Reviews

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.

Briefbombe Briefbombe cassette

A novelty act the likes of which I am surprised we have never seen before. Postal-themed fastcore, self-proclaimed as being “mail-fronted.” You get it? Because of the mail? A theme all punks are familiar with, I mean, everybody goes to the post office. Eight songs played with complete ferocity and desperation. The mail never stops, and neither does BRIEFBOMBE, which translates to “mail bomb” in case you didn’t put that together. The world has surely seen its share of novelty fastcore/powerviolence bands, but I am pleasantly surprised by this one. The cassette is short and sweet, leaving you wanting more. The band doing a reimagined version of “Plz Mr. Postman” had me a little nervous, but instantly won me over. This is an absolute blast, and I hear they play gigs all dressed as postal employees.

Canadian Rifle I’m Just Like You EP

CANADIAN RIFLE has long delivered pop punk via chugging guitars, floor toms, and agnst. That’s the sound for a host of bands from the early-to-mid-’00s. This record has the musical markers you’d expect: distorted but tuneful guitar, intentional dissonance, and earnest but irreverent lyrics. I think this record sounds just a touch sharper and leaner than past releases. If you spent your youth spinning the first BENT OUTTA SHAPE EP, or IRON CHIC later on, you might want to pick this up.

Double Fisted Carousel / 3AM 7″

DOUBLE FISTED describes themselves best as “old school punk rock dudes playing whatever they want.” This two-song 7” comes straight out of their garage in Glendale, AZ, with a fuzzy, stoner-psych vibe. But there’s more to unpack with these two sides. The instrumental A-side “Carousel” starts like a demo cassette of a ’60s psych-rock tribute band before switching seamlessly into solid thrash riffage in the style of an early METALLICA demo. Then, around the 2:20 mark, the hardcore skate punk chugging kicks in. It’s a lot, but it works. The B-side, “3 AM,” has more of a stoner, metalcore build to it. The riffs are great, and the vocals kick after about 90 seconds singing about witches, demons, and junk. This track also has that ’60s heavy psych rock/proto-metal vibe until it closes with a quick, hardcore mosh.

Eyes and Flys I Don’t Care Where You’ve Been, I’m Just Glad That You’re Home / Buffalo 7″

I wouldn’t want to say this is particularly punk per se, but it’s definitely not indie rock in the modern sense. Indie currently tends to be a polished, neatly-made, safe and starched pop music for people who probably rent those new condos in your city. This EYES AND FLYS 7” (their second within a year) is more slanted (and enchanted) towards ye olde ’90s college rock, and I’m sure the folks involved have spent considerable time with their SEBADOH, GUIDED BY VOICES, and ARCHERS OF LOAF records on repeat. It’s got that dusty, woolen lo-fi sound down pat—layers of guitar, with bright jangle strumming under a crunchy morass of distortion emanating from tweed-covered amps, with a light thump of drums to keep the beat. It was probably recorded on an eight-track inside a drafty house in the fall or early winter, probably while wearing scarfs and knit caps. The melodies peer through the murk and its sincerity stands hand-in-hand with its sneer.

Gear Man’s Search for Meaning EP

Pretty solid straightforward hardcore here from Hungary. Has a youth crew-ish energy at times, but it’s not overwhelming. Imagine if dudes from INTEGRITY met up with dudes from IGNITE and decided to write some songs. Good stuff.

Ideation Blunt Instrument cassette

A blast of severe hardcore from Talahassee, this demo from IDEATION is full of bludgeoning USHC punk that’s so amped up that it crosses into raw punk territory, at times reaching a level of cacophony akin to DISCLOSE, etc. It’s a spirited effort for sure—the singer laces the tracks with battle cries of “let’s go!” and each time he says it, I’m down to ride.

Klazo ‘Demik Dementia LP

Hard to believe that a two-piece can create a racket like this…also hard to believe that this particular duo just keeps getting wilder. But they do. You’ll be muttering “you fucking hippies you need your ass kicked” under your breath for weeks after you hear the opener, but the rest of this 12” slammer is even better. The very embodiment of garage hardcore, because KLAZO is decidedly both. As much as I want to blast the shit out of ‘Demik Dementia, I want to live in the world that is the morning after this kind of mania is unleashed, because I feel like KLAZO is the equalizer. Filthy, monstrous fuckery of the highest order…like if M.O.T.O. wanted to kick your ass instead of wanting to drink your beer. That’s KLAZO. They’re gonna drink your beer too, though.

Lamprea Explosiva Gravacións 2014–2018 cassette

Long runtimes are for overrated studio films these days. Everything seems to go on way too long. Life’s too short? Not if you’ve been paying attention. Thank the gods of shambolic rock‘n’roll, then, for collections like this. LAMPREA EXPLOSIVA keeps the songs chaotic (but firmly on the rails) and brief, injecting you with sugary fuzz in seconds flat again and again. These cuts are fun with teeth, the sort of joyed-out bedroom punk that wears a smile as an act of rebellion with plenty of melody and amp-damage in equal measure. And, most importantly of all, you won’t be bored for a second or skipping to the end.

LBM Ankalli EP

You had a long day at work. You’re underpaid. The world is a chimera of misery. Capitalism has colonized every inch of your nervous system. The air in your city feels heavy, full of polluting and poisonous particles. This eight-song EP is the catharsis you need when you feel a scream of frustration coming out of you. Whether you are from the Global South like the members of LBM, or from the precarious zones of the so-called First World, whether you speak Spanish or not, this brutal D-beat exercise appeals directly to your courage and desperation as a worker being swept away by the wave of progress. These songs are ideal for catharsis and if you let it, for the revolution to come.

Mercenary Demos Collection LP

Atlanta’s MERCENARY was active from around 2013 until 2015, playing a particularly vicious and virulent strain of D-beat. They never released any vinyl records in their time, but put out two blistering demo tapes that have since become underground classics—one in 2013, and 2015’s Atlanta’s Burning—along with one compilation appearance. Former members would go on to play in bands such as NAG, EXTENDED HELL and ANTI-MACHINE, just to name a few. Tragically, vocalist Michael “Ruby” Rubenstein passed away in March 2021. One year following, this record compiling all of MERCENARY’s recorded material was released, finally immortalising this underrated, blistering group—and the visceral vocal styling of Ruby—on wax. Demos Collection is an absolutely ferocious listen, drenched in echo, dissonant riffage, and tortured howling; it is a must-listen for any dis-rocker worth their salt. And, on top of all this, all digital sales from this record are being donated to the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition, with other proceeds going towards a mural in memory of Ruby—what’s not to love?!

Mick Trouble It’s Mick Trouble’s Second LP

My confession is that I initially took the MICK TROUBLE mythos at face value, gleefully announcing on my radio show that I had found a heretofore undiscovered relic from England circa 1980. I know now that “MICK” is NYC-based Jed Smith, formerly of MY TEENAGE STRIDE and currently doing jangle pop double duty in JEANINES. It’s Mick Trouble’s Second LP is, well, MICK TROUBLE’s second LP (following the first LP from 2019 and an EP from 2017), and it’s another loving pastiche in the tradition of the DUKES OF STRATOSPHEAR, in which the artist clearly has boundless affection for the period being imitated. The most obvious touchpoint here is the TELEVISION PERSONALITIES—the spirit of Dan Treacy shows up all over this record, especially in “MICK’s” earnest and extremely English vocals. Of course, this concept simply wouldn’t work if the songs weren’t good, and they’re great. Ebullient, expertly produced, and with about as many UK pop culture references as a HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT tune. Try “Jim’ll Fix It,” which alone has enough hooks and harmonies to fill your head for weeks. Cracking!

Paint Thinner Paint Thinner demo cassette

Stompy hardcore that takes a page or two from the book of GAG when it comes to worshipping underrated ’80s USHC bands. Groove dominates each song and every part is a mosh part, with curveball time changes and slamming skank beats. Not much else to say about this release, just hardcore music for hardcore people. A no-brainer!

Paul Pecho Curtis Yellingmouth / Neatly Framed 7″

Folks may be familiar with PAUL PECHO (a.k.a. Paul Schlesier) through his work with Leipzig psych-rock outfit BLACK SALVATION, but this 7”, his first as a solo act, finds him exploring some of the less heavy recesses of psychedelia. Both tracks on this 7” sound an awful lot like the stuff TY SEGALL was putting out in the early 2010s—maybe splitting the difference between the garage-y Melted and the acoustic psych of Goodbye Bread. It’s mainly due to the vocals—he’s doing the whole blown-out, multi-tracked thing and howling in a similar register. But the songs themselves aren’t straight rips by any means. “Neatly Framed,” the better of the two tracks on here, takes disparate layers of garage-y riffs, noodly guitars, and woozy vocals and backs that with a  loose hearty drum beat to create a track that isn’t overtly psychedelic but has similar mind-altering effects. It’s not bad!

Riesgo La Edad de la Violencia cassette

Pure mayhem straight from Chicago. This cassette is short, but enough to tell a story from start to finish. A story of violence, struggle for survival, and spiritual struggles. The sound is a cavernous, dissonant, blackened D-beat. The effect of the excerpts from the poem “La Fórmula Secreta” by Mexican writer Juan Rulfo (I recommend you read his novel Pedro Paramo and his book of short stories The Plain in Flames) is absolutely brutal and elevates this short punk flash to the category of art. Lyrics are in Spanish, but the hatred is universal. A hell of a debut.

Slashers Hang On / Snap My Neck 7″

New York-based SLASHERS play gnarly skate punk with a dash of metal influence thrown into the mix. This single is really cool, with both sides of the vinyl exuding snot and attitude. The metal influence is what makes this one really interesting, with the traditional metal/Japanese HC-style guitar leads/soloing. The instrumentation on this record is really top-notch—these guys really know their stuff. All in all, this record is totally rad and I’m excited to see what else is in store in the future.

 

Strangely Addictive How Will the Youth of Tomorrow Worship Satan? cassette

Far less evil than the album title would have you believe, STRANGELY ADDICTIVE is a Swedish lo-fi garage punk/indie pop band. A bit of a strange genre combination, and at times the songs feel too poppy for the punks, while at others too gritty for pop music fans. Liking a bit of everything, I can certainly see the appeal of STRANGELY ADDICTIVE. There are moments that they remind me of the HARD-ONS, and how can that be a bad thing?

Tensión Ruptura o Continuación cassette

TENSIÓN is a Spanish band that captures the dark essence of modern life with their dark atmosphere and very Spanish take on post-punk. Ruptura o Continuación is a compilation of EPs released between 2020 and 2021, which includes the Autolesión EP, the Construcción EP, and the Transformar EP, plus a new version of the song “No Hay Lugar.” With a total of nine tracks, this compilation gathers the band’s latest outings and creates a great companion for lonely walks and self-reflective moments. The icing on this dark cake comes with the track “Construción,” which is a gloomier take on the song “Construção” by Brazilian singer-songwriter legend CHICO BUARQUE. This is a great way to get into this band’s work, a lesson in what Spanish post-punk is capable of, and an abstract, modern piece of artistic punk.

Tiger Helicide Fuck! We Forgot to Write Hits! CD

They might have forgotten to write hits, but if you’re here for some true freak sounds, then you’ve come to the right place. Seems like TIGER HELICIDE doesn’t give a shit what I think, because this disc is all over the fukkn place—beer-drenched shitpunk, garage pop, no-fi bedroom grind nonsense…and that’s just three tracks selected at random. There’s merit here, but it takes a bit of sifting—if you can make it through to “Death Rays & Razor Blades” (the seventeenth of eighteen tracks, and a case study in repetition), then you win, because that song rips. If you listen to the song after that one…? Then you lose.

 

Axe Rash Contemporary Ass EP

When they released their self-titled 12” on Adult Crash Records back in 2019, AXE RASH stirred the punk pot with their high-intensity Swedish hardcore power, and they are back with Contemporary Ass, a well-deserved follow-up. They fit somewhere in between the raw aggression of Swedish mangel à la TOTALITÄR, with subtle hints to early ANTI-CIMEX and a more bouncy USHC-styled stomp to it. The icing on the cake is the vocals, which are as vicious as they can be and deliver a raging ass-kicking throughout the five tracks; they’re a standout factor in comparison with other contemporary mangel-worshipping bands. One of the most promising bands to come out of the punk department in Sweden in later years, and this is very telling because there are mangel-styled bands spawning left and right. AXE RASH got me hitchin’ for more! You will pay!

Battlesex Strike With Precision cassette

Portland, OR-based BATTLESEX returns with their second cassette release. Four songs of fast, heavy metal-infused raw punk. The clean production of the recording mixed with the riffs having some serious pop sensibility somewhat makes you forget that you’re listening to a pretty nasty band. A style that seems like it would benefit from a gruffer-sounding recording.

Christian Blunda Funky Punks in Space LP

Solo album from the MEAN JEANS frontman—a pandemic project three years in the making, and as the title indicates, kind of punk, kind of funk, angsty space-themed, and with keyboard synthesizers carrying most of the tunes. A concept album that stands strong, with a bit more sincerity than the Jingles Collection. Nothing like a pandemic to spin you into a fun, escapist space ride that is epic like an ephemeral soundtrack to an unseen sci-fi movie. I’m thinking of those futuristic ’80s action/horror movies that could dictate mood with a few extended atmospheric notes on a keyboard. He executes this well; I’ll put it up there with when WANG CHUNG made the phenomenal soundtrack to the epic 1985 film To Live and Die in L.A., but with aliens.

Coins Parallèles Démo cassette

Montreal post-punque pour toi. I breathe a heavy sigh listening to this, as I wonder how many new minimal post-punk bands we need? How has this style survived the pandemic? To be fair, I get the allure for bands that play this kind of music, much like the spikeys glom to D-beat. It’s a recognizable sound, it has a defined aesthetic, and it’s usually a surefire ticket to a built-in audience. But at this point, the style is so minimal that it’s become deeply generic and overdone. Listening to this demo is akin to opening my lunch and seeing that it’s peanut butter again. But I will say there are some textures on this that I liked, and the lead guitar has some occasionally inverted, diagonal-sounding passages that contrast with the hard parallel lines and 90-degree angles that the songs are drafted with. My biggest complaint with this (as with most bands of their ilk) is that the rhythms are so stiff and uptight. Their drummer’s neck and shoulders must be so sore from playing like this! How the hell do you make a cowbell sound so damn unfunky? I just wanna get them a massage, some beers, and a plate of poutine, let them loosen up a little before going back to the studio. Groove is in the heart, but this sounds like music for Lego-men to dance to, and I’m sorry to tell you, Lego-men have got no heart.

Delay Songs for Money LP

I like the challenge of describing a record or a band or a sound that I like, but can’t quite put in a nice, clean box. This is one of those records. The band comes from Ohio, a state that seems to produce more than its share of crazy people. I’m not implying that these guys are crazy, but I’m not saying they’re not. The record doesn’t always “hit” for me, but when it does, it’s got a rhythmic, almost trance-inducing quality to it. It’s catchy and melodic and very much grounded in indie pop. I found my head bouncing with some regularity. When it doesn’t hit, it slows down and, at times, borders on self-indulgence. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I heard a record that was so black-or-white for me. With each song, I can almost tell in the first five or ten seconds if it’s going to be a hit or a miss. That’s kind of funny to me.

Exploding Eyes Live at Bello Bar cassette

Primitive Screwhead, live cassette subsidiary label of Big Neck Records, simultaneously dropped three releases of projects all featuring Robert O’Braidaigh, who was also in the THINGS and CHEAP FREAKS. Chronologically, this is the third of those releases, recorded on February 27th, 2016. Removing most if not all of the grit from his earlier projects, EXPLODING EYES feels like a straightforward, radio-friendly rock’n’roll act. The songwriting is great, musicianship is top-notch, and though the band is less nasty than the aforementioned, it still has some wild, squealing guitar leads and thundering drums. It’s interesting to listen to the progression of three different bands Mr. O’Braidaigh has done and see the genres he navigates fluidly. You can get all three of these as a bundle of cassettes from the label, which I recommend doing if you like any of the three bands.

The Floaties Now in Colour EP

These days, I’d normally think you’re signing your own death warrant being compared to DEVO. This band managed to flirt around the same atmosphere without getting sucked in too close, however. The active, syncopated riffing and humanist machine vocals are reminiscent, but the band also brings a power-popping confidence to the table as well. Through four cuts, the band keeps your head bopping the whole time. The vocals have a great sonorous quality to them and the rhythm section absolutely rumbles. Then it goes off the rails, as “Dead Right” swings in like a Stiff Records classic. The track builds brilliantly from a repetitive dual riff and vocals to a full-on jam: think WRECKLESS ERIC morphing into THIN LIZZY before your very eyes. That’s the kind of trick of the ear I can come back to a thousand times. Killer brainy rock‘n’roll.

Gritos de Asko Extincion cassette

Early 2010s Colombian metallic punk given the deluxe cassette treatment by Tercermundistas. Guitars way up in the mix and a driving, consistent shitpunk beat while throat-searing vocals give your ears the business over six fiery hardcore tracks, plus a LARSEN cover. A couple of these tunes surfaced on the Distort Colombia tape a few years back, but I’m quite chuffed to have the full session in my ear holes—this is the clenched-fist, no bullshit, patched-up black jacket, in-your-fuckkn-face shit.

Heavy Petting Anfahr’n Am Berg cassette

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

Lousy Suffer cassette

Right off the bat, you know that Indonesia’s LOUSY is here to deliver some real aggressive, moshy, riff-driven hardcore punk. Riotous stuff, not unlike, say, FREEDOM—this is music made to get you raging and get you moving. This is twinned with barking, reverb-and-delay-smattered vocals that compliment the tough instrumentation very nicely. We’ve got a super solid release on our hands here—highly recommended.

Mercy Music Melody and Truth LP

This album kicks off with a song that sounds like it could be an out take from an OLD 97’S record. From there, the hits keep coming. There’s also a kinda subtle ONE MAN ARMY vibe here, too. MERCY MUSIC has made an unbelievably catchy album that I could see getting some decent rotation from anyone who comes across it.

Model Zero Little Crystal / Leather Trap 7″

Two perfect, catchy songs from this great Memphis band. “Little Crystal” is a psychedelic garage dance tune with electronic flourishes. “Leather Trap” is a rocker that blasts out from the first note, yet still has a similar wild psych-y style. I am dancing from room to room. I just can’t get enough. I love this.

OK Satán Expanded Horizon cassette

Debut release from this Danish band that actually came out in early 2021. I reviewed the follow-up to this release a few months ago, but here is where it started with these folks. Trebly, frenetic weird punk over rudimentary Volca beats for fans of LUMPY or labelmates BIG CHUNGUS. Most of the songs fall under very dumb, very straight-forward punk, which is not a diss. There is a time for everything, like songs “Looks Like Shit” (“I don’t want to see your face / Looks like shit”), “Can I Fix It,” “Going Downstairs,” and “I Wanna Be Danish.” Most of the lyrics for these songs are the titles shouted over and over in a snotty, nasally tone. If you want a direct hit to your lizard brain pleasure center, you can certainly do worse than these short jams. What impressed me though about this tape was when the band experimented and slowed down a little on songs like “It Is Today Not Yesterday,” with a repeated, hollered refrain of “believe it.” “It Is Too Much” shimmers with some post-punk guitar icicles dripping over the vocalist screaming “I don’t get it / Shit’s too much.” It’s effective and sounds like a better, more thoughtful band than the shorter tracks would suggest. “Mona” has a mutant country riff and ballad-style vocals like ICEAGE locked in a tiny bathroom. Cool band worth checking out, and one that I hope leans into their more serious, vulnerable side.

Piorreah! Maquetas 84–85 LP

PIORREAH! was a Spanish band in the mid-’80s, and I believe this album compiles their complete recorded output. Playing in a classic, amateurish punk style, these dudes have the vibe of “local favorites,” somehow reminding me of the shows I used to go see at rec centers and the YMCA during high school. They sprinkle in ska bits more and more as the record goes on, lending further credibility to my “these guys sound kinda like the bands my friends used to make in the ’90s” evaluation. I can picture some Barcelona boomer stumbling across this collection and being super stoked to revisit the sounds of his youth.

The Plagues Shadow of a Doubt / Hector the Connector 7″

Hi-energy ’77 punk, NY-via-Southern California-style from start to finish. Vocals are a snotty monotone bark, guitars run the show here with a soulful approach to classic garage punk. “Hector the Connector” is the hit, taking those four chords that we all know and making them feel like they’re important again (note: they were never not important). No bullshit here, just two short-ass smashers…punk style.

Progromo Heute Schlägt der Bauer den König / Niemals wird Heute 7″

With an opening clip from Rebel Without a Cause, I couldn’t help but be interested. This 7” single, with an A-side translated to “Today the Pawn Beats the King,” has been brought to light forty years later, after being the side project of Bernd Zimmermann (ISOLIERBAND, DEUTSCHDENCH, amongst others). PROGROMO is drum-machine-driven, with clean guitar and guttural-yet-clear deutsch vocals that land nicely in the realm of poppy darkwave, and I like it. This tracks with other modern releases from the likes of Phantom and Symphony of Destruction.

 

Slimex Easy Money cassette

SLIMEX returns with an absolutely killer studio recording, the follow-up to their well-received four-song demo from last year, available on a lathe-cut 7” or cassette, the latter which I am listening to now (and for the foreseeable future). This is just incredible. Bouncy, jangly, weirdo synth-heavy punk. I refuse to cheapen this release by throwing an “egg” at the front of their descriptive term. This is for anyone and everyone who cares about new wave, synth punk, etc.

Spy Habitual Offender CD

Bay Area hardcore contingent SPY kinda popped up out of nowhere in 2020 and took the scene by storm overnight following the release of their first EP, Service Weapon. With Habitual Offender, SPY is back with more of the vicious, mosh-friendly hardcore punk that endured them to so many people when they first popped up. The vocals spit bile in every discernable direction toward the listener, with the instrumentation serving to further pummel them. This record exudes pure, unrestrained hatred from its first second to its last—it’s great!

Star Party Meadow Flower LP

As soon as I heard this Seattle duo’s late-2020 demo cassette, I was all in. Their punky blend of pops, both dream and indie (imagine LUSH or RIDE playing SHOP ASSISTANTS tracks), was exactly what I needed at the time. While the production seemed to imply large, cavernous spaces that mirrored the cold, empty world I was seeing outside my apartment, the shimmery guitars and cozy melodies swaddled me in warmth, reassuring me that we’d be outside soon enough, enjoying a world full of the bright flowers depicted on the demo’s cover. My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough of it—I needed more! Thankfully, Carrie Brennan and Ian Corrigan (GEN POP, VEXX) got to work, and about a year-and-a-half later, delivered just that. Meadow Flower is eight more tracks of dreamy, life-affirming pop—a perfect soundtrack to get back out in the world and revel in all the things it has to offer, fittingly released at the beginning of a literal and metaphorical Spring. It’s just lovely.

Teen Mortgage / Tongues of Fire / Venus Twins split cassette

VENUS TWINS are a sharp and heavy bass/drums duo with a gloriously dated sound—I wish I encountered more bands that approached punk with this kind of attack, like they’re just trying to bludgeon their own songs. TEEN MORTGAGE is a dark and driving guitar/drums two-piece with a dangerous edge—“Shangri-La” is a would-be summer night anthem. Oddly, the most subdued outfit of the three has as many members as the other two combined, but TONGUES OF FIRE are their own brand of restrained, repetitive power. All three bands sound like they could have escaped from the 1990s (a compliment), all three were new to me, and all three command (demand) attention. Two tracks from each, and my ears are peeled for more.

Ut Griller LP+7″ reissue

The final LP from London-via-New York no wave trio UT, originally released in the cultural dead space of 1989—more than ten years after the big bang of No New York, and just barely on the wrong side of the decade divide for the band to be properly acknowledged as three women making confrontational, visceral, and liberatory music pre-riot grrrl. Griller finds UT at their most linear and accessible, as their initial mangled, shapeshifting (and instrument-swapping) avant-garde attack was refined into dark, angular pop that effectively bridged the gap between the spindly sprawl of the RAINCOATS and the scrappy, knotted-up punk of female-forward early ’90s groups like AUTOCLAVE and HEAVENS TO BETSY (to my ears, the sideways-melodic opener “Safe Burning” will never not represent the unfulfilled promise of SLEATER-KINNEY). Compared to the thin, brittle production of their previous album In Gut’s House, Griller’s punched-up, Albini-helmed recording really centers the tension and unnerving drama inherent in UT’s songwriting, peaking with the desperate gloom-strum (almost veering into early THROWING MUSES territory!) of “Canker,” and the primal, howl-and-thunder art-punk intensity of “Rummy”—if the more experimental, disjointed approach that UT wielded on In Gut’s House speaks to the brain, Griller hits straight at the heart.

X-Intruder Punished for the Crime of Lacking in Judgement LP

This is heartless punk with all the flesh melted off. Yes, it’s a Terminator on the cover. Yes, it’s a perfect metaphor for the sound. Sometimes a band’s clarity of vision makes my job that much easier. Guitars here are dialed in for assassination, and the rest of the band sounds cruel—especially the pummeling electronic percussion. The band isn’t without melody, though, with tracks like “Never Let Your Public Down” hitting like NO TREND with hooks. The vocals, though, are vicious. Catchy aggression will take you very far in this genre. Anyone can sound like they hate you—it takes a real mechanic to leave just enough heart to stick with the listener. The guitar leads that soar above the rest of the chaos do a lot of heavy lifting, but the engine running it all runs strong from start to finish.

Angry Adults Obsessed (With You) EP

This record features six tracks of pop punk with a clean and crisp sound. The emphasis is on the “pop” here. The distortion isn’t loud or harsh enough to overwhelm the rhythm section, a sound I always associate with Epitaph and Fat Wreck records of the ’90s. The vocalist has nasal rasp to compliment all those pretty tunes. A good pick for fans of this genre.

Baraka Face Junta Test Sytemu CD

The band was new to me, but the sounds resonated instantly. Stark anarcho/post-punk from Poland with ties to STRACONY, a nasty good saxophone (a recent addition, apparently), and male/female vocals that bark and chant and spit with a constant ferocity. The songs are advanced and addictive, they just sound important, like you’re supposed to be listening and listening closely—imagine a foundation somewhere between THATCHER ON ACID and WŁOCHATY, and then bring in a crew to build on that foundation unencumbered. Ten songs here, and my biggest takeaway is that I need to track down their first two records, because this one is incredible.

Body Shop Hissy Hits Live at Pulp Arts cassette

Catchy, garage-y pop from Orlando, FL. BODY SHOP formed while the members’ bands were on pandemic hiatus. As the title says, this cassette was recorded live at Pulp Arts studios. There are a couple of songs that were also included on BODY SHOP’s debut Fl3sh World. These versions are rougher and tougher, the music more lo-fi while sounding more powerful. The vocals are extra breathy and occasionally remind me of Siouxsie Sioux, especially on “Love’s a Blonde.” Fun stuff.

Cheap Freaks Live at the Olympia cassette

Alright, let’s get down to business here. The band: for those of you unfamiliar with CHEAP FREAKS, they are a killer garage rock band from Dublin, Ireland that seamlessly incorporates aspects of punk, surf, and psychedelic rock into their sound. They have released a bunch of EPs and an outstanding LP on Big Neck Records that you can still find out in the wild pretty easily. The label: Primitive Screwhead is the all-live cassette subsidiary of the aforementioned powerhouse Big Neck Records, and has been cranking out tape after tape of Big Neck and Big Neck-adjacent projects. This volume was recorded on July 4th, 2013 at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre. CHEAP FREAKS sound unbelievably tight and the sound quality is better than most bands’ studio releases. Another one right on the money by Primitive Screwhead.

The D-Vices Adequate / Modern Boy 7″

Brought to you by the fine folks at Celluloid Lunch in Montreal, Canada, this D-VICES single straddles the line between artiness and rocking in a cool, swaggering way, like wearing sunglasses after dark, stumbling through back alleys. On both sides of this, the rhythm section solidly drives a grooving fencepost of a bassline, nailed into place with a tough street beat. Foundation cemented, the guitar and vocals have space to chew up the songs. On “Adequate,” the guitar snakes through the rhythm section, scratching and sparking, riding and riffing on a single chord before exploding into an echo-drenched anti-solo, and on “Modern Boy,” the chords are tense and minimal but lend so much action to the music. Speaking of being modern, if I didn’t already know this was an archival recording from ’79, I could be easily convinced this was one of the current stable of bands Celluloid Lunch has been putting out as of late. Instead, we get a Canadian KBD classic that hasn’t been overlooked by history or made overpriced by collector scum.

Dry Socket Cessation EP

Why fuck around with both sides of the record when all of your action fits on one? DRY SOCKET only needs three songs to make their point, so if you didn’t get it the first time, just go listen to all three again. The formula is simple: pissed, hardcore, punk. “Phantom Pains” delivers chills from the moment the needle drops with the band’s stance (no immunity, no freedom from accountability, there is no unity with white supremacy) and sets the stage for a pure assault. Dani’s vocals are dead on-point and the riffs are straight for the throat—check the start/stop after the intro around twenty seconds into “Red,” because this is the shit that sets the real bands apart from the folks who are phoning it in while projecting the “correct” image. Full endorsement from this eager listener…from content to delivery to presentation, Cessation is a fukkn beast.

Güiña Atake Psicotronico demo cassette

Demo release from this Spanish-language DIY punk band. I couldn’t find much in the way of a bio, but I did read that this is a product of communal squat living, and it shows in the lived-in confidence of the recording. The one-mic-in-an-empty-room production gives the songs an intimacy and immediacy that works really well on songs like opener “Atake Psciotronico.” Messy indie guitar lines not far removed from peak GUIDED BY VOICES lead into fast and frantic punk vocals, sounding like a mix of heart-tugging REPLACEMENTS minor chords with classic hardcore. I kept trying to place what it sounds like, and it’s “Made to Be Broken” by POISON IDEA. It’s so good. Second track “Nada Con El Estado” continues the perfect blend of tinny indie-punk with a great call-and-response chorus. I was so stoked to hear the rest, but the remaining songs unfortunately are unremarkable power-chord hardcore. Not bad, but not as hooky and interesting as the tape’s beginning. Click on over to GÜIÑA’s Bandcamp for that first track—maybe one amazing song is all you need?

Hacker Pick a Path 12″

Melbourne tech freaks HACKER are on the mainframe again after their beast of a demo was released in 2019. Featuring seasoned veterans from countless Aussie punk bands, HACKER knows what they want and how to get it. POISON IDEA-styled hardcore done the right way, with futuristic dystopic themes embeded in the seven killer tracks that make up Pick a Path. Hardcore Victim is killing it once again!