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.

Белый китаец (China White) Вкладыш от жвачки турбо (Turbo Gum Insert) cassette

When this tape first kicked on, I thought I was in for some catchy rock’n’roll/power pop throwback stuff, which would of course have been A-OK with me. The band’s titular song “China White,” which begins this ten-song cassette, nails that style absolutely perfectly. As the song concluded, I was finishing reading the attached letter which confusingly described the band as being a synth punk band, as does the label’s Bandcamp. As soon as the next song started up, I realized I was in for quite the ride. Completely changing gears, the band starts fluidly ripping through genre after genre without sounding forced or contrived at all, working their way from the aforementioned style through songs of fast D-beat, nasty garage punk, herky-jerky synth punk, and ultimately landing on a few killer tracks of the mid-tempo synth punk persuasion, akin to bands like the SPITS. This is outstanding. An absolutely killer cassette from St. Petersburg, Russia. Apparently the band is on a hiatus right now, as some of the members left Russia because of the war—yet another reason to hate war. The band and label have made a point to express that proceeds from this release are going to support people from Ukraine.

Delivery Personal Effects / The Topic 7″

This Melbourne act follows up a strong debut (2021’s Yes We Do EP), with a new 7”, a split release between Feel It and Spoilsport. You’re getting a song per side on this one. “Personal Effects” is a slower, sax-laden garage-y post-punk number—sounds a lot like Homo-era UV RACE, when that band was at their most VELVET UNDERGROUND-y. “The Topic” sees the band leaning into some of the noiser aspects of that same sound, speeding things up a bit, and underpinning the proceedings with a brooding new wave synth. The vocals are largely rhythmic, chanted by at least two of the members in unison, but there’s an understated melody to them that I found really compelling—like, you wouldn’t call it poppy, but it’s definitely hummable and plays nicely against the harsher elements of the track. Cool stuff! Can we get an LP, please?

Ditches Lost in Time EP

Another excellent release from Drunk Dial. Bands get together and record an original and a cover song in a day with whatever ingestant or inhalant needed. The result is often impromptu, energetic, and inspired. It’s as if label boss Jordan Stamm is orchestrating his own version of the Peel Sessions. This one has Stockholm’s DITCHES playing their angsty power punk pop burner “Lost in Time” as the title track, with the B-side being a more inspired cover of “Abra Cadaver” from their fellow Swedes the HIVES. DITCHES has their own version of the Denton, TX sound, honed by bands such as MARKED MEN and RADIOACTIVITY. Jeff Burke of said bands has recorded DITCHES in the past, and does the mixing here.

Dyym 2020 CD

Here we have some metal-tinged DIY hardcore from Poland. With their female-led vocals and style in general, this reminds me of HYSTERESE, who I’ve reviewed a couple of times. Songs are in that two-to-three-minute mark, but make plenty of time for complex structures, packed with riff changes, bass and drum breaks, and full-force choruses. Lyrics, kindly translated into English, ask poignant questions about social inequities, such as “Equality March” that starts with “Why do you think love is heterosexual / Traditional, brutal and pushy?” This song, clearly not to be missed, is both the opener and the closer, sung first in Polish and last in English. My favorite of the album is “Utopia” for its introspection that can be read in the lyrics and heard in the slower nature of the track, ultimately building to a roiling chorus that rests at the top, where a simple “utopia” is sung.

Ex-White Estray 12″

A few years back, these folks did a split with the great LASSIE—and while this new 12” doesn’t quite get the blood pumping as hard as that loyal canine, there’s still plenty of quality punk on this perfectly-sized slice of tunes. EX-WHITE walks the fine line between new wave freak-out, hook-or-crook power pop and good ol’ fashioned rock’n’roll. As if led by a mohawked minister, “True Love” weds all three of these elements together in a short but memorable ceremony. The title cut is easily the standout track here, the kind of song that could have dominated college radio for a couple weeks in a different era. “Loser” ends things with plenty of melodic burn to spare.

Funny Face Dog in Hell cassette

This cassette is a true time machine. Absolutely no part of this release would have me believe that it came out in the year 2022, aside from it being expressed that it was recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic on the back panel, of course. Catchy and instantly memorable ’90s-sounding indie/alternative rock—I keep seeing comparisons to THEE OH SEES on the band’s Bandcamp page and such, but I just don’t hear that. While this does have some jangly, fuzzed-out guitars and an undeniable pop sensibility, none of their songs feel as driving as the more up-beat OH SEES songs or as out there as their kooky psychedelic jammy ones. I hear more of a mix of DINOSAUR JR. and a bit of that first KING TUFF record.

Hellish View Holy Horrors cassette

Another piece of sonic raw armageddon for the worshippers of DISCLOSE and everything noisy in punk. This chaotic threesome from Minnesota released yet another excellent Dis-beat banger; this is the last release with their original line-up. Compiled into five ugly tracks of Dis raw punk that sounds as close to DISCLOSE as possible. A no-brainer for the “noise not music” enjoyers!

Komplex Viny Pohřeb Všedního Dne EP

Czech Republic’s KOMPLEX VINY often runs up to and hops over the line between crust and metal. You’ll hear buzzsaw chords one moment and a bit of guitar shredding the next. The gruff vocals arrive complete with a gurgle at the back of the throat. The delivery is excellent, but the pro production quality (a common feature in this genre) feels out of place. I prefer my crust a little crustier.

The Last Resort Skinhead Anthems IV CD

Bass-player-turned-lead-vocalist Roi Pearce toots his one-man version of the Oi!/street punk originals the LAST RESORT once again. He’s not going too far out on a limb with this album title, but this time he’s wrangled Berkeley yobbo favorite Lars Frederiksen to mix it up propper. While there’s nothing close to “Violence on Our Minds” present here, there’s some classic LAST RESORT menace on songs like “Murder” and “The Devil You Know,” or the maybe unintentionally hilarious “Psychopath.” It’s the big, beefy guitar sound, courtesy of Lars this time, that they’ve been touting for some years now. Roi’s voice is in top form, but overall, it’s a little lackluster. Still, it’s maybe a nice way for the new breed to show respect to their elders in whatever silly skinhead hierarchy that may exist. Check it.

Life is Beautiful Men’s Health 12″

Don’t let the cover fool you. Actually, please do. Let the artwork open the door, and invite yourself into the world of Men’s Health. Vile, self-deprecating Midwestern powerviolence awaits. Ten disturbing doses fill the smooth grooves of this one-sided ruby red wax, so you don’t even have to flip it over to do it all over again. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL will surprise you (the solos in “Hunk” and the title track), disgust you (the lyrics to “Dysfunction”), surprise you (“Don’t Touch Me” is a sleeper smash that will sadly never be)…but mostly they will crush you (“Sorrow Collective/Torment of Consciousness” in its entirety). And they manage to avoid genre-specific trappings in the process—you are familiar with the sound(s), but you haven’t heard this before, and that is an accomplishment.

Living World World EP

The latest in a crop of blown-out, echo chamber hardcore that won’t stop swinging on you once you’re down. The energy and attitude is undeniable, but the writing is also complex. It’s a magic trick to write such seemingly straightforward hardcore, when all the while the tempo is fluctuating and everything is far removed from the usual “verse/chorus” arrangement. I’m not saying it’s prog or anything, but a cut like “Spite Controller” just drags you through an entire microcosm of anger, pain, and ultimately catharsis that never lets you quite catch your breath or find even footing. All in less than a minute-and-a-half. Masterclass hardcore.

Maniac / Spy split EP

Two bands from opposite sides of the States come together for one vicious 7″ EP. California’s SPY and Massachusetts’ MANIAC bring their two different brands of pissed-off hardcore onto a single disc, and it’s great. The two bands’ respective vocalists both spew their venom across their two tracks (two per band/side), with the instrumentation being similarly biting. This reviewer does slightly prefer the SPY side, but both are very much worth your time.

Motorsav Respiratordrømme LP

MOTORSAV of Copenhagen plays upbeat goth punk, immediately recalling the popular swing and moody grooves of MURDER CITY DEVILS. As the play progresses, though, the tones wallow darker, where vocals recede deep into the shadowplay. Synths and post-punk riffs take the lead with anthemic choruses beneath the fog. This is all a lot faster than your average goth punk band, but vibing with HORROR VACUI or BELGRADO…I like the strained lunacy of the vocals without sounding trope-ishly morose. It is rawer that way, and warmer, amongst a vast array of bands like this that strive to sound cold and gloomy. The track “Din Krop” has some really awesome, deep monk-chant-like moments. This LP is bleak while being upbeat. If Hardcore-era DEVO and the MUMMIES sounded more like the FUZZTONES covered in a warm syrup tomb of ROSETTA STONE. Screams of agony, gnashing teeth, CEMETARY walks, SHE PAST AWAY synth overload, and plenty of distortion. The last track “Spøgelsesbyen” reaches octaves that remind me of ZOUNDS’ Subvert—a fantastic harmonizing outro to a great album. It moves really quickly for a genre that can lose me sometimes. This is goth punk on the attack with feelings of optimism and a carefree nature.

Necromancy Necromancy 12″

Does every old recording need to be reissued? Probably not. But these six songs recorded in 1989 are perhaps the only document from Davis, California’s NECROMANCY, and I’m happy that they (finally) achieved waxed immortalization. Think UNIFORM CHOICE-style positive and/or passionate hardcore, but with a Northern California angle that I can’t quite describe…but it’s real. Late ’80 USHC has a dirty reputation, and until people start paying attention to bands like NECROMANCY, that’s not going to change. Listen to “Epilogue to War” because that’s what’s up.

Open Mike Knight Open Mike Knight 12″

Oakland’s OPEN MIKE KNIGHT kicked out some majorly scrambled art-scree over the span of about seven months in 2001, where they effectively served as dual Y2K spirit hosts for MARS and the SHAGGS (if only the SHAGGS had been a gang of West Coast girls playing basement no wave and writing songs with titles like “Fist Me” and “Crotch Rot” instead of “Who Are Parents”). A seven-song demo was left behind in the wreckage, and now joins recent Jabs excavations from similarly-minded ’90s/’00s agitators SCISSOR GIRLS and MODESSA in the transition from cassette-to-vinyl permanence. You can almost hear vocalist Nel’s eyes rolling as she shrieks, shouts, and generally verbally baits anyone within spitting distance, as the guitar hacks and scrapes at inside-out chords, drums tumble and clatter in a rhythmic freefall, and a steady bass pulse holds everything together (however precariously) as the primary stabilizing force for OPEN MIKE KNIGHT’s jagged stabs. Some of the wildest neo-no wave meltdown sounds this side of MELTDOWN!

The Pagans of Northumberland The Pagans of Northumberland LP

Apparently there is someone who was (or may currently be) in CHIXDIGGIT in this band, which I find…interesting. Anyhow, the PAGANS lean heavy on a DROPKICK MURPHYS/RANCID influence. In fact, so much so that it kinda sounds like what I imagine a collaboration between the two would sound like if you let Matt and some of the MURPHYS handle vocals and sing songs about football. I usually tend to leave this type of stuff where it lies, but there’s something about this that is genuine and doesn’t come off as hokey, rehashed bullshit like so many of these types of bands do.

Paranoid State Great Divider LP

This ten-track collection has a tough enough approach to melodic punk. There’s grit in the vocals, and on standouts like “Self-Doubt,” there is an appealing bum-out minor key vibe. Overall, the album doesn’t grab me, but it’s hard to dock it points arbitrarily. The bassist, I’ll say, takes it a couple steps too far sometimes with overly mobile playing that often stubs its toe into the rest of the band. But there are some solid shout-alongs here. “False Prophet,” bassline excepted, centers on a deeply satisfying crash of a chorus. In the end, it’s a good enough batch of songs that could use a little editing (the closing track is baffling, no part seems to cohesively lead to another). With some work on editing and songwriting chops, the band could catch my ear.

Red Lights Red Lights 12″

For fans of the GUN CLUB and JEFFREY LEE PIERCE, this reissue is a must. RED LIGHTS, from what I can find, formed in 1978, two years before the GUN CLUB, and recorded this five-song demo that largely went unheard. Even at nineteen years old, PIERCE’s voice was just as iconic as it was anywhere in his career. The blues-heavy, cow-punk sound of the GUN CLUB was still to be reached, though, as RED LIGHTS touched on reggae in “Kitty,” and is otherwise very pop-heavy, in the vein of his Debbie Harry worship (“Debbie by the Christmas Tree”). The opener “Jungle Book” garnished the most fame, being covered by a number of bands including the LAST on their 1980 Look Again LP (featuring Vitus Mataré on keyboard, who was on this original demo). The recording shows its age in sound quality, but if PIERCE and the GUN CLUB play an integral role in this whole punk thing, then RED LIGHTS is surely a stepping stone in the history books. Copies are limited, so get yours today.

Rigorous Institution Cainsmarsh LP

Stark and grim, this album is a grimy soundtrack for the end times. Coming up with something to compare it to, my first thoughts were of AMEBIX and, in terms of mood and atmosphere, HAWKWIND. Undergirded by creepy, melancholic, droning synthesizers, Cainsmarsh is anarchic crust punk at its most eldritch. “The Terror” is a two-minute instrumental horror poem. “Laughter” picks up the tempo and raises the nightmare fuel levels to eleven. There are occasional metallic elements on tracks such as “Criminal Betrayers” and “Ergot,” but this is absolutely punk AF. With gravelly vocals, merciless riffs, pounding rhythms, evil lyrics, and a constant mood of hopeless gloom, this is one of the best, most psychotic anarcho-punk albums I’ve heard.

The Sad Tomorrows The Sad Tomorrows cassette

The SAD TOMORROWS are made up of members of several of the Garden State’s finest purveyors of punk. Much like in the members’ other bands, they have managed to churn out four finely written tunes—these are decidedly more pop-leaning, yet still have a kick to them. Unfortunately this is a one-time pressing, limited to 100 copies. Fortunately, dear reader, as we live in the information age, if you miss out on a physical copy, you can still enjoy these tunes via modern means.

Squelch Chamber Everything Turns to Shit cassette

This noisy, sludgy mess of a cassette made me wonder at first whether my tape deck was broken, or I got a damaged copy. Full of dissonant fuzz and feedback, there were tracks, like “Below Beneath” and “Instrumental” that seemed less like music than the soundtrack to a psychedelic nightmare sequence in an old Italian giallo movie. Other tracks, like  “A Wolf Alone” and “Drink to Survive” steer closer to hardcore and powerviolence. Their take on “Family Man,” one of BLACK FLAG’s Rollins-era spoken word pieces, smothers the spiteful lyrics in a thick sauce of industrial madness reminiscent of SKINNY PUPPY. SQUELCH CHAMBER seems to be trying to capture the unrelenting heaviness and static of life in the 2020s. Good stuff to disassociate to, especially “Interlude.”

Tetanus II cassette

I’m glad to see that TETANUS wasn’t just passing the time between sanitizing things and donning facemasks with their first cassette that was released amid the uncertainty of the height of the pandemic. They’re back with a new venom-drenched tape full of ripping hardcore that’s got more wreck and less effects than their previous cassette. With cool songs like the succinct and cutting narrative of “Winner” and the classically-foreboding stomp of “Borderline,” this second shot of TETANUS makes it clear that the band is gaining momentum.

Ursut Dårarnas Paradis LP

Sweden is a hotbed of crust bands, it seems. For those who haven’t seen their logo sewn on thousands of crust pants, URSUT is a relentless D-beat band from Malmö that follows the Scandinavian tradition of SKITSYSTEM or WOLFPACK. With tight musicianship, a double vocal assault, and an infernal ambiance, URSUT crafts melancholic soundtracks for the downfall of mankind. Dårarnas Paradis is a repress of the band’s debut from back in 2011, now ready to be consumed by all the vinyl freaks out there. Their second album Köp Dig Lycklig is also a great addition to any crust collection. Crust as fuck!

V/A Thesaurus, Vol. 6: Panorama Punk Rock France 1982–1984 2xLP

If you haven’t gotten hip to Cameleon’s series of Thesaurus comps yet, there’s no time like right fucking now to rectify this grave oversight. The kingdom of heaven is within your reach! Your golden ticket is nearly 90 minutes of world-beating punk rock contained herein, slathered thick and heavy across four sides of wax. (Will this be the only culinary reference? Stay tuned.) The hit ratio over the course of these 34 songs is shockingly high, with almost nothing dipping below “fairly sick.” Who knew France’s punk bench was so deep? I mean, sure, there’s some classic early ragers and a couple of game-change type bands that pop up, but this particular installment covers the early-to-mid-’80s, so we’re wandering into uncharted territory. This era, of course, is prime time for hardcore, but the styles presented here cover the gamut. Just a smidgen of the greatness contained within includes: CRISE DE NERF uncannily predict PUSSY GALORE’s dented tin can approach to punk, even ANGRY RATS won’t survive these “New Clear Days” so they rage against the dying of the light, while MOPO MOGO advise you to “Fuck Off.” HUMAN BEING sounds righteously disgusted, much as ELECTRONAZE are full of piss, vinegar, and probably smoke 100 cigarettes a day. OMG ain’t text speak, heathens, but they are deadly punks whipping a drum machine and feedback guitar into a frenzy, while ELECTRODES play fast, urgent punk that reimagines DISCHARGE as a garage band. Speaking of garage rock, VONN’s “Bubble Gum” should have been an international hit. I dare you to remain still while this chewy little bastard plays! There are quality CLASH rips from HEROS and BRIGADES, killer rock‘n’roll rave-ups from BALL’S and TED DESTROYER, weird punk from KARNAGE on “The Cops Are Coming,” and it just keeps going. You might be able to dig up a lot of these gems if you spent a couple years in France, rummaging through every record store and thrift shop in the country. Or, you could just pick up this—excusez mon français—fucking awesome compilation.

AJ Cortes and the Burglars / Rude Television split cassette

How can you not root for this kid AJ CORTES, who at twelve years old started cranking out bops with the confidence some of us in our thirties are still chasing (not a projection, I swear…). The fact that he plays all the instruments himself, records himself, designs all the tapes, runs a label and is basically a one-person punk factory all before his teen years, it’s nothing short of amazing. And it’s not novelty, like you see this tape and go “oh, this is the kid who makes garage punk.” This is the real deal. “Never Ever” thrashes, it’s tight and ferocious with a massive bass line and convincingly pissed-off vocals. “Teenage Bozo” likewise hits the mark dead on. You’d have to be a jerk to write this off, and my only hope is he doesn’t burn out on it all. Can’t wait to see where he goes from here. On the flipside, we have another Florida solo punk band, on the brainier side of things with a tip of the cap to Australian compatriots in wiry rock‘n’roll. Overall, this tape is exciting and a whole hell of a lot of fun.

Battlesex The Battlecall EP

Here is another new release on the prolific Convulse Records label—this one is from Portland’s BATTLESEX. This is a fist-pumping, tuneful hardcore punk affair with a healthy dose of hard rock/heavy metal influence (especially in the bitchin’ guitar licks sprinkled across the record). The early ’90s work of bands like ANTI CIMEX and fellow Portlanders POISON IDEA are pretty clear influences, however The Battlecall is not a mere rehash of such material, either. This 7″ righteous slab of rockin’ HC that is certainly worth your time—horns up brothers!

The Courettes Misfits & Freaks / Killer Eyes 7″

Everything from the album layout, to the way they dress, to the music itself, feels like this came out of Detroit sixty years ago—but don’t be fooled, this duo is out of Denmark and giving us this fantastic pop-rock right now! This 7”, released four months ago, is already sold out! What’s happening? 1960s garage/girl group influence has really been showing up lately, like with the EXBATS, who I just reviewed, for example, but the COURETTES take the influence to the next level while modernizing the lyrics. If “Misfits & Freaks” doesn’t get used at the climax of the next feel-good indie apocalypse film, then it’ll be a major missed opportunity. The aforementioned A-side starts off with tambourine claps, a clever acoustic guitar riff, and a lamented version of the chorus vocals before the drop of distortion, a full drum kit, and a faster tempo. It’s irresistibly catchy with backing “ooh”s and “ahh”s under the line “Cheer up, you misfits and freaks.” This song came from their 2021 Back In Mono LP, but they’ve reworked it a little here to give an even more devil-may-care attitude that came from the uncertainty of the pandemic lockdowns. The B-side, a brand new track, starts up with the same riff and “Cheer up, cheer up” backing line from the previous song, only to switch gears to surfy guitar strums that lead to “The way he looks / And all his charms / I could die in his arms,” with all the trappings of ’60s girl groups, and they certainly pull it off. Please, have a listen.

Crna Žuč Crna Žuč cassette

New project from Dragana, the bassist/vocalist of Serbia’s APSURD—the dark, anarcho-accented drive of ex-YU punk paragons TOŽIBABE is an obvious point of departure for both projects, with CRNA ŽUČ leaning harder into TOŽIBABE’s goth/post-punk underpinnings in contrast to APSURD’s stripped-down hardcore bash. The six tracks here are recorded with a raw, unpolished immediacy, cloaked in Cold War-era Eastern Bloc greyscale gloom and tapped-telephone paranoia, with vocals rising from shadowy narrations to desperate shouts, drums charging ahead of the beat toward an uncertain future, and sinister, descending minor chords that bring the record label’s WIPERS-referencing name full circle. All of the unease and high anxiety comes to a head on “Niko I Ništa,” where textured, moody guitar drone is staggered with insistent death-disco rhythmic breaks as Dragana’s icy reserve gradually cracks into a seething snarl. Proceed down CRNA ŽUČ’s ill-lit corridor and watch your back.

Death Bag Death Bag LP

I think music benefits from a sense of fun, especially when it’s otherwise dark or morbid. Maybe DEATH BAG agrees? Their kinda deathrock, kinda psychobilly style benefits from danceability and larger-than-life vocals. Generally, the record is a goth-y bag of lower register tunes at a steady but driving pace and with a little mangled, weird guitar sprinkled throughout. Pair with your favorite monster flick or thunderstorm.

Disattack A Bomb Drops… 12″

I confess, I knew about CARCASS, but I didn’t know about DISATTACK, the band that came before. This is a re-release of their 1986 demo, which Walter Glaser reviewed in MRR #39, plus a couple rehearsal tracks. It couldn’t be more different from more recent CARCASS albums, but the transition from this to Reek of Putrefaction is seamless. This tape contains some great, crusty DISCHARGE-type punk. With the headbanging riffage, glimpses are visible of the metal legends they would become. ”Opression and Death” stood out as more of a hardcore banger, but all six tracks are worth a listen.

The Faction Collection 1982–1985 2xLP

San Jo’s pioneers of the skate rock thing give you a nice remaster of their complete ’80s recordings collection. Featuring skateboard pin-up legend Steve Caballero, you get the high-fiving bro factor in full effect on songs like “Tongue Like a Battering Ram” and “Skate and Destroy,” which aren’t so bad musically. You also get early gems like “Room 101” and “Yesterday is Gone,” so there’s some merit to this collection. Still, it’s hard for me to get through this in one sitting. I’d much rather hear the likes of LOS OLVIDADOS, DRUNK INJUNS, or even FREE BEER when partaking in the sweaty ballsack rock of yore but still, it’s a nice history lesson to the youthful shredders of the future. Dude.

Giglinger 13 cassette

A long-running Finnish outfit that has remained primarily under the radar, GIGLINGER seems content to keep plugging away at bare-bones punk rock with a distinct dark Euro vibe. Classic Finnish punk (not hardcore, punk) with touches of M.O.T.O. and EA80 makes for a compelling lo-fi listening experience. I didn’t know much of the band before this tape came across my desk, but I’m about to get hooked into a modest discography that spans more than two decades.

Irmans Hermano / I Wanna See You 7″

Wearing the SPITS’ influence on your sleeve is a curse, especially when you’re cranking out squeaky clean, lightly keyboarded songs like these. When the drums build up on the lead song and the keys underline the bass in true SPITS fashion, the head bobs almost as muscle memory. But these tracks, no matter the leather jacket look on the cover, have none of the meat-in-teeth maniacal energy that the band is promising. The B-side “I Wanna See You” is more satisfying, and seems truer to the band’s actual mission. It’s a jangly, melancholic sad pop song with nimble fretwork and a good hook. Stick to ’80s revival guitar pop, IRMANS, it suits you.

La Fraction De L’Autre Côté LP

The last LA FRACTION album came out in 2007. I drove the band on a North American tour that summer and I saw them play a few dozen times, so I should have known what to expect when I dropped the needle on De L’Autre Cote fifteen years later in 2022, but I was not prepared. Not at all. When Magali’s vocals opened “Tout Va Bien,” I fucking cried. It wasn’t something I could control, and I didn’t try. There is a magic here, and it’s not something I can describe, but the band sounds (appropriately) older, wiser, and more angry than they ever have before. Their fourth full-length is arguably their best—Magali sounds like she is doing battle with DeDe’s guitar while Boris’s drums push everything forward. It’s a perfect band, really…it always has been. And while I knew that before I started listening to this record, I was still, somehow, not at all prepared. Bands (particularly punk bands) are simply not supposed to get better with age, but LA FRACTION have defined themselves with this album, and I feel like I don’t want to listen to anything else. Ever.

Last Point A Broken Road CD

I’m fairly positive I reviewed the last album from this band, and well…they haven’t strayed at all from the sound of their last offering, proving that if you find something that you’re proficient at, why change anything? They nail the early Fat Wreck sound almost to a fault. Again though, this isn’t really my cup of tea and that’s cool. To me, this style just kinda sounds dated, but that’s not to say that there aren’t fans of this stuff who would eat this up, it’s just not me.

Mentalidad Ausente Guerra Permanente en la Cabeza cassette

Punk music doesn’t need to be refined at all, sometimes we just need heavy riffs, hellish screaming, and banging drums. MENTALIDAD AUSENTE is a trio from Costa Rica, more precisely, San Jose, and they are primitive as hell. Almost like a punker version of BONE AWL, if that makes sense. Recorded live in 2021, this EP is a great debut for these blackened punks to lean on. Knuckle-dragging Neanderthal music, and I mean that in a good way!

No Future Death flexi EP

Serving up agile D-beats from Australia, slathered in olde English fonts and Xeroxed skulls and stencils as god intended, NO FUTURE leaves you longing for more after imbibing in this slick three-song flexi. The seething buzz of the title track alone is enough to get the thumbs up from me.

Public Body Flavour of Labour 12″

Tight, energetic, and nervy art-punk out of Brighton. There’s a lot here to like, at least for me—angular guitar lines, whirling new wave synths, an English man spitting lyrics about the alienation of labo(u)r under capitalism. The production (provided by guitarist Theo Verney, who has also recorded the likes of FEET and HOME COUNTIES) is clear and full and serves the material well. Every track on this EP is compelling, but the single “Formica” is a real ripper, chaotic yet expertly held together. “Reset My Password” is another treat, with big hooks and relatable lyrics about having a useless desk job. “Savings, Discounts, and More!” is more of an experimental spoken word piece, which makes me curious as to what else the band can accomplish with a little more breathing room. If you’re into other contemporary UK post-punk acts like SQUID and ROXY GIRLS, you should dig this.

Resin Pot Overdose cassette

I love hardcore punk, but this didn’t work for me at first. Musically, the hardcore is tight and hard, just like it should be. But the heavily distorted black metal vocals grated on the nerves. It did grow on me with subsequent listens because, overall, this cassette rages. “Sea of Vomit” is the best of the four tracks, with “Life is Shit” being a close second. I prefer cleaner vocals, but there’s lots to like on this cassette like great musicianship, particularly the guitar, which goes from being a wall of distortion to wailing solo and back perfectly. They reminded me a bit of FILTH, though Jake’s voice was just like that without distortion.

Romero Turn It On! LP

From Australia, this female-fronted band delivers eleven tracks of solid, traditional power pop with an occasional nod to new wave. At times, I’m reminded of both the EPOXIES and the PLASTIC TONES. It’s super catchy and uptempo for the most part, but they can slow it down at times. Some of the slower cuts have a certain moodiness to them. They’re super tight and the production is crisp without sounding over-produced. That can be a fine line. Really nicely done.

Scoundrels Oh No! Not Again! LP

Holland’s SCOUNDRELS return after 31 years absent with a not too inventively titled album. I had to do some research, being not so knowledgeable about their back catalog. They started around 1986 doing a sort of anarcho post-punk thing. While this keeps some of that element in songs like “Outsider,” much of this veers towards a later-period SoCal punk sound. It’s sort of like those mediocre SOCIAL DISTORTION or ADOLESCENTS (ADZ) songs. They do one of those bad funk-inspired politico song attempts on “Molasses” that’s really unfortunate. They keep it real on Bandcamp, loading a bonus CRASS cover/remix piece of awfulness as a bonus track at the end. Why? Well, maybe to keep you ready for another round in 2053. Punk is dead?

Solucion Mortal Live at the Fairmont 1984 LP

Such a thrill to write some words on this absolute classic of Mexican hardcore. First, a little bit of history. SOLUCION MORTAL is one of the pioneering bands of hardcore in Mexico. They formed in 1981 in the border city of Tijuana and are still active today. This historical document is a live board recording made at a show at the Fairmont Hall in San Diego, and was originally released as a tape in 1984. Unlike bands from Mexico City, SOLUCIÓN MORTAL had a geographical advantage: being on the border with California allowed the band to share stages with DEAD KENNEDYS or D.R.I. That is to say, they were able to play in the United States in their absolute prime. This led them to participate in some compilations on labels such as BCT Tapes from San Diego, ROIR from New York, and New Wave Records from France. And what does it sound like? Urban chaos, urgency, anger, and violence. A raw guitar sound,  pogo-inducing drum and bass work, absolute brutal vocals, and some of the best Mexican punk songs ever:  “Depresión,” “Maten a los Chotas,” or “Solución Mortal.” A must-have.

The War Goes On Discount Hope EP

Latest record by Copenhagen’s THE WAR GOES ON, a band consisting of ex-members of the acclaimed NO HOPE FOR THE KIDS. Discount Hope is bleak, dark punk that sounds like it was written by the kids of the black hole. Yet the band isn’t from the suburbs of Orange County, but a Scandinavian city that either gets no sun during the day or the sun doesn’t go down at night. Despite the songs consisting of darkness and bleakness, it still has this catchy pop sensibility (something difficult to achieve unless you’re from Southern California) without having the SoCal bro punk vibes—the lack of SoCal bro punk-ness does seem to add a character that is rather unique. Perfect background music to these dark times. Highly recommended.

V/A Good Times RnR Compilation, Vol. 3 2xLP

What I believe started as a few of the Sydney rock mutants (RESEARCH REACTOR CORP., GEE TEE, and SET-TOP BOX) fartin’ around and playing some covers has now morphed into a full-blown spectacle. After recruiting a bunch of like-minded bands and fleshing the project out into legit comp (2020’s GTRRC II), we now find them pooling their resources with labels Erste Theke Tontraeger, Legless, and Under the Gun to bring you 46—46!—tracks across two whole damn LPs from pretty much every band in the contemporary egg-leaning punk scene. And, look, there are some cool bands on here and some cool songs, but you already know you don’t need this. It’s basically the punk equivalent of a giant sack of Halloween candy. There’s plenty of good stuff in here, but there’s also quite a few Tootsie Rolls, some generic-ass orange and black wrapped taffies, and even a few toothbrushes and pennies. Some sickos are going to sit down and eat the whole bag, and some fun-haters are going to steer clear of it entirely. But most folks are going to pick at the good stuff, setting a few things aside to come back to later. For me that good stuff—the Snickers and Almond Joys, if you will—would include SPODEE BOY (covering STICK MEN WITH RAY GUNS’ “Hell to Pay”), C.O.F.F.I.N. (FUNKADELIC’s “Super Stupid”), SCIENCE MAN (ZZ TOP’s “Sharp Dressed Man”), MUTANT STRAIN (the GERMS’ “Strange Notes”), and SPINAL CRAP (I’m pretty this is SCHIZOS playing ROSE TATTOO’s “Nice Boys”). I’m sure your pile would look a little different.

Antler Joe and the Accidents Go Commercial! EP reissue

This is killer. Minds much sharper than I dredged through the Florida muck to find the surviving sickos from this band to re-release their one and only attempt at stardom. It’s probably a Killed By Death favorite up there with EBENEZER AND THE BLUDGEONS or ED NASTY AND THE DOPEDS, which means small-town punkers playing ’70s punk a little late in the game. In this case, really late, as in 1981. I’m sure no one was listening when the masterwork known as “Bullshit” first made ears ring way back when. They most likely sat puzzled by lyrical mastery such as “I sit here this whole day / Trying to think of what to say, / No one listens anyway / It’s all dogshit” spewed forth at some weird party. “Words” ain’t no slouch either, but “Who Needs a Woman Like You” makes the blunder of including saxophone?! Ugh. Well you can’t win ’em all, but you can one day see your youthful mishaps displayed on public view in your golden years. Buy this and pray you’re next.

Bad Idea Sonic Hellride CD

Polished street punk from Minneapolis. Nothing to see here unless you’re looking for solid, gruff, catchy punk rock—like RADIOACTIVITY on a steady diet of the BUSINESS. Short, snappy, and to the point…just like this review.

Classe Suburbana Ao Vivo em 1992 10″

Consider this material as a historical archive. An exercise of subtracting vital, youthful energy from the unstoppable flow of time in order to preserve a spark of revolt and to mark a territory within the map of global punk and say “hey, here we are and this is where we were, we are part of this, too.” CLASSE SUBURBANA was a band that emerged in the late ’80s in the small town of Delmiro Gouveia in the Brazilian state of Alagoas, a deeply conservative and religious place, one of those stifling spaces for any restless youth who want something different from life. We are talking about an area far from the traditional epicenter of punk in Brazil. This compilation is based on fourteen tracks recorded live at Privê Club in 1992 and shows a band with an energy on the verge of exploding, with their sights set on the violent and repressive structures we all know: police, politicians, work, and family. This is a raw, unpolished, and harsh expression of punk rock. The sound quality is the best possible given the context I have mentioned, very DIY. The band reminds me a lot of Mexican punk bands coming from a similar social context and era: POLO PEPO, YAPS, or many urban rock bands from the Discos Denver label. Congratulations to Quilombo Discos, who are doing this great and necessary work of rescuing and promoting the punk youth culture of underrepresented areas of Brazil.

Dark Times No Hope / The Early EPs LP

Eleven years after their first release, Sheep Chase has remastered all three early EPs from the no wave/hardcore group DARK TIMES. The album doesn’t present the EPs chronologically: the order comes second, third, and first released. First, we hear the self-titled 7” (or Skull), coming in with my favorite track “Distrust” for its belabored and repetitive heavy rhythm (which I came to hear as their trademark sound). Sandwiched in the middle is the Girl Hate 7” that came out a year after the others, yet feels like it’s matured more than that. The songs are tighter, shorter, and catchier—check out “Waste.” Last up is their self-titled demo cassette where you can see the no wave and hardcore influences more separated between songs, as in the 40-second “Dead Meat” blaster, followed by the more ambient four-minute “Worlds Away.” If you, like me, missed this a decade ago, check it out now!