For review and radio play consideration:

Send two copies of vinyl (one for our archive, one for the reviewer) or one copy of CD-only or cassette-only 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 releases outside our area of musical coverage, no reviews of test pressings or promo CDs without final artwork. Please include contact information and let us know where your band is from! All vinyl records received are added to our archive, which since 1977 has grown to become the largest collection of punk records in the world.

Asinin Asinin demo cassette

Right from the start, this Norwegian band unleashes a torrent of overwhelming hardcore, fueled by relentless energy that leaves the vocalist gasping for breath as he races to keep up with the escalating chaos. Most tracks barely exceed one minute in length, and the mixing is impeccably executed, ensuring the listener’s unwavering attention. The guitars offer a captivating dynamic, featuring sharp tones rather than harsh ones, filled with intricate riffing and a willingness to explore melancholic melodies. The breakneck pace, driven by the manic drums, leaves no room for boredom or distraction. As a band, they sound exceptional, although their sound leans towards a modern and somewhat unrooted style. A banger.

Besta Quadrada The First Four Weeks cassette

Here’s a whirlwind of noisy punk lunacy. BESTIA QUADRADA blasts out seven tracks of gritty hardcore oozing with character. Distinctive riffs are in abundance here, striking just the right balance between catchy and tough. Top-shelf drumming lends even the dirge-like numbers a propulsive quality. The vocals, dialed a touch back in the mix, tie everything together and draw the listener down into the mire. Not quite as frenetic as FUGITIVE BUBBLE, but not far afield either, I’m reminded of the short-lived JJ DOLL and a bit of the much beloved TYRADES. Killer stuff.  

Bridge Burner Grave Mistake cassette

File this one squarely under “tough guy hardcore.” BRIDGE BURNER’s 2022 cassette Grave Mistake is a pretty straightforward listen, featuring all of the hallmarks of the genre: two pissed-off vocalists who want to fight you, stomping mid-tempo breakdowns, and plenty of metal riffing. Complete with hip-hop instrumental opening and closing tracks, as well as the trademark intimidating, hoodie-wearing cartoon characters on the cover, this tape checks all of the beatdown boxes.

CC Voltage Berliner Pilsner / Bummer Party 7″

Seriously, this one has elements of garage, glam, power pop, and even a little hint of country. I’m not kidding. Leave it to the Canadians. It’s super catchy and I’m certain that if you had a lyric sheet, you’d grab a hold of that and be singing along in no time. The vocals have a great rhythm about them and the songs are well-written. The only drawback, and this is really a personal thing, is that there’s a little too much lead guitar work at times.

Curbsitter Grip on Reality EP

CURBSITTER from Milwaukee is coming in ferocious and funny on their debut 7”. The band is sounding well-honed, playing surging and vibrant hardcore with an inherent daffiness that comes from the singer’s unique voice and delivery, although some of the songs have subjects of a more serious nature. These six tunes are fast and melodic, and the obnoxious, mildly-warped vocals are a little corroded in places, spouting lyrics with a humorous lean that are often repetitive to pleasant effect (as expressed to the extreme in the stand-out track “4 Years of Repetitive Motion.”) The sound, at its core, is interesting and weighty punk with old-school sensibility and a bit of slapstick edge that may endear it to fans of FEAR, VANDALS, and other jokesters.

The Dissidents / Vitrolic Response split EP

Cool split between bands from the US and England. The DISSIDENTS feature MISCHIEF BREW’S former bass player on drums and play your typical sloppy punk rock, but the vocalist is so intense and charismatic that it brings everything together. A true pissed-off poet, and the kind of singer I’m sure a lot of bands wished they had. Seriously great stuff. VITRIOLIC REPONSE plays classic UK hardcore and sound like a modern GBH with barking vocals, but also incorporates doom/black metal elements, like slowing the tempo and using sinister arpeggios. Both bands sound different enough that it creates a great dynamic.

DSM-5 Skärblacka D-Beat LP

I am not familiar with DSM-5. As a band name, it reminds me of MC5, M:40, SPACEMEN 3…but here I see they are from Sweden, and their album is titled in such a manner. First impressions are of a more hardcore attitude, thinking of TOXIC NARCOTIC, ANNIHILATION TIME, S.H.I.T, MIND ERASER, or RAT CAGE, with some call-and-response compositions. Most songs come in around two minutes, so there is ample time for some interesting changes. A song titled “Sick of It All” continues to remind me of hardcore when it was fast and punk. This is an accomplished hardcore punk album with intense musicianship and palpably pissed-off messages. DSM-5 is ugly and angry, and the entire play sinks into more dismal tones around the halfway point. “Empathy” is a true depressor with uneasy industrial effects. Seriously, once Skärblacka D-Beat hits its stride, you’re going to want to hold on. I could imagine this band obliterating a live set. “Word” brings some absolutely scorching vocals that seem to be from the addition of a guest vocalist—think DISRUPT’s “A Life’s a Life.” A relentless LP with both impact and melody that took me a moment to catch up with.

The Dweebs Goes Without Saying EP

This EP from Plymouth, UK’s the DWEEBS is ten tracks of British punks playing fast ’80s-style USHC akin to the earlier Dischord catalog and bands like YOUTH OF TODAY or UNIFORM CHOICE. Reminiscent of another USHC-inspired band from the UK, the STUPIDS, but despite having a similar fast approach to their sound, it’s still quite its own thing, a product of its own environment. Still nasty-sounding enough for the MRR realm, yet it’s straight-up circle pit music. Straight-ahead, full-speed attack of action-packed hardcore.

Electrolytes Ultralyte cassette

Garage pop with big riff energy fuses with punk rock delivery in the chemical slurry that is ELECTROLYTES. Unpredictable musical twists and turns make this a very entertaining and interesting listen. Sugary-sweet synthesizer lines decay into aggressive guitar blasts, and all the while, ’60s-style crooning attempts to keep everything in order. There’s a no wave influence running through this cassette that is hard to miss, from the LYDIA LUNCH-esque vocal delivery to the occasional repetitious guitar bangs and noisome stabs.

Eskorbuto Eskizofrenia LP reissue

A long time ago, a lover of Spanish punk rock explained that, in this Iberian country, you basically had two distinct tribes when it comes to the identity of the ultimate classic Spanish band. You are either in the team of LA POLLA RECORDS or in ESKORBUTO’s. The rivalry is mostly friendly, but I have been told that, in some cases, particularly heated arguments did end up in nasty pub brawls. Some of the most fanatical have been known to hold entire record collections hostage to emphasize their point. My friend was adamant that proper punks with a decent taste in music would definitely go for ESKORBUTO. This band, from the fiercely rebellious Basque Country, is something of a legend: crude, dark, nihilistic, spiteful lyrics, two of the original members dying in 1992 and an old-school punk rock sound that has had a massive imprint on el punk en español. The internet has significantly spread the band’s unique take on punk music to a worldwide audience that they never really had outside of the Spanish-speaking world. It is a little tricky to review a record from such a cult band. Because I was not familiar with the band’s work in my youth, I approach the music with objectivity—like I would other international treasures like DEZERTER, EBBA GRÖN, or CÓLERA—and ESKORBUTO was a great ’77-influenced punk rock band with attitude, style, snot, and a strong ability to write catchy songs. If you grew up listening to the band, you probably find them absolutely wonderful, unrivaled, and genre-defining, because it is the teenage heart speaking. Although I prefer Anti Todo, Eszkizofrenia is indeed a classic punk album (with a weirdly distracting effect on the drums), the obvious qualities of which I wholeheartedly acknowledge even though I struggle to really feel it and get excited, and I have to confess that the very strong Spanish accent (by which I mean actually from Spain) is a little overwhelming at times. ESKORBUTO is the epitome of a band that can either be loved with the absolute passion of youth or appreciated from the analytical point of view of a lover of punk music. And while we’re on the subject, I am team RIP all the way.

Gino and the Sharks Just a Few Stitches EP

We’ve got another unearthed “classic” on our hands. But at least this one has a cool backstory! Gérard Mosiniak, aka Gino, grew up in a small mining town in the north of France. His grandmother helped him develop a passion for cooking, which led to him taking up an apprenticeship at a Michelin star restaurant. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, he became enamored with rock’n’roll via LITTLE RICHARD records and the local clubs, which would feature acts like the KINKS and JIMI HENDRIX. It became his second calling, and he vowed to one day sing in a rock band. In 1971, he learned that Keith Richards had recently moved to a villa on the French Riviera and was looking for a chef. Gino got an interview and won over Richards with his cool hippie style. As their live-in chef, he hobnobs with all sorts of famous music folks and eventually uses his ties to Keith to get a gig as a DJ in one of the hottest clubs in Cannes. While there, he falls in love with a Londonite, whom he follows back to England with hopes of making progress on his dream of fronting a rock band. To make ends meet, he gets a job selling souvenirs on Carnaby Street alongside a musician named Neil who’d also moved to London in the hopes of starting a band. Unfortunately, the two are unable to help each other due to a difference in genre preferences. Neil was looking to play stuff that’s a little heavier and a little more technical. Things work out for Neil, though—he moves back to Canada and ultimately hooks up with the band RUSH! Gino gets a job managing the now-famous Great Frog jewelry shop, where he meets plenty of musicians looking to get some sick skull rings, including Lemmy from MOTÖRHEAD, who gives him the advice he needs to start a band, and he eventually recruits the SHARKS, including drummer Pedro Ortiz, who’d go on to play with JOHNNY THUNDERS and DAVID BOWIE. They recorded this three-song EP in 1978, and it was supposed to come out on Stiff Records until their manager picked a fight with the label, and the record was shelved until now. The music is fine…maybe leaning good. It’s pretty typical stuff for first-wave UK punk—dumbed-down, recycled rock riffs that are glammed up a bit—but it’s a little rough around the edges and Gino’s broken English lends the record a bit of a KBD vibe. It’s nothing to get too excited about, but wow, what a story!

Hope? Your Perception is Not My Reality EP

The hotly anticipated follow-up to 2021’s Dead and Gone cassette is finally here, and it fucking rips! Four tracks packed with even more crucial lyrics—Manda pushes the vocal limit beyond the brink, while the band plays an even tighter and heavier version of their D-beat-styled hardcore crust. Desperation and urgency are the strong emotional undercurrents that will pull you under immediately and get you slamming in short order. Opening with a brutal, beat-heavy treatise on gender politics, “The Patriarchy Must Be Destroyed” could be a standalone song, but there’s a lot more here. It’s followed by “Obey,” a warp-speed reminder of how fucked planet Earth really is. The B-side opens with “Take Back the Night,” a rocking tribute to punk life and a simultaneous decree of action. “Retrograde” closes out the disc with Kalvin throwing in just a pinch of psychedelic guitar that makes me want to listen all over again. If you liked the Dead and Gone cassette, then you’re going to love this 7”.

Interpunkce Nen​á​vid​ě​t Srdcem, Milovat No​ž​em EP

The latest EP by Prague DIY punks INTERPUNKCE, with six thrashing tracks of speedcore hardcore punk fury. Politically-driven lyrics with English translations to get their message across to a wider audience. No hesitation, urgent, raging songs bringing up social issues that many of us face around the globe. The Slavic language vocals offer a unique and distinct type of hardcore reminiscent (yet still different) to some ’80s Polish bands such as DEZERTER and MOSKWA.

Love in Hell Love in Hell demo cassette

Fun twee-pop demo from Portland, Oregon’s LOVE IN HELL. Draped in floral printed dresses, this all-female trio plays sugary beats with a crunchy guitar, bobbling bass, and syncopated vocals that tell personal stories and ask pointed questions like “What would make it all worthwhile to you?” High school locker-art aesthetic (awesome), fun and heartfelt, a name that’s a little obvious yet somehow perfect, and did I mention floral? Sign me up.

Manacles / Viimeinen Virhe split cassette

The MANACLES side of this split features four songs by the Lithuanian band that capture their hallmark sound, which is somewhere between raw punk and bass guitar-powered hardcore. The opposing side features five tracks by Finnish band VIIMEINEN VIRHE playing their style of D-beat hardcore. The split joins the two bands together like a perfect dystopian union: the similarities are there, but the unique differences of the bands is also highlighted. This might actually be one of my favorite splits in recent years, so give it a go!


Mass Separation Semarak Api CD

Grind-crust out of Malaysia. Sloppy and noisy as hell, the way the genre is meant to be. As is with a lot of these types of releases, the drums immediately stick out to me, as they are blisteringly fast and never waver. Guitars have a very powerviolence/metalcore tint to them. Lots of crunchy breakdowns, squealing pinch harmonics, and dissonant chords. Vocals have a ton of nuance and range from deep-throat growls to banshee-like screams. All in all, a decent release if you’re a fan of the genre.

The Neanderthals The Modern Stone Age Family LP

We start right off with a KINKS riff. Given the name of the band and the album, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m using words/terms like garage rock, ’60s rock, ’50s rock, surf, and even rockabilly to describe the band. It’s good, for sure, but I find this kind of stuff a little schticky. With song titles like “I Go Ape,” “Flintstone Flop,” and “Neanderthal Twist,” you kind of know what you’re getting yourself into. But if this is your sort of thing, you should like it. It’s catchy and melodic, they’re tight, and they’re all talented musicians. Throw another brontosaurus burger on the grill for me, and that’ll probably need some sort of a tiki drink. Thanks.

Operation Ibis Avian Overlords LP

OK. Let me start off by addressing this one thing: if you are in a ska punk band, perhaps you should reconsider naming your band “Operation” anything, let alone “Operation I-word.” I mean c’mon, really? Now that that’s out of the way…OPERATION IBIS offers up five songs of, as I mentioned, ska punk. Listening to this, three bands immediately come to mind for me: LESS THAN JAKE sans horns, a less crusty LEFTÖVER CRACK, and SNUFF. I’m not a huge fan of this type of thing, but I don’t mind this too much. It’s got that peppy energetic feeling you’d expect, but for some reason it’s not as annoying as I usually find this stuff. I suspect it’s the lack of horns. I don’t really understand this newest ska revival, but for the people that like this sort of thing, it’s something I think they’ll eat up.

Penny The Bubblegum Tape cassette

Second release from the New York four-piece PENNY. Members Jordan and Liz came from FLEASPOON, and brought some songs from that to their 2019 LP, but here we find four new originals and a cover of HEAVENLY’s “P.U.N.K. Girl.” Loud and fast with barely comprehensible vocals; music to keep you frenzied and jittering. A feat only possible on a self-released tape, each copy comes with a pre-chewed piece of gum stuck between the shell and the jacket, with a “Certificate of Authenticity telling you who chewed your piece and what flavor it was!” While this is a little fanfare-y, I find it endearing and clever. There’s nothing groundbreaking on this lo-fi garage-stomper tape, but at the same time, it hits all the marks and does not disappoint.

Pleasure Center Pity in Jangle City LP

I write a lot about wanting bands to sound dirtier, meaner, like more clear reflections of a fucked-up world. But you know what? I’m full of contradictions, because I also grew up loving pop punk. If I hear a guitar band with solid hooks and heart-on-sleeve lyricism, I’ll usually perk up to see what they’re up to, at the very least. This St. Louis band caught me immediately, striking that same nerve TEENAGE FANCLUB and ASH used to when I was a kid. There’s plenty of jangle, just a kiss of fuzz, and thrumming melodic energy for days. The vocals carry the kind of unvarnished, disarming charm of Jon Brion back when he didn’t just write film scores. Songs like “Cool 2 Crash” capture summer DIY space magic, where everything feels so melancholic and fleeting all while energizing you at the same time. There are tasteful bridges and the band in general just bangs it out where it counts. Power pop often falls short on both signifying terms, but this group embodies the term beautifully. One can only hope they’ve got more golden songs in the song warehouse.

Rejekts Manmade Hell EP

Boston hardcore punk pogo exciters. Angry vocals, simple yet classically effective punk, blasting with a messy craziness of stabbing guitars and never-ending ranting drums. Favorite track: “Manmade Hell,” for some very well-executed stomping hardcore. Nice frantic cadences filled with the violence of classic USHC punk and strident guitars. Give ‘em a go. I will check out No Norms Records after this one. Fresh-feeling for pure raw punk with slightly faster tempos, full of traces of classical times yet enforced by newer turns.

Spike Penetrator Rarities Volume 1 cassette

Here’s one for the record nerds out there. Bear with me as my knowledge of this may be limited. These are the one-man recordings of Eliot “Spike” Kagan from the early ’70s, recorded in a lo-fi bedroom style in Syracuse, NY. Spike would later wrangle his pal Jack Lipton into upping their punk game as a two-piece in the more well-known (but vague to me) PENETRATORS. There’s some stray rockabilly and country numbers, but most of this falls into a snotty, sometimes theatrical ’60s novelty-song-like style. Think the STANDELLS playing “Purple People Eater” with Metal Mike Saunders on vocals. Spike got a little punker in his next project and continued on through many more decades. Overall, I would call this an easy listen but in no way easy listening. Sick.

Spirito Di Lupo Vedo La Tua Faccia Nei Giorni Di Pioggia LP

Although I know very little about the actual overall activities of the Occult Punk Gang and Sentiero Futuro Autoproduzioni, these Milan-based collectives have been busy and consistent in recent years, putting their scene on the map and making great hardcore/punk records. Italy has a legacy in hardcore, but after the legendary bands burned out and faded away, for distant foreigners like myself, it seemed that the country’s punk scene sort of lost its vitality. However, these aforementioned collectives rekindled my excitement. The SPIRITO DI LUPO LP is another great gem. It remains close to the artifacts of radical punk; they mix the different elements tastefully. The guitars resonate with post-punk-esque, chorus-pedal-infused sharp tones, while the rhythmic flow maintains a sense of urgency akin to hardcore. The male/female vocal duo delivers an anarcho/peace punk spoken-singing style, their voices loud enough to emphasize their significance, reminiscent of acts like SOGLIA DEL DOLORE or BEDBOYS, yet the riffs are more dynamic and include clever flicks other than being a wall of sound. The album’s eclectic fusion of ideas lends it a massive sound, oscillating between tradition and innovation, already imparting a timeless quality. A great, complex record that also looks great, including two fold-out posters as lyrics sheets, both in the original Italian and an English translation.

Spring Forward Still Care cassette

Several parts of this release sound like skate punk to me: rapid-fire bass/snare beats and a catchy guitar, but in a lower key. That last part felt weirdly sad in such a driving sound. The guitars have the satisfying crunch of a crust band, which gives everything a nice, percussive feel. When things slow down, the band is quiet and mournful with words to match. Sonically and lyrically, it’s equal parts despair and outrage.

The Steves Making Time / Mechanical Friend 7″ reissue

Iron Lung presents a reissue of this long-forgotten 1980 7” record from Boston’s the STEVES, a synth punk duo that was definitely of their time sonically but has enough to separate them from other punk/new wave groups. The drums and synth set-up was not especially fresh in 1980, what with bands like DEVO getting MTV play and cult heroes like the SCREAMERS and LOS MICROWAVES employing a similar approach, if not attitude. Underground music has come full circle enough that the electronic whooshes and electro-bass sound as contemporary now as they did back then, but what strikes me the most about “Making Time” is its economical, straightforward songwriting and vocal delivery. It’s a short, well-written song that is performed without the affect or provocation of much of that era’s punk. When the chorus of “Making time for making time” hits, it’s a perfect melodic moment, reminiscent of ’60s pop as much as a robotic KBD curiosity. “Mechanical Friend” is the first-person account of a “robot lover” describing itself and how it’s “here to serve you” over slow, ESQUIVEL-leaning instrumentation. So, it’s weird, but the melodic, earnest vocal performance wins again. If the early days of synth punk or new wave get you moving, check out this unusual disc, and keep an eye out for two more STEVES reissues from Iron Lung.

Toy Tiger Take a Trip on the Tiger Side LP

Another edition of “don’t judge a record by its cover.” At first glance, I thought “Oh great, some uninspired Oi!/street punk stuff.” Again, thankfully, I was wrong. A solid mix of street punk and glam rock mixed up with a dose of heavy distortion on everything. This is rad. It’s got just enough elements from all of its influences that you can’t really pigeonhole it one way or the other. This one is gonna get some solid time on the ol’ turntable for sure. This is the type of record that should appeal to anyone into punk, no matter the subgenre. It’s a fucking banger.

Warcycle Manifesting Barbarity EP

This is a D-beat barrage from Australia that is like a sonic scavenger on fire—that was actually meant to compliment them and describe the rad cover art. Drum fills cascade with intense fury, vocals are bellowed out until the last gasp, with a powerful range. Distortion is crasher-level red. This is hitting like ENZYME, FRAMTID, KINETIC ORBITAL STRIKE, ANTI-METAFOR, or SYMPTOM. It has all of the ingredients to be served up generically, but it is not at all. Various rhythms and songs are linked together like an exhausting, raging raw live set with a dense production value, and moments of pause before the bombardment adds a unique quality of thoughtfulness for the style. This is the second EP from WARCYCLE and a first for me. Impressive crustcore D-beat!

A Season in Hell Demo I cassette

To start things off, I’ll let the band describe what we’ve got here in their own chosen words: “Written and recorded (in) under two hours in Clifton Heights, PA on the day Kacznski [sic] died.”  Now that you have a rough idea what we’re dealing with here, A SEASON IN HELL plays super aggressive powerviolence-inspired hardcore. Everything was recorded live on what sounds like a damn boombox. A couple of the songs have some heavy licks and the band is pretty tight, considering. I’m definitely not saying this demo is bad, but with a little more time spent on it, I think it could have moved a lot closer to good. Kind of feels like the product should be a little closer to finished before it is exported. The recording itself sounds like a relic from years past. I didn’t realize it was possible for bands to still capture that hiss-filled, lo-fi, demented demo sound that was more commonplace years ago when nobody had access to home recording equipment. The four-song demo repeats on the cassette, and I got halfway thru the second repeat before I realized what was happening. I thought they had written an insane amount of stuff in a mere two hours.

Azijnpisser Cold Cuts LP

A relentless barrage of unapologetic hardcore punk straight from the Netherlands. The album is a whirlwind of raw and aggressive energy, perfectly capturing the essence of the genre. From opener “Mental Disorder” to closer “Shit On Your Parade,” AZINPISSER maintains a frenetic pace that rarely lets up. What sets Cold Cuts apart is its unfiltered authenticity. In a world where the lines between subgenres can blur, AZIJNPISSER stands as a testament to the spirit of hardcore punk. A powerful punch to the gut that’s impossible to ignore.

Bondage Bondage demo cassette

Demo cassette from Kuala Lumpur’s BONDAGE, released in 2021. Four tracks of raw, blown-out, ugly chaotic hardcore punk mess. Reminiscent of something that would be on ’80s Euro HC compilation from Really Fast or something on Pogar Records, yet with a vibe more akin to the filthy underground vibes of ’80s Tokyo or Sweden than the contemporary noisy hardcore sound. It may not necessarily follow the exact rules to be considered “raw punk” in the official book of the department of Swedish studs at leather jacket school, but it has its own unique take on raw, grinding, nasty hardcore. Recommended.

Cleons Down 1995–1997 LP

Wow, for a discography, this is a short record. Just a hair over thirty minutes! The sound runs from melodic, occasionally funky hardcore punk to noisier emo-tinged numbers, and even a stray thrash metal riff. The tracks are ordered from newest to oldest. While there’s no big stylistic changes, you can hear how much more confident the band are by the end (or, uh, the beginning?). The record has a simple but sharp sound, like something recorded with mediocre equipment but a good ear behind the controls.

Crosshairs Crosshairs demo cassette

Debut from British Columbia, Canada’s punk and noisy garage trio, with slashing, rusty guitars and a handful of progressive open riffs mixed with anthemic, angry vocals. Deep, clean cuts of chainsaw guitar that are garage revival as hell, resulting in messy punk’n’roll filled with garage vibes and upfront drums. Four tracks with similar cadences as classic mid-’80s punk, plus a twist of garage-y noises.

Dead Heat Endless Torment 12”

Adding to the ever-growing list of killer crossover releases dropped recently, DEAD HEAT’s Endless Torment features five tracks of gnarly thrash that recall the best qualities of “the big four” of ’80s, while sitting comfortably next to modern classics by bands like FUGITIVE, POWER TRIP, and ENFORCED. Title track “Endless Torment” wastes no time in laying down the groundwork of what DEAD HEAT is all about: fast and fun riffs-on-riffs, never-ending drum fills, and inspired touches of authenticity throughout. Lead singer Chris Ramos has a perfectly raspy growl, tearing his way through each track and even stopping to flex his clean vocal ability on “Tears of the Wolf.” It’s a great example of DEAD HEAT’s ability to be over the top without teetering into corny, which can be a difficult feat considering this style can easily become parody. “Smite Thee” is a quick ripper which reminds me a bit of IRON MAIDEN in its intro, while closer “Hard Reset” boasts a moody acoustic intro and some righteous guitar solos, once again being pulled off expertly with just the right amount of cheese without being too cheesy. If all of this whets your appetite, wait until you get a load of “Eyes of the Real,” a truly impressive showing which features, amongst other things, a bell toll, rattlesnake rattles, heavy echoing gang vocals, and a drum intro that sounds like it was recorded in a steel mill. This is the kind of album the metalheads you went to high school with could only dream of. Fantastic stuff and highly recommended.

Degenerates of Punk DCxPC Live, Vol. 13: Live at Ralph’s Rock Diner LP

While I’m not necessarily getting the self-billed “RAMONES-core” reference, I do find myself enjoying this live recording. Live recordings have mostly never been my thing, but I do find that the technology has come a long way (I still find the mixing of the vocals is often an issue, and I’d say that’s true here). This is mid-to-uptempo melodic punk rock that isn’t unlike the RAMONES in the sense that it’s straightforward, super catchy, and the songs are over before you’ve ever gotten tired of them. If you said it was power pop with a heavy dose of garage, I wouldn’t fight you. Last thing: I don’t get it throughout the set, but there are times when they remind me of OPERATION IVY. This is pretty fucking catchy and pretty fucking good.

Engage Eight Songs EP

Not to be confused with the Bay Area ENGAGE from the early ’90s, this Australian act plays straightforward youth crew-style hardcore. Short songs. No frills. The way a hardcore record should be. The one thing that stands out to me is the lack of gang vocals. Something that is usually prevalent on these types of records is the overabundance of gang vocal parts, and this has literally none. It’s a welcome change to me, and I think makes this a bit more palatable. The vocals were a bit of a letdown as they made it next to impossible to decipher what the lyrics were, but all in all, a solid performance.

Ex Parents Ex Parents LP

Out of Roanoke, Virginia, EX PARENTS are a hardcore band with a diverse sound that draws from a range of influences. This album starts off with the D-beating of “Mania,” whose lyrics are a direct DISCHARGE homage, and after that it expands into a bunch of other directions, all accompanied by vein-popping screamed vocals. Out of the ten tracks here, I dig the classical-sounding chord progression and surprisingly bright finish of “Void” and the unexpected post-punk vibe of the closing “Perpetual Bliss” the best. Simultaneously fibrous and beefy, if this music was a literal dinner, it would be pot roast, which can be pretty tasty when prepared well.

Fugue State Subtlety’s Dead cassette

As time continues moving on and the world gets more and more back to “normal” in this perceived post-COVID world, the one and only thing that I feel sad for is the amount of cool isolation-inspired solo projects beginning to fade—for a number of months, that made up the majority of tapes I was sent to review. There was something incredibly beautiful and inspiring about the resilience of the creative punk rocker left to their own devices and having to make something work alone in order for it to exist at all. Well, FUGUE STATE is coming to me rather late in the game, but it just may be my absolute favorite of all such COVID projects I have yet heard. Beautifully crafted and demented driving garage rock tunes with more hooks than a meat locker, and some killer saxophone playing on two of the tracks. FUGUE STATE combines elements of tons of classics without  sounding like aping them at all. Highly recommended for fans of the CRAMPS and BUTTHOLE SURFERS. Truly top-notch. I have no idea if this Western Massachusetts-based solo project has made the transition into being a live band, but dear god, I hope so.

Glass Praxis Demo 2023 cassette

Discordant post-hardcore with a metallic bent. Nothing whiny though, this is ugly, mean, and brutal. Reminiscent of bands such as PALATKA and REVERSAL OF MAN, though not as angular or chaotic. Which is not to say that GLASS PRAXIS is tame in any form or fashion! There’s a groove that they lock into that is not dissimilar to NO TREND. Heavy, dour skramz punk from one of the best scenes in the country, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Noisy and unsettling music for bleak times.

Heihaizi Heihaizi LP

With the ski-masked dudes on the cover, the charging sound, and some of these lyrics, I’m wondering if HEIHAIZI is intentionally continuing the charming trend of “breaking and entering-core” (as demonstrated on FOSTER CARE’s killer El Abuso LP.) This two-man “rap-punk” group is from Zagreb, Croatia, and this record is loaded from front to back with simple, explosive, and addictive songs. One minute they’re spitting fast vocals like a kid who’s super excited to tell you something and can’t get the words out fast enough, then the next thing you know, they’re leaned back, sounding like a punk RUN DMC and rhyming about how bad they stink. Then back to the “EMINEM-on-speed” vocal attack, pounding drums, and ripping guitars. This is some unique cool-kid hardcore if I’ve ever heard it, and it slaps.

Ideal Victim Diary of a Pig cassette

IDEAL VICTIM from Porto, Portugal plays dynamic, rudimental-beat hardcore with floaty, chorus-heavy guitars and an agitator vocalist. The latter—singing in English and against patriarchy—is really pissed-off, and makes the whole sound a lot more aggressive than it actually is. The co-star of the demo is the guitar that creates an all-over atmosphere while playing a lot, lending winding riffs from post-punk, holding out chords, and occasionally being surfy while remaining within the field of hardcore. The contrast between the directness of the vocals and the cleverness of guitars makes them distinguishable. The recording sounds polished while maintaining angst, but it’s a rather modern sound. This is a solid tape that clearly displays a lot of IDEAL VICTIM’s potential.

Moar Baby I Am Cheap LP

It’s funny to me when bands are purposefully herky-jerky. It’s not easy to pull off. This record reminds me of bands like DEVO and AUSMUTEANTS, and you could even throw in the BRIEFS (without the herky-jerkiness.) It’s punk, it’s pop, and it’s new wave, all at the same time. Three of the ten cuts clock in at exactly 1:27 each, and seven of the ten are less than two minutes. That’s perfect for someone with my attention span. Excellent record.

Morreadoras Morreadoras y Ya Está cassette

Flexidiscos has been releasing some of the best synth punk out of Europe over the last year or so, and they continue the trend with London’s MORREADORAS. This sounds like Halloween punk to me. Like BOBBY “BORIS” PICKETT with one hell of an edge. I mean this in the best way possible, and it is in no way a slight. As with most of the Flexidiscos releases, the synth drives everything, and it is hauntingly chilling. The fun kind, not the scary kind, like the soundtrack for an ’80s Scooby Doo special. Again, not a slight. That’s a compliment! Top-notch stuff here, and just in time for the spooky season.

Nucler Blud Form Raze cassette

Blistering buzzsaw punk that goes straight for the jugular. More raw than dumpstered T-bone, this slab of hardcore is dripping with vigor and fury. Fans of the noisier side of Japanese hardcore should take note, as I’m picking up on strong influences from CONFUSE, KURO, and FRAMTID. While the tempos vary throughout the six cuts on this tape, things never slow down too much, and none of the songs crack the two-minute mark. I appreciate the unceremonious approach NUCLER BLUD has utilized. No build-ups, intros, outros, or really anything extraneous. Just laser-focused on pumping out the damaging frequencies, and it’s over before you know it. There’s also quite the interesting pedigree going on as well, with former members of NO STATIK, IN/HUMANITY, JUD JUD (!), and END OF THE CENTURY PARTY comprising this beast of a band. To Live a Lie doesn’t tend to fuck around, and this tape is no exception. NUCLER BLUD is a band to keep an eye on.     

Private Lives Hit Record LP

Feel It Records continues a white-hot streak of releases with this Montreal act’s latest release, a spiky, lovely, and scuffed batch of garage pop tracks. It’s impressive to hear big, bold ideas captured again and again within two-minute runtimes, blending influences from ’90s alt sounds to ’80s post-punk and convincingly noisy production on tracks like the chilly “Head/Body” and “Misfortune.” It’s a solid outing and doesn’t wear out its welcome, and while it might not immediately jump to classic status to my ear, it definitely claws me back for repeated listening.

Puffer Iron Hand EP

Roachleg, like Mendeku Diskak, is rapidly becoming a kind of Motown-esque hit factory for Shit I Like. This release by PUFFER is no different. Another hard-as-fook release from these Montreal rockers, with all the fun of the fair. Riffs? They’ve got them coming out their arse, mate. Tunes? Knee deep in them, son. “Sister Marie” in particular is so full of swagger and a sense of fun that is often so sorely lacking, I had to listen to it about five times. Essential purchase, and I cannot wait to see what they do next.

Retirement Buyer’s Remorse LP

RETIREMENT plays fractured BLACK FLAG meets PAPRIKA negative hardcore that rips. From the pounding drum cadence of opener “No More” to the repeated chant of “No Refund” that closes the record, the band creates an intimidating and feedback-laden atmosphere that never dips below fully exciting. The guitar chugs out dissonant chord progressions and spits atonal noise solos as good as Greg Ginn at his most relevant. The drums (which sound great, full and front in the mix) move from galloping fast beats to mid-tempo stomps and back again. “Pull the Shades” is a great example of this, with a rhythm that moves from near-crossover speeds to creepy-crawl, backing one of the few intelligible vocal lines: “I pull the shades / I lock the door.” The raspy, almost blackened and reverbed vocals are perfect for the band and drip with malice and contempt. “DD.MM.YYYY” adds a harsh noise dimension to the sound with a minute of grinding guitar drone. If you like noisy, in-the-shadows hardcore like HOLOGRAM or FASHION CHANGE, check this out immediately.

Road Soda World’s Greatest Disappointment LP

From Davenport, Iowa comes some hard-rock-infused brewery punk for an older crowd. The lead singer makes this stand out with an interesting/annoying vocal style, similar to a country-twanged Stiv Bators or a softer Alan King (HELLSTOMPER). The songwriting is creative and forays into almost mainstream territory with the catchy tearjerker “A Sad Door,” but I find myself skipping ahead to the raunchy familiarity of “F.U.1.2.” leaving less to the imagination. The better songs have a CANDY SNATCHERS feel, which I wish permeated the whole platter. They end with a song named “Bong Vader” complete with a Yoda impersonation, so you kinda see where they’re coming from here. Idiots Out Walking Around, indeed. Cheers!

Soup Activists Live at Sharon’s cassette

This comes from the mind of Martin Meyer, most notably of LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS and Lumpy Records, who brought us eggy tracks on records like Huff My Sack and Music to Hump a Trashcan To. SOUP ACTIVISTS turn down the distortion and chaos some, and provide a sweeping, shambolic sound: synths playing merry-go-round tunes, chug-a-lug guitars, and steady, mid-tempo drums. I get the brattiness of DEAD MILKMEN in the vocals, mixed with the oddball lyricism of the FLESH EATERS, but the comparison already stands to the whole body of work Meyer has been involved in, his Discogs bio listing countless St. Louis projects—I’ve brushed by this music, but I’m excited to take a deeper dive. Live at Sharon’s comes out in front of a studio LP slated for release this fall, so be on the lookout. I’m wondering how this recorded-live-to-tape raw sound will translate to studio production, but I have faith they’ll keep the edge intact. Don’t pass this one by.

Spiral Dub Spiral Dub LP

Sanctuary Moon got my money as soon as I learned this was a project fronted by Chad Kawamura of the great Bay Area bands OUTDOORSMEN and LIFE STINKS. The output of those two groups constitutes a good chunk of my favorite music from the past fifteen years, so I trust any adjacent act to be right up my alley. But the teaser single “Rise and Shine” had me a little concerned. It’s not that I wasn’t a fan of the tune, it’s more that it was shockingly melodic and uplifting compared to, say, “Pornographic Stockpile” or “Endless Drag.” I’d seen that the band also features members of DIIV—a band that I’d written off as Pitchfork darlings, assumed the worst about, and never listened to—so my worry was that this was their influence tainting what could otherwise be more of the bummer punk I crave. Turns out that may as well be true, but insofar as it is, it’s also irrelevant. While this is certainly not another LIFE STINKS record, I cannot stop listening to it. The eleven tracks on here are some amalgam of, like, ”60s sunshine pop, STONE ROSES-esque neo-psychedelia, BRIAN ENO’s rock records, sneering glam punk, and ’90s alt-pop. And Chad’s hallmark pessimism isn’t totally absent. One of my favorite instances comes in form of an irresistibly dumb hook on what’s somehow one of the twee-est tracks on the record (it actually reminds me a lot of Melbourne duo HOT TUBS TIME MACHINE), where he talk-sings the lines “Punch me in the face / Once for luck, and once for the fuck of it.” Perfect! It’s hard to overstate what a compelling record this has turned out to be, and it’s one that I can’t recommend enough. I might even have to go back and give DIIV a listen!

Street Gloves Street Gloves cassette

Smashing drum machine beats combine with shredding guitars and equally shredded vocals to form an E-beat sound all its own. If you’re a fan of L.O.T.I.O.N. or SCUMPUTER, then you’re going to want to hear this. Pure punk indignation channeled through decaying wires and patch cables make this eight song tape an intense but enjoyable experience. Between the bashing, you’ll catch lyrics about animal and human liberation, destruction of the state, and a strong ACAB stance. If contemporary protests had a soundtrack, it might sound a lot like STREET GLOVES, so the next time you’re fighting the fascists, maybe pop this on.