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.

Tolive Live CD

This band from Kyushu Island was already included on the Downright Vulgarities compilation (also released on Black Konflik Records) that I reviewed a couple of months ago, and unsurprisingly, the band delivers seven new tracks of the traditional ’80s Japanese sound. To be honest, if you told me that TOLIVE used to be active between 1984 and 1987 and that this was a reissue, I would definitely believe you, especially if you caught me at my most gullible. The singer sounds exactly like your typical ’80s Japanese hardcore singer (think GUDON or GISM, obviously), and this confers a delicious vintage feel to the recording, which I suppose is what the band goes for. Musically, this is classically executed Japanese hardcore with those triumphant riffs and characteristic high-energy backing choruses that you can shout along to with clenched fists. The production is quite raw and simple so that it almost has a stripped-down feel, which may not be intentional. In any case, I think TOLIVE would have benefited from a more energetic and refined sound. The cover looks absolutely beautiful, though. I am not the biggest fan of this brand of traditional mid/late ’80s Japanese hardcore, but I am convinced this would appeal to the nerds who are.

Variation 8 EP

As soon as this EP kicked off, I knew I was going to love it. Fast, sloppy, garbage-grind. Lo-fi and gritty recording makes it sound like it was unearthed from a ’90s time capsule. The treble on the guitars and bass is turned up way high and gives off a classic black metal vibe. Nothing beats the pukey vocals for me. So many modern grind bands hire vocal coaches to “learn” how to scream. What’s up with that? This dude here just goes for it and it sounds a million times better than someone who had to pay to sound brutal. They’re probably a real joy to see live. Really great stuff here, and well worth a pick-up if you’re into this type of trash-grind.

The Wind-Ups Happy Like This LP

The WIND-UPS channel the RAMONES with the grit and noise of that band’s first records. The power chords come with the fuzz and crackle of a demo cassette, but without feeling too contrived. The songs are breezy and fun if you can let your guard down. I never felt like the cacophonous drums or vapid lyrics were too derivative or overdone. Of course they could, in fact, be those things, but I enjoyed this enough not to care.

Andy Place and the Coolheads Feels Like a Dream EP

ANDY PLACE AND THE COOLHEADS have been rocking the Portland, Oregon region for nearly a decade, and their garage power pop sound on this latest EP is refined into three tracks. “Feels Like a Dream” opens things up with bang that channels SWEET. “Contrarian” hits next with an egg-punk energy, and is honestly my favorite song by ANDY PLACE AND THE COOLHEADS to date. The closer “Blackwater Commercial” is a 42-second song that heaps praise upon Portland’s legendary punk dive, Black Water Bar. So I guess this album functions as a solid two-track, and the Black Water gets a cool jingle, too.

Attack Total Total Attack EP

Fun punk/pub rock out of Sweden, which is surprising because this sounds a lot like the bands that  came from the Chicagoland area in the mid-to-late ’90s—very similar to WALKER and WINEPRESS and all of the other Harmless Records groups, probably because each song has these simple little guitar licks that are catchy as hell. Singer reminds me a lot of Joey Ramone mixed with Frankie Stubbs of LEATHERFACE fame. The kind of band I’d love to come across on a pub crawl. Big fan of this EP, and think it’s well worth a spin.

Bug Paralysis LP

This is the debut 12” from BUG out of Victoria, British Columbia. With their earnest and romantic sound, the songs are reminiscent of ’90s grunge and indie with a pinch of deathrock stirred in. Warbled vocals with an obnoxious punk affectation deliver poetic lyrics over eleven tunes that could possibly pass as lost entries from the earlier Sub Pop catalog. It’s the kind of thing that would have found an enthusiastic audience on a property located directly between the Lollapalooza and Warped Tour admission gates. Check out “Heads are Gonna Roll” for one of the finer moments here.

Cash Bribe Escape From New York CD

Brooklyn’s CASH BRIBE plays frenetic NYHC with varying influences coming together to produce a fairly eclectic album that dips into powerviolence (“Creature of Consumption”), moody psychedelia (“Umbra”), and alt-rock (“Escape From New York”). While it does make for a sound interesting enough to hold my attention until the end, there’s a lack of cohesion that feels a little jarring, especially as the band leaps from style to style. Overall, not really my thing, but there is definitely an audience out there for this.

Checkpoint Drift LP

German label Erste Theke Tonträger delivers this fiery debut LP from Naarm, Australia, featuring members of PINCH POINTS, DR. SURE’S UNUSUAL PRACTICE, GONZO, DRAGNET, CARPET BURN, GUTTER GIRLS, and more. Synth-punk-driven garage madness. Solid grit, multiple and good flipping variations. Including crazy-ass funky vibes, and even cadences near Aussie cumbia (if it even exists?) in passages. Exquisite drums, and the synth and keyboards are excellent here. All tracks are in harmony, and there are some that could be an EP on their own, as in the case of “10th Dimension Advertisement Apocalypse,” which surpasses eleven minutes in length, and “Checkers.” The old lo-fi ’80s tape vibe is well-achieved, and there’s even some nods to the style of Under the Gun associates. Multifaceted, trance-inducing egg-psych almost all the way, especially the track “Circuit Breaker.” Good blasting explosions of Australian garage from a solid super-group delivering new dimensions and sounds. Crunchy, deep-fried, lo-fi feels.

The Cult of Lip Fuzz & Feedback Freaks cassette

This cassette compiles all three of CULT OF LIP’s first EPs—Right Now (2015, No Problem Records), Your Feedback (2017, Rare Plant Records), and Sleep Receiver (2018, Rare Plant Records). All of these are individually available from MPLS Ltd, and finally, this compilation on Kitschy Spirit. The music is equal parts psychedelic, noise, and shoegaze, gathering into an industrial-sounding headache betrothed to shimmering, warbled guitar and looping instrumentals; “Fog” off Right Now is a good example. I’m not saying this in a bad way at all, and there are times when everything gels in songs, like “Fray” from Your Feedback, that is dreamy and dark. Ronnie Lee and Hannah Porter achieve all the vocals and instruments on these recordings, except for Sleep Receiver on which the drummer Eric Whalen is credited. This pared-down lineup gives a true focus to their sound, which has progressed since their first release over ten years ago, with Sleep Receiver (the most recent) being my favorite of the three. This cassette comes out in front of their 2023 Marsha LP, perhaps creating some buzz (or fuzz) for the release. I was surprised how much this grew on me: while it droned and wandered at times, the effective songcraft and Hannah’s haunting vocals kept drawing me back.

Dente Canino Dente Canino demo cassette

Imagine what would happen if the Crucificados Pelo Sistema LP, Valtion Vankina LP, and Who the Helpless EP morphed into one and then mutated into some fucked-up thing? Complete devastation of hardcore annihilation. The world is ending and this is the music for it.

Detroit 442 I’m Not Crazy I’m on Drugs CD

The vocals here will make or break your listen. They’re droning, snotty, and repetitive. I kept thinking of English anarcho-punk bands, whose vocals can be a barrier to entry. The guitars have a thin, whiny quality, which seems odd for a band really channeling bawdy bar punk. I kept waiting for them to thicken or turn up. This band initially struck me as a kind of bombastic proto-punk outfit, and they kept making choices which pulled me away from that impression. I don’t know if that contrast was intentional, but for me it defined the listen.

Egzoz Smoking Jacket LP

Simple and effective guitar/drums garage rock band featuring members from the US and Turkey. Stripped-down, flanged-out guitar lines and catchy vocals make this an enjoyable, conceptual romp through Beyoğlu, Turkey. The track “SlightlyDelic” stands out from the rather primitive garage stompers on the record with a fast and funky post-punk approach, complemented by commanding spoken word vocals. Several songs center on themes of late nights in the city’s streets and include sound clips and Turkish lyrics mixed with English that give the record a cool, culture-straddling flair. One of the band’s vocalists, Chris Sollars, recently released a solo project called $OLLAR$, which I mention because this release contains three of those songs in more polished, upbeat versions.

Feather You Got Problems / Stupid Girl 7″ reissue

This is some superb power pop that’s all glammed up. In fact, this will transport you directly back to 1976. The A-side actually fades out like they used to do back in the day—imagine the SWEET and the BAY CITY ROLLERS and then throw in some attitude. (In other words, heavy on the SWEET.) Honestly, I even get some little hints of the PARTRIDGE FAMILY. Holy shit, turns out this is a reissue of an older recording and this is actually from 1974 (not 1976). English. Fantastic.

The Go Don’t Take Her Away EP reissue

Long-lost power pop from the mean streets of Yonkers circa 1980. Looks like this four-song recording was it for the group. A couple of great straightforward rockers and a couple lukewarm crooners (“Tomorrow Night,” “She Gives a Color to Me”).  All is worth it upon hearing “Instant Reaction;” there is a deep honesty in the vocals and you can hear the steam in the room.  They credit Rob Freeman on production duties, who was known at the time for his engineering work with the RAMONES, which adds up. Breakout Records is the shit, I have not met a release of theirs that didn’t slap me around.

Harry Chinaski S/T 10 Shots! cassette

What a treat to get this cassette in my review pile; recently I’ve been on a hardcore kick from bands like GOLPE, QUARANTINE, and G.U.N., and I can safely say if you’re a fan of any of these bands, you’ll dig HARRY CHINASKI. Hailing from the thriving punk scene in Buenos Aires, HARRY CHINASKI plays fast and mean tunes inspired by ’80s hardcore and skate punk. Each and every song is brutish and over before you realize it, and I love the echoing vocal effect, especially on “Holocausto Sanitario.” It suits the music so well and gives the album a menacing vibe that reminds me of FAIRYTALE. I can’t recommend this enough, a total ripper worth your time.

The Justice League of America Strange Mono Unsung Gems: My Uncle Geno’s Band cassette

The first installment of the Strange Mono label’s Unsung Gems series, releasing recordings that have been lost to time. The JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA was active from 1979–1983 in Bergen County, NJ. Now, I know what you’re thinking, fellow MRR hardcore punk enthusiast: a long-lost recording from a band a mere hour drive from powerhouse record label Mutha Records from the exact Killed By Death time frame?! What wonders might await us? Well, I was wondering the exact same thing, but alas, the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA was undoubtedly a rock’n’roll act. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Hell, who doesn’t love rock’n’roll? This collection of recordings is a confusing roller coaster to ride on, though—hopping from genre to genre it all feels a bit rudderless. Rock en general, blues rock, reggae, ’70s hard rock, power pop. It plays more like a mixtape than an album by a singular band. None of this is surprising, as I doubt this was ever intended to be a group of recordings played back to back. Moreso, it was likely a band trying to find their sound or whatever people say. Being a bit of an amateur shitty archaeologist myself, It’s always a fun thing to see long-lost recordings unearthed and brought to light. While it may not have scratched the itch I had initially hoped, the songwriting is solid, even if some of it isn’t my thing. The few power-pop-leaning tracks are legitimately cool; “Settled Sons,” “Fifth Amendment,” and “Martyrs For Each Other” are easily my favorites on the tape.

The Last Survivors 2001​–​2016 LP

“Important” is an understatement when describing this band. The LAST SURVIVORS amalgamate the raw energy of UK82 with the ferocity of Scandinavian hardcore, delivering a relentless sonic assault that leaves listeners electrified. Their music pulsates with the unbridled spirit of rebellion, echoing the grit and determination characteristic of their predecessors. This LP collects their 7″s on Crust War, Dan-Doh, and Pogo 77, as well as other rare tracks, fully remastered for vinyl. In the words of Jacky Crust War: “There were some bands we couldn’t ignore. That was the one, the LAST SURVIVORS.”

The Moonjacks Bad Guy Stuff cassette

California is sun-baked into the sound of this full-length. Songs about catching waves, being too high, and skating (sorry, I meant “sk8ing”), all delivered via that sound that hasn’t quite left us since WAVVES, BEST COAST, and FIDLAR seemed ever-present and sponsored by Vans. That all sounds like a preamble to a dunk on these fun-having party punks, but I have a sweet tooth for this kind of sound. It really doesn’t do much to elevate the genre, but it’s earnest guitar pop about hanging with your buds (weed pun) and wasting your youth. That sort of thing never really goes out of style, even if by the end of just 30 minutes the sound gets a bit stale for me.

Nowaves Immaculate Protection cassette

There’s no denying the influence of UK post-punk and new wave here. Most of what you’ll hear on Immaculate Protection could have come right off the streets of ’70s Manchester. The pop sensibilities are adorned with all the peculiar sounds and sharp, treble-touched guitar of that period. I was happy to see the band muddy some of that shine, though. They occasionally mutate their melodies enough to maintain a dark, uneasy tone. Together with the singer’s almost monotone delivery, NOWAVES keep the revelry and angst flowing.

Outsider Two Song Demo cassette

It’s a confusing thing—I could have sworn that I was not a fan of recordings being overproduced, and that I prefer a recording to be a bit raw and lo-fi if it captures the essence of a band. OUTSIDER might have me reconsidering this stance, however. This may be a new frontrunner for the most lo-fi recording I have ever heard. It’s a shame too, because there are some pretty damn catchy riffs on it, which can be slightly deciphered from the cranked treble on the one guitar you can actually hear. Hell, I couldn’t even tell you for sure if there were drums on the songs or if my brain was just filling in the gaps. If you had told me this was someone’s practice tape of ideas for songs to show potential band members, I would have believed you; that’s closer to what this cassette sounds like than a demo. There’s two songs, it’s hardcore punk, they hate cops, there’s about two-and-a-half minutes of “music” on a forty-five minute tape, but I couldn’t tell you much else about it. I never thought I would be one to gripe about production values. Thanks a lot, OUTSIDER, I have no idea who I am anymore.

Private Jesus Detector Nobody’s Master Nobody’s Servant LP

This is one that nobody expected: a new record from Bruges’ PRIVATE JESUS DETECTOR. I have always seen the band as part of a scale that can be used to assess the degree of nerdiness of a given punk. If one is cognizant with them, you know there is some solid knowledge of the ’90s crust and D-beat scene involved, and potentially the lovely prospect of a lengthy debate over the merits of SVART PARAD. You could say PRIVATE JESUS DETECTOR are something of a cult band if you are into primitive and raw European hardcore punk influenced by the heaviest brand of UK anarcho-punk and vintage käng hardcore. It is admittedly a small cult. I am always dubious when I am faced with new material from a band that split up 30 years ago (that was even before the SPICE GIRLS’ formation), because you never really know what you are going to get—a lot of old bands reform and record stuff that they would have been ashamed to listen to back when they were still relevant. But you can also be pleasantly surprised, and this Belgian powerhouse falls in the second category. The influences haven’t changed, and PRIVATE JESUS DETECTOR still works with the same basics, namely ANTISECT and ANTI-SYSTEM getting into a school fight with CRUDE SS and DISCARD (don’t worry, they all make peace and listen to EXCREMENT OF WAR by the end), but the sound is cleaner and clearer and it reminds me of how HELLKRUSHER has evolved. The band hasn’t given up on the vintage anarcho politics either, and the song “Serpent’s Game” shows they think critically about “the scene.” On the whole, Nobody’s Master Nobody’s Servant is a pretty good album and it does have a couple of genuinely hard-hitting numbers where the dual vocals work great together (a second singer, Vrokker from CHRONIC DISEASE, has been added for the album, and I’m always a sucker for those). Hopefully it might make people want to check out the earlier material, but I know full well that the ones who will listen to this new album are the ones who are already fans anyway, some of whom will whine that it doesn’t sound like the How Evil Can One Get EP from 1994 as if the band should have been frozen in the ’90s like a punk mammoth. I wish ANTISECT’s reformation sounded something like this LP.

Ratos do Beco Demo 1978 EP

Purported to be Brazil’s very first punk band, RATOS DO BECO never played a formal show in their brief existence from September to December 1978. Legend has it that their open-garage-door rehearsals would draw a crowd of curious onlookers, with motorists pulling over to get a closer look and listen. Founding member Miguel Barella (who would go on to form the excellent new wave outfit AGENTSS) captured one of these practice-cum-gigs on reel-to-reel tape, which all these years later, comprises the four-ish songs on this EP. “Saved from obscurity” releases like this are often propped up by their backstories, and in this case the story is providing a fair amount of propping. Calling it a demo is a bit of a stretch as it truly does sound like a hastily recorded practice, replete with aging tape interference and a snippet of a cover of “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue.” So, does the music warrant a 2024 vinyl pressing complete with a sixteen-page booklet of photos and liner notes? Your mileage may be different from mine, but I’d answer that with a resounding “probably!” They sound like a rudimentary version of France’s finest first-wave punks, the DOGS. RATOS DO BECO play some dirty rock’n’roll that has enough snarl and feral energy to be called punk. Unlike so many of their contemporaries, they weren’t aping the SEX PISTOLS or (partial cover aside) the RAMONES. The band members appear to have gone on to have impactful careers in music. This EP portrays a partially developed snapshot of unbridled youth and rebellion in its most gestational form. A charming slice of South American punk history.

Socio La Defekta Promo 2023 cassette

As the title suggests, this is a promo tape that follows their Beach Impediment 7”. Surely the recording quality is more relaxed, almost rehearsal room-style, but this appears in the mixing and rawness of the sound that lacks the robustness of modern studios. It’s not sloppy, although it sounds a bit framelike as the fulfilling power is missing, which could be fun because it shows the sonic backbone of their songs in an unfiltered way (although this makes the tape interesting rather than incredible). Yet this is a daring move, since the focus here is on the quality of the songwriting rather than studio nuances. SOCIO LA DIFEKTA plays hardcore, the international kind. They mix Swedish-sounding D-beat songs with the part weird, part raging chaos of Italian and Spanish hardcore. As a cultural wink, they covered JEZUS AND THE GOSPELFUCKERS. It’s experimenting, a lot of clever action goes on within the song structures, never to the loss of energy, there is a constant rage, and the rawness of the recording makes it more natural.

Sugar Tradition More Sugar LP

Wow. This one is a rocker. There is guitar and bass and drums and harmonica and even tambourine. I’m not sure I’ve ever described a record as being heavy, but here it is. This record is heavy. It’s also a catchy and melodic rager. This is contained insanity. If you had told me this was released in 1969, I’d have believed you. It’s totally authentic that way, but not in a Nuggets or Pebbles sort of way, in a heavy sort of way. As the LYRES were to Boston, so are SUGAR TRADITION to Detroit. That’s rad.

Terre Neuve Condamné EP

Really great modern Oi! out of Belgium that incorporates a lot of hardcore elements as well. Solid guitar gallops and throaty, barking vocals. Speaking of guitar, the utilization of the barre chords adds a whole level of additional heaviness on top of the melodic leads that give off a bit of a pop sensibility. Catchy but brutal. Everything is played tight, and the drums and bass are interlocked real well. I love the bass tone here, it sounds like the strings are melting off the neck with each stroke. Really amplifies the energy as a whole. These dudes just went all out. Lovely work here.

Wolfbrigade Progression / Regression LP reissue

Before this review, I realized that I had not played WOLFBRIGADE for a very long time. And I am not sure why, because they have become something of a classic band, one of the few Swedish hardcore bands whose popularity transcends the DIY hardcore punk scene (in general, accusations of selling out are never too far away when this happens). It’s a little tragic but, while I do play WOLFPACK regularly, I don’t think I ever really sat down and paid properly attention to Progression/Regression, the band’s first album under their new name, and to be honest, I do feel like a bit of an idiot for it. This album is a hardcore bulldozer—it hits really hard, it sounds mean and unstoppable, as if darkness itself were shattering your bones. The production is massive (more so than on 1999’s Allday Hell), thick and heavy, and there is a feel of relentless unstoppability to the work that leaves one in awe. Intense shit. I am not necessarily the biggest fan of their take on the käng genre, but listening to this again makes me want to ride a bike into the wasteland wearing boots and a bandana. Musically, we’re still heavily in the dark hardcore period of the band when they maximized the late ANTI-CIMEX sound with the addition of a Swedish death metal influence in some guitar leads and in terms of epicness. I almost hear some of POISON IDEA’s rocking darkness at times too, although WOLFBRIGADE is quintessentially Swedish. This is undeniably a real ’00s hardcore classic and it still sounds fearfully powerful. Agipunk and Havoc Records had the sense to offer a new cover because the original was quite dreadful, if quite typical of the ’00’s. A welcome reissue.

The Zeros Don’t Push Me Around / Wimp 7″ reissue

It’s pretty wild that this classic record hasn’t been reissued in almost forty years, until now. Originally released on Bomp! in 1977, this debut single from first-wave Southern California punks the ZEROS is blueprint punk at its most iconic. Values of early pressings have made this one a bit elusive for most, so here’s a chance to finally snag an essential.

Achterlicht Demo II cassette

High-energy, lo-fi garage punk from the Netherlands that sounds a lot like the SPITS. That’s not a bad thing—the five rockers here (plus one sound collage interlude) have a familiar “crunchy guitar with synth lead” formula, and the songs bounce with infectious melodies and personality. Recommended for switched-on garage freaks.

Bedlam Hour Win a Billion Dollars! CD

BEDLAM HOUR’s interpretation of melodic HC/punk is slick and professional-sounding, with all the rough edges smoothed away. In the past, it’s what might have been described as “commercial,” although I don’t know if that still applies. They jettisoned the abrasive, imperfect, and confrontational qualities associated with the genre, but kept some of its musical landmarks (power chords, relative brevity, etc.), polished the distortion, tightened the delivery, and cleaned up the recording. And Win a Billion Dollars! is clean. So clean you could eat off of it (if you choose to).

Blood Cookie The World in Reverse! LP

Minneapolis trio BLOOD COOKIE puts out their fourth LP, The World in Reverse!—it’s dark and brooding indie with noisy instrumentals, like a page out of early SONIC YOUTH with poppier overtones. Jordan and Tom trade off bass, guitar, and vocal duties in this democratic band, keeping songs fresh track to track without losing their cohesive sound that is as endearing as it is fun. With a range from soft, sweeping, and shambolic (“Shelter”) to slap-happy drumming and fast changes (“I Robbed a 7-11”), this has a little something for everyone and will leave you wanting more, even after fifteen tracks. Don’t let the glued-together album art fool you—while they may present as a melancholy college band, this group is tight and well-formed after ten years as BLOOD COOKIE.

Cidadão Todos os Dias EP

CIDADÃO from Chicago keeps it rough and simple. These four rugged, skinhead-style tunes are played raw and prone to boiling over into a hardcore punk-level ferocity. The lyrics are in Spanish, and there’s a baby wearing Doc Martens eating the world while being protected by a snake and an eagle on the cover.

Closedown IV EP

The aptly-titled fourth EP from San Diego’s CLOSEDOWN. Mid-paced, stompy hardcore with growly, aggro vocals and misanthropic lyrics—you know the type. It’s definitely competent, it’s certainly not bad, but these bands kinda come a dime a dozen these days it seems. Not a bad listen or anything, you just won’t really be missing anything in your life by side-stepping this one. Also contains a pretty neat STIFF LITTLE FINGERS cover.

Coronary The Future is Now 12”

On their debut 12” The Future…Is Now, Chicago’s CORONARY bangs out nine solid cuts of hardcore that have a nice metallic sheen and lots of anger to spare. Sonically, CORONARY successfully incorporates a few different styles here, from the thrash-y “Future Ruin” to manic powerviolence on “Suffer The People.” The standout for me is “Violent Era,” a fun ripper that goes from D-beat to beatdown. For fans of HEAVEN’S GATE and MUNICIPAL WASTE.

The Dictaphone Xerox Music (A Tribute to UK DIY Golden Age 78​–83) cassette + zine

A love letter to the late ’70s/early ’80s “it was easy, it was cheap, go and do it” UK DIY renaissance sent on behalf of Jérémie Morin’s DICTAPHONE project, which has spent the last fifteen years or so running roughly parallel to A FRAMES’ robotic, dystopian future clang, the electro/trash garage scuzz of the FEELING OF LOVE, and any number of similar Terminal Boredom fixtures circa 2005–2010. The dozen songs covered here range from dancefloor staples for the trenchcoat-clad (the NORMAL’s “Warm Leatherette”), to noisy, art school dropout hometaper racket (“Don’t Make Another Bass Guitar Mr. Rickenbacker” by DANNY AND THE DRESSMAKERS), to cult classics of bedsit minimal wave (SOLID SPACE’s “Tenth Planet”)—does Xerox Music do much to manipulate its source material into something radically new? Not really, but if your Messthetics CD-Rs have degraded to the point of no return (which is more likely than not), it’s a suitable enough facsimile. A few of the more interesting takes include the sparse and trebly stumble of METROPAK’s “OK Let’s Go” getting a blown-out shitgaze update, trading the wound-up yelps of the original for the sort of monotone echo chamber vocals that BLANK DOGS made bank on, TRONICS’ falling apart primitivist pop anti-anthem “Shark Fucks” being translated in more of a COUNTRY TEASERS fashion (UK DIY a few waves removed), and a relatively faithful spin on the MEKONS-via-TELEVISON PERSONALITIES naivety of the REFLECTIONS’ “Tightrope Walker.” Xerox Music also includes a period-perfect cut-and-paste aesthetic zine, filled with multiple essays in French giving a crash course in the history of UK DIY—I took intro-level French classes in a public Texas high school over twenty years ago, so my actual comprehension of it was spotty at best, but I’m sure there’s plenty of info to be gleaned for those with sharper minds en français.

Discreet Charms Discreet Charms cassette

There’s an interesting balance in Brooklyn’s DISCREET CHARMS’ sound. They embody a sort of workhorse, bar band grit while paying clear homage to artier/university-read post-punk—most notably in the vocals, which I’m sure the group is sick of hearing often evoke a more automaton Paul Banks (that’s not a dig, I swear). The ultra-obscure cover of “Mo” by the PARASITES OF THE WESTERN WORLD shows that this act is in fact interested in showing you their bookshelf, but they convincingly make it their own so that it lies flush alongside their originals. I really respond to this kind of intellectual but primitive punk, and when you can write a dour bop with a hook as strong as that in “Criminals at Heart,” which comes damn close to capturing the same sort of odd magic of Philly’s PHANTASIA, you deserve folks’ attention. I’m definitely interested to hear more!

Excited to Die This is a Life? cassette

Does it get cold in Nova Scotia? Are they playing this fast to try and stay warm?? In any case, twenty songs in twenty-one minutes is gonna generate some heat, and there’s no denying it—EXCITED TO DIE’s debut full-length is a scorcher. The songs aren’t just short, they’re also blisteringly fast, harkening back to the classic era of USHC. Think JERRY’S KIDS minus the showboating behind the drum kit. EXCITED TO DIE clearly don’t have time for nuance, and that is working to their advantage. The vocals sound unhinged and scathing, projecting razor-sharp cynicism through a lens of appropriately negative thinking. The rhythm section is steering the ship with an enviable bass tone and tasteful tempo shifts. There’s just enough dirt on the guitar to give it a tube-driven warmth. It’s obvious that this band is building on a foundation of experience, so it comes as no surprise that their pedigree includes names like MUTATED VOID and BOOJI BOYS. I’d be psyched to see EXCITED TO DIE on a bill with the HELL or LAFFING GAS. Clearly they’re not here for a long time, just for a bad time…in the best possible way.

Gargara Gargara cassette

Fuck me, this is mean. GARGARA (apparently meaning “gargle” in English) is from Buenos Aires, and this is their first recording. This all-female three-piece has the impetuous energy that characterizes young bands, who mostly (and rightly) focus on making a racket and shouting angry words instead of pedal boards and tuning. I wasn’t expecting something quite so raw, and on a second listen, I think I actually like what I’m hearing. This is genuinely primal, snotty as hell, sloppy at times, fast punk rock with that typically raging tupa-tupa Latino punk vibe. I am reminded of classic late ’80s Mexican hardcore punk bands like MASSACRE 68, SS 20, or XENOFOBIA, with something of the Medellin sound of DEXKONCIERTO. You could probably see GARGARA in the light of recent bands like IGNORANTES or INYECCION as well, who successfully built on that infectious, pogo-inducing punk sound. The gruff, screamed vocals are very aggressive and almost too extreme, as I sometimes had the impression I was listening to a demented black metal vocalist auditioning for a tribute band to ’89 Mexican hardcore, which at least is quite memorable. The last song, “Nada,” is the gem here, with some melodic(!) backing choruses providing the hook to otherwise pretty basic songwriting. But then, that’s the whole point of the genre. The perfect soundtrack to pogo like you’re sixteen again.

Manuela Iwansson Dark Tracks LP

MANUELA IWANSSON fronted TERRIBLE FEELINGS, and Dark Tracks is their first full-length solo presentation. Over a decade ago, I interviewed MANUELA and found them to be honest, thoughtful, and a dark-souled being with predilections for all things creepy. All this comes through on Dark Tracks, with articulate lyrics delivered with their signature vocalizations over ’80s-inspired rock’n’roll. Elements of synth, post-punk, and new wave layered with a country rock vibe means this album is full of swagger and grit. Nordic pop elements arise naturally and develop into infectious melodies. If you were ever a fan of TERRIBLE FEELINGS, then you’ll love this album instantly. However, Dark Tracks proves MANUELA is a creative that can stand alone with strength and talent like a classic desperado.

Küken III LP

Hamburg’s KÜKEN (“Cock”) showing up like the neighborhood kid you haven’t seen in a while, and suddenly he’s all grown up and muscular and shit on this third self-titled LP. Their previous efforts have been great, delivering some of the best garage punk of our time, but now they’ve evolved into certified killers, playing top-tier dirty rock’n’roll to rival even the finest moments of classic Rip Off Records and such. The eleven sharp tunes here carry an effortless swagger, and every song is a banger. The band’s signature shambling groove established on tracks like “Stick Meat” from their debut LP turns up polished and perfected on tunes like “Off The Track” and “Goatleather,” flooding my brain with dopamine every time it hits. There’s an obvious RAMONES homage at work in these songs, along with a rare degree of sophisticated juvenility that reminds me of ’90s French punk heroes the SPLASH FOUR, and overall they’re just really in-the-pocket on this shit-hot thumper of a record.  It’s a perfect soundtrack for exhibiting poor judgment, risking it all, or just, you know, getting over-excited while driving home from work.

Lothario / New Buck Biloxi Tour split EP

Tour split effort brought to us by Under the Gun, featuring NEW BUCK BILOXI and their lo-fi, messy punk with a very cutting-edge sound, who bring two cold and blunt tracks with some kind of sordid anger that was very much on-point with deranged, mildly distorted guitars, and LOTHARIO, with a heavily effected vocal and strident, deep-fried strings and synth-driven drums on “Doggy.” For “Missing Person,” the ranting is reduced to get us some very danceable garage-y post-punk. Interesting split between friends.

Meat Shirt Army of Dolphins EP

French punks who take the risky approach of throwing different styles at the wall to see what sticks, with surprisingly strong results. The first few tracks have a straight-ahead USHC sound with shouted vocals and chord progressions that sound like early BLACK FLAG. There are hints of other things going on as well though, such as gang vocals on “Sugar” and “Watching You!” that evoke the melodic youth crew of INSTED. Layers of guitars build into alt/psych walls on “Burning Bilderburg” and the ending of “Watching You!,” and “Army of Dolphins” is a flanged-out psych swirl that is as satisfying as it is bewildering among the surrounding hardcore. I am usually wary of bands incorporating too much into their sound to the point that it thins out the overall effect, but MEAT SHIRT does it right and delivers a compelling EP.

Nostrils Undaunted EP

The NOSTRILS did not make it past the songs on this eight-track EP, a time capsule that the good folks at Supreme Echo remastered from an old cassette from the lead singer of the band. These guys sound like the REPLACEMENTS with Joey Shithead recording a demo in a Winnipeg barn. Each song is fast, grimy, and reeks of an old tavern where you forgot your debit card. They could have been very comfortably at home on Rip Off Records. Who wouldn’t love a song called “Poverty Soup”?

Peace Talks Progress LP

The first LP by Pittsburgh’s PEACE TALKS consists of nine tracks of politically-driven, raging hardcore punk. Not a pretentious or try-hard approach of fitting into some mold, other than the expression of anger coming from living in modern society. Everything from fast two-beat drumming to blastbeats, yet still sounding like controlled chaos. Maybe the closest vibe to this record might be NYC’s NAUSEA while still having a sound of their own. Full-frontal ferocious attack of turbulent sonic bombardment.

Rive Droite Country Club Antifète EP

This is a punchy little debut from a French act that does not skimp on big melodies seasoned properly with snark and wit. Organ does a lot of heavy lifting in anchoring four songs to a cool-headed, garage-rock-adjacent feel, and the vocals are wonderfully yelpy and energetic. Overall, this is excellent pogo-worthy pop with a bite. The closer, “La Honte,” is an especially strong note to end on—a great hook and ringing-out guitars with a gloomy aura. Here’s hoping a full-length is fast approaching from this Parisian outfit.

The Shit Talkers Quack LP

These guys start out strong; I’m always a fan of the male/female competing vocals. It’s faster-paced, but it’s not thrash. It’s too catchy and melodic for that, with a focus on the vocals. (And FYI, I’m not suggesting that thrash can’t be both catchy and melodic, that’s just not generally the focus.) That said, the melodies definitely take me back to early California hardcore and the early ’80s. It’s also got some goth elements sprinkled in there. Ultimately, it’s punk rock that is both original and nicely done. I’m a fan. “Party Animal” is my new theme song. It’s actually not, that was just a joke. Keep on rockin’.

Simp Society Idolizing Meaningless Products cassette

Raw and fast hardcore out of the Pacific Northwest. Seems to be just two dudes writing and recording everything on their own, which is always very impressive to me. Has a real powerviolence feel, and reminds me quite a bit of late-era CHARLES BRONSON and ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN. My only complaint is that this EP is extremely short. I use the term “blink and it’s over” often enough, but that is literally the case here. As soon as the album gets moving, it’s done. I guess that just leaves us wanting more. If that was their intention, then it worked! Now I’m simping for SIMP. 

Tiger Island Looka Looka Looka CD

Right off the bat, the guitar and the female vocals remind me of the RIVER CITY TANLINES and the PLASTIC TONES. You won’t mistake this for either of those bands, but the similarities are there. It’s not just the guitar and the vocals that are strong, the whole thing is super tight and catchy as all hell. Sure, it’s punk, but at its core, it’s rock’n’roll. I like the tempo, which is like that extra cup of coffee in the morning, making things perk up just a bit, but not to the point where things are getting crazy. There’s a lot to like here.

VHS Dust VHS Dust cassette

Two-piece guitar/drums fast hardcore punk duo. VHS DUST rips through the nine tracks on this short cassette with time enough to incorporate multiple sound clips, as is expected within this realm of brutal music. While I would put it in the “pots n’ pans music” category, I don’t entirely know the correct subsect to describe it, and maybe that’s a good thing! It’s not fastcore, it’s not grindcore, it’s not powerviolence, but it is angry and witty and incredibly entertaining. No internet presence, so no further info available.

The War Goes On Assisted Armageddon LP reissue

The WAR GOES ON is a hardcore punk band from Copenhagen, Denmark that embraces the depressive reality of life and comes out swinging. The WAR GOES ON presents a sound that reminds me of the UNSEEN in their Explode era—anthemic, melodic, but aggro. Emotions related to weariness from years of alienation become distilled into D-beat punk that borrows from street punk and Oi!, but is definitely not either one—more like road crew hardcore that articulates the struggle of survival while surveying the abyss of mental breakdown. Assisted Armageddon is nine songs that are catchy in a way that becomes addictive, and with a total runtime of about eighteen minutes, you’ll want to spin this album on repeat.

Ataque de Caspa Supongamos por Ejemplo 12″

Once-forgotten demos recorded by this Spanish quintet in 1985 in hopes of snagging a record deal, but when one never materialized, ATAQUE DE CASPA slipped into the cracks of time, with the band’s members shifting their focus away from music in favor of less precarious pursuits (like finishing their university studies in medicine and engineering). Their meshing of dark but dreamy post-punk with starry-eyed primitive pop was met with renewed interest in the late ’00s/early ’10s, when the likes of VIVIAN GIRLS, VERONICA FALLS, et al. had revived a very similar punky/jangly sound and the abandoned Supongamos por Ejemplo tracks started circulating online amongst younger disciples, eventually leading to ATAQUE DE CASPA reuniting and releasing new music in 2014. The band’s songs were apparently always constructed from the bass line up, and the focus on rhythm—the frenetic yet melodic CURE-ish bass bobbing and weaving in “Nigeria,” or the shambolic disco beats clattering through “Crónica China”—lends a certain urgency to their fairly skeletal proto-C86 template of chiming guitar, soft-focus keys, and vocalist Carmen Álvarez’s unassumingly sweet (but not saccharine) delivery. “Viaje a Egipto” casts a shadow like the best Heather-sung BEAT HAPPENING numbers, with sparse drums and a sing-song, almost playground chant-like melody, while “Lalala” and “La Pesca” hint at the gloomier, less buzzsaw pop side of their Swiss contemporaries CHIN CHIN. ATAQUE DE CASPA is every bit as charming as the aforementioned groups; may these songs never fall back into obscurity.