The highlight for me was the odd sock, punk-pop goofiness of “I Wanna Be Like Pete,” with bassist Pamela lending vocals and a slight departure from the quasi-disturbing lyrical content found on songs like “What’s Wrong With Me?”. Apocalyptic themes course through the album like tributaries of toxic ooze, creating a pervasive sense of foreboding that is heightened by the layers of undulating effects and waveform patterns. This offers a nice contrast to the catchy riffs that drive much of the album. Delightfully demonic. For the goons, by the goons.

Why Bother? Lacerated Nights LP

High-energy, synth-laced melodic punk from Iowa. They sound like the SPITS, but that’s not a bad thing. Classic punk chord progressions, catchy, slightly-detached vocals, and clean keyboard tones to hold everything in place. “Bent Spoon Blues” is a pop treasure, as much new wave as punk. “Clouds” slows down and veers into post-punk with a buzzing electronic cloud circling a moody four-note guitar pattern. “Oh Jodi” is a garage punk murder ballad from the perspective of a male killer watching news reports about his female victim. Creepsville. Similarly, “The Stalker” is from a stalker’s point of view and has lines like, “Do you know I can see you? / Do you know that I’m there? / I make sure that you’re alone / I breathe heavy as you blow dry your hair,” ending with the speaker entering his victim’s room with a rope. I like the record overall, but the lyrics of those two tracks will probably prevent a future listen.

Why Bother? There are Such Things cassette

The latest in a slew of releases by Mason City, Iowa’s WHY BOTHER?, There Are Such Things is a cassette collection of songs from previous small-batch cassette/lathe releases, as well as five new tracks specific to this tape. The A-side, filled with the more straightforward new songs, is the beauty of this tape to me, with the B-side getting a little too artsy/avant-garde for this knucklehead’s tastes. All in all, it’s a very cool collection and shows the versatility of this somewhat uncategorizable band. They continue to toe the intersection of post-punk, synth punk, garage rock, art-punk, and whatever other sub-genres you care to throw at them. Dare I say, WHY BOTHER? trying to categorize them? An incredibly interesting and prolific modern band that deserves your attention. Hop to it and give this a listen!

Why Bother? A City of Unsolved Miseries LP

In these post-everything times where there seems to be less and less room for truly idiosyncratic expressions, it is very pleasing to realize that there are still people playing with the space-time equation of underground music history, not to simply recreate greatness lost under the weight of memory, but to found new lineages of sound. Iowa’s WHY BOTHER? is just such a band, with a lo-fi sound that takes certain melodic ideas from late ’80s indie music (HÜSKER DÜ) and classic Midwestern punk, mixed with melancholic poppy hooks and, in this case, lyrics about unsolved murder. The result is shattering, an album full of instant left-of-the-dial anthems, with layers of synth that create eerie atmospheres for what is essentially a kind of mutant garage rock album. I read somewhere that WHY BOTHER? doesn’t play live, but I hope they keep producing music of this quality forever.