Reviews

Phantom

76% Uncertain Gitargodz Suk Tour ’85 cassette

This blazing 20-song cassette was recorded live on the band’s summer tour, and features a well-rounded sampling of the band’s old and new material—with a vast majority to be released. Production and mix are clear, and holds a hard edge which adds that great “live” feel to the band’s music and vocals. Recommended.

Das Das Leben in Bildschirmen cassette

Roughly translated as “Life in Screens,” this cassette is the Berlin’s synth duo’s second album, released earlier in the year. What a wonderful piece of plastic. DAS DAS creates a world where simple, screeching synth lines amalgamate to create little punk gems that you can sing along to (if you know German) and/or dance to, whether on a dark, cavernous club night or in your bedroom on a Saturday night. Their sound is clearly ’80s-oriented; we could mention bands like FUTURISK or KAS PRODUCT, although by the noisy use of the guitar and the playfulness of their melodies, they remind me more of the Spanish AVIADOR DRO. Great bands to be in the company of, in my opinion. Big mention to “Invisible Man,” a brutal and sexy song, like a kind of seductive psychobilly EBM. Eight excellent songs that exploit the libidinal energy of dance as a political tool of emancipation.

Dewaere Slot Logic LP

The record kicks off sounding a little like a loungey take on the MISFITS, and then moves into heavy rock with theatrical vocal delivery somewhat in the vein of the STROKES. The entire recording is drenched in a heavy coating of static fuzz and reverb. It’s big and dirty and you probably know if that’s the kind of thing that gets you going.

Dispo Rauchen Macht Heroinabhängig cassette

After a killer trash-punk opener, DISPO switches gears and drops a track that comes off like Cows and Beer-era KREUZEN bashing out modern garage punk. It’s a great combination of sub-genre influences—hardcore, darker ’80s Deutsch punk, wild garage hooks, and snotty ’70s NYC art are all represented in a release that doesn’t sound like it owes anything to anyone.

Ex-White Disco cassette

Nasty, weird, driving, gross, shit-eating punk from Germany. Musically this rips. The catchy clean guitar licks really get stuck in your head, and some of the songs are awesome, specifically “It’s Me, The Shit” and “Hooray Henry.” On some of the songs, the barked vocals are a bit overly affected which makes them come off teetering on the brink of being novelty songs, which, depending on how that statement rubs you, can be viewed as a positive thing. The lyrics that I can decipher are just dumb enough to make me scratch my head wondering why the hell I didn’t think of them. “I want to piss in your face, I want to beat you with my bat.”

F.E.I.D.L. Glaub Da Nix EP

F.E.I.D.L. is a garage-y post-punk band from Vienna. They play repetitive beats topped with fuzzy guitars. The bass and drums stomp out a catchy, yet mechanical locomotive chug. Based solely on their sound the vocals seem frank and earnest. I have no idea what they are saying so they could be really sarcastic and silly which would make me happy. Mixing all of that together F.E.I.D.L. gives off a detached type of cool noise that’s appealing to my ears.

Fear Itself Till Death Do Us Part LP

Brutal ravenous thrash with a metallic influence (mostly in the structures and leads) and lyrics concerning personal, political and horrific topics. The only setback is the noisy production which squelches the power a bit, but this still blazes.

Fix More is More LP

Naturally, when you see the name FIX, most of you will probably think of the Detroit hardcore band, and a smaller percentage will wonder why the extra “X” is missing from those new wavers that wrote “One Thing Leads to Another.” You would be wrong on both accounts in this case, and while finding any info on this band was nigh impossible, I wasn’t disappointed by these Germans’ full-throttle garage punk. Every song mows you down with strictly down-strummed, tightly-wound power chord riffs, and the drummer’s wrists must be bionic with all those relentless RAMONES-ian hi-hats. If you love the MARKED MEN template but also sprechen sie Deutsch, then it may behoove you to seek out this record.

Fix Welcome EP

Late-night sparking-wire punk from Germany. Lotsa dark, druggy, death-disco kind of shit goin’ on here, some of it compelling, some of it falling awfully flat. The grind and production throughout are indebted to more industrial sounds as opposed to straight punk. Ultimately unmemorable but containing one or tune choice spurts.

John, Paul, George, Ringo & Richard Das ist die Zukunft, Aber Nicht Deine! LP

I can’t imagine this band name would work if you went with anything other than “Richard.” “Richard” just has this poncy air about it that really sells this dumb joke. Anyway, this project is the work of a single person—presumably a Richard—who’s been at it since about 2016. He peddles an oddball mix of noise, minimalist avant-pop, dub, yé-yé, downtempo electronica, and space age bachelor pad music. It’s out there, man! Depending on the track, it can sound like a more listener friendly MEN’S RECOVERY PROJECT, a less wacky MR. BUNGLE (Disco Volante-era), or, like, the entire Ralph Records roster covering the poppier cuts from CABARET VOLTAIRE’s Red Mecca. Dude may be a Dick, but he made a cool record. This is the future, but not yours!

LASSIE Collected Cassettes LP

As the title says, this is two cassettes now enshrined on vinyl. The A-side is 2017’s Yes! Like the Dawg and the B-side is 2019’s Just A Couple of Dudes. LASSIE is having a great time blasting out songs like “Phonecalls On My Deathbed” and “Deposit Bottles.” The vocals remind me of DEVO while the music has a amateurish ’60s feel. It’s silly and entertaining poppy garage rock that is also well played and catchy as heck. Just a plain old good time for band member and listener alike.

Ex-White / LASSIE split cassette

LASSIE starts things out with three cuts, which remind me of early DEVO in many ways; they’ve got an electronic element, they’re catchy, and they’re a tad bit odd. I also like all three tracks quite a bit. Make no mistake about it, this is punk rock. EX WHITE follows things up with four cuts of their own. Faster paced and without the same level of electronics, they’ve got a similar sound in the sense that it’s a tad bit odd and it’s extremely catchy. This is definitely worth looking for, but the Bandcamp page indicates that it’s sold out.

Laxisme Premiere Sortie cassette

Fast, fun, and loaded with energy, LAXISME delivers a five-song cassette that is a little poppy, a little hardcore, and completely infectious. With bluesy howls to round out the choruses, I am already singing along to the French and German that I don’t know, wishing I were pushing through their crowd. Phantom seems to have their ear pressed firmly to the Berlin underground, and I hope they keep listening. More, please!

Melt Downer III cassette

Heavy rocking release from this Austrian band that nestles somewhere between post-hardcore and noise rock. Initially sounding like METZ and PISSED JEANS, these eight songs take so many interesting left turns that I never could guess what was coming next. “Gross White” has hardcore riffing with hollered reverbed vocals but quickly jettisons that for shimmering, atonal passages reminiscent of vintage SONIC YOUTH. “Corporate Identity” is built around such a massive doom riff that it sounds like the Earth cracking open to swallow lesser bands. Mike Pike wishes he wrote this; it’s that good. It then shifts through multiple time changes with spoken vocals before bringing the heaviness back. “Earth 2″ brings us shout-along, non-melodic hardcore/bummer punk, which leads into “Massive,” a song with an extended polyrhythmic drum exercise and long feedback solo. There is some gnarled start/stop action here that spoke sweet nothings to my inner metalhead. Final track “Kind” is almost twelve minutes of what these folks do best, while the vocalist intones “Get to the point” over and over. Kind of a troll, maybe? Doesn’t matter—it’s worth the noisy punishment. Great release and highly recommended.

Novotny TV Das Volk Sind Wirr LP

There’s just an absolute smorgasbord of styles at work throughout this album, originally released in 1997 and made available again for new millennium punx courtesy of Phantom and Honhie Records. The basic sound is garage-y punk, but there are touches of hardcore crunch and speed, ska, and straight-up rock’n’roll as well. The singer has the kind of charismatic, Jello-esque squeal you’d kind of expect a band like this to feature. A farfisa-style organ comes and goes, not always aligning with the garage-y numbers. The covers, of the FLESHEATERS and “TV Party,” are very representative of the album’s sound as a whole. Personally, I found it exhausting around the halfway point but if this sounds like your jam, then hey, it’s easy to get again, and there are plenty available.

Novotny TV Tod, Pest, Verwesung LP

This is a reissue of this German band’s 1996 album. Musically, it’s all over the place: kinda surf-y, rock’n’roll-y, twangy, mixed with ironic (?) crossover riffing. The vocals sound strained and intense: spitting lyrics that are critical, ironic, and “funny.” If you don’t understand German, this might be your new fave band, as they sound like CRAZY SPIRIT’s boring cousins that didn’t go to art school but are instead trapped in the most tedious of suit-and-tie office jobs. If you understand German, you’ll need to be a fan of humorous punk lyrics that rhyme.

Nowaves Good for Health Bad for Education LP

This is darkness in the right way. What I mean to say is that NOWAVES sound like they exist in a shroud and/or shrouded by smoke—sounds composed in the physical and metaphorical recesses, presentation that struggles to harness a primitive determination. NOWAVES will certainly appeal to goth revivalists with cuts like “Empty Sorrows” that focus on the synth and that ’80s dancefloor swing, but it’s all in the context of a record that mostly lands somewhere between EA80/GRAUZONE and WIPERS. Although the record is not overly layered, I notice something new every time I listen (WARREN ZEVON meets the CURE vibe on the title track, for example), which only encourages me to listen more.

Nowaves Odd Secrets LP

Driving post-punk synth from Dresden with the dark sparsity of COMSAT ANGELS or BAUHAUS, but with the lyrical creativity of NICO’s The Marble Index. The JOY DIVISION comparisons will be made, but they have their own original dark surf vibe going. The album has a danceable goth-pop sound, and the ten tracks grow more with each listen for a solid release.

OK Satán Fatal Insomniac cassette

The first thing I noticed about this Danish two-piece was the drums, or lack thereof. It sounds like someone pressed the default percussion button on a Casio keyboard and then played mostly mid-tempo hardcore over it. If they’re taking it seriously, I guess I should too, because this tape pleasantly surprised me. The cheapo drums are accompanied by heavy punk chords and damaged, LUMPY-with-a-sore-throat vocals. There is an occasional tinny solo and some feedback screech that make songs like “People are People” (especially with its sarcastic  spoken vocals) sound like SACCHARINE TRUST-style weirdo HC. Throw in fast ragers like “Stay on Drugs” (“Stay on drugs / And don’t do school”) and “I Don’t Care,” and you have a solid band worth keeping an eye on. Oh, and I like the cover art. Those tigers look cool.

ÖPNV ÖPNV cassette

Five songs of plodding, synth-heavy punk from Germany. Mid-tempo and dirgy, this falls somewhere in my mind between post-punk and slower peace punk stuff like POISON GIRLS. I really dig it. The strange occasional synthesizer blip-bloops are really cool and kind of push this over the top for me. Between the stuff here on Phantom Records and the handful of things I’ve gotten to review on Billo Records, it seems Germany has a wide array of killer stuff going on currently and I am thirsty for more.

ÖPNV ÖPNV cassette

Primitive bass/drum/keys proto-darkwave that sounds (and is) undeniably German. Everything here is cold; even the forceful tracks like “Trabantenstadt,” with its sharp, barked vocals, sound drunk and trepidatious. Throw a Cosey-caliber damaged trumpet into “Rasthof” to top off an excellent offering that demands more listens and deeper exploration.

Ponys Auf Pump Wirt Schon Wieder LP

Big surf rock guitars, synth leads, kazoos, riot grrrl power, and…was that a recorder? I don’t know what’s going on here—but I like it. “Kleine Maus” is maybe my favorite pick of the album, as it builds with fast guitar chops and big bass to a sing-along chorus with falsetto backing. Wirt Schon Wieder is the second full-length album from Berlin based PONYS AUF PUMP, and another gem brought to us by Phantom.

B’schißn / Ponys Auf Pump Split LP

PONYS AUF PUMP fall in the BÄRCHEN UND DIE MILCHBUBIS style (particularly the vocals!!) with added punker/waver synths, which is to say they write sharp punk hits that seem effortless and snotty and a good time?! Super catchy and pleasurable! B´SCHIÁŸN are more scrappy, not as immediately appealing, more fucked up sounding, def have that eternal Euro art squat punk attack. Both bands complement each other which is all you can ask for from a split! I thought this was cooler than it looks, the art is sorta goofy?!

Sad Neutrino Bitches Weltraumendspurt EP

Dare I say that this freaky record sounds a little like CRASS’ “Bata Motel” if it didn’t take itself nearly as seriously, took a bunch of psychedelic drugs, and decided to be on a rock’n’roll EP. Just focus on the vocals and the drums. Some less out-there references land in the neighborhood of a more gleeful version of BLATZ or the CRUCIFUCKS. I think the band says it best themselves: “The songs are about being ugly, being pissed, being not clever or too sad to fuck.” True weirdos fully embracing the meaning of punk and gifting this gem upon us as a mere side-effect of their rapture.

Schiach 2 LP

Over the last five years, there’s been no shortage of TOTAL CONTROL-type bands on the international scene. I’m here to tell you that SCHIACH is one of the finer such units. Maybe that’s because their influences stretch all the way back to the original German post-punk scene and they utilize drum machines as effectively as they use guitars. In accordance with the genre, 2 is packed full of paranoia. All manner of clanking sounds ricochet around the agitated vocals, often sounding like a parody of industrial-influenced club music; a lo-tech MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT, perhaps. But instead of sending up Christianity and hard rock, SCHIACH seems to be mocking modern surveillance culture, and that’s something this reviewer can get behind.

Dispo / Telesatan split LP

Both TELESATAN and DISPO feature a lot of feedback, clamor, and fuzz. TELESATAN plays fun, conventional punk defined by a big farty bass sound, cymbal crashes, and screeching guitars. The vocalists scream, yowl and taunt (think BLATZ’s side of Shit Split). Occasionally they slow to a FLIPPER-like crawl. DISPO’s songs continue in this vein. Both bands balance out the noise with catchy riffs and choruses.

The Deadly Hume Passenger Blues / Bed as Big as a Boat 7″

This band has a big tribal beat like GUN CLUB, punctuated with heavy, fuzz soaked swoops that kind of recall the BIRTHDAY PARTY. There’s real tension throughout where it seems the band is as confused as you as to where they’re going next in the song.

The Kelpies Take Me Away / Second by Second 7″

This reissue (?) of an early 80’s Aussie punk single by the KELPIES shows a studio approach to the same restrained punk style that was showcased in their recent posthumous live LP. The guitar work is rather like CHELSEA, the two compositions here pleasant but not earthshaking.

Universum Heavy Metal Gefahr LP

This is really fucking great and totally not punk at all. Featuring member(s) of German punk band PISSE (not Piss) and some other Berlin bands I’m not familiar with. Not sure if this is a parody, tribute, or what, but the album and title track is “Heavy Metal Danger” and, by all means, that is what you get here. Totally channeling early ACCEPT (you know, the band with the five-foot growling German lawn gnome in bondage gear singer) and also going into some proggish territory of Taken By Force-era SCORPIONS and early-ish UFO when they first went metal. Raging wind-in-your-hair, blazing-down-the-Autobahn heavy metal insanity—not for wimps. There’s a few post-punker moments and baselines on songs like “Nightcrawling Boneheads,” but this is 99% not for shorthairs. Put up signs of the horns here.

V/A There’s a Method to Our Madness LP

A great collection of mostly unreleased tracks from North American bands like LUDICHRIST, DISORDERLY CONDUCT, SACRED DENIAL, ASSAULT, PSYCHO, and many, many more. There are a few speed-metal riffs here, but the common denominator is speed. Aggressive speed-thrash attack.