Reviews

Pasażer

Am Ba LP

These Polish punks have been around since 1996, and Ba is their twelfth studio album. That’s a lot of years for a hardcore punk band given that most bands don’t last more than a couple of records. Recorded between 2009 and 2010, this long-overdue album finally sees the light of day, with twelve tracks of slick and catchy hardcore punk with some out-of-the-box moments including sax and accordion to add to the weirdness. Hard to describe but easy to listen to, give it a try if you are into the DEAD KENNEDYS or NO TREND. Thumbs up for AM and thumbs down for not being more well-known.

Astrid Lindgren Świat Jak Śnieg LP

ASTRID LINDGREN’s songs seem built around their big, anthemic choruses. The build-up can be a restrained verse, a chugging guitar, or even some frantic post-punk bass lines. This record could be described as melodic hardcore, but the delivery feels more somber, more demonstrative than your typical rager. The band knows when to ease off the gas and give us time to recover from each peak. The end result sounds cathartic and urgent.

Blowins Poudawaj Ze Zyjesz LP

By blowing into Dublin, embittered Polish punks BLOWINS have substituted one bleak, rain-soaked Catholic state for another. The move to (objectively slightly more progressive) Ireland doesn’t seem to have softened their worldview or tempered their anger. This album has nine songs of dark melodic hardcore, with tinges of deathrock, anarcho, and post-punk. Shades of POLITICAL ASYLUM, the MOB, and LEATHERFACE among others can be detected in the sound. Lyrics are in Polish but the insert includes little explanations in English.  Lovely stuff.

Blowins 2015—2020 CD

This discography covers two LPs and an EP from a band who relocated from Poland to Ireland. Fast, angular guitars with darkly-focused lyrics sung in Polish. A great introduction to the band, plays like a sped-up and then stripped-down version of Pink Flag-era WIRE.

Bulbulators Aut Punk Aut Nihil LP

Starting your LP with a straight lift of HÜSKER DÜ’s “I Apologize” is a really good way to get my attention. After that hook, Poland’s BULBULATORS drop a baker’s dozen of catchy Eastern European punk, with a shameless ear for the addictive and anthemic. “Żywe Trupy” is perhaps the most extreme and/or perfect example, and my mono-linguistic self is singing along in a Polish language that I do not understand as soon as the first chorus drops. Recorded in 2007, but given the vinyl treatment for the first time by Combat Rock and perennial Polish punk historians Pasażer.

Bulbulators Homo Polonicus LP

Imagine if the only bands you’ve ever heard were SWINGIN’ UTTERS, ONE MAN ARMY, and DEAD TO ME, but on top of that you’ve only had access to certain records from each. Now imagine that you took those influences and started a band of your own, but opted to sing in your native language instead of English and recorded an album that could potentially stand up against those records. Well friends, imagine no more, for that is what Poland’s BULBULATORS have managed to do with Homo Polonicus. If you enjoy any of the aforementioned bands, then I implore you to give this a spin.

Czarnobyl Zdroj Chory Mózg… O Szczęściu

A very welcome vinyl press of a 1991 cassette release—the brand of Polish hardcore that CZARNOBYL ZDRÓJ delivered absolutely deserves further examination. Cold, sharp-sounding punk vaguely along the lines of TZN XENNA, with chaotic and frantic guitars throughout. Occasional funky breaks are appropriate for the era, but are treated with wild and overpowering leads while stark, shouted vocals create an (almost) militaristic vibe. CZARNOBYL ZDRÓJ released a scant few punk cassettes before moving on to a more industrial sound, all are well worth your time but near impossible to track down…which is why I’m not gonna complain about floods of reissues clogging up my shelves. Excellent release.

Czarnobyl Zdroj Partyzancka Polska Młodzież LP

Pasażer is back again, unleashing quality vinyl reissues of obscure Polish punk tapes. This appears to have been CZARNOBYL ZDRÓJ’s debut from 1989. They sound like a party band, with abundant guitar noodling and recycling a lot of traditional rock’n’roll bits through their brand of upbeat melodic punk, and even offer a bombastic SEX PISTOLS cover. This may not appeal as much to ’80s Polish hardcore diehards, but I still think it’s a nice introduction to an otherwise potentially forgotten band.

Dezerter Kłamstwo To Nowa Prawda LP

Another band survives the 40-year mark! Punk sure is getting old. Anyhow, what more is there to say about DEZERTER? Their “pandemic record” may not be anything particularly noteworthy among their extensive catalog, but it most certainly sounds like DEZERTER and can surely be considered relevant in contemporary punk. It is modernly polished but feels familiar, surprisingly fresh and youthful sounding for guys that must be well into their fifties. DEZERTER has experimented with their sound plenty over the decades but they’re sticking to an urgent and stripped-down approach with this one, which feels like a good place to be right now. Worth at least a listen for any level fan of the band.

Dezerter Nienawiść 100% 7″

While this might not be as raw, or pleasantly rough around the edges, as their earlier output, I don’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t say it was still passionate, punk as hell, and completely vital. Musically, it seems like a good mix of ’84 TSOL without all that reverb, some delay-heavy post-punk with a pinch of crust, topped off with some oddly-placed pop sensibilities. The lyrics, sung completely in Polish, are still totally anti-fascist, with a slight bend towards some dark-ass ambivalence. Sure, they aren’t the kings they once were back in 1981, but they have certainly aged really well. Despite my raised eyebrow over the fancier, modern rock production, this is a killer release from some goddamn stalwarts. Totally dig this.

Dezerter Underground Out of Poland LP reissue

Not exactly sure what can be (or even needs to be) said about a record that MRR released in 1987, which served as thousands of Western punks’ first exposure to DEZERTER and the larger Soviet Bloc punk underground. As a starting point, it’s still a near-perfect introduction— the four tracks from the Ku Przyszłości EP are absolutely timeless, and the live recordings from Jarocin (the first Polish festival to showcase punk bands) truly capture the band’s live mania (“Nie Ma Zagrożenia,” anyone?). Thirty-five years after its initial release, Underground Out of Poland is still mandatory listening for new punks and gets reissued every few years (as it should), but this one from Pasażer includes a massive booklet with photos and ephemera, so even the well-versed stodgy fucks who have the original will want to pay attention.

Dezerter 1986 Co Będzie Jutro? LP

DEZERTER has roots in SS-20, a young punk band formed in 1981 in the Warsaw region, named after a then-made-illegal nuclear weapon, a very provocative name for their time. After several run-ins with censorship, they had to abandon the name and settle for DEZERTER because it was an ordeal just to get their name on a show. This time they went towards a hardcore punk sound with several influences ranging from post-punk and funk. In 1986 they had the opportunity to record songs for the Jak Punk to Punk compilation authorized by the censorship agency and, with the help of the sound engineer, they were able to secretly record the eight songs that are on 1986 Co Będzie Jutro?. Thrity-seven years later and still sounding great, DEZERTER provides a piece of punk history, and it was a big “fuck you” to the establishment and also the last recording by singer Scandal. Stories like this make this band legends.

Drah Brud LP

DRAH of Poland plays five tracks on a full LP, with very KILLING JOKE or even PESD vibes. Chords range from QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE to ZYGOTE—post-industrial downturned aggression. A lot of this is repetitive but in a drawn-out mathcore way. The bass recoils to GODFLESH and MORNE. The song structures are stagnant and struggling to break free. Perhaps that is the tension DRAH wants to build. I feel a bit stuck in a trap with each song. I also wish I could understand Polish, to be fair. There are moments that recall UNWOUND for a moment, but the pace is structured like a cold building and contrived, and I need to get out. I want something else to happen here in this maze. The last track “Czerwony” lets go a bit, but I must admit DRAH caught me under the weather, and this is not helping my migraine. The songs are good, but I want more, or any, harmonizing. I might want to edit this review heavily, but I’m not sure. I feel lost and at a loss with this one. The CAN soloing outro is cool. Oh, no reviewer copy? Sweet. It’s a sign.

El Banda Wiatr Sieje Nas LP

Twelve years after their first LP, this highly regarded Polish outfit gives their third album. I imagine much of the magic and poetry is lost in translation, but from what I can tell, the major theme here is a very elaborate and nuanced fuck you to the patriarchy (often addressing fat shaming/body policing). Standard song structures are pretty much completely thrown out, and the arrangement of short and long songs force a pushing and pulling feeling across the album. They really like to drag a riff out to create tension or drama; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a vocal-forward mix, an intentional choice to put the message in the forefront, but that’s not to detract from the abundance and variety of melody coming from the rest of the band. The beginning of the record was a bit of a slog for me to get through: a minute and a half intro that sounds like an actual NOFX gallop into a three minute drumless monologue-style part…pretty emo basically. I do believe though that it’s my own problem for not knowing Polish, and not the band’s problem. The record is full of melody and a viciousness that is unrivaled by most melodic hardcore records I’ve heard—see for example “Wściekłyszpaler,” which was on their previous EP, and has a cool and recommended music video about the huge anti anti-abortion protest in 2016.

Eye For An Eye Teraz LP

Including their 2005 split with the HUNKIES, Teraz is the eighth full-length album by this Polish powerhouse. EYE FOR AN EYE fires off ten tracks of their signature metal-tinged punk, with scorching female vocals and hardcore breakdowns. It’s obvious that EYE FOR AN EYE has been honing their craft for many years, and Teraz finds them at the top of their game. Alternating between brutal and melodic, each song feels like the result of the kind of chemistry that is reserved for long-running bands. The lazy comparison is to POST REGIMENT, due to the vocals and being from Poland, but EYE FOR AN EYE veers far more into an aggressive, metallic territory with lots of tempo changes and even some blastbeats. The production value on this album is quite polished, which detracts from the energy, but suits the mosh parts well enough. Overall, a strong effort from a group of seasoned hardcore veterans. 

Fight Your Fear Zanim Upadnę LP

Anthemic hardcore punk from Polish expats living in Ireland. Layers of guitar leads and melodies temper the stark vocal delivery and create a sonic environment akin to an anarcho-punk PROPAGANDHI. As always, Pasażer is over-the-top with the packaging, and gives an over-the-top recording the presentation it deserves

Patologia Ciąży Dziennik Trwa LP

PATOLOGIA CIĄŻY was playing around Poland between 1982 and 1984. They unfortunately never released a record, but recorded these demos in their rehearsal space. Their name translates to “Pregnancy Pathology,” which does not accurately reflect their sound. The songs are upbeat and catchy in a post-punk way. There is a sense of urgency and impatience. Yet, there is also, dare I say, a professional style to the band. They were getting airplay on local radio and playing festivals around Poland. It’s the great naiveté of the early days of punk when you were just playing some rock’n’roll, and though you were much better than what was popular at the time, unfairly most people never got to find out. The lyrics undoubtedly are political (if only I understood Polish) with titles like “Niemądre Pytania” (“Unwise Questions”), “Godzina Policyjna” (“Curfew”), “Atomowa Śmierć” (“Nuclear Death”), “Paranoja System” (“Paranoid System”), and “Bez Przyszłości” (“No Future”). The later song incorporates the riff from the SEX PISTOLS song of the same name for a fun ending. This is a great collection. I am so happy to finally be introduced to PATOLOGIA CIĄŻY. You should be too.

Przejebane Przejebane LP

A lo-fi and primitive punk artifact from the late ’80s Polish scene, this demo from PRZEJEBANE (“Fucked” in Polish) was allegedly recorded in 1987 and features ten tracks of cut-and-dry punk, with clear influences from the RAMONES, the CLASH, and a little bit of early BAD RELIGION, sometimes inching towards skate punk. Lyrically, from what I found through some internet sleuthing, the band speaks mostly on anarchism and drug use, however I can’t make out if it’s in a positive or negative light. Pretty cool, but not entirely essential stuff. If you want a small taste of some late ’80s punk from Poland, this may be worth your time.

Schizma Ostatnia Odsłona LP

Especially in the early 1990s, Polish punk and hardcore existed on cassettes. There are countless worthy releases that came and went on tape, often fading away as the bands (or fans) moved on. SCHIZMA stuck around until well into the 2000s, but 1992’s Ostatnia Odsłona might be the best example of their brand of crossover thrash. The focus here is the guitars—properly damaged and red-lined, with primitive flange tempering the lightning fast chugs while vocals project full force from the chest. This under-the-radar Eastern European hardcore deserves far more than a casual nod from so-called “historians” from the West; SCHIZMA was making music that adhered to no rules but their own. Members came from late ’80s band KAMPANIA KARNA (who recently had their essential first tape put to vinyl) and later went on to IN SPITE OF (among many others), but this is about the SCHIZMA LP. Polish punks likely (hopefully) already know the drill, the rest of us are just catching up.

Tasiemka Wanna Po Dziadku LP

The moody post-punk of Wanna Po Dziadku is constantly tense, rarely providing catharsis or relief. Like others in the genre, the bass and drums lead, but the guitars still provide more than just backup. The chords and notes float over or through the more pronounced rhythm section. It’s an unnerving effect which makes the songs feel spare, harsh, and fleeting all at once. The music has a repetitive quality, but in fact subtly adds layers and evolves. Just don’t get your hopes up for an anthemic chorus or faster beat. TASIEMKA keeps things uncomfortable.

Uliczny Opryszek Na Zwasze Punk 3 LP

The final entry in a massive three LP endeavor, Na Zawsze Punk 3 is Poland’s ULICZNY OPRYSZEK doing covers from old and obscure Polish punk bands spanning 1978–1998. Throughout the three albums, they deliver a whopping 79 songs, most of which were never recorded to any acceptable degree or previously released in any format. Instead, the band relied on tape recordings from the Jarocin festivals they grew up going to as source material. Jarocin was basically an annual Polish punk version of Woodstock that lasted throughout the ’80s and into the early ’90s and was a vital part of the genre’s existence in the Warsaw Pact nations during that era. They’re essentially resurrecting and documenting an entire forgotten timeline here for posterity, which is a wildly admirable effort. The music itself is a jungle of punk rock that leans into the various styles of the legion of bands who originally played it. There are some grimy old-school punk tunes, moments that wouldn’t be too out of place on a Fat release, Oi!, tinges of ’80s metal, and even a dub-style jam—it’s all over the place, as to be expected. As an added touch of class, each of the twenty songs on this record features a snippet of the original live recording of it before it, presenting it with a direct nod to its authors. The record comes with a dense booklet with info on the bands as well (presumably in Polish), completing the package. Nice little chunk of history.

Uliczy Opryszek FC St. Pauli Do Boju EP

As you may have guessed, the title track is an ode to every punk’s favorite German football club. Definitely more on the rollicking tuneful punk side of things than straight up Oi! Even though I can’t understand what they’re singing about (or maybe because?) I have come to a realization that this style of music just sounds really good in Polish.