Reviews

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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.

3-Way Cum 1993–1998 2xLP

Punk has a long, complicated, not to mention fascinating, story with band names. Picking a proper moniker can be career-defining and allow you to sell a couple of shirts. On the other hand, a poor choice is unlikely to get you invited to the cool Insta-friendly hardcore festivals. 3-WAY CUM’s is head-scratching. I have always loved the band, in fact I consider them one of the best Swedish crust bands ever, but I still wonder why they went for this name, fitting for an obnoxious grindcore band but rather awkward for political crust. I am sure they are wondering, too. Does that keep me from wearing their shirt? Fuck no. The band started in 1993 with members of WARCOLLAPSE and SAUNA (who were stylistically very close) at a time when the D-beat and crust waves and the käng revival were seriously taking off in the country. In retrospect, it may seem difficult to find one’s way in this demented maze of DISCHARGE-loving gruff hardcore and locate the best bands of the era, the ones you would spontaneously recommend at your nan’s dinner party. 3-WAY CUM was one of those. The band managed to blend with ease the ’90s dual-vocal crustcore school of EXTREME NOISE TERROR or DISRUPT with the ’80s cavemen käng style of BOMBANFALL or SVART PARAD, and they significantly delivered great records during their five-year run, one LP and five EPs, among which were two splits with DEFORMED CONSCIENCE and ANOTHER OPPRESSIVE SYSTEM. They had that relentlessly savage, heavy, and dirty vibe, with vocalists reminiscent of bears fighting angrily over a pot of honey. A genuinely classic ’90s band, Scandicrust at its very best, and we should be grateful to Phobia for releasing the band’s full discography.

Accusation Accusation demo cassette

ACCUSATION from London’s latest demo. Tracks consist of SSD/STRAIGHT AHEAD or BREAKDOWN/ANTIDOTE-style early period Boston HC and NYHC. Chaotic drum smashing with powerful, in-your-face intensity. No weird effects or polished production thingamajiggies; it’s sonically stripped down to the core because this is fucking hardcore.

Atturri Atturri LP

Having first been exposed to Euskaran rockers ATTURRI on the fantastic Kaosa Euskal Herrian LP, it’s nice to see a full-length from the Basque bruisers. Short but sweet, with seven tracks of thunderous bass lines, soaring guitars, and righteous anger courtesy of perfectly orchestrated gang vox. Hoping to see more!

Billiam Corner Tactics LP

Melbourne simple-to-the-core new wave-y synth punk, filled with mid-paced drums and cheap, soft keyboards all merged with lo-fi submarine telephone vocals that monotone the shit out of this. Featuring a member from DISCO JUNK and COLLECTIVE HARDCORE, it brings a hyperactive vibe to bedroom punk. Goofy synth punk for lovers of simple, funny DIY projects. It lacks fire, it’s so monotonous, but it might be right down your alley. Funny yet boring, if it’s even possible.

Black Dots EP2/EP3 LP

Denver punks at it for over ten years put out an LP with 2021’s EP2 and 2023’s EP3. I reviewed a flexi single of theirs a while ago, which was comprised of the first two tracks of EP2, so I feel like I’ve been here before… heartfelt lyrics with backing melodies chiming in on choruses, pretty straightforward mid-tempo instrumentals: palm-muted chugging, rests for vocals to sail over, and economic guitar riffs. I kind of get a HOT WATER MUSIC vibe. While EP2 might be a little faster and heavier, EP3 slows down and is perhaps even more melancholic, if possible. This isn’t something I seek out, but the songwriting is clever, the band is tight, and the production is clean as can be.  Check out “Tired of Dreaming” for a good sample.

Cemento Armado Cemento Armado cassette

Chaotic, insanity-driven lo-fi hardcore punk debut issued by CoronaRX and Rock SVB. Deep-diving vibes versing on existentialism and bad luck strike all the way. This project from Buenos Aires features members of FORRA, RUDIX, and more, with social critiques and a deep, wounded feeling. Grieving, raw punk with nods to classic hardcore and even some rudimentary chain punk, with maniac, reverbed, trance-like asylum psycho vocals. Self-recorded and filled with freshened-up D-beat traces, it exudes frustration and anger, filled with a raw spirit. Favorite tracks: “Más de Uno,” “Imprudencia,” and “En Cualquiera.” Personal and defeated, but with an attitude of still fighting to the teeth and a visceral, ranting vibe. They exude a trance pogo state live, recommended for heavy users of lo-fi raw punk. Great ever-ranting drums and solid string sections, filled with a consistent cry of punk guitar. The feeling of being in a humid alley space, waiting for a vicious gig to start. The relentless vocals on behalf of Marta make you eager for more songs to burst out of this great work of visceral punk. One of my current favorite Argentinian formations—active players in an ever-growing scene, playing live constantly and shaping their defiant sound. Get ready…

Cromm Fallon Presents the P200 cassette

Las Vegas-based rock’n’roll which seems to have at least started as a solo project. This is the second full-length recording under this moniker, and it doesn’t say in the liner notes if this one is also done entirely by CROMM or if the press photos of the band looking cool means it’s a full band on the recording. Thirteen songs of mostly predictable, by-the-numbers rock’n’roll stuff. The harder stuff is slightly reminiscent of later-era HELLACOPTERS, but there are some straight up harmonica-driven blues standards, as well as an instrumental yacht rock song on here. I dunno, maybe it’s good and a punk review site just isn’t the right place for it?

Crucified Class Trapped EP

Hard and fast UK82 from Portland’s CRUCIFIED CLASS, carrying on in the tradition of bands like PARTISANS and the VARUKERS. Each of these tracks is a solid showing sonically, accompanied by lyrics dealing with the struggle of living in a capitalist society that’s in a perpetual state of war. I’ve gotta say, while I dig everything here overall, the vocals are what stand out and carry this EP. There’s a vicious immediacy that really hits, especially on “Trapped” and “System Sickness.” If you’ve worn out your Country Fit for Heroes comps and need something loud and angry to listen to, give this one a spin. Highly recommended.

Dead Familiars Turbinado cassette

With a logo like it’s been carved into a particle board desk at the back of the classroom, DEAD FAMILIARS put their debut six-banger to tape. This Madison, WI four-piece released Turbinado digitally in 2020, until local record shop Kitschy Spirit did a cassette run. This reminds me of BUSH—slack rock fusing with a gruff, buzzy type of thing leading to some pretty middle-of-the-road power pop that one may raise a fist to at the back of the crowd.  At times melancholic, at others aggressive and stompy.  No surprises within, but a solid debut for fans of the genre.

Dimension Dimension demo cassette

DIMENSION encapsulates hardcore punk in its purest essence: a raucous, frantic, frenzy propelled by punk guitars, saturated with power chord lashes, pulsing distortion, thunderous percussion, and gritty vocals. Every song has its own hardcore dimension, and they sound like old-fashioned USHC tunes, leaving you wanting more. The demo’s closer “N.G.R.I.” gets stuck to the back of your brain like glue. Not guilty! Hardcore will never die!

Final Dose Void Inside LP

The first LP from London’s FINAL DOSE. For metalheads, it might be black-metal-influenced hardcore punk. For the punks, it might sound more like modern hardcore-influenced black metal.  Metal and punk have always had inseparable connections and have influenced each other for quite some time, but this one is a rather new approach for listeners of both early DARKTHRONE and surprisingly, SPY or GULCH fans.. Listeners of the latter bands might enjoy it more than the former. Noisy and raw tracks that still have a modern production punch.

Gnats Sucker All Thing I’ll Never Say 1988–1991 CD

A retrospective compilation on the Malaysian Black Konflik label, this CD showcases the recorded works of Sapporo City’s GNATS SUCKER. These upbeat Japanese punks took cues from traditional American hardcore and NYHC bands, and sounded a bit like 7 SECONDS at times. Collecting material from the band’s 1991 demo, songs that originally appeared on an old Japanese hardcore compilation, and unreleased tracks, it’s a thorough glimpse at an obscure old school band with great broken English titles (“With Say” is a personal favorite).

Gym Tonic Sanitary Situations 12″

A quartet of Berlin-based grown-up punks bring us their second release, and it’s clear from the six tracks on here that they’re having a good time. Do you need to pick up a copy? Depends on how much you love perfectly adequate garage-y synth punk. Imagine something between LOST SOUNDS’ maniacal darkwave and SERVOTRON’s stilted robot rock, maybe mixed with a little contemporary egginess. Honestly, it could be worse. It’s also kind of educational, like a German synth punk THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS!  Did you know you could catch mono from someone’s tears? I certainly didn’t until listening to this record.

Hellco Hellco LP

Debut release of freewheeling and frequently funny punk featuring Dave from F.O.D. on vocals. There is a mix of styles on this LP, but when they rip, they rip in the best classic hardcore fashion—snotty hollered vocals, buzzing guitar, and fast beats that recall vintage CIRCLE JERKS. What sets HELLCO apart is their willingness to indulge in humor; for instance, “Just Stop Singing Like That” starts with a BLUE ÖYSTER CULT-aping riff with a melodramatic croon before launching into fast punk. It’s weird and unexpected, and they do it again at the next chorus, and then they bring it back in an echo-y goth version for “Just Stop Singing Like That Reprise.” Because the band is tight and the humor lands, it works and reminds me of bands like BIG BOYS and M.D.C. who weren’t afraid to inject some weirdness and inside jokes into their otherwise serious music. Similarly, “Swiss Cheese Brain” moves from atonal hardcore into a cowpunk bridge complete with whistling. Good record with tons of personality.

IŁ-62 Opuszczamy Babilon LP

IŁ-62 is a Polish band that has been around for a couple decades now and specializes in creating brutal punk that treads a line between metal and hardcore. Opuszczamy Babilon is not for the faint of heart or the punk rock purists. World music influences combined with psychedelic and anarcho-punk form a sound that is unique. Surges of metallic hardcore rip in without warning, and noisy, experimental instrumentations find their way through the brawl. If I were to compare this album to something, it might be STRUGGLING HARSH IMMORTALS or something equally as heavy and chaotic. There are moments that are reminiscent of stenchcore, but also sounds that call to mind ’90s-era SEPULTURA or even contemporary SOULFLY. This is one of those albums that you can put on and immediately feel the jamming groove as it winds and meanders through hefty riffs and primal feelings, complete with enough sonic variations to keep you intrigued and wanting more.

Lazer Bullet Spirit Suck Shit EP

Fastcore punk rock outta the Pacific Northwest. Really brilliant work here. The guitar has a little bit of a twang with a natural distortion to it, which gives it a crisper and cleaner sound while maintaining the hardcore energy. Everything is just so near-impossibly fast and never wavers. Super intense energy and incredibly tight. Vocals sound great; high-registered yelps drenched in reverb that really gives it that rock’n’roll edge. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention just how great the drums sound, spot-on and massive. This is a great EP all around. I’d even consider it a very early contender for future “Records of the Year” lists.

Mess Under Attack LP

Unless you’ve been sat under a relatively soundproof rock for the past few years, you’ve already heard of MESS by now; hot off the heels of two unbelievably good 12”s, a split with fellow bruisers the CHISEL, and now their first full-length has dropped into the eager hands of yours truly and all other discerning herbets. This is sheer, unabashed BLITZ-worship, and I love it. From the opener “Stay Strong,” a driving anthemic instrumental which is so indebted to ROSE OF VICTORY that Nidge and Mackie wouldn’t be called mad asking for royalties, this record is packed to the rafters with nostalgia-inducing tunes to spill your beer to. It’s a love letter to mid-tempo UK82, but with enough nous to make it sound fresh in ’24. Marble-gargling vocals, hooks and guitar tone redolent of anything off No Future. Genuinely as near to perfect as can be, vital.

Pet Mosquito Live at the Lamplighter CD

A Lamplighter live set is always a good seal of quality for a band, and this one doesn’t disappoint. PET MOSQUITO is loud and brash, presented here at their loudest and brashest— channeling the DICKS and maybe a little HANK WOOD. If that sounds like a lot of snot ‘n’ swagger, then I’m doing my job. It’s still its own thing though, especially when you throw that beautiful sax in the mix. I’m done arguing with people on this matter—more brass and woodwinds in rock’n’roll and punk. It adds an immediate dankness to any rock song, and this band certainly puts that to good use. Definitely don’t sleep on this release if you’re looking to blow out your speakers with excellent snarling punk rock.

Phantasm Conflict Reality EP

PHANTASM crept into existence just over a year ago in the Land Down Under, and has delivered a skull-crushing debut in the form of Conflict Reality. Pissed-off hardcore that doesn’t stop until everything is demolished. The sound is crusty and metallic, and it owes as much to DISORDER as it does to CONFLICT, especially in the vocal delivery which is very very angry and very, very passionate. The lines are very political and straight to the point. Ultra-aggressive vocals, pummeling drumming, crunchy guitars, and crusty bass. What more can you ask for? With seasoned members of HACKER and TÖL, PHANTASM is sure to carve out a worthy place in the scene.

Repo Man I Blame Society EP

“I blame society, man…”—a great quote from a great movie (hint: it’s Repo Man) and an appropriate title for this fast as hell EP from, you guessed it, REPO MAN. Heavily influenced by early ’80s US hardcore, I Blame Society provides plenty of great feedback-laden moments to stomp around to, and clocks in at just under seven minutes. In particular, I’ve got to mention the breakdown near the end of “I’m Right,“  the killer drumming on “Go Nowhere,” and the entirety of the RAMONES-ish standout “Leech.” All around, a great listen and worthy of your time. Thanks REPO MAN for the cool EP, and for reminding me to rewatch Repo Man this weekend.

Shotwell Shotwell LP

Shotwell Street runs through the heart of the Mission District. The infamous Jenn Cobb, one of the original members of the Gilman collective and former MRR shitworker, lived there, as did Tommy Strange of STRAWMAN and a slew of other people crucial to the formative years of the DIY Bay Area sound. The appropriately named SHOTWELL, formed by Jimmy Broutis, Paul Curran, and Aaron Cometbus, started playing renegade shows there back in 1994. Jimmy remains the constant member with a notable rotating crew backing him up over the last 25 years, committed to playing smaller, untraditional DIY venues.  Steve Moriarty of the GITS, who took over for Cometbus on drums back in 1995, returns in this incarnation as a producer and arranger. The eponymous release burns through 21 urgently melodic and politically conscious songs in under 45 minutes. Its scrappy and brutally authentic sound with rough, hazy guitars, steady drums, and lyrics shouted through raw vocal chords is reminiscent of SEXY and RADON. It can be difficult for an album to be both cautionary and optimistic at the same time, but I think that mindset is the impetus for punk creativity—the feeling that shit is fucked up but possibly could be different. At best, we can be the nidus for that change, and at least, we can lean a shoulder against the tide and kick rocks at the castle. This album and Broutis’s unfaltering vision serve simultaneously as both a history lesson and a modern-day survival guide.

The Thingz Green Incursion cassette

Wait a second, is that an organ? Kind of? Not really sure, as there is both a keyboard and a theremin. In any event, the combination creates a very ’60s feel to this rock’n’roll record. Take the B52’S and DEVO, then go heavy with the ’60s. Real heavy. These guys know exactly what they’re doing and they do it really well, but there’s a levity that makes you think they maybe don’t take themselves too seriously. Nothing wrong with that. It’s only rock’n’roll, man. The organ/keyboard/theremin combo gives it a garage feel, and the catchiness is contagious. It’s also got an eeriness, but in a fun way, not a scary way. Male/female vocals are always a hit with me and these seem almost purposefully quirky. It all comes together really nicely.

Virvon Varvon Voices cassette

This is a solid tape of punchy garage punk with the faintest whiff of art school cool wavering in its aura. The first track “Voices,” penned by the group’s newest member bassist Cunha, is mournful. driving punk with tinges of aching surf guitar in the leads. It’s the highlight here, a raucous anthem of pain and psychic anguish. The follow-up tracks are strong as well, calling to mind the MARKED MEN and the URINALS in equal measure. This is noisy and contained punk with a spark.

Ydinaseeton Pohjola Enää Meille Ei Riitä Kuolema cassette

Buzzing, frantics riffs with Burning Spirits-like melodies blasted onto tight, fast-paced drumming. The record bursts as suddenly as this review, it’s right on. There is no bullshit or lead-up. The singer screams in desperate horror balanced with tired disgust. The record maintains a constant push. It’s dirty, distorted into a mush, and urgent—so it sounds real. So far, so good. My excitement only lowers when I start to pay attention to the songs and then find myself left behind by the record’s busting energy. Even if loud and distorted, the rather mid-tempo, rocking tracks at the middle of the album start to lack the chaotic, absurd mess. It is still hardcore, a solid take, but as the songs lay back, the noise cannot cover the drop in energy. Sliced up to couple 7”s, this might work better, because either the tricks to keep things varied within a massive work are not as effective, or the sound is too homogenous to remain entertaining throughout the whole record. It does not mean the record lacks any potential, although I have to play along with them and hype myself to really enjoy it, instead the other way around when I feel that the record attracts me to its own madness. Still, it’s great that such long-existing bands are putting out full-length albums, and the quality of this release is way above the average. Maybe I have a blind spot for them because there is nothing they should do differently. I hear the dedication and craft, but even after dozens of listening sessions, I still feel my excitement is not shaken. Maybe my expectations were too high? If you are into the style that is discussed here, do yourself a favor and check them out, and I hope you will love it. The cover art is beautiful.

$ollar$ $ollar$ LP

Solo experimental/psych bedroom project recorded during 2020–2021. Raise your hand if you made home recordings during the COVID lockdowns (I am raising my hand). Now keep your hand up if they are worth listening to now (putting my hand down, and I hope most of you are doing the same). $OLLAR$ is proud of his, to the point that there are seven record-plus-merch options for this release available on Bandcamp, including a $300 option that includes a blanket of some sort. Pass. The music itself is a mix of written and improvised bluesy dirges about that era, sounding like a no-fi Homestead Records release or something Lou Barlow would have cooked up in the early ’90s. Slow strumming, slurred vocals, and songs like “Amazon” (it’s about Amazon), “Block Chain” (it’s about cryptocurrency), “Vaccine” (it’s about the Covid-19 vaccine), and “2020 Election Night Eve” (this one’s actually an instrumental, but you get the idea) are too on-the-nose and over with to be interesting. Creating art in times of fear and uncertainty is healthy. This one would have been better kept private.

AI (悪意) / Disturd Walk split 12″

Japanese split effort between decade-long friends. We have DISTURD with some heavy punk, absolute chaos-bringers. Great presence in the solid, harsh vocals, with a dragging feeling of hardcore punk on the crustier side that combines bits of powerviolence as well. Blunt definition of the band, filled with raw punk of a vicious energy. On AI’s side, we have more defined metal crust, crazy guitars, angry drums, and strident, suffering vocals filled with energy. Recommended.

Bomb Out / Miami Death 2 split EP

Split release between BOMB OUT from Berlin and MIAMI DEATH 2 out of Leipzig. The BOMB OUT side consists of a tight, well-produced metalcore/beatdown track with death metal parts reminiscent of AT THE GATES. MIAMI DEATH 2’s side consists of four tracks of gritty hardcore (including a noise track), all under three minutes. You want real short-attention-span hardcore? MIAMI DEATH 2 is your answer.

Cloudage Cloudage cassette

Debut EP from Toronto-based CLOUDAGE, a feel-good indie set that will have you hooked straight away or leave you spitting up sugary-sweet melodies, depending on your preference for this type of thing. There are fleeting moments of edginess that help cut the sweetness where the backing vocals chime in, and you may feel compelled to nod along. While acoustic guitar strums mix with electric guitar and bass distortion over upbeat drums, the vocals are clearly the focus here: a barrage of narrative lyrics to pull at your memories of breakups and heartache, hardly stopping for a breath, evening singing through outros with “ooh”s and “la da da”s. There’s an homage to Ad-Rock from the BEASTIE BOYS, “Ad-Rock You’re So H”—and is that meant to be ambiguous? Hard? Heavy? Whatever. The closer “Stay Pure” pokes fun at their style with the line “Let bygones be bygones / Don’t turn pain into poetry / To hold onto in sad songs;” a genuine and self-effacing sentiment that may be the thread throughout this four-song debut.

Confetti Malaise A Thousand Burning Suns LP

If you like synth-heavy coldwave, then let me introduce you to CONFETTI MALAISE from Marseille, France. This initial full-length finds the four-piece band with ten songs that vary in energy from dancefloor swingers to the occasional melodic, emotionally-driven ballads. Hard-hitting bass and ethereal synth and guitar work creates a party atmosphere fit for our present armageddon. There’s something here that reminds me of BLAQK AUDIO, but with an early SOUTHERN DEATH CULT bend. Give this a listen, and I guarantee you’ll be swaying with a Djarum Black in your hand.

Coupe Gorge Silence de Mort LP

Brest-based Oi!-tinged hardcore types COUPE GORGE return five years after their last mini LP, with a full album of a more mature, assured sound. Comprising various alumni from CUIR and SYNDROME 81, they’ve inherited some of the spartan and sparse sound of their other projects but injected more of a hardcore sensibility that shines through. Definitely more hardcore than Oi! (conspicuous lack of saxophones for our friends from La République), but for those who enjoy LIONS LAW or BATTLE RUINS (for example), there’s a lot of fun to be had.

Daydream Reaching for Eternity LP

Third full-length by Portland’s hardcore punk fanatics DAYDREAM. And what a beautifully ugly record! After their great self-titled debut and followed by Mystic Operative, DAYDREAM continues to steer away from the conventional hard punk lines and dares to paint their own. More akin to the artsy side of hardcore, Reaching for Eternity is a rollercoaster of moments, bits and pieces of different parts of hardcore punk, like a collage of Dischord Records bands stitched together. No need to choose FAITH or VOID when you can have both!

Disfear Everyday Slaughter LP reissue

The final installment of a series of DISFEAR reissues serves up a D-beat masterpiece that has been out of print since not long after its release back in 1997. It’s nothing short of a crime against punk that this album has been allowed to collect so much dust, but thankfully Havoc Records, et al. have rectified that grave oversight. Housed in a gatefold sleeve and including a bonus two-song 7” with the first hundred records, Everyday Slaughter sounds just as vital and crushing in 2024 as it did when I first heard it over twenty years ago. This is an undeniable, indisputable classic of the genre and it demands to be played loud. The riffs require it! Of the endless number of Dis-clones that have come and gone in the intervening decades, very very few have come anywhere close to the proficiency and sheer brutality demonstrated here. Look, if you like D-beat as a genre even slightly, then this is required listening. There should be an OG copy behind glass at that goofy-ass museum of punk rock (or whatever) that opened recently in Las Vegas, though I bet there’s not. Do yourself a favor and snag one for yourself before it goes back out of print again.

Eyeteeth Negative Reinforcement flexi EP

Brand new EP from UK’s grinding straightedge violence unit EYETEETH. An electrifying blend of fast-paced rhythms, aggressive vocals, and raw energy that epitomizes the essence of straightedge hardcore. Four relentless tracks that go by as fast as they start, and everything in just four minutes. What a beating!?! The unwavering commitment to the straightedge ethos lives on!

Flash Mongrels Good Time Dole Line EP

Ah, the late ’70s, when suddenly everyone wanted to be a punk. These lads from Kingston upon Hull used to also sometimes go by the boring moniker “the GUS WILSON BAND,” and their sound on this 7” of songs recorded in 1978 smacks of classic pub rockin’ punched up with a fashionable punk infusion à la FU2 and the like. The title track, with its electrified R&B groove and “I’d rather be poor and happy” sentiment, is quite good and undeniably catchy. The slightly less spirited “Thoroughly Nice” is a smart and succinct number and the most convincingly “punk” of the three tracks. The bright, kaleidoscopic keys on the power-poppy closer “Hat” end the record on a jubilant note along the lines of the DICKIES’ “Waterslide” or MADNESS’s “House of Fun.” But, by ’79, the group was defunct. While not exactly revolutionary, this short-lived band of Johnny-Rotten-come-latelys managed to get John Peel’s attention during their brief run, and this newly-issued EP provides them with some belated justice.

Gizon Berria Lurran Arnasa EP

One-man projects can be dangerous double-edged swords. If they are meant to reflect perfectly, to mirror the uncompromising artistic vision of one person, they are not without risk. Sure, we all hate it when drummers offer supposedly “good” ideas (as if they knew what they were talking about), or when the singer raises some doubts about your cracking five-minute-long solo, but then when you’re on your own in the studio composing everything, no one is going to warn you if the musical brilliance you just came up with is actually dross. GIZON BERRIA is a one-man band from the Basque Country and, on the one hand, I’m sure the EP achieved what the songwriter aimed at creating, so that it can be said indeed to be a coherent work. On the other hand, I don’t think the elements all work well together. GIZON BERRIA strives to create an occult, dark, creepy and menacing punk sound. It sounds like SLIMY MEMBER and GISM having a date at a witch convention, which could theoretically work—and I gladly admit there are some good riffs on the EP—but it falls a little short. I understand the concept of a hypnotic, pagan, macabre punk sound, but I don’t feel it. It would work better on a longer format with more narrative storytelling moments helping the atmosphere to settle, like the genuinely eerie outro, but on the EP format, it just sounds like a regular modern dark punk band, which I suppose is not the point. This said, it cannot be said to be a bad record, and I can imagine people being curious and even interested.

Güiña ¿Qué Justicia? EP

Punk works best when it’s an overwhelming form of self-expression that feels like a sonic explosion even if it’s a tamed, slightly melodic sound at a moderate tempo. It happens on a razor-thin territory when it has to remain true to the core although it needs to lean beyond a bit to become unique and interesting. How ¿Qué Justicia? starts reminds me of the ’90s, when the sound of hardcore/punk got tamed as it entered a dead-end street of better sound quality and melodies. The main motive of the opening track is a silly, hum-like note that is too rounded to scratch, therefore the overwhelming effect of the song is missed. Meanwhile, everything is in place: angry vocals, dead simple song structures, and a good elan. The B-side of this short EP works much better. The tempo turns up and the music becomes more clumsy. The unpolished rage leaks into those songs more effectively, and then it sounds as if they want to perform their angst instead of songs. The interesting contrast is that the B-side demonstrates perfectly what is missing from the A-side, which makes the record itself exciting. Even if punk sounds super visceral, from messing around on your guitar to releasing records, a band has to make dozens of decisions and contemplating these decisions could be as entertaining as shaking your fist at a dirty venue. The reason behind the contrast of this record keeps my thoughts busy. It is convincingly suggested that GÜIÑA has a point to make through their music. Maybe this is why some of the songs have the sloppiness of pogo punk, because the focus is elsewhere. Such records completely lack the ambition to be something big within the global hardcore scene, while simultaneously carrying the ambition of destroying the existing world order. It’s a double “fuck you” that deserves recognition. I will not blast this 7” whenever I can, but the core idea of our beloved subculture is to have many more bands like GÜIÑA. The artwork looks great, and the 7” comes with an equally beautiful insert and lyric sheet.

Headwinds A.I. cassette

With a few records in their bin, Las Vegas’s HEADWINDS put out A.I.—songs are fun, dirty and have plenty of grit, with great-sounding guitars toned to hollow out yer bowels. There’s a little imperfection on the recording that sounds like a stylus hitting some dust, and is fairly apparent on the opener “Desire” during the longer-than-necessary outro. But they’ve got that desert-pysch thing going on, and used a 1959 reel-to-reel to record on, so I’ll give them a pass!  After a few times through, this really grew on me—the reverb-soaked vocals on the anthemic “Wild & Free” is an instant hit, and deserves a listen. The songs rollick around, kicking up dust, and give the illusion that everything will be okay, especially on the sandy-strummed acoustic closer “Melody” that sweeps beautifully to a finish.

Highschool Dropouts Highschool Dropouts LP

Black-leather-clad pop punk from the sunny rolling hills of central Tuscany. HIGHSCHOOL DROPOUTS fill their self-titled record out with enough downstroking, palm muting, and “oh-oh-oh-ohhhh”s to satiate any lover of early PARASITES or VINDICTIVES. The timing is impressive and the production is heat. The band put this album out in 2002 and has since broken up and gotten back together a couple of times. The four-piece’s output varies within their discography; they seem to have moved away from the energy that blasts from this slab of vinyl. This is the time capsule that you should start with.

Ignorantes Palos Por Que Bogas, Palos Por Que No Bogas LP

I learned a lot while reading about Chile’s IGNORANTES and their LP Palos Por Que Bogas, Palos Por Que No Bogas, from the ’80s Latino hardcore scene and bands that paved the way for them like SEDICION, MASSACRE 68, and LOS CRUDOS, to the current scene of bands playing raw tupa-tupa punk. It’s all killer and the fanbase is rabid. IGNORANTES play fast and raw street punk, and after watching some live footage it’s easy to see the appeal. Their style translates perfectly on this album, giving a good sense of the energy and anger of their live performances. Check out “Ciao Merda” and “No Me Gustas;” if you’re into straightforward fast and loud street punk, this will be for you.

Liquid Mike Liquid Mike LP

In just a few short years, Michigander Mike Maple has proven many times over that he has a head for pop. This fourth full-length is strong in a way that lasts, not just because it’s wall-to-wall earworms, but rather that this is songwriting that’s taken the best of power pop and internalized it. It pays to do your homework, but there is nothing unapproachable or academic on display here, just natural and breathlessly good songwriting. Time will prove Maple is right there in lock step with TONY MOLINA as a prolific and earnest writer who manages fancy guitar pop tricks like descending minor chords and non-standard harmonies without being flashy or pretentious. A song like “God Bless the World” proves in under a minute-thirty just what this group is capable of. It’s got punch, it’s got heart, it’s got it all. I’m an immediate and zealous acolyte.

Mr. Clit and the Pink Cigarettes The Cutest Hag in the Swamp LP

I’ve been aware of this band for a good chunk of the near decade-and-a-half that they’ve been in existence. They’re based out of Indianapolis, as am I, and for obvious reasons, you can’t help but notice when they pop up on a local bill. Yet this LP, their second or, like, tenth depending on how you’re counting, is the first time I’m actually listening to them. Some combination of their name and general aesthetic, which you might describe as Hot Topic circus troupe chic, had led me to believe this was firmly outside my area of interest. I’d imagined something like a cabaret-adjacent ten-piece that may or may not have a jug player. But, nope, turns out this is just a trio, and they play a mix of primitive garage punk, BABES IN TOYLAND-esque grunge, and budget surf guitar. It’s not bad! It can feel like an unwieldy tangle of influences at times, and the vocal performances can get a little too pronounced, almost like they’re doing a voice—the hard left turn from SHANNON AND THE CLAMS-y punky ’60s pop to cartoony hardcore on the album opener is a good example of both issues. Otherwise, this is a pretty solid release. I might even go so far as to say a track like “Dork Spit” is good.

Nucler Blud Corridor b/w Frown cassette

Bay Area band NUCLER BLUD plays fast, short, no-bullshit hardcore. These two songs clock in at a whopping 1:38 total. This seems to be their second cassette release, which is a split release cassingle by two labels of which I can’t find any existence whatsoever. The band’s first tape was put out by To Live a Lie, and sounds like some full-on DISCLOSE worship. It’s awesome. The two songs on this cassette seem to have moved away from that slightly, but are still pretty ripping. It’s cool that these tapes seem to have been a giveaway at a Gilman Street gig the band was playing.

Scott O’Brien In the Garage CD

I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting, but it was not faster-paced, catchy pop music. Is SCOTT someone I should know? The answer, at least now, is a resounding “yes.” In addition to the pure pop goodness, there’s definitely some surf and punk elements/influences. I’ll admit to being a bit thrown when a solo artist (as opposed to a “band”) delivers legit punk/power pop. It’s just not what I was expecting. This is awesome on all levels.

Private Hell Days of Wrath cassette

The latest release from Richmond’s PRIVATE HELL consists of six tracks of dark, metallic hardcore punk attack, sitting right in the middle of the ’80s or ’90s approach but not quite polished enough to be rubbed off as booking agent metal. Reminiscent of the sound of the world of ’90s DIY hardcore rediscovering the ’80s HC style, around LEFT FOR DEAD, the SWARM, or TALK IS POISON. Solid metal-edged riffs rage throughout the tracks without any sacrifice of intensity.

Purpur Spytt Scavenges, Time​-​Travels, and Scrapbooks LP

Charlotte Mermoud (of Leipzig-via-Geneva post-punks the STACHES and MARAUDEUR) has used the PURPUR SPYTT project name for her (mostly) solo efforts since 2016, and true to title, Scavenges, Time​-​Travels, and Scrapbooks collects songs that Mermoud wrote from the start of PURPUR SPYTT to 2023 but only recorded in the last year or two, culled from notebook jottings, phone recordings, and other temporary resting places as a means of clearing the slate. PURPUR SPYTT songs have always been vehicles for Mermoud’s stark, hypnotic bass lines and deadpan, sometimes mundane/sometimes surreal spoken word monologues, with elemental Möbius loop rhythms bumping hips against the likes of ESG, LIZZY MERCIER DESCLOUX, or more recently SNEAKS—aside from a handful of brief field recording/sound collage interludes, it’s all rug-cutting heat. The loping bass groove of “Party Town” twists around cowbell-flecked drum machine beats and blasts of disintegrating synth like DELTA 5 if they’d been on Grand Royal in the ’90s, the rubbery, wound-up bounce of “On a Circle” nails the feeling of claustrophobic anxiety that so many modern DEVO disciples only wish they could hit, and “The Circumstances” (originally written for the STACHES) slinks along a minimal electro-punk wave before breaking into a frenzied freakout of keyboard squeal, drum machine rattle, and needling guitar. No sketchy throwaways or half-baked curios here!

Soft Shoulder It’s All a Small World After LP

SOFT SHOULDER has been refining their brand of angular, no-kilter post-punk for quite some time. Calling them prolific feels like an understatement…at last peek, there were no less than 34 releases listed on their Discogs page, and a sizable grip of those appear to be lathe-cut 5”s. Incredibly niche. Aptly titled, It’s All a Small World After brings us sixteen tracks of unadulterated worship at the altar of the FALL. There’s just no way around the comparison when the vocalist sounds like a dead ringer for Mark E. Smith. When a group’s sound is so closely aligned with a classic band (essentially homage territory), the question of originality recedes and is replaced by the more immediate concern of execution. After all, aping the FALL is a bit different than trying to sound like the RAMONES (not that many have actually pulled that off very well either, in truth). I’m happy to report that they do in fact pretty much nail it. And, you know, originality may well be a long dead farce at this stage anyway. Worth a spin if you enjoy the modern sounds of URANIUM CLUB, COOL GREENHOUSE, VINTAGE CROP, ’80s UK DIY, or uh, the FALL.

Spleen Spleen demo cassette

Roachleg hits the nail on the head with this demo cassette from SPLEEN. The best I can do to describe SPLEEN’s noise is to say it’s a blend of raw punk and deathrock with heavy emphasis on the rock’n’roll part, and it’s all sung in French. This five-song demo rips through with an apocalyptic urgency while feeding upon darkness and simultaneously mingling enough melodic tones and raucous bop to keep things danceable. Nightmarish themes permeate the lyrics which are delivered in a Peter Murphy of BAUHAUS sort of way, but with a blown-out effect and a bit more caffeination. I really dig the song “Advienne Que Pourra,” which roughly translated means “let the chips fall where they may.”

Stef + The Sleeveens Give My Regards to the Dancing Girls / Small Talk with Jonathan 7″

This is an interesting one to describe. It’s almost like a cut from the ’80s, when new wave and punk had a lot of blurry lines going on. It’s catchy and it’s a little moody and it’s kind of pretty, but it’s also definitely rock’n’roll. And I say “new wave,” but I’m not hearing any of the electronic instruments you’d traditionally associate with new wave. At times, it’s got a little bit of an early U2 feel. Definitely very catchy. Both cuts mention the “chip shop.” Ha, it’s a theme. I really do like this one.

Teenage Halloween Till You Return CD

It’s a myth that the water in New York makes the pizza crust the best on Earth. Could we build a similar myth connecting New Jersey’s water leading to painfully (in a good way) earnest emo-indebted punk bands? TEENAGE HALLOWEEN follows in this tradition of music that says what it means, and presents it couched in a belted-out anthemic sound that calls to mind New York neighbor JEFF ROSENSTOCK and the more erudite Jersey-born TITUS ANDRONICUS. The music is exhilarating, custom built for shout-alongs replete with gorgeous, soaring guitar work perfectly exemplified on tracks like “Getting Bitter.” The band in general just seems sort of impossible not to love, unless you’ve got “sourpuss” tattooed across your knuckles or you write “fluent in sarcasm” in your dating app bios. For the rest of us who still see the value in wearing our heart on our sleeves and telling your friends you love them—god bless TEENAGE HALLOWEEN and god bless all of us.