Attic Ted Starfish as Man LP

And the prize for worst band name goes to…ATTIC TED. Look, I was primed to really dislike this album. It doesn’t look like something I’d want to listen to. The name of the album is Starfish as Man, for chrissake! To my reluctant surprise, it’s not a bad needle drop after all. ATTIC TED has made a pretty charming post-punk record in the vein of ALTERNATIVE, MAGAZINE, or SUBWAY SECT, with some kraut-y avant garde elements pushing the affair towards the experimental end of the spectrum. Starfish as Man is sprinkled with spacey synthesizers and atmospheric, at times operatic vocal melodies. I presume that these folks have taken plenty of drugs to make music to take drugs to…or however it was that SPACEMEN 3 phrased it. Despite my negative predisposition, ATTIC TED has concocted a substantial freak-pop album that I can’t deny has a disturbingly catchy appeal.

Ex-White Disco cassette

Nasty, weird, driving, gross, shit-eating punk from Germany. Musically this rips. The catchy clean guitar licks really get stuck in your head, and some of the songs are awesome, specifically “It’s Me, The Shit” and “Hooray Henry.” On some of the songs, the barked vocals are a bit overly affected which makes them come off teetering on the brink of being novelty songs, which, depending on how that statement rubs you, can be viewed as a positive thing. The lyrics that I can decipher are just dumb enough to make me scratch my head wondering why the hell I didn’t think of them. “I want to piss in your face, I want to beat you with my bat.”

Heavy Petting Anfahr’n Am Berg cassette

Leipzig, Germany’s fertile DIY post-punk scene has recently brought us the likes of ONYON and MARAUDEUR. HEAVY PETTING continues in that (self-described) neo-NDW tradition – with their jagged guitars, synth flourishes, and exclamatory KLEENEX-like vocals, they’re easily the successors to ’80s groups like NEONBABIES and CARAMBOLAGE. Anfahr’n Am Berg is this trio’s debut EP, with four full songs plus a two minute instrumental intro. “Bier” is great, weird fun—I don’t speak German but even I can understand and appreciate the chorus (it’s the word “bier,” repeated four times). They turn the temperature down on “Lieben Sie Mich,” with cold synths creating an atmosphere fit for an Eisbär. There isn’t a global shortage of angular art-punk with femme vocals (not to mention band names that are double entendres), so I’m not sure HEAVY PETTING is doing anything particularly novel here, but it is mighty appealing nonetheless.

I.L.L.O. 10 Ill Songs cassette

A member of Leipzig’s ONYON goes solo, and while my patience for home recording projects of this ilk (loopy, lo-fi punk replete with drum machine) has worn extremely thin over the last several years, I.L.L.O.’s take on the form actually offers a focused and tightened-up counterpoint to ONYON’s neo-new wave garage warblings, which I’ve often found to be frustratingly flat. Threadbare, wiry guitar hits the target a few rings removed from a PETTICOATS bullseye—the intro to “Summoning” is an especially blatant “Normal” fake-out, although any further expectations of detuned DIY clang in that track are quickly dashed in favor of rumpled, lilting bedroom pop of the late ’80s/early ’90s K Records variety—whereas the gentle, falling-apart DIY stumble of “Way of the Shrimp” is more suggestive of a post-egg-punk MARINE GIRLS (is that a recorder solo?!), and “The End is Coming” and “The Unknown” have the sort of coolly minimal art-punk jitteriness I’ll always welcome, thankfully much more COME ON than CONEHEADS. Nothing on 10 Ill Songs is going to set the world on fire, but that hardly seems to be the point of it anyway.

Onyon Onyon cassette

Berlin has been the dominant player in the neo-Neue Deutsche Welle scene, from the Allee Der Kosmonauten collective (AUS, DIE SCHIEFE BAHN, etc.) to the recent output of the Mangel label (with the likes of KLAPPER and OSTSEETRAUM), but just a few hours to the south, the much smaller city of Leipzig has been holding its own, too—last year’s killer LP from MARAUDEUR exuded playful, synth-damaged art-punk cool, and this debut cassette from the new quartet ONYON brings shrouded-but-spiky, subtly goth-tinted post-punk à la early XMAL DEUTSCHLAND out of the Cold War and into the digital age. Vocals alternate between German and English, rarely deviating from a sternly deadpan shout, the beats are of the martial, unwaveringly hi-hat/snare-forward variety, and period-perfect ’80s keys help to scratch that waved-out Zickzack itch. When they raise the urgency level a bit, like on “Octopus” and especially “Klick,” ONYON pushes through the fog of mid-tempo cold-punk and right into the keyed-up synth punk territory of KITCHEN & THE PLASTIC SPOONS—those moments are when the tape really blazes; hoping they lean even harder into the wild electro-art-punk impulses next time around.

Warm Swords War on Words Vol. 2 cassette

Try as I might, I cannot figure out where this band is actually from. It’s either New Zealand, Belgium, France, or Germany. Strange, minimalist, garage-y post-punk that leans a bit on the artsy side of things without being entirely off-putting, though it does teeter on the edge there a few times throughout the course of this tape. Despite the vocals being delivered somewhat lazily, the songs as a whole come across rather powerful and driving. It’s an interesting combination and I’m pretty into it. All the songs are recorded and mixed by the band, too, which is always an impressive thing. I was a little nervous that going into Volume 2 would be similar to seeing the movie sequel before the original and I would be lost, but all that has happened is I am all the more intrigued to visit the first volume.

Warm Swords War on Words Vol. 1 cassette

At first I didn’t realize that I was given both volumes of WARM SWORDS’ War on Words cassettes to review, and I listened to the second volume first. Whoops. This first installment seems to be more straightforward and is my preferred of the two cassettes. Minimalist, synth-heavy garage-y post-punk that meanders around a bit in an artsy direction, especially on the tape’s instrumental tracks. The first batch of songs are super driving and really do it for me. Those are where this project shines. The instrumentals lose my interest and the more pop-heavy songs don’t seem to be as memorable. There are lots of very cool aspects to this band, but two full length cassettes is a bit much to digest as an introduction to them.