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.

Sour Songz cassette

Disorienting guitar opens the tape, then the rest of the band drops like a bomb to start “Sum Body” and I’m at attention. Mid-paced, deliberately erratic hardcore, with a damage that can only come from millennial-era punks. Dark and serious, down and dirty, Ohio’s SOUR hits like a fukkn wrecking ball and while you’re turning up the volume, they’re turning up the intensity. Howling vocals, entire songs built on indescribable breakdowns—while this is in the speakers, for those nine powerful minutes, I don’t want to hear anything else in the fucking world.

Straw Man Army SOS LP

This is the second album by these members of the D4MT Labs family tree, and STRAW MAN ARMY’s branch has grown in considerable length and fruit since their 2020 LP. This is one of the first albums I’ve heard or reviewed recently that feels truly “post-pandemic.” Not in the sense of it being over (an obviously foolish way to think), but more so that it feels of its time, as a reflection and distillation of the feelings and varied collective traumas experienced since March 2020. The anxiety, isolation, unrest, grief, depression, and the front row center seat we’ve had for late capitalism’s corrosive and violent nature on local, national, and international levels. The songs on the record are surgically performed and spartanly recorded—there is nary a wild or unhinged moment, everything is carefully considered. The guitar, bass, drums, and vocals together sound like a tightly executed line drawing. Where the depth, dimension, and color of the album is revealed is in its details, especially the ambient moments that lead you between sides: the meditative synth washes, vibraphone sounds, and bird songs. They give a moment of breath and clarity, a palate cleanser between the grim realism of the songs. These moments and the pacing of the album creates an emotional build-up that follows anger, grief, despondency, and trying to stay empathetic and aware in a world that wants you to become callous and shut off. The songs embrace a mounting tension from the Escher staircase riffs of “Human Kind,” and the accelerating, decelerating train track rhythms of “State of the Art,” a criticism of modern progress and the myth of endless growth, sounding like a stock market bar graph as it rises and eventually falls. “Millenarian Man” is a brilliant merging of the the band and the musique concrète elements into a a truly NY state of mind, the vertigo of skyscrapers, the claustrophobia of crowds, the terror of police sirens. Then once all the confusion and anger of the world in the song becomes too much, they conclude the album with “Beware,” which begins melodic and vulnerable, but ends bitter and seething. STRAW MAN ARMY has created explicitly political music that isn’t phoned-in anti-everything anthems or simplistic catalogs of atrocities, but is a hard, analytical but deeply thoughtful and meditative look at this torrential time frame. SOS is an album that is about staring the nightmare in the mouth and realizing that we can’t just wake up from it or simply go back to sleep.

Träumer Träumer cassette

Inflammatory tape by this hardcore punk band from Los Angeles, California. Five tracks of fierce and pernicious attacks of loud and distorted praises to thrashing around and flipping the finger to this horrible world. I need more TRÄUMER!

Vidro Glöd LP

Attitude is one of the most, if not the most, important qualities that make up a punk band. Otherwise, it’s just rock’n’roll! VIDRO is all about the angst: the fury that pours through the way the songs play out, and the way the singer spills aggression with every scream. Members from all around the world and a drummer that played in HUVUDTVÄTT, a classic Scandi punk band. Glöd is a great modern banger, a fresh-sounding “fuck you” and then some. This might be your new favourite band, so don’t sleep on it!

Young Ruins Severance Play cassette

Cataclysmic darkwave/post-punk/hardcore sound from Brooklyn’s YOUNG RUINS. The opener “Rabbits” has a tremulous guitar riff like JOY DIVISION’s “New Dawn Fades,” which simply repeats “I could be the god / You could be the lamb / Take you by throat.” Even in our news-cycle culture that has forgotten last month, let alone last year’s news, this recording from 2016, finally released in 2021, is still very current. “Actual Women” and “Law Enforcement” speak for themselves, while “On Hold” encapsulates YOUNG RUINS stream of conscience theme. Songs wonder lyrically, brooding on the mundane, mixed with social conflict, as in “So alive culturally, little house on the BQE / We all still lock our doors at night / Expensive, local, everything” from the closer “Game Over.” The instrumentation is jabby and loud, but with earned breaks from chaos; and mostly the songs move in a single direction: rising crescendo to end right there at the top, ignoring typical verse/chorus patterns. I would highly recommend this cassette.

2¢ Worth Living the 2¢ Life: 1997–2007 LP

So, this is an anthology of a decade’s worth of songs from this Las Vegas band. The problem with this is that there have apparently been multiple lineups of this band, and it’s a noticeable difference. On one hand, you have a band that sounds fun and vibrant and very much a punk band, on the other you have a band that is more akin to late ’90s/early ’00s alternative rock. The difference between the differing lineups is almost night and day, and perhaps the “punker” lineup and the “alterna-rock” lineup should have been separated by A-side and B-side so that the listener could literally choose a side.

Backslider Psychic Rot LP

A versatile mix of fast hardcore, crushing death metal, punishing slow sludge, and weird-ass tempo changes. Not quite powerviolence, not quite fastcore, but they seem to have their shit together and aim for pure aggressive music. The clashing of the genres works very well and the curveballs they throw at you hit like a truck. Formed in 2008, and now on their third album after a truckload of splits and EPs, they seem to be a busy bunch. If you are a fan of NAILS and don’t quite enjoy their newer material, or even if you miss HATRED SURGE, here is a good one for you.

The Black Gloves The Black Gloves cassette

The BLACK GLOVES have been around for a few years now, their first two-song demo dating back to 2017. Here we have a five-song cassette of killer, driving, catchy garage punk from Denver, Colorado. Stripped-down, simplistic, no-frills, and nothing to be desired from this reviewer. A four-year gap between releases may seem like a long time, but with the output being this solid, I will gladly await the third release, which based on what we know, should be out somewhere around November 2025.

Convert Saves CD

Debut album from Milwaukee’s CONVERT, with elements of darkwave and goth in its mood and temper, but faster and closer to post-punk with belabored screams. The ever-present horror movie synth lands a little cheesy for me at times, and I could certainly do without the voice- modulation intros, but I understand the place for both. “Watch It Burn” hits the heaviest, while “Night Bursts” is the most wondering and haunting of the album. Check it out if your teenage angst is bubbling up again.

DeStructos Blast! The Remixes cassette

This release comprises the DESTRUCTOS demo and some fun remixes in a new package. The band mixes classic rock’n’roll with no wave danger and dancefloor action. Imagine the B-52’S fronted by Lydia Lunch, and you have the sound of the first few songs. “The Sight” has the line, “We got your baby / We ain’t giving it back!” It’s catchy and a little scary. The last two songs before the remixes begin are a little more mellow—the intro to “She’s Got the Master Plan” sounds like a BEDHEAD/SLEATER-KINNEY mashup before garage rock 1-2-1-2 drums back the call-and-response vocals and strummed indie rock progressions. It’s all good, but I prefer the dynamics of these later songs. The remixes are fun reworkings that emphasize the hip-shaking catchiness of the originals. The “Gabber Mix” of “The Sight” goes full-bore ALEC EMPIRE digital hardcore with relentless 808 bass drum mayhem. The “Mr. Policeman Mix” of “Neutron” could have been released on Grand Royal in the ’90s; all crackling vinyl, dubby bass and vocals, and big beat choruses. “She’s Got the Master Plan (Flanafi Mix)” bubbles with rattling techno drums and a hyper-pop approach to the vocals. It accentuates the beauty of the original while becoming something entirely new sounding. Punk remixes are pretty rare, but this tape is a perfectly realized great idea. Rockers on the A-side, party mix on the B-side. Why not?

Ex-Dom Demo 2021 cassette

An eerie intro creeps up on you just before EX(tincion de)-DOM(inio) tears your eardrums apart. This Bremen-based foursome has a couple of known faces and they know what they are doing. Sung in both Spanish and German, it creates a new dimension of aggression in the seven songs that make up this raging demo. Pogo-inducing, DISCHARGE-styled hardcore that sounds fresh and old school at the same time, so it will please newcomers as much as old punks. Watch out for their new releases as well. Highly recommended!

Ford’s Fuzz Inferno Fuzz the Universe! EP

The music here is really driven by the roaring guitar. It sets the pace for the rhythm section rather than vice versa. It’s big, static-y, and yes, “fuzzy.” The band injected a few trad rock’n’roll elements: notes running down the scale and the occasional tamborine. The medieval imagery on this release (and all their others) adds a fun, out of left-field vibe to the music.

Geza X Practicing Mice / Me No Wanna Be 7″

We have DEVO-tees and Su Tissue sympathists, but where are the disciples of GEZA X? While his production credits on the first wave of West Coast punk singles are lengthy and legendary (GERMS, BAGS, the oft-bootlegged SCREAMERS demos), aside from his brief time in the DEADBEATS and their crucial Dangerhouse single, GEZA X (with or without his MOMMYMEN) was a musical outlier in the early L.A. punk scene, creating his own art-damaged, cartoony wormhole, not far from DEVO or the SUBURBAN LAWNS but with none of the new wave pop refinements that probably helped bolster those bands’ popularity. GEZA is more uncomfortable, needling and experimental, with sideways time signatures, sax skronks, and rollicking marimba runs, that I would probably file closer between CHROME and the RESIDENTS. He probably would’ve been a great fit on a Ralph Records comp! This 7″ by No Matrix is the first of his solo efforts, demo recordings of “Practicing Mice” (which would reappear on the wacky, wonderful, wildly underrated You Goddam Kids! LP) and “Me No Wanna Be.” Both have his trademark squelchy raygun guitar sound and vocals dripping from his nasal cavity. The lack of a live band is made up by stuttering rhythm machines and haywire synths. As I write, this 7″ is long sold out and No Matrix’s newest archival GEZA release (”Hot Rod / Sex Melt”) is quickly heading that way as well, so act fast before the eventual GEZA-core wave crests in your local scene.

The Hazmats Empty Rooms / Today 7″

The HAZMATS are a new project featuring members of CHUBBY & THE GANG, GAME, and BIG CHEESE. But instead of being inspired by classic Oi! and hardcore, the two songs here sound as if they were plucked directly from that late ’80s-early ’90s period of UK indie pop. “Empty Rooms” is evocative of the STONE ROSES or TEENAGE FANCLUB, all lush, shimmering guitars and sweet melodies, while “Today” could be easily be a secret C86 compilation track, existing somewhere between the SOUP DRAGONS (in their earlier, scruffier incarnation) and the WEDDING PRESENT. Derivative, maybe, but I love this shit, and these are good songs. More punx should indulge their wimpy pop instincts.

Invertebrates Invertebrates demo cassette

Super solid demo from this Richmond, VA, band. Four songs of UK82-inspired hardcore with raw production, fast, catchy songs, and shouted DISCHARGE-style vocals. “Red Lake Earth” starts with a great three-note lead that burrows in your brain as it turns into a three-chord blast. “Shit Pit” has some classic, single bent note hooks and a dissonant solo that push all the classic HC buttons in the right order. Loud, fast, and raging punk for fans of the FIX and UNRULY BOYS.

Klonns Crow EP

Tokyo, Japan’s KLONNS come out swinging with this blistering new EP. The influence from classic Japanese hardcore bands like LIP CREAM and DEATH SIDE is very apparent, but do not mistake KLONNS for being a worship band. The sound on the Crow EP is super ferocious and raw. The instrumentation makes this record sound like it’s coming apart at the seams, and the vocalist sounds so hoarse that his throat could be bleeding. This is a violent, vicious listen. Pure hardcore punk.

Los Saicos Single Box Set 8×7″

An absolute monster box set (pun intended). Smash hit after smash hit of the legendary Peruvian band. The thing covers their whole career so you can appreciate the richness of their sound: the caveman vocals, the reverb-rich riffs, the wild BO DIDDLEY-esque beats.  I’m not so fond of the whole exercise of historical revisionism the band has suffered and benefited from but, I think they may well be the only band worthy of that sort of intellectual procedure. They truly are a great band and they did anticipate sounds and motifs from the punk era.  This is teenage angst as a form of art. Enjoy the marvelous sounds of LOS SAICOS.

Monty Vega & the Sittin’ Shivas Sonic Gloss cassette

Sometimes when I start writing a review, the record’s description ends up coming out as something I would never want to listen to even if I am enjoying what I am hearing. Sounds like the RAMONES (boring!). Songs about unrequited love (yawn!). A song called “Facebook Fighting” (who cares?). Goofy band name (eh). An odd selection of covers (OK, that’s fun). It is best to let go of all musical knowledge and preconceptions with this one and simply enjoy the tunes. The songs are peppy and straightforward poppy punk, but not in that annoying pop punk way. MONTY VEGA’s vocal style is bratty, but more Dee Dee than Joey. The best song on the cassette, “Gravity Man,” has the band moving into the garage rock lane. As for the covers, “Ghost Rider” is slowed down with spoken-style vocals making it sound really cool, and “Hungry Heart,” a song BRUCE SPRINGTEEN originally wrote for the RAMONES, is better than expected. I like this no matter what I say.

NOXe Finders Keepers LP

A strong release from the Potsdam, Germany punk scene. The band is led by a scathing female vocal attack from singer Claudi. Her delivery compliments the tight rhythm section and angular guitars. Her delivery and the band’s range have some of the pop of Cinder Block of early TILT, Mia Zapata’s attitude and aggression with the GITS, and Penelope Houston’s politics with AVENGERS.

Peace De Résistance Bits and Pieces LP

Bits and Pieces is the first LP from this Moses Brown (INSTITUTE, GLUE) solo project, whose only other release was a limited-run cassette EP of fuzzed-out, lo-fi glam that came out back in 2020. The sound’s been cleaned up a bit for this here official debut, but it’s still a lower-fi affair that weds the grooves of T. REX’s Electric Warrior, the looseness of the VELVET UNDERGROUND’s Loaded, and the oddball lilt of JIMMY JUKEBOX’s “Motorboat”. Apparently, it’s also pulling a lot from Zamrock, a Zambian take on late ’60s guitar rock that evolved alongside glam (it’s a genre I was wholly unfamiliar with that I’m now keen to dig into). So, throughout the ten tracks on this record you get lite touches of psychedelia, dub (mostly in its exploration of studio space), and even Krautrock. Perhaps the most distinct element of the album—and the one most likely to rankle listeners—is Moses’ vocal performance. It’s certainly pulling from all the above influences, but at the same time it’s this bizarre sing-songy croak—like straight vocal fry—often delivered as though it’s being issued from the bottom of a k-hole. It really ups the records overall woozy vibe and helps this feel like a unique take on a familiar genre. My guess is that this isn’t going to be for everyone, but I love it.

 

The Q Factor Discography LP

Extinction Burst continues their righteous journey, giving new relevant bands a platform and unjustifiably unheralded relics the credit they deserve. If you’ve never heard of the Q FACTOR, you are forgiven—they existed in a brief (but amazing) space and if you weren’t there then…well, why would you care? The nucleus of the band went on to form FORMER MEMBERS OF ALFONSIN (only slightly more visible in the rearview mirror), but not before dropping a killer (and poignant) EP and a slew of comp tracks, all compiled here. Heartfelt, intense, honest, no-bullshit ’90s DIY hardcore punk that is totally their own (even and especially with hindsight), with brilliant nods to SXE ‘core and melodic ’80s SoCal. There are only nine songs on this discography LP, so perhaps they had said all that they needed to say…I just hope someone is listening.

Rose Mercie ¿Kieres Agua? LP

Four years after their debut LP, Parisian quartet ROSE MERCIE returns with their latest conjugation ¿Kieres Agua?, drifting through the winding paths of their own self-created world as illuminated by the faint glow of the RAINCOATS’ tangled rhythms, ELECTRELANE’s warm keyboard drones, and GRASS WIDOW’s spectral harmonies. From an era where the dominant form of post-punk expression has been one of paranoia and detachment (generally amplified by the effects of technology), ROSE MERCIE’s sparse, haunting slow burn seems to exist out of (or outside of?) time, a flickering flame as opposed to a blinking cursor. In the midst of the tranced-out, tom-driven hypnotic tumble of “Dinosaur,” multiple intertwining voices chant the line “let no man steal your thyme” (lifted from a traditional British Isles folk ballad warning young women of the dangers of taking false lovers), a thoroughly unmodern reference that suits them just as well as the TABLE SUGAR-y off-kilter pop lilt and sharp art-punk angles of “Chais Pas” and “Des Pierres.” The four members of the band are cast as witches circling a ritualistic pyre on the LP’s cover (one of the oldest and strongest archetypes of sisterhood), and it’s echoed over the motorik, polyrhythmic percussive clatter of closing track “Witching,” with a Spanish incantation that roughly translates to “Loving us / Looking for us / Taking care of us / Between good and evil”—a testament in sound to the bonds of female friendship; a document of four women making music with each other, but more importantly, for each other.

Skid City Greetings From Skid City LP

SKID CITY’s debut LP brings us some wonderfully ugly pub grooves from Melbourne. This band plays a straightforward type of ’70s-style punk rock that’s slathered in attitude and perfectly fucked in all kinds of ways. There’s layers that remind me of motor-garage punkers of the late ’90s like B-MOVIE RATS and the SNAKE CHARMERS, there are parts that echo the grizzled graveyard blues of the excellent first GOLDEN PELICANS LP, and by the time we get to “Dumb,” they’ve gone full DEAD BOYS on us. The straight pub rock comes out on the album’s briefest track, “Alright With Me,” but it fits. Everything is laced with stand-out insidious guitars and raspy disaffected growls, and delivered with a jaded angst probably best expressed in recent decades by the amazing CARBONAS and the adjacent EX-HUMANS. Hitting a perfect ratio of grime and swagger, this is one of the brightest highlights of the year thus far, and the singer’s ragged jeers sound like he couldn’t care less.

Steröid S.M.O.K.E. Show EP

In the late ’80s/early ’90s, there was this syndicated cartoon programming block called The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera. It featured classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons alongside crude, low-budget shows seemingly cooked up in an ’80s fever dream (see: Fantastic Max or The Further Adventures of Super Ted), and it was hosted by the Down and Dirty Dinosaurs—a trio of dudes in dinosaur costumes dressed in punk/hip hop garb. It was really something. Anyway, I bring this up because the contemporary Aussie punk scene—particularly the stuff coming from the rock mutants of Sydney—really reminds me of that show. And this latest 7” on Computer Human, a label run by the head scientist at RESEARCH REACTOR CORP, is no exception. STERÖID, the brainchild of ex-GEE TEE member Gordo Blackers, is a Hobart-based recording project that plays “eggy metal.” The five tracks on this EP (four originals and one OVERDRIVE cover) sound like the music that the heroes of Galtar and the Golden Lance might play if there was ever an episode that involved a battle of the bands for some reason. Just imagine mid-’80s montage music with chipmunk vocals written by a guy whose record collection was full of, like, RAMONES, THIN LIZZY, and NWOBHM records. It rules.

Void Condensed Flesh EP reissue

Hey. I’m sure you already know, but VOID is a truly landmark band in the history of hardcore. The Condensed Flesh demo is one of the best to ever come out of the genre (and there’s been a lot of them) and, 41 years on, it holds up better than ever. Recorded in 1981—prior to the groundbreaking, trippy metallic recordings that would roar into this world on 1982’s stone-cold classic split LP with the FAITH—VOID is a lot more primal and raw on these recordings than the experimental nature of their later works. Including some of VOID’s best-loved ditties like “Organized Sports” and “War Hero,” along with equally awesome deep cuts like “Annoyed” and “Go South,” this demo is even more proof that VOID never produced a single bad note in their three-year lifespan (including Potion For Bad Dreams!). In celebration of VOID’s 40th anniversary, the wonderful folks at Eye 95 Records have reissued this classic demo on 7″ vinyl, so what are you waiting for?  Absolutely essential. Obviously.

Beige Banquet Live! Live! Live! cassette

UK DIY that was, you guessed it, recorded live! Though, this falls more along the lines of weirdo sounds coming from contemporary Deutsch punks (NUNOFYRBEESWAX and PONYS AUF PUMP come to mind), blending tight transitions with oddball cowbell and clap track interludes over an otherwise post-punk landscape. For a good taste, listen to the driving last track, “Hotel Room.”

Bzdet Atom cassette

Nice mix of post-punk and coldwave from this Polish band. The genre hallmarks of bouncy, loping basslines, angular guitar lines, and detached, depressive vocals are all here. But BZDET is not afraid of the dancefloor, like on “Niewola,” which is driven by crispy drum machine handclaps. Similarly, “Nadzieja” builds an ominous atmosphere around a bass-led dance beat and guitar swells. Other standouts are “Sukcesy (Pozory),” which features an oppressive, atonal din interspersed with trebly synth wiggles, minimal electronics, and spoken vocals, and “Okazejszyn,” the closest that the band comes to NEW ORDER-style pop, albeit with slurred/reverbed singing. Moody dance jams covered in sheets of ice for fans of SIEKIERA and LEBANON HANOVER.

CHECK YOUR HEAD Walls of Pressure cassette

Malaysian straight edge. No frills here, just straight-up hardcore. Fast, mosh parts in all the right places, pretty solid outing here. The gang vocals sometimes miss the mark for me here, though. The whole point of having gang vocals is to accentuate a chorus. While there are points where this does happen, more often than not it almost seems as if they’re just kind of randomly inserted here or there. However, that’s a minor set back on what is a great hardcore EP.

Clan of Xymox Peel Sessions LP

Founders of darkwave CLAN OF XYMOX have been reissued on Dark Entries with their 1985 Peel Session recordings. For fans of the genre, it doesn’t get any better than this—but you already knew that. On the intermittent cool and cloudy days of Spring, this will land just right: ambient yet driving synth instrumentation, with vocals that range from melodic and upbeat (“Seventh Time”) to a tortured ode (“Agonised By Love”). “Stranger” opens the album, and could be the soundtrack to a fallen angel’s journey through hell, with anthemic choral vocals backing the whole song; completely chilling. CLAN OF XYMOX (also released as XYMOX) has a catalog of music spanning from 1983 to present recordings. This group has stood the test of time.

D. Sablu “Live” For Tour cassette

Classic punk from the ’77 UK and ’74 Ohio schools, but naturally, it sounds exactly like neither because the real punks keep making the shit sound new and important (because it is important, of course). I can’t even imagine how hard it is to restrain yourself enough to make music like this. Every fukkn song feels like it wants to just let it fly, and I want to listen to HELLNATION when it’s over just so I can hear something fast. But that’s the point, and these New Orleans freaks nail it. Even when they go fast on “So Sorry,” the freakout is so controlled and I love it. Mutant garage punk at the absolute top of their game…and to be fair, they pretty much let it all fly on “Parody,” that one is a full release. Full swagger, full strut, full stomp, total punk.

Ensor Stench of Morgue, Scent of Parties cassette

Stench of Morgue, Scent of Parties begins with a D-beat number, complete with spartan bass/snare thumping over reverbed vocals. The band quickly departs from that format while staying in the musical neighborhood. Throughout you’ll hear noisy, squealing guitar, a slower, blues-y beat under a fuzzy bass, and piercing single notes. Think of this as a kinda noise (not music) revue. Enjoy!

First Day Out Cruel World cassette

This shit might be one of my favorites this month. Streetwise semi-metallic hardcore with “tough guy” lyrics, but not in the super cheeseball “B-boy gangsta meets NYHC” kinda way. It immediately gave me BLOOD FOR BLOOD vibes, but with not as much of an “I don’t give a fuck about you” attitude. My only complaint is the length. I wish there were a few more songs, but I suppose that’s a good thing. The ol’ “leave ‘em wanting more” trick.

Gaoled Bestial Hardcore demo cassette

Fucking. Nasty. Pronounced “jailed,” this Perth band’s demo is a raw and filthy mix of powerviolence, furious hardcore, feedback damage, and paranoid atmosphere that is an instant classic. This tape is my perfect mix of extreme underground music: the basic skeleton is crusty PV, but there are touches of first-wave black metal, underground death metal (check out the lo-fi solo on “Lined”), and sludge (the slow crawl through slime on “Voices”) etched on its bones. Imagine IRON LUNG wearing CELTIC FROST shirts doing bong hits out of human skulls. Really, really raw and excellent. Let’s go ahead and make “bestial hardcore” a genre and use this as the blueprint. Highly recommended.

Guadaña Culpables LP

On their sixth release, GUADAÑA from Mallorca, Spain shows no signs of slowing down. High-octane punk rock sung in Spanish carries the Spanish punk rock tradition to the fullest. Culpables has fourteen tracks of pure punk rock filled with contagiating energy and disdain. An easy album to get into due to its non-stop energy discharge.

Heather the Jerk Cable Access TV LP

Catchy and tough punk from Heather Sawyer on her first full-length album. She put out an EP, Rick Shitty Sessions, in 2017, and this album showcases her musical and lyrical expansion but keeps just enough rawness and spontaneity to make it honest and relatable. Similar energy to when the MUFFS were a four-piece, or pretty much any of the tracks off Sympathy for The Record Industry’s Alright, This Time Just the Girls compilations. The range here is dynamic with slow heartbreak songs like “Heather Got a Divorce,” “Thinking About Food,” and “It’s Over,” to poppier sing-alongs like “”3D Binch and “1-800-Heather.” Sawyer drums and sings for the inimitable PROUD PARENTS, and her bandmate Tyler Fassnacht helps out here on guitar. Sawyer is one more part of what’s keeping Madison, Wisconsin as one of the more pivotal punk scenes around.

I-SO Total Collapse cassette

The NY punk scene never ceases to spawn great punk bands. If you like HARAM, SCALPLE, ANDROID, or DROOL, you might be familiar with I-SO’s members. Released on the punk hub Toxic State, Total Collapse is the soundtrack to the collapse of the modern world. Uber-fast tracks like “Apocalypse Anxiety” show an almost fastcore approach, while songs like “Isolation” slow down a bit and provide a Side-B-of-Damaged feel of malaise. Thumbs up for this banger of a demo.

Josef K Sorry for Laughing / Revelation 7″ reissue

In tandem their Glaswegian contemporaries ORANGE JUICE, Edinburgh’s JOSEF K stitched together scratchy funk and nervous, angular jangle to help shape of the Sound of Young Scotland in the early ’80s, leaving behind a breadcrumb trail for the danceable and debonair likes of FRANZ FERDINAND, the STROKES, et al. to pick up at the turn of the century (don’t hold that against them). This 1981 pairing was one in a string of great, spiky singles from JOSEF K’s brief reign—both songs resurfaced just a few months later on the band’s sole LP The Only Fun in Town (which got its own reissue back in 2020), but the 45 was always the true post-punk people’s format, and Optic Nerve’s reissue campaign of crucial ’80s DIY short-takes can only be viewed as a labor of love in the 7”-hostile hellscape of 2022. On the A-side “Sorry for Laughing,” taut, disco-fixated rhythms (check that hopscotch bass line!) are blurred at the edges by a flurry of restless post-FEELIES/pre-WEDDING PRESENT guitar strumming as Paul Haig’s deadpan croon seals the deal with suave sophistication, while B-side “Revelation” strikes anxious art-punk poses like a more JOY DIVISION-damaged FIRE ENGINES, all wiry, treble-heavy guitar slash and bob-and-weave bass to give GANG OF FOUR a run for their money. Absolute class.

Kara Kara CD

I love how the universal language of punk is anger. Like me, you may not know a word of Polish, but you understand the feeling behind each of these songs. You understand what the struggle to protect our territories from the dispossession of capital in any form is all about. And that goes the same from the Rio Grande to the Vistula. I love KARA’s debut because it sounds as if the Basque band DUT had been influenced by DISCHARGE instead of FUGAZI.  What I mean by that is that we are looking at an album full of sharp and punchy D-beat, extremely fast and precise in execution, almost unbridled but never losing technique. And it’s really fun too.  I hope with all my heart to hear more noise from this band from Warsaw. 

Neutrals Bus Stop Nights EP

If 2020’s Personal Computing 7” was NEUTRALS wearing their Ed Ball/TELEVISION PERSONALITIES influence on their sleeves, this four-song EP has them erecting a full-blown shrine. The title track kicks off the record, and from the jump you’re not only getting a riff borrowed from “World of Pauline Lewis,” but also a very similar guitar tone—it’s cleaner, brighter, and more sustained than what we’ve heard from these folks in the past. The production is maybe a little slick (which is true of the whole record) and the tune is a little poppier than you’d get from Dan Treacy and co., but the songwriting is still fantastic. It reminds me of a less ramshackle version of the stuff SO COW was putting out in the late aughts. Now, the following track, “Geoffrey Ingram”…I mean, “Gary Borthwick Says,” is a real hit! It’s a super catchy number recounting the exploits of a truth-stretching scamp that seems to combine everything great about …And Don’t the Kids Just Love It into one song. It alone is worth the price of admission! “Pressures of Life” is a good reminder that UK DIY and indie pop have more in common with Oi! than you’d generally think—just listen to that chorus kick in and tell me you can’t hear it as COCKNEY REJECTS-ish shout-along. The record closes with “New Town Dream,” which mixes in some of the post-punk brutishness you got on their fantastic Rent/Your House EP. I kinda wish there was a little more of that throughout the release, but I understand why there isn’t. Anyway, great record—definitely worth your time!

Pensioner Pensioner demo cassette

PENSIONER is the name of this no-fi solo effort from GHOULIES’ Alec, recorded (as so many solo projects have been recently) during the pandemic lockdown in Perth, Australia. This demo comes off like a stripped-down, purposely ugly version of GHOULIES’ frenetic synth punk; all slimy, irradiated grooves and warbled vocals. Sounds like it could have crawled out of NWI in 2014 with the rest of the Lumpy gang. There’s even a devolved RAMONES cover (“Commando”). “Slip Slop Slap” is a delight, appealing to my eternal love of simple pop songs buried beneath layers of fuzz and noise.

Raw Breed / Video Prick split EP

This six-song 7” showcases cuts from Seattle’s VIDEO PRICK and RAW BREED from Denver—an appropriate pairing. The A-side is filled with speedy D-beating, ripping chainsaw guitars, and spastic, venom-spewing vocals that conjure visions of a raw punk version of Doc Corbin Dart at times. On the flip, RAW BREED brings more of a tougher, crust-flavored clamor with stomping hardcore songs that, to me, have a kind of a NYHC-type of sensibility to them. A decent racket here.

Rejoice Promo 2022 cassette

It’s always amazing when a band can play so unhinged, you think there is no way they can hold it together. Surely, the guitars, drums, bass, and vocals are going to fly off in different directions like shrapnel from a grenade. They produce a tension in your head like you are about to watch a horrible disaster, yet by some sorcery, great bands hold it together, leaving you a sticky mess at the end. REJOICE’s three-track demo of melodic hardcore does all that and more. It’s wild stuff out of Columbus, OH, with vocals screamed through an echoey effects box and a wall of distorted guitars. The opener, “Empty Hands,” starts with the crazy, reverb-y drum track, and then all hell breaks loose.

Sad Eyed Beatniks Claudia’s Ethereal Weaver LP

Dreamy, soft focus guitar strum from multi-instrumentalist Kevin Linn, also known as the label head at Paisley Shirt Records. Paisley Shirt has been a major player in the emergent San Francisco “fog pop” scene, and SAD EYED BEATNIKS fits perfectly alongside other lo-fi bedroom acts like FLOWERTOWN and APRIL MAGAZINE (members of both bands play in the live incarnation of SAD EYED BEATNIKS). Claudia’s Ethereal Weaver feels looser, more experimental than its predecessor, 2020’s Places of Interest. There’s some interesting, knowingly unpolished guitar work here that occasionally approaches noise (“Aristoteles Crater,” “Hysterical Rooters”), and many of the tracks meander with no particular purpose (“Free Composition Number 6,” “Oh Hallo”). I wouldn’t call this a downer record but it certainly inspires the kind of wistful melancholy I enjoy indulging in from time to time (read: nearly all of the time). While I’m reminded of GALAXIE 500 or such classic idiosyncratic DIY acts as the TELEVISION PERSONALITIES or CLEANERS FROM VENUS, Claudia’s Ethereal Weaver stands on its own as a representation of a unique and compelling modern scene.

Scowl How Flowers Grow LP

Southern California’s SCOWL is probably the hardcore hype band of 2022, receiving a lot of attention in the underground—they also quite bizarrely opened for LIMP BIZKIT at Madison Square Garden recently—but I’m happy to say that, every once in a while, you can indeed believe the hype. How Flowers Grow is a total fist-pumping affair, dripping with passionate anger and righteous fury. Fast hardcore with plenty of mosh appeal, the band is driven by the appropriately scowling vocal stylings of Kat Moss, who delivers a hell of a performance on this record. In the midst of the chaos, “Seeds to Sow” appears basically out of nowhere with a more alt-rock style to it, but it also doesn’t feel out of place, either. And right after, it roars back into the insanity! You’ve been hearing lots of good things about SCOWL for a reason—they’re great! Highly recommended.

Si Dios Quiere Sol y Guerra cassette

SI DIOS QUIERE is a punk band from Chicago. They make metal-inflicted hardcore: heavy, with intrincate and brilliant riffing and a particular knack for mosh-inducing moments. This EP, Sol y Guerra (“Sun and War”) is full of amazing breakdowns. The band has been incorporating thrash and even death metal influences, and it pays off. The songwriting is tight, the lyrics reflect the issues concerning their Mexican-American community, and the musicianship is off the hook. I truly believe you should see this band live. And, of course, get these songs, like, right now, as the tape is already sold out.

The Things Live at Temple Bar Music Centre cassette

I don’t know much about the THINGS, other than the fact that they are a garage rock band from Dublin, and that the bassist went on to form long-time garage-psych powerhouse CHEAP FREAKS, who also have a new live cassette out on the same label (Primitive Screwhead) as this one. Jump back in time and across the pond with me, won’t you? Here we are in Dublin on May 27th, 2004 at the Temple Bar Music Centre, with the THINGS taking the stage. From the first note played on this lo-fi, live-recorded cassette, I am instantly a fan. Driving, nasty, synth-heavy, dingy garage punk which somehow dips its toes into the rockabilly world without being off-putting in the slightest. There are a few songs on here that I would swear I’ve known all my life, they’re that catchy. I love what Primitive Screwhead has been doing as a label, cranking out cassettes of live material of varying sound quality. Keep up the good work.  Despite the tape being shrink-wrapped, mine came complete with a long pubic hair sealed inside. Is that standard with this release or am I a special case? Thank you?

Арлекин Извор На Главоболките LP

From Macedonia comes Арлекин with this dirty, scummy slab of wax. Their debut album Извор На Главоболките delivers some inspired noise rock jams, packed with plenty of punch and even more riffs. There are a bunch of interesting ideas on this album, especially on the nine-minute descent into madness “Извор на главоболките,” which in my opinion is the album’s highlight. I do feel the album does slightly drag on a bit in spots, but when they get it right, it hits hard. Not necessarily an essential listen, but recommended for fans of noise rock.

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.