For review and radio play consideration:

Please send vinyl (preferred), CD, or cassette 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 reviews of test pressings or promo CDs without final artwork. Please include contact information and let us know where your band is from!

The Covids Bust to Bits LP

Debut record from the Amsterdam four-piece the COVIDS.  From end to end, this record delivers straight-ahead poppy punk rock harmonies and power chords. Topics cover the typical: not wanting to work in a factory, forced authority, socioeconomic clash, etc. It’s standard fare with a touch of TEENAGE HEAD and some rather annoying vocals. What gleams from this quite ordinary listening experience is the production, the drumming and crunchy guitar tones in “Get Up” and “Night Tight” in particular. Sound quality becomes a slight inducement, a rarity…

Divine Sentence Demo ’22 EP

Absolute perfect execution. Absolute visceral destruction. Swiss vegan metalcore has never sounded…well, maybe it’s never sounded like anything before this demo leveled its corner of the internet back in 2022, but now it sounds like fucking DIVINE SENTENCE. All of the metalcore tropes are here, but this shit is so unbelievably fierce, and everything that you expect to happen? It happens, but more. The chugs, the moshes, the vocals, the guitar squeals…I didn’t know I needed this, and now I don’t know that I can go on without it.

Drunk Meat Diagonale Du Vide LP

With a name like DRUNK MEAT and a location like Bordeaux, France, I was certain this was going to be some sub-Slovenly Euro garage. Au contraire! This is way more interesting. What we have here is some po-faced post-punk, somewhat in the vein of TOTAL CONTROL. DRUNK MEAT is actually just a duo, and nearly all of the ten tracks on this release are built around a synth and drum machine backbone. However, it doesn’t really sound inorganic—it’s more of a swampy groove that’s halfway between the SCIENTISTS’ “We Had Love” and JOY DIVISION’s “Heart and Soul.” But guitars are the stars of the show here. They break through the muck in shimmery walls of sound or glide on top as echoey surf licks. In that regard, it really reminds me a lot of late-period TV GHOST. I don’t know that anything on this record is as memorable as that band’s “Veils,” but it’s a pretty decent substitute if that’s something you’re pining for. Definitely worth a listen.

Grumble Demo Spring 2023 cassette

Talk about a funk time warp—Philadelphia’s GRUMBLE will drag you into another dimension. Thought stinky region rock was a thing of the ’90s? Welcome to 2023, my friends. Gruff, catchy, urgent…reared on a diet of SHOTWELL ’80s punk, and ready to lend you a helping hand when you need it. “I’d be a virgin if I only had the time” might be the best lyric of the month…or my life.

Haavat Myrsky Nousee CD

This is one band I somehow totally missed until recently, although they have been going since 2019. I should have my punk radar looked at by a specialist; too much Japanese distortion might have damaged it, or there are just so many new bands to check that it has become humanly impossible to know them all, even with a radar as sensitive as mine. So I keep it simple and just pretend to know all the bands and nod confidently whenever an unknown band is mentioned in public, like everyone else. I don’t want to lose punk points. I was curious about this band since Mid from DEVIATED INSTINCT drew the cover (his style is very distinctive) and I was expecting some heavy metallic sludgy crust, but wrong I was. Mid also plays the guitar in the band, but HAVAAT plays heavy hardcore punk with brilliant energetic female vocals in Finnish (she used to sing in RAKKAUS) and a dash of crust. It is a rather straightforward affair, which is the whole point I assume, and I am reminded of ’90s and ’00s anarcho hardcore bands like OPERATION, PARAGRAF 119, or DETESTATION, and crustier British bands such as EXCREMENT OF WAR or RUIN also come to mind. There are a couple of mid-paced numbers reminiscent of old school Finnish hardcore, and even some slower dirty metal punk ones to bring some diversity, but overall the songs are beefy and fast-paced. There are seventeen tracks on the CD, and to be honest, it does feel a little long at times, because this kind of direct hardcore punk works better on a shorter format. HAAVAT could have easily gone for an album with the ten songs highlighting best of the several tricks the band has up their sleeves and it would have made for a more solid record. Less would have been more here. Not a bad album, the vocalist is an amazing singer, but a little long.

IV Reich Discografía LP+DVD

IV REICH is one of the most underrated Spanish bands. Formed in 1981 in Zaragoza, they were one of the bands that pushed hardcore to its more abrasive side. Their music took cues from DISCHARGE and GBH and was built on viciously raw guitars, fast gritty drums, and an intense anger that persists throughout the lyrics against the powers that be. This LP contains all of the band’s discography, including their two demo recordings, which were self-released in 1984 and 1985 (both on cassette), as well as unreleased songs that were never recorded but saved from wild live performances from 1986 and 1987, before the band split up in 1988. The album comes with an accompanying fanzine, which includes photos, posters, and press clippings. The fanzine also includes the band’s biography and all the band’s lyrics, all of which are translated into English as well. Also comes with a DVD, which contains three live videos from the band, which were released in 1985, 1987, and 1988 (“Cine Venecia,” “Vera de Moncayo,” and “Soraluze”). The DVD also includes an unreleased clip of the group (1985), a photo gallery, posters, and audio discography, plus a full live show from the band (Sala Enbruto, 1987). An important piece of Spanish hardcore!

Judy and the Jerks Total Jerks LP

JUDY AND THE JERKS haven’t reinvented the wheel, and truth be told, they may have even dinged it up a bit while taking it out for a spin. But they’ve done so in an undeniably  infectiously fun fashion. Assembling tunes from a handful of previously released tapes into one giant long-player party, this LP provides a comprehensive taste of JUDY & co.’s unique brand of rag-tag punk ruckus. Sometimes agitated and pointed, and often playfully warped, the group’s lo-fi approach and weirdo song subjects ring true as the sound of these guys having a great time. Also, I can’t help but feel a kinship with a band that opts to cover BUZZCOCKS, AGENT ORANGE, GORILLA BISCUITS, and the GO-GO’S (among others)— clearly they have a wide and well-studied spectrum of appreciation. It’s a joyful celebration of all things punk, complete with an MRR reference on “California.”

Leatherman Telephone / Tryin’ 2 4get 7″

Female-fronted power pop from Australia. I’m digging this right off the bat. The riffs are super catchy. It’s got guitar, it’s got bass, it’s got drums, but none of it in excess. It’s got balance. Hell, it’s even got handclaps! Two cuts and both are really working. This one is worth looking for.

Modern Man Modern Man cassette

Mysterious guy hardcore is back with an absolute vengeance. Five songs of pummeling hardcore punk with a vocalist who seems to have taken a page out of Max Ward’s SCHOLASTIC DETH book. Sounds just like him at times. The similarity pretty much ends with vocal stylings and amount of feedback, though. MODERN MAN isn’t blistering fast, but instead ranges from mid-tempo down to plodding breakdowns. There’s no lyric sheet included, but judging from the band’s internet presence, they have no shortage of things to be pissed about. Not gonna find this on any streaming services other than the Bandcamp site—hard stance against Spotify and pro-Soulseek. Respect.

Negative Impact P.L.H.C. LP

Polish East Coast-style hardcore sung in English—reminds me of WILDSIDE with some occasional powerviolence here and there. Vocally, they cover nearly every style possible with five(!) vocalists. Mileage may vary here, as each track is pretty much dictated by who is singing. Opener “PLHC” and “Girl’s Not Grey” definitely hit. “Rich Boys Toys Purge” and “Whore in Uniform” definitely do not. It seems a little silly to me to have this many vocalists shifting the style so frequently, but hey, they’re doing their thing. Overall not bad, but if you want my honest opinion, losing a couple vocalists and focusing on one style would go a long way for NEGATIVE IMPACT.

Paint It Black Famine LP

PAINT IT BLACK returns with their first record in ten years. I’m not 100% familiar with their two-decade old discography but if memory serves, this record sounds pretty much the same as they did when they began: fast, breakneck East Coast (pre-YOUTH OF TODAY) HC with a little (just a little) posi vibe. The sound quality is crisp and clear, which typically I dislike, but here it gives them an unsparing, unfussy sound. As an added bonus, “Safe” features a little floor tom/floor tom/snare/floor tom beat, maybe my favorite in all of hardcore. The lyrics are audible, which is not actually a problem for this band.

Parasit / Svaveldioxid split EP

Powerhouse Swede D-beat split. SVAVELDIOXID and PARASIT both bring two insanely blistering tracks. PARASIT has a metal diet…if you need to know what XASTHUR on vocals fronting SKITSYSTEM is, this is a starting point. I will not bore you with any more inside analogies for SVAVELDIOXID, let’s say there is a lot to love. I think this is around the twelfth release that the band has produced, and each one is consistently solid in its ferocity.  Someone please buy the drummer a beer for me. 

Repression War Comes Home EP

Complete noise mayhem with sickening, growling vocals and an in-your-face, blown-out recording. Plenty of dirt in the mix, yet still audible without losing any punch of power. An output of pure aggression, without having to resort to the stylistic replication of already validated styles, War Comes Home is hard to compare to anything. Vocal style is reminiscent of Amy from NAUSEA, while the instrumentation is a product of the modern breed of Boston/NYC punks.

Small Steps Breakthroughs/Breakdowns LP

Cookie-cutter pop punk out of Kentucky. Reminiscent of DIGGER, GAMEFACE, and early ATARIS, but lacking a lot of the charm those bands had. Very lukewarm lyrics that range from the utmost corny (“I’ll learn to take long walks with you / As I forever stand beside you,” as heard in “Rome is Where the Heart Is”), to straight-up tired cliches (“I was born at night / But not born last night” from the track “Three Button Sweater”). The lyrics are probably what kills the band the most for me. The music is actually pretty decent. Catchy at points, sentimental at others. Production is great and everything is very clean and mixed well. But with songs like the ironically titled “Skip This Song,” in which the singer laments about playing a poorly attended show in a wishy-washy scene, these guys make it hard to like them. We’ve all played bad shows, man. It happens. This just comes off sounding more entitled than anything. SMALL STEPS could be a great band if they took a little more time on the writing process. I look forward to seeing what they come up with down the road.

Stüds Ice Pipe EP

STÜDS is a project run by Conner from SNOOPER and a member of Australia’s RESEARCH REACTOR GROUP during the pandemic. Style changes from track to track: ’80s Japanese-style noisecore to something in the Lumpy Records catalog to a bedroom post-punk project…it almost sounds more like a compilation release than one single project yet still feels like it’s one thing, especially the feeling of confusion and being on the very edge of sanity. Contains a recording of a death threat towards the band by someone with an Australian accent.

Subvert A Simple Solution to a Complex Problem EP

Originally released on cassette in 1987. Washington State’s SUBVERT came to be in the period after the initial American hardcore golden age, when bands started injecting metallic influences in their fast speed assault. Recorded by future grunge kingpin Jack Endino, this demo perfectly exemplifies the hardcore/metal crossover period and also its proto-crust tendencies, not unlike fellow Washingtonians the ACCÜSED. In 2022, 35 years after it was recorded, this demo cassette finally received the 7” vinyl treatment, and it’s well-deserved in my opinion. Fans of bands like CHRIST ON PARADE, ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT, and the aforementioned the ACCÜSED will likely dig this one a lot, as well as fans of UK crust bands making noise around this time like CONCRETE SOX and ELECTRO HIPPIES.

Toasty! MK PV Demo 2023 cassette

Hmmmm…anyone in the mood for a Mortal Kombat-themed powerviolence band? I’d love to say that this was surprisingly good, but sadly TOASTY! is uninspiring and altogether mediocre. Yes, the songs are very short, and yes, tempo changes and blastbeats abound. Heck, there are even the requisite Mortal Kombat sound clips (“Fatality!”). The problem is, they don’t sound enough like SPAZZ to pull off the novelty—unless the band members are literal children. There is no indication that this band is comprised exclusively of pre-teens, but if by some chance that happens to be the case, then this is actually quite ripping and awesome and I take back all the bullshit I said about this demo being mediocre. Otherwise, I’d say listen to more LACK OF INTEREST, CROSSED OUT, INFEST, MITB…and give it another go.

Trash Knife Weird Daze LP

With their first release (the Trash Life EP) having come out in 2016, and a slew of other EPs and singles along the way, this marks the first LP for Philadelphia’s undeniably crusty TRASH KNIFE. Only a few tracks wander over the two-minute mark, so it’s over with while you’re still reeling from the fury-meets-fun, stomp-and-crash garage soundscape. Lauren’s vocals often harmonize with guitar leads, kind of a thread throughout, only to surprise you by breaking off into snotty diatribes, spat and shouted. They kind of have a FDR skatepark aesthetic, and I’m all about it. This recording was done live in their practice space, which speaks to the tightness of the band, and works perfectly to give the production that rough edge this music deserves. Do enjoy these Weird Daze.

Utopian Homicide Detective Utopian Homicide Detective demo cassette

This demo cassette from San Fran punks UTOPIAN HOMICIDE DETECTIVE is fucking great! Instrumentally, it has a lot of proto-punk sounds that rock like MC5 or early STOOGES material, but the unhinged vocals are more like GOVERNMENT ISSUE or FLIPPER, and it all comes together in a perfectly noisy way. It’s a kind of arty noise that isn’t trying to be. The five songs on this cassette each have quick moments that are absolutely rocking, and even quicker moments that are psychedelic blasts of distortion that are otherworldly. In all, Croat, Guam, Kiko, and Mutt come together to make some of the best punk that you’ve probably never heard.

World I Hate Years of Lead LP

This is raw, unapologetic hardcore music that pushes boundaries and challenges the status quo! Look no further than Milwaukee-based band WORLD I HATE. Their sound is a violent concoction of no-bullshit hardcore and powerviolence that will leave you exhilarated and energized. Drawing inspiration from groups like THINK I CARE, the ENDLESS BLOCKADE, and HATRED SURGE, WORLD I HATE has carved out a unique sonic identity that sets them apart from the crowd. Their music is intense, aggressive, and unrelenting, with lyrics that tackle issues of anger, frustration, and disillusionment with society. From the moment you press play, you’ll be hit with a wall of sound. But it’s not just the sheer intensity of their music that sets WORLD I HATE apart—it’s the passion and authenticity that shines through in every note. Whether you’re a hardcore purist or a casual listener looking to expand your musical horizons, this is a band that deserves your attention.

The Zeros They Say That (Everything’s Alright) / Getting Nowhere Fast 7″ reissue

Munster brings us the first reissue of the ZEROS’ third (and final) 7”, which initially came out on Test Tube Records back in 1980, two years after the “Wild Weekend” / “Beat Your Heart” 7” and right as the band began imploding—Robert Lopez had left by this point, leaving the band a trio. It’s clearly the third best single these dudes released, but that’s not to say the tracks aren’t worth your time. “They Say That (Everything’s Alright)” is one of the few tracks both penned and sung by Hector Penalosa—it’s a cool little slice of CREATION-esque mod rock. And “Getting Nowhere” is a classic Javier Escovedo RAMONES-worship. I mean, it’s the ZEROS, y’all know who they are and that they’re great. Now, do you need to shell out the $20 this thing is going to run you when you can still find vinyl copies of that Bomp! comp floating around for just a few bucks more? You do not. But 7”s are cool, so I’d understand the urge to pick it up anyway.

Anima Negra La Sombra de Rengalil cassette

Cavernous, blackened hardcore punk from Temuco, with deeply reverbed vocals and D-beat cadences in a dungeon-like atmosphere. Filled with a vicious energy, their lyrics verse on existentialism, punitivism and the state, and networks of vigilance and shit systems, ranting against inequity. Interesting space-like sounds and a live vibe across this cassette, recorded in 2021 but released in 2023. Junko, if not the most solid, is one of the finest exponents of DIY hardcore punk labels all over Chile, always magically releasing something new and exciting. Their whole catalogue is recommended; it’s filled with the essence of Chile and Temuco—hopefully sometime soon I’ll visit your realms to see your ever-thriving scene.

Appaloosa Lonely Stone postcard flexi

“Lonely Stone” is a short and sweet track of garage rock, heavily tilting towards the pop end. The barely distorted guitars and vocal harmonies give the song a glam feel. The novel format and the band’s curated image make this a fun work of living nostalgia.

Billy Batts & the Made Men My Empire is Crumbling LP

Sixteen shamelessly catchy and pleasantly aggressive pop punk numbers from this Atlanta outfit. I would file this under the dreaded “if you’re into this kind of thing…” heading, but instead I’ll place it in the “I’m not normally into this sort of thing, but…” category. The songs are short, rarely kissing the two-minute mark, and are consistently interesting enough (think PUSRAD erratic mania, just not as fast) that you kinda forget the rote pop punk parts. Joe Queer produced the thing (and that tracks favorably here), and the result hits QUEERS and early Bay Area pop punk buttons nicely while never falling into a rut. A pleasant surprise from Mr. BATTS and his (made) men.

Bent Blue / Sunstroke split EP

Two songs from each band, one original and one cover. BENT BLUE offers up some melodic hardcore with vocals that are reminiscent of Ari from LIFETIME a bit. They cover a ONE LAST WISH tune. SUNSTROKE is in a similar vein, although here, I enjoy their side a bit more, or at least their original tune. It’s a bit more energetic than the offering of their counterpart. They cover the CRANBERRIES, which is…OK. The vocals are a bit more gnarly. Almost, but not quite, full-on hardcore vocals. They are very reminiscent of something but I just can’t put my finger on it. Overall, a solid split. My only complaint would be that I would have liked one more song from each band.

Blue Elephant and the Seven Snakes Still Waiting for Flying Cars EP

While the band name and artwork deceivingly give off a vibe of silliness, this EP actually has a pretty straightforward ’90s California skate punk sound. It’s fast, tight, and driving punk rock in the wheelhouse of early the OFFSPRING or bands like JUGHEAD’S REVENGE, spiked with some extra heaviness and breakdowns and with humorous themes and lyrics mixed in generously throughout these fourteen tracks.

Chueko Tools of Oppression EP

Portland’s CHUEKO’s new EP Tools of Oppression offers a compelling blend of American hardcore and UK82 influences reminiscent of bands like GBH. The fusion of these two styles creates a raw and energetic sound that captures the essence of hardcore punk. Nothing new, but sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The EP’s aggressive and powerful music is sure to resonate with fans of both classic and modern hardcore music scenes. Unpretentious and raw!

Country Jeans Put Your J. On cassette

Some bluesy, scratchy songs taped on a four-track. I believe COUNTRY JEANS is at the moment a solo project. This has some moments that are a good listen and remind me a little bit of the COUNTRY TEASERS (“Put My Jeans On”), however the body of work as a whole is lackluster. It comes off unfinished for all the wrong reasons. 

Döraid The Savage Years 2011–2012 CD

This one’s interesting and filled with raw energy. Obscure and grindy Tokyo metalpunk that flirts with thrash stances, and with some surprisingly powerful vocal work. Crunchy mayhem that sometimes ends in a strident guitar solo from another era that seems to be willing to rip you apart; the riffage here is on-point. This CD summarizes some of their previous releases from 2011–2012. Recommended for obscure Japanese metalpunk addicts and idolizers, get ready to have your ears buzzing after this one.

Dry Socket Sorry for Your Loss LP

Powerhouse hardcore from Portland—DRY SOCKET sounds confident and aggro on their first LP Sorry for Your Loss. An album focusing on grief, internal struggle, and finding your place in the world; you can hear the frustration in vocalist Dani Allen’s voice, which really tends to be the focal point on the album. The delivery is fantastic, sounding feral and desperate in equal measure, my favorite example being “Cultivated Fore.” Sonically, DRY SOCKET opts for a more angular guitar sound rather than the blunt force usually heard in this style. It’s cool and refreshing, making for a very engaging listen. Check out “Equinox” and “Born Again.”

Fear the Spider Hear Us Now CD

There’s something I just don’t like about this one. I feel kind of terrible saying that, but that’s where I’m at. It’s catchy and melodic and all that, but there are just too many red flags that point to the band taking themselves too seriously, starting with the name of the record. Sometimes traditional punk, sometimes almost hair metal (“It’s Time to Rock”), it just leaves me cold. And if you’re going to be bold enough to cover a band like the STOOGES, you really need to make it yours. Don’t do it like you’re a cover band.

Grey C.E.L.L. Cursing Every Lesson LP

Driving hardcore punk that eschews convention by injecting unexpected elements of metal and post-hardcore. The vocals are severe, brutal, and out front in the mix. There’s a complexity to the songwriting that makes me think of something that Ebullition Records would’ve released in the late ’90s, but a bit more straightforward and modern. The drum work on this album is stellar, complimenting the discordant guitars. Overall, a great fit for the revamped Council Records, as they revitalize an amalgam of genres that had grown quite stale.

Hell is Here Hell is Here cassette

Bringing gruff punk stylings out of Columbus, HELL IS HERE shifts between metallic D-beats and traditional USHC energy on this seven-song tape. They have a penchant for brevity, with songs clocking in at run times of twenty-six and even eleven seconds. They paint bleak pictures in their brief lyrics, and the music is hard but basic. It feels like an embryo that has potential to grow into a monster like Portland crushers NEGATIVE PRAYER or something like that.

I.L.L.O. 10 Ill Songs cassette

A member of Leipzig’s ONYON goes solo, and while my patience for home recording projects of this ilk (loopy, lo-fi punk replete with drum machine) has worn extremely thin over the last several years, I.L.L.O.’s take on the form actually offers a focused and tightened-up counterpoint to ONYON’s neo-new wave garage warblings, which I’ve often found to be frustratingly flat. Threadbare, wiry guitar hits the target a few rings removed from a PETTICOATS bullseye—the intro to “Summoning” is an especially blatant “Normal” fake-out, although any further expectations of detuned DIY clang in that track are quickly dashed in favor of rumpled, lilting bedroom pop of the late ’80s/early ’90s K Records variety—whereas the gentle, falling-apart DIY stumble of “Way of the Shrimp” is more suggestive of a post-egg-punk MARINE GIRLS (is that a recorder solo?!), and “The End is Coming” and “The Unknown” have the sort of coolly minimal art-punk jitteriness I’ll always welcome, thankfully much more COME ON than CONEHEADS. Nothing on 10 Ill Songs is going to set the world on fire, but that hardly seems to be the point of it anyway.

Locura / Pesticide split LP

This record is a bit like a time machine to the mid-’00s for me, an epoch when neocrust was still hot and many patch-worshipping bands started to experiment with epic, dark, melodic tunes, but also screamo and black metal. A time when I listened to and enjoyed the genre, but one that did not last too long in my case, as the genre’s cheesiness quickly bored me (I don’t mind cheesy, just not this kind). Since I don’t follow new neocrust or blackened crust or screamo crust bands, I am absolutely clueless about what’s hot these days in this little niche that still has a lot of devoted fans (the genre appeals to the emo crowd, too). The young PESTICIDE and LOCURA are good at what they do. The former is from Belgium and reminds me of MADAME GERMEN or FALL OF EFRAFA, which I suppose is what they are going for. A lot of different moods and changes of pace with long, narrative numbers. The latter is from the Netherlands, and is more direct and less polished. LOCURA is more balanced between modern hardcore and ’00s crust; they have that generally fast, brooding, and dark hardcore sound with melodies, but also a ’00s crust vibe. Let’s say they would feel at home between Biel’s PACK and Poland’s ANTICHRIST. Both bands have a genuine DIY political punk feel and the job is done. But they are not my cuppa.

Mad Brother Ward & the Abrasives All Bad All the Time LP

If I were a crueller chap, I might have simply pointed out the nominative determinism in releasing an old man punk record with the title they’ve chosen, but it is a new year after all, and new leaves are to be turned over! It is bad though, that’s undeniable. I’m always wary of records that have the phrase “punk rock” liberally plastered all over their press release; almost exclusively used by shoe companies or people who used to own a skateboard when they are talking about how they are disrupting the cloud-based systems industry. It is, how the kids say, giving “calls themselves ‘procurement rockstar’ in LinkedIn bio.” Linguistics aside, this record basically sounds how it looks. Four old blokes making old bloke music, nothing earth-shattering or vital here by any stretch. Not worth your time.

Malcría Fantasías Histéricas LP

Recently, Iron lung Records released this album by MALCRÍA out of Mexico City, and it goes so hard! Raging but tidy-as-fuck hardcore that makes me throw hands and elbows in my living room. The vocals are so irate that one can’t help but feel the livid mentality and want catharsis in solidarity. Blindingly fast and grindingly distorted guitars tear through tracks in short order with an average song time of around two minutes. Shifting song structures further dissect these tracks with surgical accuracy to create an album that plays like blistering, OG grindcore similar to ELECTRO HIPPIES or early NAPALM DEATH. Lyrics sung in Spanish highlight weaknesses of the self, desperation, and all other classic hardcore themes without sounding completely derivative. I absolutely recommend this album to anyone that loves any permutation of hardcore.

Nervous Gender Music From Hell 2xLP

I didn’t realize this, but this 2xLP (an expanded version of their LP from 1981) is described as being legendary synth punk—in the end, this proves to be true. The band had a cast of characters that were members at one time or another, including PHRANC and Alice Bag. That’s pretty cool. I’m generally not a fan of the 2xLP format, but when you’re trying to really capture something this significant, it can make sense. Just the genre name of synth punk makes me anxious, and the record itself starts off reinforcing that. Particularly at the beginning, it’s got a frenetic feel to it, and I get the impression that wasn’t accidental. It’s also artsy, which can’t really surprise anyone. As you move into the 31 cuts, it does start to settle down some, becoming almost hypnotizing. As you might expect with 31 cuts, there are some hits and some misses, with far more hits than misses, including a completely unrecognizable cover of the SEX PISTOLS’ “Pretty Vacant.” In the end, imagine a soup that includes synth, punk, and art school, and then imagine an influence of Gregorian chants. Whether or not this is your cup of tea, it’s an important recording of an important movement within an important movement. That’s pretty cool.

Piss Test Don’t Care LP

The foursome PISS TEST takes shit from no one and deserves your attention. At first, I was put off by the “cartoon cop squinting at a urine sample” logo from their first EP 7 Songs 7 Inches, thinking they were some half-baked teen project, but then the opener here, “Don’t Care,” barged in with buzzsaw guitars, pummeling drums, and frontwoman Debra Fetzer’s throat-punching vocals syncopating “I don’t care what say about me / Honey, I don’t care what you think about me,” and I was left with a much, much different impression. Here lies a project steeped in Fetzer’s years in the industry, distilled to a biting yet warming liquor. She got her start in Gainesville in 1983 with the band MUTLEY CHIX, performed for seven years, fronted other bands through the ’90s, and worked on booking shows and promoting the music scene through the Hardback Café. It was at the Hardback during COVID lockdowns that PISS TEST formed and used the empty venue as a practice space. There’s a great write-up about Fetzer in The Independent Florida Alligator, if you’d like to learn more. It’s not often you see a band of this caliber fronted by a 60-year-old, but unfettered by an instrument, she throws high-kicks like she’s fighting for her life (and clearly winning), while telling it like it is with tongue-in-cheek: “I’m a she-devil / An old bag / In it all, I revel!” from “Battleaxe.” Don’t Care marks the second release from this Gainesville based-band.

Pushups Empty Faces / Global Corporation 7″ reissue

As the extraterrestrial glam rockers ZOLAR X began to implode in 1979, two of its members, Ed Dorn and Zory Zenith, split off to form the synthy power pop band AURORA PUSHUPS. After releasing just one 7”, Zory exited the band, and Ed carried on, rebranding as PUSHUPS. What we have here is a reissue of that iteration of the band’s sole release brought to us by the Italian budget label Breakout. It’s two tracks of glammy new wave pop—imagine a mix of GARY NUMAN, MILK ‘N’ COOKIES, and, well, ZOLAR X. It’s fun stuff, for sure, and it probably would have been an essential pick-up had HoZac not released a compilation of the band’s complete recordings just a year or so back. Still, you certainly could find worse ways to spend your money.

R.M.F.C. Club Hits LP

Yet another top-notch band out of Australia. I have said it over and over again at this point, but they really know how to rock in the Southern Hemisphere. Lovely dance punk that reminds me quite a bit of SHOPPING, CHERRY CHEEKS, and all things ADAM ANT. I am smitten with the guitar tones here. Very natural, but unique and ethereal. Lots of care and patience went into this recording and it really shows. Great work here, and well worth a spin!

Scraps Demo ’85 12″

Part of a series of reissues for this long-running hardcore punk powerhouse, Refuse Records has dug deep in the vault to bring these demo recordings into the light of day. Compiling songs from three iterations of demos, this is the most raw, chaotic version of French pioneers SCRAPS. Seven songs of sheer noise and aggression, delivered with total abandon. This early incarnation of the band bucks against any sense of melody and dispenses with worn out traditional notions of musicality or talent. What is left is pure rage and unbridled anger, channeled into political punk that sounds something like KAAOS showing up at Dial House on a rampage with CRASS. There are times when the drummer and bassist seem to be playing totally different songs from the rest of the band. Sloppy, frantic, and pissed-off. Killer cover art. This rules.

Sklitakling Sklitakling LP

This full-length by Norwegian punk band SKLITAKLING is really, really good. It blends riot grrrl influences with a sort of early hardcore punk delivery into a bopping sound that is tempered by the Nordic perspective—a raucous but refined approach that often calls to mind Swedish greats REGULATIONS, with that sort of toeing the line between really good hardcore and pop sensibilities. Catchy lyrics and furious riffs that fill your mind for the rest of the day are abundant, while the indignant mentality creates an emotional cloud of incensed focus. The predilection towards sonic experimentation leads songs to occasionally take on a post-hardcore bent with quick, over-and-done jam session moments sprinkled in. The instrumental track “Stonerboner” is a wicked slice of guitar-and-bass-driven exploration that captures the multitude of influences that gather to create SKLITAKLING. This single instrumental is enough to garner attention with its spontaneously evolving rhythm and minutia of rock inflections, but there is still a whole album worth of tracks to enjoy and obsess over. Taken as a whole, this album is well worth the trip!

Surplus 1980 Illusion of Consistency LP

Quarantine project led by Moe Staiano of SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM that uses an exquisite corpse technique to form a loose and expansive post-punk record with fun, low-stakes results. Ideas, no matter how initially goofy they may seem, are given space to breathe in proggy exercises that still adhere enough to post-punk’s angular rhythms and jerky vocals to maintain interest. For example, “Some Few Facts (And One False One) About Birds” has a lot of semi-interesting facts about birds and includes the lines “I like to look at the birds—tweet! / Humans are a bunch of turds—cheap!” It sounds completely dumb on paper, but it’s a rollicking good time with upbeat TALKING HEADS energy. More poignant is “Last,” which runs through the last instances of mundane events in life, like “This will be the last day to have regrets / No turning back now.” It’s a sobering reminder delivered over off-kilter syncopated drums (the drums are amazing on the whole album) and vocals reminiscent of URANIUM CLUB. If we have to walk towards the light, at least we can dance a little.

Two Words Rejoining the Forces LP

To say that Italian youth crew group TWO WORDS wears their influences on their sleeves would be quite an understatement—this album literally begins with a montage of snippets of songs by the likes of YOUTH OF TODAY, UNIFORM CHOICE, and JUDGE. The intended effect is probably to transport the listener back to the glory days of straightedge youth crew;  however, it basically just reminds me that maybe I should be listening to the bands TWO WORDS are influenced by instead of continuing on with their own LP. Taking cues from the masters of their craft, Rejoining the Forces is a competent stab at that sound, and big youth crew fans will probably get quite a bit out of it. It’s not bad, but it’s not something that stands out either—a common complaint I have for other bands that sound like this in the modern day. If you’re a huge fan of the aforementioned bands, you’ll probably enjoy this quite a bit; if you aren’t, stay very far away.

Wasted Denim Wasted Denim cassette

Power trio of some real RAMONES-heads from Leeds, UK. I’m not entirely sure what this band wants, but I have a damn good idea of what they don’t want, as, in true RAMONES fashion, three out of the four songs begin with the line “I don’t wanna be…” Four-song demo of self-proclaimed “chainsaw basement punk” in a mere seven minutes. I love everything about this. “I don’t wanna be a dickhead / I can’t help myself.” Truly my only gripe about this release is that the B-side of my tape was blank so I had to dub it myself off the band’s Bandcamp page, where the tracks were listed in a different order. It took me longer to figure out these issues than it did to listen to the demo a second time, which I was more than happy to sit through.

Zerodent Human Races LP

Third LP from these Perth rockers that mixes the scrappy guitars and melodic vocals of early punk like the SAINTS and the SCIENTISTS with the slippery post-punk bass lines and serpentine guitar of WIRE. “Better Believe Me” is a truly great song: it sounds classic but fresh, all bouncing bass line, catchy vocals, and dynamically played guitar. “Feeling Alright Again” ends the record with clean arpeggiated guitar that bleeds into jangly C86 pop without losing the urgency of the earlier tracks. No wheels are reinvented here, but it is all done very, very well. Highly enjoyable and recommended.

V/A Compulsive Agitation EP

While there are only six songs and five bands on this EP, there’s a lot to unpack here. All of the bands feature members with musical ties dating back to the ’80s, some of whom have taken substantial leave from playing; a renaissance at hand, if you will. KRUST WORTHY, from Basingstoke, UK, gets tracks A1 (“Protect & Serve”) and A4 (“Sab the Hunters”), and features the songwriting and guitar of Neil Duncan, chief editor of IssuePunkZine. Both songs have sort of a krautrock thing going on: syncopated, in-your-face, heavy, politically offended. RHI & THE RELICS get the closing track “Urban Disease”—I mention this one next because they are also from Basingstoke, and also have Neil Duncan behind the songwriting and guitar. This closer is definitely my favorite; Rhian Gove’s vocals are reminiscent of Steve Ignorant, and the song has that flavor of late ’70s UK punk in general. In the middle are some bands connected from the southern Netherlands, first up WASTE with their track “Everything is Grey”, which—maybe the titles are just similar—reminds me of the atmosphere of “Everything Turns Grey” by AGENT ORANGE (without the surf guitars), I don’t mean to say that as a slight, as it’s a great track. WASTE originally put out their first EP History Repeats in 1982, and came up touring with (next on the EP) the SCOUNDRELS, who formed in 1979. SCOUNDRELS contribute the track “Reptile Brain,” a fast and chaotic ’80s hardcore sound penned by guitarist Patrick Delabie, like early DAMNED mashed up with the mind of the CRAMPS. “A Messed Up Situation” is last to be mentioned here, played by FORD’S FUZZ INFERNO, featuring guitarist and songwriter Hans F. Ford, also amongst the founding members of aforementioned WASTE. “A Messed Up Situation” plays at the general milieu of the state of things here on Earth, which I’m sure they thought was dire in the 1980s, and what do they think now? Listen and find out. If all these musicians, who were at the bedrock of the movement in the late ’70s/early ’80s are still coming out with new music, and have reinvested their time and energy into it, then I’d take a look at the collection on offer here.

Apatia Odejdź Lub Zostań LP

With this record, Nikt Nic Nie Wie continues to re-release the work of distinguished Polish HC/punk band APATIA. On their second LP, they sound better defined than before. Of course, it’s short, fast and (mostly) loud, but the band has always enriched or stretched the genre just a bit. There’s more lead guitar than you’d expect for hardcore, and the charging 4/4 rhythm is often altered in small, effective ways. I’m always a little nervous when punk bands instrumentalize too much. Luckily, on this record it felt of a piece rather than overshooting the mark. APATIA’s ambition (and maybe some good editing?) gives their hardcore a depth that other bands might not have.

Asbestos Wishful Thinking EP

Some nasty and dark hardcore here from Denver’s ASBESTOS. This 7” delivers a speedy, pummeling, and unforgiving punk assault with chunky bass lines and exasperated, raw-throated vocals along the lines of TOTALITÄR. They were considerate enough to separate the six songs with an interlude in the middle that allows you to regain composure from their blunt force pounding.