Reviews

Static Shock

Ataque Zero Ataque Zero 12″

Unrelenting five-track debut from Bogota, Columbia’s ATAQUE ZERO. Bass lines build to ride cymbal-clattering choruses, with Luis’ shouted vocals barely taking a rest throughout the entire EP. This project is part of the autonomous cultural center, Rat Trap, in Bogota, that features DIY artists and musicians. Limited copies going quick!

Bootlicker Bootlicker LP

Playing hard and bouncy punk with a melting pot of influences, Vancouver’s BOOTLICKER is sharper than ever on this explosive full-length outing. Weaving classic hardcore and D-beat elements into their UK82-style songs, these guys come off as a bit more original that some of the more stringent ’80s-flavored bands that have been springing up as of late. This record from the CHAIN WHIP labelmates is loaded with catchy tunes (“Herd the Sheep”’ will get stuck in yer head) delivered with conviction through obliterated speakers. Taste the rubber, baby.

Boss Cash Em In / Red Signal 7″

The second single by glam-punk hooligans BOSS arrives three years after the first, with under five minutes of music to show for it, but that’s no bovver cause this 45rpm, two-song, thank-you-and-goodnight format is the canonical vehicle for this sound. Also, most or all of the members have been busy here and there: Jonah Falco’s recorded a stack of bands and played on releases like the sick new GAME 12″, Maxime Smadja has, well, also recorded a stack of bands, even if there’s no sign of a new RIXE record (are they still going?). “Cash Em In” is the pick of the pair here, with a spoken intro by Callum of the CHISEL before a riot of muscled-up boogie and wicked guitar phasing; B-side “Red Signal” is heads-down junkshop glam with great, impetuous “whoo-oo!” backing vocal interjections.

Chubby and the Gang All Along the Uxbridge Road / Mockba 7″

Supremely adept sounds from some CROWN COURT affiliates. The gist of this is a bit on the classic rechanneling side, complete with design that cops Chiswick Records, an indicator of this lot’s passions if ever there was one. Think DISGUISE from the ancient era, or something like QUANGO from more modern times. Speedy UK punk—timeless stuff—cropped, catchy and very tough. All aboard.

Chubby and the Gang Speed Kills LP

The impressive cover from this London band’s debut full-length album has already totally caught my attention. Sound like exactly everything I have heard all my life—it is energizing, fun, aggressive with a few breaks for melodies and melancholy, like COCK SPARRER. As if SLADE had met MOTÖRHEAD in a perfect space-time.

Clock of Time Pestilent Planet LP

Simmering, post-punk with steady guitars, Pestilent Planet sounds locked-in from the get-go. Of the past bands that make up their members’ pedigree, VEXX, USELESS EATERS, and DIÄT, this sounds most like the latter. The drums keep a sense of unease by making heavy use of toms, rather than a standard kick-snare punk beat, while the vocals sound like they’re delivering some seriously bad news over an intercom in a retro-dystopian sci-fi nightmare, and on top of that, the sustained, overlapping guitar bits add to the urgency. It sounds sick. The third track, “Companion,” is right on the money and reminds me of what I like best in SIEKIERA or more contemporary post-punkers like CONSTANT MONGREL. If you’re still left jonesing after the sonic perfection that was DIÄT’s Positive Disintegration, this will very much scratch that same itch. They don’t deviate from the format, but they don’t make any mistakes, either. Should you—like me—find yourself masked up in line at a grocery store, nodding to this in your headphones, in a too-hot black parka, queued up three-quarters of the way around the place on the eve of a holiday thinking “this is bleak, this is a bummer”…turn it up and ride out the pestilence.

Cold Meat Hot and Flustered LP

Perth’s COLD MEAT were practically perfect from their first utterance, the Sweet Treats tape released nigh on five years back. I say “practically” to acknowledge that their atonal KBD clang, personal-political feminist lyrics and ever-changing pseudonyms stuck fast to a template established by GOOD THROB a few years prior. Hot and Flustered, COLD MEAT’s debut album, eclipses that minor issue majorly—this sounds like no individual entity so much as the latest raging entry in a half-century continuum of fucked-off snarky DIY punk. There are hooks on here visible from space, highlighted by a spot-on production, and lyrical earworms in waiting. Ashley Ack, as she goes by this time, is imperious here, one of punk’s current vocal powerhouses for sure, and at certain points (the closing section of “Women’s Work,” notably) seems to channel the spirit of Vi Subversa, the POISON GIRLS absolutely being part of that continuum I mentioned. A blazing band that keeps getting even better.

Geld Beyond the Floor LP

’Twas the prehistoric epoch of 2018 when GELD’s Perfect Texture LP kicked my ass through the top of my head via its solid gold meld of Scando-Japano HC abandon and psychedelic guitar excursions. Beyond the Floor dials down the psych tropes—little on this twelve-tracker zongs out quite like, say, “Parasitic Fucker” off the debut; maybe the gothy scrawling on “Forces at Work” approaches that level—but is every bit as deranged and dangerous. Written and recorded on “pills, meth, booze, weed [and] DMT,” so says the sales spiel: if this is the case, this Melbourne foursome are the opposite of sloppy drunks, cabbaged stoners or too-gone tweakers, rather a destructive forward line dosed on black market medicine by a shadowy team doctor. That is to say: fully sick in-the-red guitar tone, basslines that are sinister but groovy in the same way, say, Kira’s were in BLACK FLAG, foaming provoked-animal vox from Al Smith, maybe some bestial black metal influence in there but it’s such a barrage yer just guessing really… plus the lyric “Pubs open in my mind” and, if you were quick enough (which you weren’t, should you be reading this as a buyers’ guide), a really neat Jack Chick-parody comic packaged with the browny-gold vinyl. GELD are god’s-honest dons.

Idiota Civilizzato Sporchi Senza Fine LP

Holy shit, how did I sleep on this 12″ from Berlin’s IDIOTA CIVILIZZATO? It’s easily one of the best hardcore records from 2018. The band conveys the outta control wildness of early manic punks such as NEGAZIONE and CHEETAH CHROME MOTHERFUCKERS. The production amplifies the chaotic feeling a lot—everything is sorta clear, but sounds like it’s just a smudge near being in the red. It results in a similar feeling as watching this sorta shit in a house show where there’s too many people and everybody is knocking everything else over—the PA is on the floor, the band members slammed against their amps, the drummer losing entire pieces of their kit to the mania. A must have!

Idiota Civilizzato CiviltÁ  Idiota EP

The vocalist seems to be channeling INDIGESTI on this latest offering, and I’m therefore charmed. IDIOTA CIVILIZZATO is a Berlin-based band featuring punx from Spain, Australia, and Italy—the Italian vocalist does well to catch the ear of any discenring ’80s Italian hardcore fan. After a demo, EP, and LP, they impressively keep the quality high and awesomely idiotic! Four more excellent tunes for thrashing, accompanied by consistently amateurish cover drawing.

Minima Minima LP

For those always anticipating more great Barcelona acts: welcome MINIMA, featuring the singer from BARCELONA, Guillem from DESTINO FINAL/UNA BESTIA INCONTROLLABLE, and folks from UK’s NO and Malmö’s SNOR. Credentials aside, MINIMA’s basic two-riff approach to punk, accentuated by a teeth/fist-clenching vocal scowl, should appeal to any discerning punk. Throughout thirteen tracks there’s somehow so much variety in the way of hooks in the songwriting, despite such a basic approach. It’s all in the execution. Some crazy combination of urgency, rage and coolness. Recommended pickup for fans of unpretentious, non-flashy punk and hardcore, and record covers featuring crotches.

Mundo Primitivo Paisaje Interior cassette

Sydney’s MUNDO PRIMITIVO is a band formed just last year with Melissa from Colombia’s ABUSO and members of MORTE LENTA, ILL BRIGADE, PHOTOGENIC, and MUM. This six-song tape is sung in Spanish, but you can get the lyrics in English on their Bandcamp. I urge you to do that, just to get the full message of the band: the personal is political, but if the personal is imploding while the world burns, what are we supposed to do? To resist is the answer. There is a hallucinatory edge to the images painted by the lyrics, the urgency of action is so strong it takes the form of expressionist and vitalist imagery. Sonically, we’re talking about some intense and gripping hardcore with catchy riffs and energetic performances; it reminded me of early ’80s Southern Californian bands like the GERMS or T.S.O.L. Anyway, this is one of the best punk releases of the year. You can feel and smell the sweat dripping from each song.  I particularly loved “Medium” with its very deathrock-y slow intro, noisy guitar feedback, and slightly pysch hardcore finale. You can get the single-sided tape, with beautiful original artwork printed by Melissa, on Static Shock Records. Also important, all proceeds from this release are donated directly to all the people resisting fascist state violence in Colombia.

Negative Gears Negative Gears 12″

This is the debut vinyl aural blast from Sydney’s NEGATIVE GEARS. Six demented screeds bifurcated by one ’80s synth interlude—the whole thing goes by so quickly, that you can listen to the record on your tea break. There’s a melancholic undercurrent here (a bit WIPERS, a bit ICEAGE) that is tempered by an Aussie snarl not unlike GEARS’ peers like LOW LIFE and TOTAL CONTROL. I’ve listened to it a few times now, and I keep hearing new things to appreciate: a little guitar riff here, a synth line there, the lyrics that smack of disappointment in how life has turned out. The darkness that lurks in the shadows where the sun shines brightest. The beach punks drinking under the pier, the desert rat frying in a trailer.

Neutrals Bus Stop Nights EP

If 2020’s Personal Computing 7” was NEUTRALS wearing their Ed Ball/TELEVISION PERSONALITIES influence on their sleeves, this four-song EP has them erecting a full-blown shrine. The title track kicks off the record, and from the jump you’re not only getting a riff borrowed from “World of Pauline Lewis,” but also a very similar guitar tone—it’s cleaner, brighter, and more sustained than what we’ve heard from these folks in the past. The production is maybe a little slick (which is true of the whole record) and the tune is a little poppier than you’d get from Dan Treacy and co., but the songwriting is still fantastic. It reminds me of a less ramshackle version of the stuff SO COW was putting out in the late aughts. Now, the following track, “Geoffrey Ingram”…I mean, “Gary Borthwick Says,” is a real hit! It’s a super catchy number recounting the exploits of a truth-stretching scamp that seems to combine everything great about …And Don’t the Kids Just Love It into one song. It alone is worth the price of admission! “Pressures of Life” is a good reminder that UK DIY and indie pop have more in common with Oi! than you’d generally think—just listen to that chorus kick in and tell me you can’t hear it as COCKNEY REJECTS-ish shout-along. The record closes with “New Town Dream,” which mixes in some of the post-punk brutishness you got on their fantastic Rent/Your House EP. I kinda wish there was a little more of that throughout the release, but I understand why there isn’t. Anyway, great record—definitely worth your time!

Powerplant A Spine / Evidence EP

Demento synth noise from the creepy depths of a dank basement. The first song has an art-prog vibe, PUNISHMENT OF LUXURY meets DEVO with a BRYAN FERRY on ’ludes drawl. The remaining tracks are more direct in their delivery: post-punk but skewed and warped like a carnival mirror. The closing track, “Hurtwood,” sounds like the MISFITS channeling MAGAZINE—now that’s magic, folks!

Sarcasm Creeping Life 12″

The SARCASM tape—already half-a-decade old, I’m alarmed to read—and 2017 EP were glorious artefacts of their type, bare-brick rhythm-first punk that was somehow both punishingly direct and gnomically elusive. You didn’t expect or want this band to “progress,” whatever that means, and they haven’t exactly done that on Creeping Life (one of its six songs, “Digital Colony,” also appeared on the demo), but I just don’t see how their sound could get more platonically ideal than this. It’s not DESPERATE BICYCLES UK DIY or BAUHAUS goth or FLUX anarcho or GANG OF FOUR post-punk or even INSTITUTE updates on any combo of those things, but trace elements of each float around like the algal scum Luke McGuire sings about. His lyrics are neither reductive slogans or indulgent poetry, but use repetition really smartly and deploy imagery that haunts. I’m only half-sure what “Blinding scream, locked-in gaze / Creeping, breaking, a furious haze” is about (nuclear paranoia?), but damn if it doesn’t sound like deep shit when he intones it. All that, and bassist Alexandra Graves is still probably SARCASM’s M.V.P., in that their songs sound like they build from the basslines up.

The Flex Chewing Gum for the Ears LP

Well good goddamn, would you look at that. Seven years after the release of their last record, Leeds’ own superstars the FLEX are back with a brand new album. As they say; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and the Burley Boys understand this mantra all too well. The sound on Chewing Gum For the Ears is nothing short of classic FLEX—fast, old school Boston-style hardcore with plenty of mosh parts included (of course). This new LP includes some of their most blistering compositions yet, including “War Boy,” “Voight-Kampff,” and the mind-blowing closing title track (my favourite song on the album). It’s been a while, but the lads still have it down to a T. This has been possibly my most anticipated release of the past four years and it truly delivered on all fronts, and, at the end of the day, was well worth the wait. The New Wave of British Hardcore may be dead, but the FLEX lives on—ten years strong and hopefully many more to come. Cannot recommend this slab enough.

The Hazmats Empty Rooms / Today 7″

The HAZMATS are a new project featuring members of CHUBBY & THE GANG, GAME, and BIG CHEESE. But instead of being inspired by classic Oi! and hardcore, the two songs here sound as if they were plucked directly from that late ’80s-early ’90s period of UK indie pop. “Empty Rooms” is evocative of the STONE ROSES or TEENAGE FANCLUB, all lush, shimmering guitars and sweet melodies, while “Today” could be easily be a secret C86 compilation track, existing somewhere between the SOUP DRAGONS (in their earlier, scruffier incarnation) and the WEDDING PRESENT. Derivative, maybe, but I love this shit, and these are good songs. More punx should indulge their wimpy pop instincts.

The Times Red With Purple Flashes / Biff! Bang! Pow! 7″ reissue

The 1981 debut 7″ from Ed Ball’s TELEVISION PERSONALITIES side project the TIMES, conveniently reissued for budget-minded parka fiends in 2020. Both groups shared an unabashed fixation on all things ’60s, with the preoccupations of the TIMES clearly evidenced by the Warhol-derived soup cans on the cover of this single and the fact that each of the tracks overtly reference the works of UK freakbeat legends the CREATION, whom the TVPs would in turn cover not once but twice on 1982’s They Could Have Been Bigger Than the Beatles LP. “Red with Purple Flashes” is a deliriously catchy mod-punk belter that beats the JAM at their own game, with the B-side “Biff! Bang! Pow!” playing up more of a quintessentially English swinging garage stomp that begat any number of Pebbles deep cuts, few of which were this perfectly crafted. Shamelessly derivative and all the better for it; guaranteed to fire up the scooter in your heart.

Ultra-Violent Crime…For…Revenge EP reissue

Perhaps the definitive UK82 release, a final effort before disbanding and setting off on their merry (separate) ways; this is three tracks of buzzsaw guitar ferocity, larynx-shredding vocals from Ade Bailey, and drums that sound like an air raid. Tight, furious and no pissing about. Get your boots and your bally on, it’s a classic for a reason.