Reviews

Richter Scale

Darby Trash Trashin’ II cassette

Do you like LIQUIDS? If so, you’re in luck, because DARBY TRASH from Chile does, too. So much, in fact, that everything from the artwork to the washed-out production of these egged-out songs mimics the LIQUIDS to a T. Originality is overrated, anyway.

Fealty Peace Is Our Problem 7″

I know this shit is almost a year old now, but uuuugggghhhh FEALTY are so good. The 2017 demo was beyond crucial, and 2018’s Peace Is Our Problem only tightened their grip on dominance. Uncomfortable and in-your-face bombastic anarcho punk, heavy on the low end and desperation, this New York trio sounds like you feel after a fight you didn’t know was coming. You’re confused, full of adrenaline…and ready for more.

Gorilla Knifefight The Cassingles cassette

Well-done, straight-up Midwest hardcore that pulls all the punches. There’s six tracks, of which maybe one lasts longer than a minute. It’s tight, lo-fi, sarcastic, dripping with attitude. Basically, all the good stuff. This tape should be your fix for the week. Five minutes of nothing but ripping tunes and cathartic energy.

Grout Grout cassette

Four songs and a DEVO cover from this Australian band that sounds like a mix of FRIED EGG and GAG. The songs are mostly mid-tempo, noisy hardcore with gruff shouted vocals and the occasional stompy breakdown. Nothing revolutionary here, but very solid nonetheless. “Caged Pigs” has a 1-2 beat that could get a circle pit going in no time. And who can say no to a heavy, shouted DEVO cover? Not me. Check it out if you’re angry and want to throw your elbows around.

Misery Guts Oxford ‘Ardcore cassette

D-beat-infused hardcore from Oxford, UK. Nothing groundbreaking here, but certainly not phoning it in. Songs are tight, vocals are pissed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a vocalist credited for “confrontation” before. Definitely makes me more intrigued to see this band play live.

Pänika Demo 2020 cassette

This short dose of PÄNIKA is flush with a menacing and pounding sound. Blasting sparse riffs with a mocking tone, haunting echoed vocals, and overt political themes, its got all the ingredients for a captivating hardcore experience, even if it only lasts a couple minutes. They kinda remind me of a female-fronted version of Italy’s KOBRA, which is great praise, and I’m thinking this has got to be one of the hottest bands in Wroclaw, Poland.

Rejex Feel Nothing demo cassette

Kick-ass hardcore punk band from Moreno Valley, California delivering the goods to any old school hardcore aficionado. They sound like MINOR THREAT on speed. “Feel Nothing” is a four-song demo that clocks in at 1:37. They like to go fast and go hard. Bonus points for the production that sounds like it comes from the ’80s. And just like that, the demo ends and you are left wanting more!

Rude Television Distractions cassette

I miss my Tascam. There is something totally different about how you approach recording music with limitations, whereas if you start using a DAW, you can get lost in the options. This tape exemplifies what you can do with a point of view, the ability to play multiple instruments, and capable yet not limitless technology. The results are laser-focused bedroom punk with a synth-y undercurrent. It would be easy to compare this to R.M.F.C. and it has its similarities, but this project has its own voice that is snotty and fun in all the right ways. It has its debt owed to the DEAD MILKMEN as well, at least vocally, but what is impressive is how varied the sound is from cut to cut. This isn’t some homogeneous same-y six tracks of “been there, done that” bedroom punk. The songwriting is solid, the rhythm tight and right on, and there’s just the right amount of fuzz and echo to sell you on the authenticity of it all. Spaced-out rockers like “Operate” strike on a reptilian level, you simply have to bob your head. Cleaner tone forays into post-punk rhythms, such as on closer “Transformer No. 1,” are just as satisfying, proving the project has legs to walk wherever it wants to next.

S.M.I.L.E. S.M.I.L.E. Some More cassette

Second slammer from Cleveland’s Delayed Gratification to pass through my ears this month, and like the opening track pleads: “I just need more.” Three doses of ripping USHC from Akron’s S.M.I.L.E.—nothing fancy but very special indeed. A logical extension of the BIB, S.H.I.T., HOAX-style hardcore that (justifiably) dominated the mid-’10s, there’s just a touch of groove here and fukk, it just slams so damn hard. More indeed, please.

Slimex Slimex demo cassette

Portland robo-punk for fans of ERIK NERVOUS and RESEARCH REACTOR CORPORATION. “Big Drag” is an absolute winner. It sounds like the SPITS, with classic catchy rock’n’roll melodies layered in keyboards set on the flute setting. I just listened to it three times in a row. “Blood Circus” is more synth-heavy with jerky rhythms that bring to mind our lords and saviors of this type of shit, DEVO. “No Clue” is another solid tune with heavy vocal reverb. No clue pertains to the lyrics too, since they are echoed beyond comprehension, but it doesn’t really matter because it sounds good. “Pressure” breaks off the reverb knob on the vocals, all delivered over manic keys and bass. We’re talking Baby Jessica-down-the-well levels of echo, but it fits well here. Cool band with a great name and killer opening track. Recommended. Also, if you like this brand of lo-fi synth punk, check out Richter Scale’s other releases—they have as many releases as you have buttons on your broken Casiotone.

Spooky Demo 2021 cassette

With quirky drum machines, reverb-drenched vocals, and scratchy guitars, SPOOKY create self-described DEVO-core. I think that’s an apt description of the genre, like an even more DIY, homemade DEVO demo. Besides the obvious influence of DEVO, this tape shares a lot in common with the sounds of ALIEN NOSEJOB and GEE TEE. There’s just four tracks on the tape, all of which are playful and quick to end. Without a lot of substance, it’s hard to say this is something great, but for a demo tape it’s still pretty fun.

Tantrum Get What You Deserve cassette

NYC’s TANTRUM delivers a steady D-beat pounding on some of this tape, and dark, smoky post-punk on the rest of it. It’s an interesting mix, especially when complemented by the tinny demo quality. The echoed female vocals add a layer of goth/anarcho vibes to these six tracks, working just as well over the thrashy hardcore parts as they do on the slower, more pointed numbers. While these elements may sound a little mismatched, TANTRUM makes it work fairly seamlessly.

Targets Existence Is a Mess, I Cannot Escape demo cassette

What words come to mind after my first listen of this demo, you ask? Disturbed, psychotic, nightmarish, motherfucking insane, maybe? Yes, all of those words do come to mind, but don’t let it scare you. This is the psychotic nightmare of a tape we’ve all been waiting for. Something that appeals to the GG ALLIN inside us all. The soundtrack to your bad acid trip. The tape you play to get pumped up for your satanic baptism. It puts you in an existential mood and inspires you to read a book about death. Wrapped in a lo-fi jumble of noisy guitars and distorted vocals, the demo quality only adds to the crusty vibe of the tape. Overall, it’s some of Denver’s finest hardcore. Looking forward to hearing more from these guys.

Ugly Thing Ugly Thing cassette

The Richter Scale label in Oxford has been transatlantically repping the Moreno Valley, CA hardcore scene, or one specific node of it, by running off UK editions of its bands’ extremely short tapes. Being objective here, anyone paying to have a toilet-break-length piece of music cargoed across the world is exhibiting decadence on a par with the last days of Rome. Not totally sure who’s in UGLY THING, but they’ve sprung from the same well as SUNK, REJEX, and PROCESS OF ELIMINATION, all of whom have Richter Scale tapes too, and their demo—four songs in two-and-a-half minutes—is tasty, “take a buzzsaw to a brick wall” HC with cool rabid dog vox and no song titles.

WWW Mundo Virtual cassette

Five short tracks of sci-fi punk/DEVO worship from Argentina. You want egg-punk? Here’s the egg. This has to be the logical extension of the nerdiest music associated with the genre. The first four tracks all open with various forms of technology firing up (phones ringing, dial-up modems, etc.), followed by crunchy synth overload. The vocals are run through some sort of warbly, distorted insect effect and mixed really high so they override everything else. The cumulative listening experience is over-the-top and unpleasant. Forget egg-punk—this is irritant punk. The lyrics are in Spanish, so I’m not sure what they say, but the band’s description describes them as being about the harmful relationship between humans and electronics. Take this tape as an example. The final song, “Placer Artificial,” is much better and sounds like it had more effort involved (and they ditch the vocal effect). There’s some CONEHEADS influence on the vocals and several layers of catchy synth lines. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come for any future WWW releases.