Reviews

For review and radio play consideration:

Please send vinyl (preferred), CD, or cassette releases to MRR, PO Box 3852, Oakland, CA 94609, USA. Maximum Rocknroll wants to review everything that comes out in the world of underground punk rock, hardcore, garage, post-punk, thrash, etc.—no major labels or labels exclusively distributed by major-owned distributors, no reviews of test pressings or promo CDs without final artwork. Please include contact information and let us know where your band is from!

22 Beaches Dust: Recordings 1980​–1984 LP

Dust is a curious journey through the four-year lifespan of 22 BEACHES, a six-piece from Stirling, Scotland whose recorded legacy had previously been limited to a handful of tracks on some painfully rare early ’80s UK DIY cassette comps—there’s no insert or liner notes with any sort of background info, or even basic dates on the sleeve to indicate when each song was originally recorded, so there’s still a substantial element of mystery here that plays right into the band’s often otherworldly sound. The LP starts with a handful of previously unreleased studio-recorded demos put to tape not long before the group split in 1984 and then works backwards chronologically from there, documenting (in a reverse aging sort of way) 22 BEACHES’ transformation from the more needling and paranoid post-punk clamor of their earlier material to the sparse and sophisticated dub-influenced reverberations of their later years. There’s some sensibilities that 22 BEACHES obviously shared with many of their more well-known and successful Scottish peers, from the starkly rhythmic gloom of “That Girl” and “One of Us” that recalls the WAKE’s Factory Records phase, to the spiky, Afrobeat-accented jangle of ORANGE JUICE circa Rip it Up likewise channeled in “Somebody Got It Wrong,” while the intersecting male/female vocals and simmering punk-funk groove of “Breathing” hits like a perfect synthesis of GANG OF FOUR and the AU PAIRS, and the dispassionately narrated vocals from Jackie Sharkey over the writhing and driving beat of “Talent Show” is no-nonsense femme art-punk at its best. So great to see this band finally get a little much-deserved time in the (vinyl) spotlight.

Abe and the Shits Demo Vol. 1 CD

Given the band’s name, I was sure I was about to be listening to some sort of garage punk. Then I saw they were out of Tokyo. So, this could be “ABE” as in Shinzo, as opposed to Lincoln. I mean, I know “AND THE SHITS” is doing most of the heavy lifting—still,  the Western version of Abe connotes a garage-y Midwestern-ness that certainly played into my belief, so, I don’t know, this could be anything! Turns out it’s garage punk. But with a decent helping of ’77 flair. Not much out there about the band. Bandcamp lists four members, none of whose names I recognize, but the couple of live videos out there just show a guitar/vocals duo playing with a backing track (maybe to a crowdless audience). All in all, the five tracks that make up this demo are actually pretty good…if also a little forgettable. I’d certainly check back in if they ever put out a proper release. Probably give it a listen.

Bermuda Squares Outsider LP

Four-chord punk pop with a notable pedigree, BERMUDA SQUARES bang out a tight crop of ultra catchy tunes for you goobers. This album will especially appeal to pinheads, cretins, and glue-sniffers, along with fans of DARK THOUGHTS, CARBONAS, and MARKED MEN. Hailing from Minneapolis and featuring members of the SOVIETTES and NEO NEOS (among many others), BERMUDA SQUARES add a bit of grit to the formula and move things from the basement into the garage. Running the risk of being written off as generic, Outsider defies convention through the sheer force of delivery. Layers of harmonies are swaddled in a warm blanket of fuzzy saturation, and that gives the production just enough tooth to draw blood. If you’re an outsider, outside of everything, there’s a solid chance you’ll wanna bop to the BERMUDA SQUARES.

Billiam / Revv split EP

Naarm minimal weird punk split effort between BILLIAM, fixing you with a dose of mid-paced drums in a new wave synth creation, ever-ranting, lo-fi “recorded on used VHS tape” vocals, and softer than average keyboards, and REVV’s new wave-y rock’n’rolla garage tunes and interesting vocals. Both bring a hyperactive vibe to bedroom punk entrepreneurship. DIY synth punk solo projects from Australia that share their cathartic angles (surely kangaroos are laying eggs now).

Brian Damage Previous Episodes cassette

I gotta say, I really dislike the name of this band. I say “band,” but from what I can gather, it’s actually the solo project of someone named Brian Baker (not the Brian Baker of MINOR THREAT, GOVERNMENT ISSUE, DAG NASTY, etc.) from Columbus, Ohio. One description I read stated that “BRIAN DAMAGE is the Brian child of Brian Baker.” Just yuck. I was hoping that the tunes on this release would transcend the goofy name and make me feel foolish for judging a tape by its title, but sadly, that just is not the case. BRIAN DAMAGE really wants to sound like WEEZER. Maybe if you really like WEEZER, you’ll find this charming, though I suspect not. What we have here is synth-forward, jangly guitar basement pop with an upbeat indie propulsion and irritating, fuzzy, post-nasal drip vocals. The songs are annoyingly indulgent, with many of them approaching or exceeding the three-minute mark. Oh, and to the surprise of no one, the album ends with an acoustic number. Is this just the tip of a gigantic ’90s revival iceberg? Please say it ain’t so.

Ceramik A Life So Bleak LP

Ventura County’s CERAMIK play by-the-numbers hardcore on their LP A Life So Bleak, banging out eight songs in ten minutes. There’s a little thrash, some blastbeats, and some cool breakdowns that probably make for a fun live set. If you’re into GEL, SPY, or any of the other current crop of hardcore bands making waves at the moment, this will be right up your alley.

Darker Than Through the Cracks cassette

Baltimore, MD horror-based punk. Seven slickly-recorded, driving rock songs with the subject matter of all things spooky. It’s all very well done, I just can’t help but wish the recording was a little scarier-sounding if the band is going to be entirely horror-themed. I think I feel the same way about a lot of goth music too, though, so it may just be a personal preference for nastier recordings fitting of the style and theme of the bands that release them.

Dosis Dosis cassette

DOSIS, a band hailing from Talcahuano, Chile, presents their self-titled debut release. Their music embodies a raw and unfiltered post-punk style, drawing inspiration from the timeless sound of classic bands within the genre. A healthy dose of dark energy and gloomy soundscapes that somehow reminds me of a more energetic DECIMA VICTIMA and Pornography-era the CURE at the same time. The Spanish vocals just add a more urgent dimension to the music.

Empire Down / Liberty and Justice We Want Revenge for Every Minute Lost split LP

Split LP from two stalwarts of street punk here. Straight off the bat, it’s clear that the LIBERTY AND JUSTICE side is the more interesting and compelling. The EMPIRE DOWN side is a perfectly workmanlike, metallic-influenced hardcore-y Oi!-ish affair, which is fine, just fine really. No earths will be shattered, no epochs defined. Flip over to LIBERTY AND JUSTICE and we take a tour round a number of genres, some to great aplomb with a country-infused rocker and some THIN LIZZY worship; some to not-so-great aplomb, in particular a ska tune which raised an eyebrow from yours truly. However, the standout track is a stomper written in Tagalog, which is extremely great.

General Labor Illuminator / Tastes Metallic 7″

Synth punk/post-punk pioneers GENERAL LABOR recently released these two tracks on a 45, and you need to hear them. “Illuminator” is a noisy, mid-paced song with strange harmonic and electronic drum noises that seem to come out of nowhere and dissolve just as rapidly, and while “Tastes Metallic” is less noisy, it is equally as enticing with its shifting instrumentation. The two songs form an intense emotional juxtaposition, with the former being pensive and tense and the latter being almost dreamy and relaxing. If you like things like SUICIDE or A FRAMES, then you’ll most assuredly be into this.

Hubert Selby Jr. Infants Have You Ever Been a Crow… or an Eel? 12″

There are plenty of rousing, memorable choruses here, supported by a familiar blend of alt-rock guitars and somber crooning. You’re likely familiar with all that, but HUBERT SELBY JR. INFANTS arrange it all in some engaging ways. The second track begins with the chum! of metal guitars, and I was just easing into its ALICE IN CHAINS-esque angst when a catchy, sing-in-the-shower chorus rolled out. But the stylistic gap is seamless, not jarring. It exemplifies the band’s ability to take some left turns while staying stylistically on track.

Katupartio Apatia cassette

At first listen, I admit I was a bit confused by this cassette. KATUPARTIO is from Barcelona, Spain, but all song names and lyrics are seemingly in Finnish. There was a band from my neck of the woods years ago that was obsessed with Finnish hardcore and attempted to learn Finnish so as to sing badly in the language. Too much of a gimmick for me. I did my research and found a ripping live set of KATUPARTIO where the singer looks like a true madman, a wild punk that inexplicably seemed slightly out of place. That all made further sense when a bit more research discovered that he was originally from Finland. No damn gimmick here. Weird, plodding, mid-tempo punk with killer barked vocals drowning out the lackadaisical “woah-oh”s sung by the backing band.

Life Has Soured / Squelch Chamber split cassette

I absolutely adore SQUELCH CHAMBER, so seeing this come through my to-do pile was an exciting moment for me. Their full-length Eater of Self was one of my favorite albums last year, and their side of this split continues on with the punishing sludge metal for which they’ve come to be known. Very reminiscent of KILSLUG and other Larry Lifeless projects. It’s like MELVINS if they were even more unhinged. Great stuff as always on their part. LIFE HAS SOURED also plays slow and low noisy doom, but almost sounds tame in comparison to SQUELCH CHAMBER. Good stuff, though. A split that’s well worth picking up if you can find it!

New Math Die Trying and Other Hot Sounds (1979–1983) LP

NEW MATH was a New York State band from the late ’70s to the early ’80s. I was listening to punk starting in 1981 or 1982, but I don’t remember knowing them. They were on a San Francisco label (415) at one point. Being from SF, you’d think I’d have heard of them. Nope. My loss. This is some good shit, I’ll tell you that. It reminded me of another band, but I couldn’t place it. Then I finally did place it and I couldn’t stop hearing it. The FORGOTTEN REBELS! Very rock’n’roll-y, mid-tempo, and super catchy. This is great.

Omega Glory Offerings LP

New York project that mixes death metal with hardcore moments, fulfilling satanic rituals. Steady gloom and sludgy cadences face strident strings tied to the lower tones of the bass lines. Solid vocals and solid riffage, reaching dense sounds. Recommended.

Poison Boys Headed for Disaster LP

Compilation of odds-and-ends from these Chicago long-haired rockers. If you like your jeans too tight and your hair unkempt, then this may be the snotty little record for you. This mob worships at the altar of STIV BATORS, and they are preaching their little winklepickers off on this release. More keys than a gaoler’s back pocket, and daft solos are the name of the day. STOOGES and NEW YORK DOLLS influences abound, presumably powered by industrial levels of Silvikrin and leopard print. Will it change your life? Not unless you’ve literally only started listening to music in the past two months, but it is an awful lot of silly business and, shock horror, a laugh? It’s not been made illegal yet mates, so enjoy it while you can.

Spells Past Our Prime LP

Driving and pounding melodic hardcore, this has a lot going for it. I find male/female harmonies that are done well kind of irresistible. There’s plenty of that on this record. I wouldn’t say that there’s anything terribly unique or groundbreaking about this record, but it’s really well done and easy to listen to. And the title of the record is obviously worth a chuckle. Be serious about what you do, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

Straight On View Gotta Step Up demo cassette

Lace up your high-top Nikes and take a little stroll with me, won’t you? STRAIGHT ON VIEW plays by-the-numbers throwback youth crew. No reinventing the wheel here, nothing particularly original added to the formula (except maybe the couple wildly shredding solos peppered in through this eight-song debut demo), but who needs originality in this day and age? New genres of music are all crummy anyways, why not find the subgenre of hardcore/punk that really speaks to you and completely ape it?  Chuggy guitars, gang vocals, the weird plink-punky bass that somehow is prevalent in this genre, STRAIGHT ON VIEW has everything on this demo, if your everything happens to be youth crew-style hardcore which absolutely oozes positivity.

Teini-Pää Mietin Minne Meet EP

Female-fronted power pop from Helsinki, drawing the cuddlecore vibe from Mint Records circa the mid-’90s (CUB, MAOW) through a Finnish filter to make it their own sound. There are also strong ’80s twee vibes here, thinking of BLACK TAMBOURINE, SHOP ASSISTANTS, and TALULAH GOSH. All lyrics are in Finnish, which amplifies the dreamy and atmospheric spirit of the music. The short four-song EP had me rewardingly search out the rest of their discography.

V/A Groucho Marxist Record Co:Operative LP

Once again, Sealed Records has achieved a brilliant feat of punk archaeology by documenting the small but lively Paisley punk scene (that’s in the Glasgow area) from the late ’70s and early ’80s through the prism of Groucho Marxist Records, a small DIY label responsible for four releases that have all been included on this LP. The project here is admirable, not necessarily because all the songs on the record are amazing, but because of the genuine passion and dedication that pervades the enterprise. You do need a lot of those qualities in order to document so thoroughly the work of an obscure, tiny Scottish label that was around for about two years and was responsible for releasing records from a band called XS DISCHARGE (how could they have known that one of their contemporaries with almost the same name would arguably become the most influential punk band ever?). The quality of the recordings does vary a bit throughout the compilation and, not being the most devout fan of ’70s British punk, some songs are a little lost on me. But there are some genuine gems here, like the one-hit wonder URBAN ENEMIES and the aforementioned XS DISCHARGE (especially “Confessions” with its CRISIS-on-glue vibe, and “Across the Border”), but the real winners are by DEFIANT POSE (yes, like the CORTINAS song), a band that clearly had it all and wrote three catchy, anthemic early UK punk songs bringing to mind the infectious energy and tunefulness of Ulster punk rock and the CLASH. I rarely listen to ’77 punk rock, but such a record reminds me of how brilliant it can be and how young it makes one feel. Now Sealed Records really has to reissue London’s CHAOS UK.

The Ar-Kaics See the World on Fire LP

Well, if the first track is any indication, this certainly has a feel to it. It plods along, very deliberately, slowly, and darkly, almost conveying a sense of helplessness. Jesus, look at some of these song titles: “Chains” (the opener), “Land of the Blind,” “Outsider.” All of the cuts mostly have that measured pace, but they’re also mostly not as harrowing as that first cut, although they are dark and brooding. Think of LOU REED getting really dark if he got stuck in a garage. Then add more twang. I kind of like it, just in case that wasn’t clear.

Benzoate Rival Executioner EP

I have never been prone to pogoing, not even as a teen, the period of your life when it can still be adorable to bump into people at gigs (when you reach 40 it is just embarrassing, and besides, you probably have a bad back these days). Arguably, it is because I have always had the energy level of a dead shrimp. But as I listened to BENZOATE, for a minute I could picture myself wearing my old tartan trousers, dusting off my “Oi!” badge, and just going for it at the front of the gig where wild things are. BENZOATE is from Malaysia and has been going since 2009. I had never heard of them, but it is hardly surprising since I don’t really listen to the pogo punk side of UK82 punk bands and generally do not bother to go too much out of my way to really dig new bands of this obedience. But it is a very enjoyable EP indeed. I can hear some vintage ’80s British punk rock bands like LAST RITES (when they go faster) and the EJECTED (when they lie more toward the fun and boisterous side of the genre), but I am also reminded of ’90s Japanese bands like DISCOCKS and the BOLLOCKS blended with the fast and snotty sound of GERM ATTACK. BENZOATE keeps it raw, energetic, and just plain honest and genuine. And you’ve got the compulsory sing-along choruses to cheer you up and make you smile on your way to your shitty job, and sometimes that’s what you need.

Burning Heads Embers of Protest CD

Formed in Orleans, France in 1987, this melodic hardcore band has stood the test of time. Without really taking a hiatus, BURNING HEADS have cranked out a lot of music, this being their sixteenth full-length, not including live recordings or EPs. Understandably, the band has gone through their share of labels and members, with this release being lead vocalist Fra’s second with the band, maybe sounding like a less whiny Dan Andriano while the original singer, Pierre, had more of a Mike Ness thing going on. Admittedly, I didn’t listen back to all the hours of music in their catalog, but as the closer of this album suggests, they figured out how to “Keep the Fire Burning” all these years, with whole-band harmonies, endless guitar riffs, and a nod to their Opposite-era reggae album on “Dark Romance.” If you’re a fan of the band, Embers of Protest will not disappoint.

Çayîr Çayîr demo cassette

ÇAYÎR from Budapest just released a demo cassette, and you’re absolutely going to want to hear it. Ballistic-grade hardcore punk of the noisy crasher pedigree is ÇAYÎR’s specialty, which they play with the gusto and charm of bands like GLOOM, ZYANOSE, and CONFUSE. Raw, brutally heavy, and packed with as much noise as possible, this style is not for the weak. Ten tracks packed into about as many minutes are over and done before you’re ready, and will demand a replay. By the third track, you’ll begin to hear the D-beat influence and punk groove, but you’ll still need to wade through a deep layer of noise muck to get there. “What Will You Concent” is just beyond the midway and invites a heavy rocker-fueled rhythm that sounds similar to Scandi punk bands from the mid-’80s.

Cimiterium Verdict EP

Aussies delivering their debut 7” achieve a putrid blend of stenchcore and metal forms of punk. Mastering crossover stances with dungeon killer riffage, fast, caustic cadences, and low vocal mayhem on two tracks per side, it sure represents a great first EP effort. Gloomier headbangers, you have been notified.

Coffin Pricks Semi-Perfect Crimes LP

COFFIN PRICKS were a short-lived group from Chicago in the early 2010s. Featuring members of CIRCUS LUPUS, CAVITY, and DAYLIGHT ROBBERY, they made a bit of a splash in their time, but only managed to release a single three-song EP before disbanding. It turns out that the band had recorded a few more songs back in 2011, and following an apparent dose of friendly pestering from the good folks at Council Records, COFFIN PRICKS resurface in 2024 to grace us with all seven of their studio recordings, plus an additional seven cuts taken from a 2012 gig at Saki Records. While I’m often skeptical of both live recordings and posthumous releases by bands with abbreviated lifespans, Semi-Perfect Crimes upends convention on both fronts. COFFIN PRICKS embody the spirit of 1978 post-punk by striking a masterful balance between melody and aggression. The instrumentation is impressive without being too flashy and the vocal lines are catchy without being too obvious. I presume that the FALL is a big influence here, along with WIRE and MAGAZINE. This has me t-t-totally wired. 

Deviated Instinct Dance of the Plague Bearer 12″

With DEVIATED INSTINCT being one of my favourite bands, I cannot reasonably be expected to do anything but rave beatifically about how great this new record is. This cult Norwich crust band does not need any introduction, but suffice it to say that they coined the philosophical term “stenchcore” and contributed to making crust pants a fashion statement that all mums hated in the ’80s. Like many old bands (and not always for the best), DEVIATED INSTINCT reformed in 2007 and they have been going strong since, gigging and releasing solid, convincing records. What has always made them stand out is their ability to offer a relevant version of themselves, a progression (sonically and visually) that synthesizes their best traits and updates them, without mentioning playing better overall, rather than just trying to play their old tunes exactly the same as before—this almost never works, and it can make so many reformed bands so disappointing. They are still playing old school, heavy, dark metallic crust, but you can tell the members have been keeping in touch with the evolutions of the heavier side of hardcore music so that DEVIATED INSTINCT keeps making sense and is no longer seen as “the reformed band.” Dance of the Plague Bearer is fascinating for that reason, as it is a rerecording (from 2017) and reworking of five old songs (including my favourite, “Stormcrow”) that highlights the band’s talent to bring their classic ’80s crust into the new age. Dark and heavy ferocious stench-crust with brilliant growling, threatening vocals and dirty, metallic guitar riffs, produced just right and amazing artwork from guitar hero Mid. They invented that shit. Ace.

Distante Cada Acci​ó​n Cuenta EP

Excellent  Argentinian punk coming from a thriving scene I’ve been unaware of until the writing of this review. DISTANTE reminds me a lot of TOZCOS, but with a heavier straightedge influence, citing bands like MINOR THREAT and YOUTH OF TODAY as inspiration. The songs hit hard and fast with wall-to-wall riffs and breakneck drumming, but the stars of the show are the bass lines and vocals, both taking these songs to another level. I recommend flipping over to their Bandcamp and listening to “Circunstancias,” one of the best punk songs I’ve heard so far this year, which is saying a lot.

Genre Genre demo cassette

Martin Meyer, the head honcho over at Rotten Apple and Inscrutable Records (not to mention the now-defunct Lumpy Records), has been digging up cool and/or weird bands for well over a decade at this point. Still, it never ceases to amaze me the amount of genuinely unique stuff he’s able to find that’s also good. Take GENRE for instance: a group of Kansas City punks who aren’t really doing anything new, but nevertheless sound unlike most other acts going these days. It’s hard to pigeonhole their music (I’m sure their name is a dig at folks who try). The Bandcamp copy asks us to imagine the FALL as a math rock band on Crass Records who’ve kicked out Mark E. Smith. I don’t totally agree with that assessment—I don’t think the music they play is nearly as intricate or heavy as your typical math rock band—but I think it successfully conveys the ramshackle restlessness and general ’90s vibe of their sound. Over the four tracks on this cassette, the band ping-pongs from post-hardcore, to dance punk, to slacker rock, to jagged post-punk, never really lingering on any particular sound. And it mainly works—at the very least, it’s incredibly engaging. They sound a bit like a less erudite, less polished PATOIS COUNSELORS (a band I really love). My only complaint is that I wish they had that band’s knack for burying a silly synth in the mix. Even so, it’s a cool release, and I’m really eager to hear how these folks evolve over time.

Homeless Cadaver Champale Wishes and Cadaviar Dreams EP

Fun and gross punk rock stripped right down to the KBD garage essentials that fits in well with ERIK NERVOUS or the SPITS. “Cadaviar” adds some squiggling synth and tambourine jingles as finishing touches on a great rock opener that tastefully beeps out the curse words. “Baloney Hands” is like a lost WEIRD AL punk experiment with nasally vocals about snacking on (behold the conceptual genius) hands made of baloney. It’s dumb and awesome. “Emergency Circumcision” features call-and-response vocals and fulfills the promise of the song title. It’s also dumb and awesome. Really, the whole record is—if you want to turn off your brain and get loose for a few minutes, HOMELESS CADAVER has you covered.

Inzest Violence Not Words CD

Prepare yourself for a brutal thrashcore assault straight from Osaka! The short-lived but impactful INZEST combined blistering hardcore with furious, thrashing riffs and intense screams. If you’re a fan of bands like S.O.B., OUTO, and GUDON, and crave the relentless speed and aggression they offer, you won’t be disappointed with this release. This CD is a reissue of the previous LP by F.O.A.D Records, and it features the early collection of tracks from INZEST from 1987–1988—the cult flexi disc Another Religion Another Violence and the rare Motive of Genocide demo tape. Just play it and brace yourself for a blood-soaked onslaught of manic ferocity!

Clifton Lee Mann Ömghost CD

CLIFTON LEE MANN’s latest is half bluesy rock’n’roll unencumbered by punk updates, and half conventional punk tunes with a carefree, shaggy approach. The difference between the two can be a little sharp and made me feel like I was constantly listening to cover songs. I could almost imagine this playing to SHELLSHAG fans. The razor-thin lead guitar screeches over a fuzzed-out rhythm guitar and a farting bass. The unpolished sound quality was a wise choice. LEE MANN mostly delivers a mild sing/talk, but occasionally croons a note.

Joey Nix Another Way to Do It LP

Cleveland’s JOEY NIX, also of MA HOLOS and SHITBOX JIMMY, presents fifteen songs in the garage/power pop wheelhouse. Originally out on cassette from HM R&T in 2019, Just Because has put Another Way to Do It on vinyl. With the use of an acoustic guitar throughout, this album brings to mind the carefree qualities of Muswell Hillbillies-era KINKS, with NIX’s “Small Reward” even having some lyrical similarities to “Alcohol.” “Purple Peet” gets the most experimental with a nervous rhythm, a squeaky fiddle, and Mark E. Smith-styled vocals.  “Jousting” blasts that acoustic guitar through a blown-out amp and has the most grit, with snarled vocals—at a minute-and-a-half, I want it to keep going!  “I’m a plumber at night / And a janitor by the day” is crooned softly throughout “Jobs,” with a melancholic harmonica in the background producing a tender love song and another dimension to this multifaceted album.  Admittedly, we’re a little late to the party, as this re-release came out in October of 2022, but not so much that we can’t shine a light on this excellent album that is lighthearted, heartfelt, clever, and catchy.

Plexi Stad Siren Dance EP

Antwerp’s PLEXI STAD reinvented themselves so quickly and dramatically in the time since their debut EP last year that it’s a little whiplash-inducing. 2023’s Probation Baby was a fairly nondescript and generic mishmash of loose garage strut and post-egg angularity (think early URANIUM CLUB after a caffeine crash), but if the lean mutant funk of Siren Dance is any indication, these guys must have just recently discovered the CONTORTIONS and seen the light. There’s still remnants of PLEXI STAD version 1.0 in “Returning,” which throws in a few disco beats but otherwise travels in a fairly straight line paralleling dozens of contempo scraggly/shouty bands caught between post-punk and garage (and who are more likely than not based in Australia), but otherwise the tone has changed sharply—“Your Parade” is like a sax-free rewrite of “Contort Yourself,” with some particularly unhinged James Chance-style vocal exhortations and a furiously staccato rhythm, “Stand-By (Stuck On)” is all chicken scratch guitar, elastic bass lines, and rigid beats modeled after prime GANG OF FOUR, and the menacing, elliptical groove of “Siren Dance” echoes caustic Benelux greats like the EX and COÏTUS INT. Hopefully they’ll sit down and stay here a while, rather than it being just another stopover on the way to their next sound.

Ritual Warfare Poison Death Noise EP

You know, there really isn’t anything that stands out to me about this EP. It’s pretty cut-and-dry blackened death metal with some decent riffage, pummeling drums, and the typical themes ranging from gore to anti-religious iconography. However, it’s charming in its own way. There’s a palatable sort of passion that oozes from it. This is the kind of band I’d have a really great time seeing live, but probably wouldn’t listen to much in any other setting. I think it’s because there’s absolutely no low end on this recording. If there’s a bass player, then they absolutely buried them in the mix. Some metalheads dig that kind of thing, though. If that’s up your alley then this is worth a spin.

The Scenics New Part in Town LP

Some 1976 recordings from Toronto teens who managed to knit together the scrappy pop of the KINKS with the freewheeling storytelling and raw edges of the VELVET UNDERGROUND into something new and exciting. The mood here is fun and loose; strummed, harmonized odes to Jonathan Richman meet the proto-garage punk of the title track. The songwriting confidence, which weaves classic suburban wasteland observations with odd cultural touchstones, is incredible. Take the ROLLING STONES-style ballad “O Charlotte”: “Your mama is a swinger she’s a party doll / She said son you better take good care of my little girl / Mama don’t you worry about your teenage girl / She was in good hands with Allstate / She’s in better hands now.” It’s kind of sweet, kind of grimy, and all rock’n’roll. The band’s ability is on full display as well, even though the production is clearly DIY. Thoughtful arrangements are flush with arpeggiated guitar and three-part vocal harmonies. “In the Summer” touches on TELEVISION-esque guitar interplay that nears sonic perfection. Check out this first entry in a series of SCENICS rarities and reissues for excellent, forward-thinking proto-punk.

Strikeslip Stuporstar / Terribly Tangled Up 7″

This is a really lovely single. Tongue-in-cheek power pop that brings to mind NATURAL CHILD, SPACE PHLEGM, and even a little bit of early ROLLING STONES. Incredible production here as well. Everything sounds clean and natural. I love hearing poppy music like this that isn’t compressed to all hell. This might not enter the rotation of the typical MRR reader, but I’m smitten by it. For fans of Matador Records and people who think indie music peaked in the mid-’90s.

Vaxine Frontal Lobotomy LP

An absolute cracker of a debut from NYC’s own VAXINE, taking the decrepit old corpse of UK82 and injecting a vital dose of arse-kicking into it. No wheels are being reinvented here, but when it sounds like this, why would you want to?  Fans of the snottier end of UK82, yer CHAOS UKs, yer PARTISANS, yer EXPLOITEDS, etc. will find a lot to like here, as track after track stomps along with a sneer and a pleasantly stateside fury, with no wasted energy.

Balta Mindenki Mindig Minden Ellen EP

BALTA exhibits an unwavering dedication to relentless, ear-splitting intensity, with no respite in tempo or volume to be found on Mindenki Mindig Minden Ellen. It propels forward with a consistent fervor, without any breaks or variations—urgent, and the performance is equally intense. BALTA’s sound is aggressive, powerful, and chaotic. I would compare them to PLASMID or PIÑEN due to the complete primitive hardcore stomp they create. Mindenki Mindig Minden Ellen gives you a beating in about ten minutes.

Birth Ritual Hell CD

Fantastic three-song EP from Japan’s own BIRTH RITUAL. Thrash punk teetering way more towards the trash end of the spectrum. This album is absolutely brutal straight out of the gate. No frills or unnecessary bullshit. Just pure intensity and raw power. A true throwback to the classic years of thrash and metal in general. For fans of NUCLEAR ASSAULT, MESSIAH, HOLY TERROR, etc.

Chimes of Bayonets Replicator LP

The newest LP from this post-hardcore trio is anchored by a sharp, repetitive bass and stinging guitars. They frame the songs from opposite ends, although sometimes they act as point and counterpoint, a kind of musical call-and-response. The tracks don’t jog along like a standard hardcore song, but start, stop, and snake up and down the guitar neck with nervous energy (although there are some more conventional HC chonkers here and there). Like a lot of post-hardcore and emo, this band crams a lot of riffs into one song. It felt overstuffed to me, but I always say that. It’s a unique, sometimes jarring, listen.

Consensus Madness 2023 Demo cassette

Sharp little tape here from these Chicago up-and-comers. Their pointed punk conjures up a tasty first-wave spirit and dabs it in artsy splashes of modern mettle. The sound is stripped-down but rich, smart, and antagonistic. I’m also hearing a vague lineage to Windy City legends like the EFFIGIES in tunes like “Attention.” Respect.

Dollhouse I Hate You Don’t Leave Me EP

DOLLHOUSE is a band that has made the social media rounds, toured extensively, and garnered a large fanbase in the past few years. This four-song EP is yet another perfect output from the band—punk as fuck with a sort of GERMS energy, yet still unique and almost beyond compare. The title track, “I Hate You Don’t Leave Me,” almost rings like a pop punk anthem, but has more sneer and anger than most sugary bands are capable of delivering. It’s got the bop and killer guitar leads. The last two tracks are everything I know DOLLHOUSE to be—raw, angry, and just a little more dissonant than most. If you like DOLLHOUSE, then you’ve probably already heard this. If you’ve never listened to DOLLHOUSE, then this is a great place to start.

Downwinder Claws of Despair LP

Can it be said that there is currently some sort of stenchcore revival? The genre never really went away since the early ’00’s, and “stenchcore” arguably became an actual genre, solidified, adopted specific traits, and was considered as such at that time, already twenty years ago. DOWNWINDER has both feet in the modern stenchcore camp and, as a sucker who automatically buys any record with this tag, it got my undivided attention, like my dad watching darts on the telly. DOWNWINDER is from Volos in Greece, and is made up of members of UNFIT EARTH, DIRTY WOMBS, and FERAL KIDS, although they are not influenced, in terms of music at least, by the traditional Greek crust sound, and they do not sing in the language (apart from the last song of the LP). Claws of Despair is their second album, and I find it more convincing than the first one. It sounds heavy, mean, and dark, the production highlights what it is supposed to given the template, and the singer sounds like a zombified bear. The band can clearly be mentioned in the same foul breath as current bands like TERMINAL FILTH or CIMITERIUM, but they are even more death-metal-oriented and, not being a massive fan of the genre, I found myself unable to completely connect to some the songs. It is still a solidly executed work checking all the modern stenchcore boxes. I guess you already know if you’ll be up for this.

Fumist Coaltar LP

FUMIST is a supergroup based in Lyon, known for their seasoned members from HORDUR, CIVILIAN THROWER, LOVGUN, and OVERMARS. Their first album includes fourteen intense, D-beat-infused grindcore tracks with obligatory death metal slow sections that are sure to crush your head. The powerful drumming shines brightly on this album filled with nostalgic moments, creating a unique blend of grinding violence. Featuring both slow and fast movements, this album is a complete banger! Get your smoke on!

The Hamiltones In Space LP

For their second LP, these Buffalo punks boldly go where…actually, quite a few instrumental rock acts have gone before. The HAMILTONES, fresh off a stint playing for a convention of draculas a couple hundred years back, are joining the SPOTNICKS, the VENTURES, and MAN OR ASTRO-MAN? (not to mention countless lamer acts) out in space. So, you should know the deal: surf guitars plus bleeps and bloops, scratchy mid-century NASA samples, and maybe even a theremin. They’re by no means reinventing the Saturn V here, but I’ll be damned if this record isn’t just great. The guitar melodies are super compelling, and they’re often accompanied by soaring, lyric-less vocals (think the theme from Star Trek: The Original Series) or John Carpenter synths, giving the record more of a movie score vibe. And like their previous release, this thing is full of cool artwork and inserts adding more dumb fun band lore—the physical release even comes with an extra 7” by some mystery band that goes by MOON PEOPLE. Real cool shit!

Itchy and the Nits The Worst of LP

More stripped-down than a nudist on holiday, ITCHY AND THE NITS blast out twelve cuts of cave-beat rock’n’roll simplicity. Absolutely minimalist in their approach, it turns out that the “worst of” their output is actually pretty great. No time for bozos or searching around for that fourth chord, this power trio from Down Under gets straight to the point with their brand of budget rock bangers à la THEE HEADCOATEES or the DELMONAS. Not a single song breaks the two-minute threshold! Gritty, charming, and imminently replayable, there’s even a GIZMOS cover. What more could you possibly need?

Kiégett Föld Kiégett Föld cassette

Anarcho-punk from Budapest that throws everything at the wall with mixed results. This recording might be a new level of lo-fi. Bandcamp indicates that this was recorded in a bedroom; now imagine walking down the street about a block away from said bedroom and hearing the band through the window. That is the level of fidelity on display here, but it doesn’t necessarily take away from the echoing vocals and guitar and the dribbling basketball bass. Several of the tracks have an ear-catching surf twang that recalls the quirkiness of SHADOWY MEN FROM A SHADOWY PLANET. However, once the chorus to “Élelmiszer” kicks in, KIÉGETT FÖLD rips through fast punk rhythms and reveals a tightness and ability to rage. Three out of the nine tracks are short instrumental pieces that incorporate sound collage, field recordings of a farm, and strummed acoustic guitar. While they sound interesting enough, they come across more as undercooked sketches of songs not yet fully materialized than meaningful interludes. Not bad overall.

La Llama La Llama cassette

Was extremely ready to hate this, as the cover art had a strong whiff of the eggier end of punk about it, and I was prepared to mentally file this in the dustbin of history along with all those other poorly-dressed oddballs who can’t write tunes—however, how wrong I was (someone should come up with an idiom about not judging covers)! This is a tidy little cracker of a debut; scuzzy, taut garage rock that genuinely sounds like it was recorded in an actual garage. Songs fizz and whip past at a rate of knots, and never stay around too long to stay boring. Really good.

Machine Go Boom Your Skin’s Been Peeling Off EP

The five songs that comprise this EP were recorded way back in 2010. I’m always curious about these posthumous releases from bands that made a regional splash before getting sucked into the vast and encompassing void of non-existence. At the heart of my curiosity is a burning, one-word question: “why?” Why do bands from yesteryear feel compelled to scrape the barrel of nostalgia over a decade later to see what detritus they can dredge up? Perhaps it’s what their fans demand. Maybe there are legions of MACHINE GO BOOM-heads out there just pining for a few more songs to help them relive the glory days. In 2007, NPR said they “pound out high-energy, upbeat pop.” Sure. To my ears this is the kind of generic ’00s indie rock that I would have actively avoided when it was fresh. How has this aged fourteen years after its conception? Do I really need to answer that question? If you have a soft spot for this band or loved them in their heyday, I’m sure you’ll be thrilled that this is seeing the light of day. Personally, I’d rather literally peel my skin off than have to listen to this again.