Reviews

Total Punk

Andy Human and the Reptoids Psychic Sidekick LP

A long time comin’ for the REPTOIDS’ round two. Psychic Sidekick serves as a not-so-subtle reminder that Andy Human & Co. remain one of the top tier outfits around these days, presenting a bent variant that’s more critical, absurdist, and exciting than most of the contemporary class. Theirs is an out-of-time sound, recalling hyper-specific influences (why oh why do I continually think about the punkest moments from the OFFS or ALIEN CITY when hearing this band?) but arranged with a personality and perspective that’s unique and just plain interesting. So many killers. “You Like Your Job” is a huge wind-up, poking a safety pin in illusions via a sick guitar schmearing, “Thrust of History” is gutter glam from Galaxy Z, “Fissures” and “Echo Pedal” both take a bird’s eye outsider view while still buzzing mightily, on and on, and no duff cuts. As much as I’ve enjoyed the singles they’ve slotted in between their albums to date, the long-form release is where the REPTOIDS truly excel—I’ll be spinning this endlessly for the foreseeable future. A vital act from the here and now, so do yourself a favor and take their trip.

Brandy Clown Pain / Rent Quest 7″

The worst job I ever had was working for a balloon wholesale company. As a result, I don’t like clowns. A song called “Clown Pain,” whether or not about literal clowns, strikes a positive chord with me. “Thank you for my clown pain.” Of course, I can relate to “Rent Quest” as well. BRANDY’s music is dirty and throbbing and relentless. It leaves you anxiously on edge. The vocals are rough and pleading. The whole thing is perfect.

Brandy The Gift of Repetition LP

We can all agree that 2020 sucks. For months, when I have been getting down or am feeling lethargic or just need a boost of energy, I have been putting on the first track off this album “(Wish You Was) Madball Baby” and it picks me right up. I cannot sit still nor stop singing along when it is playing. It instantly improves my mood and gets me ready to deal with the next onslaught of bullshit. “(Wish You Was) Madball Baby” starts with a dance-y drumbeat then the bass plays this catchy riff and we’re off. The dual vocals have a call-and-response slash anthemic quality and the two voices perfectly complement each other. I don’t know what it means to be “madball,” but I am pretty sure I am. I love this song! Total Punk got me hooked months before Gift of Repetition came out so I was eagerly awaiting its arrival. It does not disappoint. Although “(Wish You Was) Madball Baby” will always remain my song, the other songs on this LP have similar qualities. The catchy combo of the drums and bass with the aggressive singing and tingling guitar noises. Fun fun fun. One of the few things to be happy about in 2020.

Brutal Birthday Commotion EP

Bombastic, over the top, simplistic, noisy punk from Italy that sounds like a wall being knocked over. Kinda sounds like they are taking cues from early JESUS LIZARD at times, but I bet they’re not. Less cerebral and more grunting. Upon first listen, I didn’t care for this, but upon repeated spins the riffs kept coming out of the mire.

Cherry Cheeks Cherry Cheeks cassette

Another pandemic solo “band” and I’m not complaining. Total NW Indiana feels with a freak show keyboard that pops in when it wants. Bass drives this one, guided by rock solid jerk punk drums and freak show riffs—it’s weird as hell and more addictive than it should be. I feel like the syrup from CHERRY CHEEKS is gonna clog your earholes, because it gets sticky as hell on tracks like “Two Bugs” (“We’re just two bugs on a strawberry / We’re just two bugs on a blackberry”) and you’ll never get these hits off of your fingers. Fans of LIQUIDS, BLURT, SPITS and the like need to dig into these sounds pronto.

Civic Selling Sucking Blackmail Bribes / Velvet Casino 7″

Another postulating sore of putrid punk’n’roll from the ever-reliable Florida outlet Total Punk. On this one, Aussies CIVIC put the pedal through the floor of a rusted Holden GTS and burn rubber down Footscray back roads to the sounds of an in-the-red fourth generation tape of hyper-kinetic, blistering meathead garage. Blown-out guitar solos that barely hold it together, shredded vocal chords, caveman-on-ice drumming, what’s not to love?

Curleys Johnny EP

The label describes them as Gainesville cretins, and I think that’s about right. The kind of people who lurk in the dark corners of the club until it is their turn to play, and then disappear back into the shadows when they’re done. Thrashy and messy. PAGANS at 78 RPM with a brattier attitude. Six songs in about as many minutes. There’s no time for messing around. Cool.

Foster Care El Abuso LP

Speedy hardcore with a no-hope vibe, and a vocalist whose thick NY accent that reminds me of the MOB (NY) of all things. It’s mostly straightforward, but they throw in some experimental aspects from time to time, along with a noise interlude. The second side is considerably better than the first, so you might want to even listen to that one first.

GG King Remain Intact LP

Have you ever gone into a hippie-ish coffee shop and gotten one of those homemade calorie-dense, no-bake energy bars? They’re full of seeds and nuts and dates and shit and are held together with peanut butter or maybe chocolate. All of the ingredients are unadulterated and easily identifiable but mixed in such a way that you get a taste of every element in each bite, and they combine to make a distinct treat that’s both nutritious and delicious. GG KING albums are kind of like that with their genre influences, and this latest LP, their third, is no exception. Throughout, you can hear KIDS-esque Euro punk, power pop, garage punk, horrorcore, deathrock, metal—but it’s never presented as simply as “Here’s our take on CHRISTIAN DEATH.” All those ingredients appear wholly present and unaltered, but they’re mixed into something rich and distinctly GG KING. This LP maybe feels more mature than their previous efforts—not in a “they’ve finally figured out their sound” kind of way, but more that the record’s tone—sonically and lyrically—feels a bit more grown up…or maybe I’m just being influenced by the fold-out photo of the band and their families on the insert. I was really bummed when Rich from Total Punk announced that he was throwing out his stamp pads and no longer putting out 7″s. But if he continues with this shit-hot streak of LPs, maybe it’s for the best.

Heavy Metal Too Oz 4 I.T. EP

After three LPs of rambunctious and oddball punk jingles, this Berliner/Australian combo gets the lightweight, red-stamped Total Punk sleeve treatment, and it suits them well. “Underground Agent,” “Overtime,” and “Schweinebastard” sound like a nine-year-old having a temper tantrum in the middle of older brother’s band practice. “Gasmask Factory II” uses electronic drums for a truly groove-worthy experience. While I’ve enjoyed their previous shitty-good music, I think this smaller dose works better. Those already acquainted with HEAVY METAL will not likely change their opinion either way.

Heavy Metal V: Live at the Gas Station Fighting the Devil LP

I’ve never been too smitten with this band. I picked up their first LP back in 2016 after a punk distro or two said it was good, and, while I didn’t dislike it, it just never clicked with me. Mainly, I found the record confusing. With the bald over-the-topness of the songs and vocalist’s delivery falling somewhere between SLEAFORD MODS and the EDGE OF ETIQUETTE, I assumed that these guys were from the UK and probably fake, fake punk. But then I saw they were from Berlin—not a city or music scene known for its playfulness (or British accents)—so, like, what’s their deal? Turns out the band is made up of (at least) Jasper Hood (the BLACK JASPERS, SHAKIN NASTIES), originally from the UK, and Itchy Bugger (ITCHY BUGGER, DIÄT), originally from Australia. Jasper’s vocals don’t seem to be a bit (he sounds like this on every record he sings on), but maybe the band is. Whatever. I still didn’t love the songs and ducked out after that LP. Fast-forward to 2021: my compulsion to acquire every Total Punk record trumps my indifference to the band, and I grab this LP. Turns out it’s quite good! I think going in with that same indifference helped me to just sit back and hear this record for what it is—a collection of well-crafted songs that cover ’77 punk, glammy bubblegum, punksploitation, and contemporary weird punk. It’s good enough that I might even have to revisit their back catalog. If you only listen to one track, make it “Gebrannte Amore”—a cover of ELVIS’s “Burning Love” that they transform into a FIRST BASE-styled trashcan pop track.

ISS Too Punk for Heavy Metal EP

It’s too silly and too brilliant at the same time. You know the story. The label guy ignored the band when they were unknown, then he wants to do a record with them. Instead of holding a grudge or talking shit about him behind his back or telling him to fuck off, ISS writes the story in song and lets him release it. They also print the lyrics on the front of the record cover in case the listener can’t make out any of the details. The best revenge is that “Too Punk for Heavy Metal” is such a catchy song, I can’t stop playing it. The epitome of what punk should be—fun, obnoxious, rockin’ and witty. “Are you really sure you deserve ISS? I’m not.” And good on the label for releasing it. Cool to see both sides have a sense of humor. The other two songs are extra-short, but still as super catchy and fun. Are they both also about Richie from Total Punk Records? Could be. I love this record (and all of ISS’s stuff).

Knowso Like a Buzz / Physical Freak 7″

The ’90s revival continues. KNOWSO perform robotic, kinetic nerd punk: descendants of DEVO, but with a sound that’s part NOMEANSNO, part SERVOTRON. The two short songs here form a perfectly digestible snippet of pocket-protector punk.

Musk Animal Husbandry / The Floor 7″

This is some seriously depraved shit in the best of all possible ways. You can picture these people drinking babies’ blood from a goat’s head chalice instead of morning coffee. Stu-Spasm-like vox over a delightful cacophony of sludge and those trippy HAWKWIND-like squirps and swirls, and that’s just the title track. “The Floor” is a roadhouse anthem in Hades bludgeoning forth from the nether regions to drag the lost testicals of the Lizard King back down with its last notes. Like a long night of smoking wasp spray. I am spent.

Predator Spiral Unfolds LP

After dropping the great GG KING record just a couple of months ago, Total Punk pulls a “While I’ve got you guys…” and ends up with a new LP from the other unsung heroes and elder statesmen of Atlanta’s punk scene, PREDATOR (who share two…maybe three members with GG KING). It’s technically their first LP since 2014’s The Complete Earth, but you’d be forgiven for not recognizing that, seeing as how one of the main creative forces behind the band, Brannon Greene, has also dropped a slew of records with his other projects NAG and GET HIGH BOYS—bands that sound similar enough that I (a true Predhead sicko) would have trouble differentiating were you to randomly play their songs at me. What’s maybe most surprising about this LP is how much it stands apart from previous PREDATOR releases (and other Brannon projects). There’s still plenty of the nihilistic post-punk-tinged hardcore that these guys have been delivering since 2009(!)—and it’s still great—but this is a much more varied affair than what we’ve gotten from them in the past. “Confessional” features an honest-to-god vocal melody, and “Hands Reaching Out” (maybe my favorite track on the album) could even be described as gentle. It’s just great to hear a band that’s been around this long doing whatever they want while clearly staying the same band and having it turn out this good. Also, quite the handsome sleeve on this one!

Smirk EP 12″

It’s only been about six months since the world was treated to the debut LP from this project, but SMIRK—Nick Vicario (PUBLIC EYE, CRISIS MAN) doing the solo recording thing—is back! This time you’re getting an EP’s worth of tightly written, loosely produced pop-speckled punk. The four tracks on the A-side are a nice continuation of what you got from his debut. Rhythmically, these tracks are absolutely locked-in. But the tape warble, garage jangle, and tuneless vocals make it feel as though these songs are otherwise on the verge of falling apart, giving off quite a cool SWELL MAPS vibe—particularly in the Krautrock-y stretch of “Precious Dreams”. The three tracks on the B-side really up the pop factor—”So Original” even throws in enough vocal melody to end up sounding like the MARKED MEN. Overall, this 12″ further establishes Nick as a nifty songwriter who warrants your attention in an increasingly crowded landscape of solo recording projects. Initial pressing of the LP is sold out at the source, so grab it if you run across one in the wild! Otherwise, be on the lookout for the upcoming repress.

The Archaeas Rock n Roll / Replica 7″

This Kentucky gang knocks it outta the park on the first pitch. ARCHAEAS’ sound centers on skull-streamlining—full forward-motion guitar riffs, rhythms jabbing outta the garage but careening too wildly to be saddled with that tag. Feels freer, younger, druggier and more genuine than much of what ya hear as of late. A cool and true two-prong hit here—A-side’s the good-time, B’s the head-crack—jammed with enough spirit to make the shittiest over-it puker smile through the chunks.  Cannot wait to hear more.

True Sons of Thunder It Was Then That I Was Carrying You LP

The TRUE SONS OF THUNDER 7″ that Goodbye Boozy put out a couplathree months back was a stoater, and this follow-up album (which reprises the single’s first and best song, “Shake Rag,” and the briefer, goofier “Toob Sock”) keeps the pecker flying high. I say “follow-up” like this release schedule was the product of a laser-targeted promotional drive, but given these Memphis fellows took the best part of a decade to throw this together, we’re probably lucky we got one TSOT rekkid let alone two. This is an excitingly cloudy tonic of post-ELECTRIC EELS/FLIPPER/BUTTHOLES party sludge with a paw or two dipped in the honey jar of Southern rawk and the freakier fringe of ’90s garage punk. Plenty of five-minute-plus cuts here, and not much hyper tempo, but unquestioned reserves of energy — and they’re a crack unit, too, swerving all over the road on the likes of “Get A Hold To It” but always sounding on each other’s wavelength.

V/A Inkstains Across Atlanta cassette

Tired of digging through a wobbly stack of 7”s to find music by your favorite Atlanteans, only to put on a record that you then have to get up and flip a minute and a half later? There has got to be a better way! Introducing Ink Stains Across Atlanta, a collection of every Total Punk 7” by an Atlanta-based artist—fifteen songs on a single cassette! Total Punk? More like Total Convenience! Set adrift down the river of despair with GG KING’s “Joyless Masturbation,” soak in the healing aura of SLUGGA’s “Parasite,” experience pure ecstasy as the music of any one of a myriad of Brannon Greene-fronted projects (PREDATOR, NAG, HOSPICE) fills your ears, or journey into the unknown with a handful of unreleased and non-Total Punk tracks. To order this collection, take $7, wad it in a ball and put it in a bag with a SASE, and send it to Total Punk HQ, or simply log on to totalpunk.com using the browser of your choice.