Bleakness Functionally Extinct LP

The bleak piano intro sets the stage for darkness to come. Uneasy melodies and a sense of melancholy play the leading role on Functionally Extinct, while steady and catchy hardcore punk serves as a backdrop for this post-punk outfit. BLEAKNESS couldn’t have chosen a better band name. This a great modern French post-punk record sure to brighten (or darken) your days.

Bleakness Life at a Standstill LP

What can you say, the French love their cold goth post-punk and so do I. From the same label as the excellent SYNDROME 81 is BLEAKNESS with their second LP, Life at a Standstill. While the former plays it straight with the post-punk iciness, BLEAKNESS is far more dramatic, opening the album with a lone piano that gives the proceedings a dramatic flair that permeates throughout the album. The vocals especially stand out; they have a pained warble that feels authentic. While all ten tracks are solid, two stand out above the rest: halfway point “Refuse Their Reality,” a hypnotic spoken word deathrocker that has an evil BAUHAUS vibe, and “19061924,” a beautiful and surprisingly sweeping instrumental that, if pushed, could almost go into MOGWAI or even PELICAN-like territory. I’ve got to say, it really left me wanting more of that sound. I’ll be excited to hear whatever these guys come up with next.

Bleakness A World To Rebuild 12″

A downbeat set of six from Lyon, France’s BLEAKNESS. At times sounding straight post-punk, then goth, and then almost new wave, particularly on the two synth-heavy “remixes” of songs that came off their debut LP Functionally Extinct. Within that range, and what I think gives theme to the whole piece, is Nico’s heavy, coarse vocals. Ultimately, the two-tone album cover and their name say it all.

Cataphiles Cataphiles LP

A very dark cloud was above Bremen when goth punks CATAPHILES wrote their debut self-titled LP—a quick listen to it is all it takes to prove that punk with goth leanings is still alive and well. The same energy and melancholy can be found on records by the CURE and CHRISTIAN DEATH, who are obvious references but fitting ones. A punkier edge to deathrock and goth did no harm to their sound and elevated it into new sonic spaces, as did the dual male/female vocals and usage of keyboards for gloomier purposes. CATAPHILES will surely stand out in the goth punk scene.

Chueko Tools of Oppression EP

Portland’s CHUEKO’s new EP Tools of Oppression offers a compelling blend of American hardcore and UK82 influences reminiscent of bands like GBH. The fusion of these two styles creates a raw and energetic sound that captures the essence of hardcore punk. Nothing new, but sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The EP’s aggressive and powerful music is sure to resonate with fans of both classic and modern hardcore music scenes. Unpretentious and raw!

Columna Las Cosas Que Perdemos LP

Spanish punks offer a fresh take on post-punk (minus the flanger) that is heavily based on pop, but never really dredges too deep into either side of the divide. Devoid of any tinges of goth and cleanly recorded, COLUMNA have a continuum of bangers that keeps Las Cosas Que Perdemos churning, and upbeat. RATA NEGRA with a tinge of ÖTZI but perhaps more polished.

Cut Piece Accept Defeat (Don’t Sabotage Me) EP

The first release by PDX city punkers CUT PIECE is a four-track vicious punk attack with a sense of urgency. Sonically, it’s somewhere along the melodic side of UK82 punk, like CHRON GEN or VICE SQUAD instead of DISCHARGE or the EXPLOITED, yet each track has its own unique musical approach. Instead of relying on naive teenage angst, there’s more complex expressions of anger and frustration. Minimal yet complex post-punk-like guitar licks tangle through the aggressive drive of drums and bass with a catchy, almost sing-along shouting vocal style.

Daydream Reaching for Eternity LP

Third full-length by Portland’s hardcore punk fanatics DAYDREAM. And what a beautifully ugly record! After their great self-titled debut and followed by Mystic Operative, DAYDREAM continues to steer away from the conventional hard punk lines and dares to paint their own. More akin to the artsy side of hardcore, Reaching for Eternity is a rollercoaster of moments, bits and pieces of different parts of hardcore punk, like a collage of Dischord Records bands stitched together. No need to choose FAITH or VOID when you can have both!

Los Flixs Los Flixs demo cassette

Although they are based in Germany, LOS FLIXS appear to have two members originally from different South American countries. This makes a whole lot of sense, seeing as how LOS FLIXS has a very Latinx punk sound going on. RAMONES-inspired riffs with catchily sung and harmonized back-and-forth vocals between the different singers in the band. Incredibly poppy and head-bobbing. There’s eight songs on the demo and they go by far too quickly, prepare to continue flipping the tape and re-listening.

Nervous Assistant Bitter Pills LP

Imagine a collision of ’80s SoCal and ’80s Berlin, not quite one or the other enough to not stay on the bridge. The hooks are there, but so is the stark darkness that creeps through even the upbeat numbers. NERVOUS ASSISTANT keeps it fast and keeps to the shit-hot guitar-based hooks instead of leaning on tonnage or production—not to say that Bitter Pills doesn’t sound great, because it does, but the focus remains on the songs. Makes me even more bummed that I walked into Eli’s as they were wrapping the last song of their set a couple of years back…

Nouveaux Nouveaux LP

If you’re desiring some melancholic, synth-driven post-punk, then maybe give Vancouver’s NOUVEAUX a spin. This full-length draws inspiration from a variety of musical spaces and mixes them into a haunting, brutalist approach to pop. Like a cold, grey monolith, each song builds a heavy foundation upon underground ’80s music scenes. You’ll soon find yourself wanting to vogue while you’re gently reminded of our bleak future.

Oust Never Trust a Politician EP

Three tracks of ultra-bleak Dutch hardcore. This band wastes no time tearing into fast and ferocious territory with plenty of room for pit-demolishing breakdowns. No, not in a bro hardcore way, like truly violent-sounding. This band started out straighter kängpunk, but thankfully is in stranger, more satisfying territory with these songs. The echoing, throat-rattling vocals have major presence, and the guitars add texture and tone from across several genres from traditional hardcore to deathrock. It all blends, though; this doesn’t sound “experimental” but rather is a no-frills affair. Slams from the needle drop ‘til the bitter end.

Spectres Provincial Wake / Northern Towns 7″

With the first track’s jangly and grippingly catchy intro, it’s hard to believe this record was recorded just a couple years ago and not in the ’80s. The cover artwork looks like a faithful re-enactment of an ’80s pop album, foreshadowing a change in direction from the band’s earlier darkwave releases. The second track does tend back toward the dark side of new wave, with influences like the SMITHS or the JESUS AND MARY CHAIN. Both tracks are worthy of being played on repeat while you wait for SPECTRES’ new full-length.

Suspectre Suspectre LP

A solid debut release from this post-punk trio from Bremen, Germany. Dark but with the right amount of pop and lyrical insight to keep it interesting and varied. A modern-sounding MAGAZINE, but like if Howard Devoto kept more of his BUZZCOCKS influences in there, and he could have foreseen the Berlin Wall falling.

Syndrome 81 Prisons Imaginaires LP

SYNDROME 81 stands apart from the majority of their contemporaries in the Oi! scene, taking as much inspiration from latter-era BLITZ or even ROSE OF VICTORY as they do CAMERA SILENS or TROTSKIDS. This darker, solemn take on the genre with touches and flourishes of deathrock and post-punk is a bit of a palate cleanser compared to some of the more tedious caricatures that the Sambas-and-camo-shorts mob farts out semi-regularly, and on their debut full-length they sound tighter and more fully-realised then ever before. Punchy and anthemic, this has the potential to be one of the best releases of the year.

Taifun Demo 2020 cassette

German punks worshipping Japanese ’90s hardcore bands, featuring members of BURIAL (no strangers to this genre) and BOMBENALARM. Side A is pure pummeling Burning Spirits-styled hardcore going from BASTARD to FORWARD. Four tracks with all the style’s tropes: rock’n’roll leads, gang shouts, and an upbeat feeling. Side B is a vicious ten-minute noise piece about the mythological Greek giant Argus Panoptes that will melt what is left of your ears off. Overall a great demo for all the Japanese hardcore enthusiasts.

V/A Dawn of a New Age cassette

A benefit tape comp for the Animal Liberation Front, this is a co-release from Bluurg and Sabotage tapes. Artists contributing are the SUBHUMANS, ATROX, INSTIGATORS, REALITY CONTROL, PSYCHO FACTION, POLITICAL ASYLUM, KULTURKAMPF, and several others. Good sound quality and good music and information.

Wasted Modern Lie LP

Formed in 1996 in Joensuu, Finland, WASTED re-records some of their earliest work here on Modern Lie. This ain’t no skin-and-bones punk, this is full muscle and gristle: “wrench tossed in the political machine” lyrics, bass bright and up front in the mix, with a combative rhythm. The band might sound like a darker version of NAKED RAYGUN, or something of the like, if it wasn’t for the clever, post-punk guitar riffs layered throughout, in addition to the poignant lyrics, like on the opener “Break You” where they sing “I bet they taught you about global wealth / But did they teach you about mental health.” “True Colors” has my favorite bass and drum groove on the album, while “Trenches” sounds like a call-to-arms anthem, not to be missed. Brothers Ville and Antti Rönkkö have written the band through six other LPs over their 25-plus years as WASTED, and they aren’t here to fuck around. If you need the last veil to be lifted on the first-world illusion of prosperity, tune in to Modern Lie.