Reviews

Sorry State

Cochonne Omega cassette

Sparse, bass-oriented art-punk via Durham, North Carolina, accented by prickly guitar and rickety keyboards for an authentically waved-out ’80s feel—think the DELINQUENTS, PINK SECTION, and the oddball femme-fringe of US DIY from the era. Bassist Mimi’s deadpan vocals and the single-note guitar stabs in “Omega” play up some scratchy No Wave leanings, but for the most part, COCHONNE have a sense of humor and off-center catchy charm that’s more suited to, say, a ’79 Athens house party with the B-52’S than an ’81 New York gallery happening with DNA. Other highlights: the synth-squealer “Horror-Scope” and the ramshackle, French-sung “Mensonge Humain,” both of which had me thinking of underrated early ’00s Parisian post-punks-in-the-garage MIL MASCARAS. Oui, c’est bon.

Cochonne Emergency 12″

A parting gift from North Carolina’s COCHONNE, who played their (unplanned) last show in February 2020 and then spent the ensuing void of a year recording and mixing these five tracks for posthumous vinyl release. Their late 2019 cassette debut was an endearing hodge-podge of femme-forward, late ’70s/early ’80s post-punk citations with a minor garage streak, apparently consisting of the first songs that bassist/vocalist Mimi ever wrote, and Emergency documents just how much COCHONNE had grown in a little over a year from those humble beginnings. The band’s bilingual English/French lyrics had always given them a certain Euro flair, but they really channeled the Neue Deutsche Welle (except en français) this time around—it’s not hard to imagine the suitably paranoid, MALARIA!-esque mix of sinister synth, shifting rhythms, and stern recitations that give way to urgent shrieks in “Qu’est-ce Que T’as Fait?” and “Trop” having been crafted from behind the Berlin Wall rather than in the present-day Triangle. Cavernous bass and jump-cut disco beats heighten the darkly serious drama of “KGB,” while “Asking for a Friend” navigates the dynamics of modern romance with an acidic sneer (“I’m looking for a real good time / It doesn’t have to be full-time”) over pangs of needling neo-no wave, and closer “Vampire” brings COCHONNE back to their initial DELINQUENTS/B-52’S raw art school charm with some wavy keys breaking into bashed drums and delirious laughter-as-vocals. You can’t say they didn’t go out on top! 

CTRL Group Blood Sausage cassette

Armed with an awesomely warped buzzsaw guitar attack, Raleigh’s CTRL GROUP serves up a tight set of intense and creative hardcore on this tape. The singer’s got a strong set of pipes on him, which he uses to deliver repetitive lyrics with a maniacal melody Á  la Serj Tankian. Fun stuff, and I imagine this band is deafening live.

Das Drip Das Drip LP

This full-length release from Raleigh, North Carolina’s DAS DRIP is about as nuts as a record can sound and still be called hardcore, rather than noise or art punk or whatever other label people use to talk about something that sounds like the feeling of getting beaten up, but in a good way. It’s furious and spazzy, blending unlikely elements into a whirlwind of twang, squeal, relentless yelling, and a generous dose of brutally fast drumming. There is something creative and vital here besides just anger. A potent antidote for the monotony of boring, macho hardcore!

Fitness Womxn New Age Record LP

Acerbic but pleasure-filled art punk from NC. Nervous frenetic spasms of sound, got that 99 Records feeling in spades! An investigation into the post-Leeds post-punk sound with significant early-’80s NYC LES dancier side of no wave additions. Really great, almost pop songs but fucked up in a good sorta end times, imagine early ’80s Athens new wave art school mannerisms. If you are into FRENCH VANILLA, BUSH TETRAS, ’n other wilder art school sounds expounded upon in Erika Elizabeth’s MRR columns this will indeed suit yr needs!

Gimmick Quarantine cassette

Chunky hardcore out of the the Pacific Northwest. A little slower and less trebly than their regional cohorts ELECTRIC CHAIR and SUCK LORDS, but also a little less straightforward. The vocals are the standout here, provided by the aptly named Gag (expect lots of punk retching), and they add a nice layer of punk slop to the mix. The overall effect reminds me of BLACK PANTIES or other egg-adjacent hardcore. This stuff works best when they either slow things to a crawl and really let the negativity breathe, as they do on “Pickled Heart,” or when they really go for it and let the bile fly like on “Boi Shit.” Seven-song cassette—same program both sides—limited to 100 copies (and looks like Sorry State still has a few). A solid debut, and I’m certainly interested in hearing more from these guys!

Gimmick Needle Caps EP

The opener “Needle Caps” quickly makes you think that you are listening to something that NO TREND would have made back in the day, but halfway through you get thrown a curveball to the face with pummeling punk hardcore. Once the punk hardcore bubble bursts there is no going back, as you get fed a healthy dose of frantic and snotty hardcore akin to SICK PLEASURE or the GERMS. By no means do they sound like a retro band but rather like a younger version of the aforementioned bands, just check the video for “Numbing” and you will catch my drift. If you are into the chaos of ELECTRIC CHAIR or the anxiety of GAG you will enjoy this angst-ridden piece of disgusting (in a good way) punk.

Golpe Promo 2020 cassette

GOLPE is Tadzio Pederzolli from the amazing short-lived project KOMPLOTT, among other Italian punk and hardcore bands. Promo 2020 is his new punishing modern mid-tempo hardcore demo in the vein of WARTHOG, mixed with the great Italian hardcore tradition of IMPACT or NEGAZIONE. All the songs were written and performed by himself, and these three tracks serve as warm up for the La Colpa È Solo Tua LP out through Sorry State Records in 2021. These songs do a good job in leaving you wanting more and I can predict that the full-length will be a rager. Caos, non musica.

Golpe La Colpa È Solo Tua LP

Just as predicted in my review of the GOLPE’s Promo 2020 cassette, this album fucking kicks ass. Tadzio Pederzolli from KOMPLOTT and SEMPRE PEGGIO managed to keep expectations high and deliver an amazingly fresh D-beat-infused hardcore record. It’s great to see punk bands that use their political views as weapons against ignorance and prejudice, as not many bands these days talk openly about their beliefs. Just head on over to his Bandcamp and grab a shirt, with proceeds going to Brigate Volontarie. Everything about this record screams activism and solidarity. This is what punk is supposed to be.

Hüstler Hüstler cassette

Marrying the darling darkness of CHRISTIAN DEATH with creepy, metallic future-shock, New York’s HÜSTLER is on quite a unique trip on this ambitious cassette. The band lays out lengthy bouts of metal noodling over layered, menacing background clatter and robotic drums that create a borderline industrial feel at times. Production here uses seemingly all the knobs, lacing the record with countless effects that add to its chaotic persona. It’s even danceable at points, and somehow would still seem appropriate blaring out of an evil castle.

Hüstler Hüstler demo cassette

An excellent, disgusting debut demo from NY deathpunks HÜSTLER through Sorry State Records. Hüstler is a healthy dose of visceral deathrock-infused blackened hardcore punk, where everything is well-balanced and you can tell they channel loads of influences on this one. From the coldness of CHRISTIAN DEATH to the strangeness of GISM and even SLAYER’s early work in the guitar work. Like being sodomized by Satan himself.

Invalid Invalid LP

And the ugliest cover award goes to…Pittsburgh’s INVALID! This tight twelve-incher is packed with very authentic old school hardcore echoing BLACK FLAG and NEGATIVE APPROACH with touches of POISON IDEA. Tough chugging, speedy thrashing, and brooding breakdowns are covered in stretched-out throaty growls and hey, is that the SACRILEGE “Life Line” riff on “Party’s Over”?

Invertebrates Invertebrates demo cassette

Super solid demo from this Richmond, VA, band. Four songs of UK82-inspired hardcore with raw production, fast, catchy songs, and shouted DISCHARGE-style vocals. “Red Lake Earth” starts with a great three-note lead that burrows in your brain as it turns into a three-chord blast. “Shit Pit” has some classic, single bent note hooks and a dissonant solo that push all the classic HC buttons in the right order. Loud, fast, and raging punk for fans of the FIX and UNRULY BOYS.

ISS Alles 3rd Gut LP

Sharp North Carolina damage that sounds like it’s coming from an entirely different dimension. Doses of CHROME, early Goner, ERASE ERRATA, FLIPPER, EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN—ISS are all over the damn map, with slow nihilistic dirges, fast and snappy garage power jammers, and a tendency for dark pop in the face of super fukkd up sax solos. In a world of by-the-books, flavor-of-the-month bands (and genres) taking the DIY world by storm, it’s refreshing to hear a record that is just going where the sound takes it—also, this record is extremely fucking punk. And punk is still cool. Choice banger: “Outta My Gourd,” if only because it stands out as a neanderthal slammer in a field of weirdness.

Lasso Amuo EP

LASSO came from out of nowhere and immediately grabbed the punk world by the balls. This may be a new outfit, but all of the members had previously played in ROSA IDIOTA. Following the Brazilian hardcore tradition and adding a bit of deathrock à la RUDIMENTARY PENI here and there, this debut is all one can ask for. An eight-song EP that will be stuck on your player for a long time.

Mutant Strain Mutant Strain LP

An (im?)proper long-player from Charlotte, NC’s Mutant Strain, this album was recorded live, three songs at a time, with no breaks in between. That’s gangster. Loaded with twists, turns, and plenty of catchy hardcore pummeling, the music of MUTANT STRAIN is infused with the fiendish spirit of DAWN OF HUMANS at times and the winding intrigue of the COLTRANES at others, with a healthy dollop of anarcho influence spread throughout (the elaborate sleeve and multiple inserts included with the record are done in the style of Crass Records as well.) The theatrical female vocals here get downright demonic, providing a nice contrast to the grinds and grooves of their hook-laden, bass-heavy backdrop. This is intricate work, from the cover art and packaging, to the concept of the recording and track arrangement, and right on to the dense and poignant songwriting itself. A hell of a debut.

Out Cold Living Is Killing Me LP

OUT COLD was labeled underrated throughout their whole career—it made them enter the category of your favorite band’s favorite band. Although right now I cannot really name particular bands they have influenced. How Living Is Killing Me sounds has become unique in today’s hardcore as it is raw in a different sense than what the meaning of raw has transformed into. OUT COLD reaches for the purest, unfiltered form, just turning on and up the amp and adding a little distortion, not making it thin, sharp, clean; behind which probably is a thought that this is going to be enough to sound harsh and hard. It’s a brave and wild idea even if a significant part of this LP was recorded at least ten years ago, before Mark Sheehan, their vocalist/guitar player, tragically passed away. How trends circle, this record feels alien today, as if it travelled through time. Although it does not make it ridiculous or even clumsily nostalgic but a lonely beast, something OUT COLD was called in their whole career. It reminds me of those classic USHC bands that are gateway drugs to this culture, but unlike being influenced by predecessors OUT COLD has worked themselves into this established sound that now feels as their own. The tempos are divided between straight-ahead fast and mid-tempo with tension which tracks wander away to rock-ish territories. As an achievement it is wonderful this record has been released. It is the final chapter of OUT COLD but isn’t it silly to always expect that at the end something amazing will happen? It adds to their story but as in life there are peaks and lows and mostly that sedating middles, still it worth to make it through and release everything we can because what is the worst that can happen? Even if you fail at least you fucking tried.

Scalple Skillful Butchers LP

SCALPLE is back with a new LP, Skillful Butchers, after their devastating debut World Gone Bad. With members and ex-members of MEMBRANE, RAZORHEADS, URCHIN, INFERNÖH, EXTENDED HELL, and TERRORIST, one can only expect a great record. Ten songs of fast-paced hardcore with a thrashy feel, bordering on the ’80s fastcore sounds of RIPCORD, HERESY, or ELECTRO HIPPIES with USHC undertones. Dynamic and relentless drumming, overlayed with metallic riffage and growling vocals. The intros and interludes are done by Maggot Champagne a.k.a. PHARMAKON, who is no stranger to working with punk bands. Be it ’80s-influenced fastcore or ’80s USHC, this is an hardcore album in its essence and it fucking rips! Play fast or don’t!

Subculture Live ’86 cassette

Here’s a little time capsule action from Sorry State. Formed in North Carolina in the early ’80s, SUBCULTURE is one of those bands that weren’t heard by a wide audience during their run, but those who were familiar with the group get a wide-eyed look when you mention them. I’ve read at least one article on the web where someone calls them “the best punk band in the world” of their era. I don’t know about all that, but they were a cool group and pretty original. They played hardcore, but with more depth and variety in sound than many bands of the time, to the point where it’s difficult to make a wholesale comparison. The music is speedy and thrashy, but with an unusual sense of vulnerability. This cassette captures a boombox recording of a show they played in 1986 in all its glory—there’s an audible crowd, the tape is chewed beyond recognition in spots, and the guitarist tells his girlfriend he loves her several times between songs. Big ups to Debbie. At one point the singer kicks into a lengthy rap in which he name-drops Henry Rollins and calls himself “the magic man.” There are previously unreleased songs in this set, and apparently, even the band was surprised to hear them, as they had no recollection of writing or playing them. All in all, it’s fun stuff. Puke N Vomit did a bang-up job on the reissue of their sole LP I Heard A Scream a couple of years back, and this tape is a nice companion piece to it.

Tetanus Tetanus cassette

Sonically schizophrenic and riddled with digital fuckery, this tape from TETANUS was created in the wake of a couple other Charlotte bands that succumbed to the lockdown restraints of COVID-19. Bullhorned shouty vocals cover all six noisy tracks, including the sped-up rendition of the MENTALLY ILL’s KBD classic “Gacy’s Place” that closes it out. Chalk it up as one of the more pleasant repercussions of the pandemic.

V/A American Idylls 2xLP

When I was a kid, a good compilation record was like a ticket to another world. In the pre-internet universe, these were often a crucial gateway to discovering new bands, and in this far-away and oft-forgotten dimension, finding a monster double-LP collection like American Idylls would be nothing less than a fucking miracle. Packing 49(!) songs from the cream of the current North Carolina punk crop, the musical styles represented here range from spastic DIY (FITNESS WOMXN), to punishing thrash (PUBLIC ACID), and lots in between, making it a real “something for everyone” affair. It’s mind-blowing that this eclectic variety of great bands exists at once on the planet, let alone all in the NC area. With the party crushers of DRUGCHARGE, the steely post-hardcore of SILICA, the dystopian dirges of NATURAL CAUSES, the strong and snotty rockers from MIND DWELLER, and much more, the majority of this stuff pushes boundaries and challenges categorization, as good music should. Adding to the orgasm, the vinyl package comes with a 32-page booklet documenting the scene. I hope there’s at least a couple young’n’s out there who somehow find this record between TikTok sessions and truly get their shit rocked forever.

Valtatyhjiö Lukko cassette

Finnish hardcore alert! VALTATYHJIÖ hails from Joensuu in North Karelia, Finland, and brings under their arms a debut demo that is an absolute banger. The vocal delivery could have easily been on a MELLAKKA record, with the traditional Finnish hardcore snarl raiding your ears non-stop. The drumming is on point and the riffs just keep on coming and coming. A new release and band that carries the torch for the golden era of Finnish hardcore.

Woodstock ’99 Super Gremlin 12″

I’m 99% sure that WOODSTOCK ‘99 is former FRIED EGG-ers who pulled up stakes from Virginia to settle in Cleveland, where their style of ripping hardcore probably feels right at home. Opener “La Casa De Fuck You” was on a Tetryon Tape (the one with Fred Durst on the cover) that came out last year, and it deploys a great, nagging one-note piano hook like POISON IDEA wants to be your dog. Maybe it’s the CB radio vocals, but the first half of “$800 Lunch Meat” sounds like MULE of all bands, erupts for a brief flash, then comes back down into a weird alt-rock vibe that could pass as TOADIES (or SEASON TO RISK, if yr frisky). “Pickled Drunk Driver” walks a peculiar line between ignorant hardcore stomp and SOUL ASYLUM’s semi-psychedelic heartland thrash. The more straightforward moments are high-class POISON IDEA tributes and probably go over like gangbusters in an Ohio City basement. “Green Oyster Dick” jacks a Bay Area punk structure and could have been on a split 7” with GRIMPLE back in the day. “Budget Inn” is all wailing guitar leads like a SCREAMING TREES song, but instead of Mark Lanegan’s growl, you’ve got a French lady talking. The other vital piece of information that you need to be aware of regarding Super Gremlin is that every song ends with a gong strike, a creative choice which this listener can only respect. Rats off to ya.

Zorn Hardcore Zorn EP

No, this is not a new JOHN ZORN hardcore record! This is ZORN the ultra-Satanic metalpunk outfit from Philadelphia, and they are here to take your soul. After their self-titled EP, they unleashed four hymns to the horned one in a bastard metalpunk spawn of chorus-drenched guitars and devilish madman screams. To make it easier, you can put them in the same bag as homies DEVIL MASTER (ZORN’s singer is the main character in the “Black Flame Candle”). Lay down your souls to ZORN’s rock’n’roll!