Jersey Beat Music Fanzine
 

Longtime NJ scene photographer and music blogger James Damion may have relocated to Seattle, but he still keeps a keen eye on indie, punk, and whatever else comes his way in this column.


The Elevator Operators – S/T (13 O’Clock Records)

On their four-song debut for 13 O’Clock Records, Brooklyn’s The Elevator Operators serve up some tasty 60’s era jangle-pop, songs that perfectly encapsulate an era and sound that - I hope, hope - seems to be slowly but surely resurfacing. The EP quickly endears the listener with the laid back, yet uplifting “On the Ground." “Freudian Knowledge” follows with its old-school Country Music leanings. “It Could do me Better”, arguably my favorite of the four entries, sounds eerily familiar, as if it could have shown up as a B side to The Monkees “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”
As I’ve found myself listening to a lot of the Anderson Council’s “Worlds Collide” and The Gold Needles “Through a Window” lately, I can’t help but make comparisons as well as find common ground with both bands.

The Elevator Operators

D.O.A. – 1978 (Sudden Death Records)

Exploring one’s earliest work and material can be chancy, with both risks and rewards. If you’re used to listening to the band’s best material, you might feel let down by earlier versions of the songs you’ve come to love as possibly better produced works. Often credited along with Black Flag, the Bad Brains and Middle Class as the founders of hardcore, a sub-genre of punk known for its faster, harder, more aggressive approach
than the first wave it proceeded, Vancouver, B.C.’s D.O.A. were one of my earliest springboards to American (or in their case, North American) hardcore. To be honest, though, I really didn’t expect to come away with much here. Considering my history with lackluster Record Store Day releases and a recent experience with the dreadful early Discharge recordings. D.O.A.’s “1978” was a well calculated risk that featured more than its share of rewards. A risk, considering it wasn’t a record on my list when I visited my favorite Tacoma, Washington record store. Rewarding in that many of the titles such as “World War 3”, “Disco Sucks’, “Fucked Up Ronnie” and “Smash the State” were still familiar to me. The sound and overall production helped in making a trip back to humble punk rock beginnings so worthwhile. “1978” comes on two LP’s and features twenty-one unreleased early demos and singles recorded from 1978 – 1982. If there’s any downside, whatsoever, it’s the lack of any liner notes. I really feel the packaging would benefit from early photos, anecdotes and lyrics thata I’m sure fans would enjoy.

Sudden Death Records

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Adrenalin O.D. – The Wacky Hi-Jinks of Adrenalin O.D.

The 35-year anniversary reissue of New Jersey jokers A.O.D.’s “Wacky Hi-Jinks” not only serves as a reminder to those who were around at the time that we're pretty old, but celebrates the fact that we were once young punks who can now look back as the semi-cool kids who journeyed outside of the realms of forcefed FM radio programming and MTV schlock, those of us who wandered to explore and dig to find amazing music that the majority of the music listening planet was unaware of.

Wacky Hi-Jinks was originally released on the band's label Buy Our Records in 1984. It should be noted that the label would release like-minded classics from Bodies in Panic, Bedlam, Social Decay and many more. The reissue features all of the restored and remastered fifteen songs that appeared on the original 1984 release, original album image and artwork. The reissue also includes the original inlet and art, which for old folks like myself, is just icing on the cake.

Though comparable to Los Angeles, California’s The Dickies, New Jersey’s A.O.D.
(Adrenalin Overdose) always sounded like the champions of satire, wit and all out silly hardcore punk. With elements of punk, hardcore and thrash, Adrenalin O.D. took on Godzilla with an Uncle Floyd sense of humor and saved the east coast, if not the world, from any entities looking to suck the humor and fun out of life.

“Wacky Hi-Jinks” was and still is a fun record, one deserving being reissued, revisited and enjoyed. It’s good to hear that some of the things I enjoyed as a young teenager still hold up. An absolute must for old timers, newcomers and everyone in between.

Beer City Records

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Longward – S/T

Formed in Seattle’s rainy season of 2017, but not released until more than two years later, tLongward's first release has surfaced. From the opening note of “A Visceral Assembly” to the pounding drums and kliier riffs of “Spotting Owls “, there’s a core that is bothidentifiable and inspired. The mix of positive energy, hooks and melody combine to form something emotive and gratifying. “A Visceral Assembly”, “Lung Division”, “Parallels”, “Same Page” and “Spotting Owls” all serve as great introductions to what, by all means, seems to be a special band. While closely comparable to such melodic-leaning punk acts as Rise Against, Strike Anywhere and H2O, Longward are definitely standing on their own legs. It doesn’t happen every day, but hearing Longward makes me wish I had a record label. In reaching out to the band, I learned that they are working on new material for an EP set to be released in the Spring of 2020. I for one can’t wait.

Longward

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We The Heathens – Approach Thunder

Hmm, the slow and ominous instrumental opening to “33 Shots” had me thinking I might be into something interesting. However, when the vocals broke in and the tempo quickened, I felt as if I had been lured into a turn of the decade Nu Metal arrival. As one song led to another, I quickly lost the will to go on. If there is a positive in all this, there are actually some interesting chord changes sprinkled throughout, not to mention some notable drum rolls. Overall, I felt as if I was trapped in an awful script about Wizards attempting to rescue a group of tweens from a dragon’s lair. Not my thing.

We the Heathens

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School Drugs – Modern Medicine (Indecision Records)

If you’ve been reading my column you might recall my review of the Jersey shore’s School Drugs' previous EP “Relative Suffering” and how I began it by describing School Drugs' sound as “pure mania at its Apex.” Well, I just thought I’d drop in to report that, though things haven’t changed a whole lot, “Modern Medicine” might eclipse what was dealt on the aforementioned EP. Flame- thrower riffs meet aggressive growls and pounding rhythms to create an atmosphere of authentic urgency. Modern Medicine feature ten songs of punk rock bombast that brings to mind bands such as early Black Flag, Drive Like Jehu, Rocket from the Crypt, The Dwarves and anything that just tests the limits of testosterone-filled bombast. School Drugs burn bright while flying the flag of the “Loud, Fast, Rules!” ethos. Sure, the Twilight Zone-inspired album cover creeps me out and the music frightens my wiener, but fuck, great music is supposed to elicit a response.

Indecision Records

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Having Issues – Always Having Issues

Drawn in by the cool, yet primitive Raymond Pettibon (Black Flag artist/brother of Black Flag founder Greg Ginn) inspired cover art, I was eager to hear Seattle’s Having Issues. I might have been expecting to hear some Rollins-era Black Flag or early California Punk-leaning influences; instead, I got what seems to be six or so live recordings whose sound is so awful, it makes me think a cassette recorder was smuggled into a show and left crammed up some bootlegger's ass during the recording. There’s a healthy mix of 80’s post punk, goth and industrial strung throughout these five songs, but the recording itself is so especially bad that listening to it in its entirety is painful at best. While I’m sure Having Issues possess something worthwhile, it certainly can’t be heard anywhere on this recording. How posting it on social media is supposed to advance the band in any way is beyond me.

Having Issues on Spotify


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Risk – Demo ’19 (Slam Records)

Los Angeles, CA’s Risk step into the ring with a five-song demo that might inspire some kick spins and blood on the dancefloor, but lacks the elements that might inspire one to get to the show in time to catch their set. The five-song demo opens with “New Breed”, which begins with a sort of skit that pretty much lets you know what you’re going to get, 90’s influenced tough guy hardcore leanings with a heavy Madball/Crown of Thorns influence. There are some good solos and breakdowns throughout, but there’s no avoiding the rather meathead approach throughout. With song titles like “Moby’s Dick” and “Talk shit. Get shit”, Risk won’t be winning any awards for originality or intellect. Neither the band's nor Slam Records' Bandcamp pages fail to provide even the most basic background information regarding the band or release. Which lead the listener to wonder, why even bother?

Risk - Demo '19

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The Anderson Council – Worlds Collide (Jem Records)

When it comes to tones of home (I called New Jersey my home for more than fifteen years,)
The Anderson Council paint a picture that few come even close to crafting, with melodic textures, harmonious tones and an attention to songwriting that can easily be described as The Beatles and XTC. Like a trip to Princeton Records, Asbury Park or a show at New Brunswick’s Court Tavern, listening to the Anderson Council almost guarantees returns. Worlds Collide delivers on that guarantee with its warmth and somewhat psychedelic twists. From the launch of the opener "Collision" to the last breath of "Lads and Lasses," I’m taken back to the days when I was 9 or 10 and would slip into another time and place laying in front of couch with the headphones on and listening to The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Though The Anderson Council’s sound and approach seem steeped in Sixties Brit-pop brilliance, World’s Collide sounds uniquely fresh, avoiding any retrospective or revivalist trappings. Favorites include "Mrs. Kirby’s Refrigerator" (featuring Peter Noone, formerly of Herman’s Hermits.), "Amazing," "Grey Heavenly Way." and "How Much How Long. "

Read James Damion's interview with Peter Horvath of Anderson Council here...

 

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Comb the Desert – "Middle Middle Vocal Chord" EP

Following their 2016 debut EP "Hummannoyed," the New Jersey-based Hardcore band return with five new songs. The band mixes elements of metal and hardcore to come up with some rather impressive results. The four minute "Oh Brother " opens the EP and establishes itself like a tornado descending on a small town. "Progress," my personal favorite, follows with similar bombast and power. Although the riffs, chord changes, progression and devilish bass lines impress, there’s something especially wicked about how the vocals and percussion match up. The three tracks that follow, "Mudfllood," "God is a Woman," and "Essential Spoils" each produce worthy results, making "Middle Middle Vocal Chord" an overwhelmingly positive introduction to the band me, personally.

Overall, I found this to be quite impressive and musically diverse, one of the best I’ve heard from the hardcore in quite a while. Only time will tell if Comb the Desert’s influences become comparisons. However, at least for now, the band should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished here. If I could give any advice to a young band, it would be to credit bigger and in most cases, better bands as influences before comparing yourself to them. It might be well intended, but it doesn’t often come off sounding or reading well.

Comb the Desert

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Buffet – All American

I have to admit to having hope for All American as I marveled in the hand screened album cover and handwritten lyric sheet that lied within. However, all hope quickly fade the moment the needle hit the record,. marking the full-length debut by the Spokane Washington quartet. While Buffet’s sound is notably diverse and doesn’t pander to any gender pacific classifications, as a listener I found making my way through the entire album’s 14 songs to be tedious and unrewarding. Overall, Buffet come off as a joke band with no punchline. Just one reviewer’s opinion but, All American is about as rudimentary as it gets.

Buffet

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Waste – Last One Standing

Beastly, burly, chest pounding straightedge metalcore from Sweden that in all honesty, doesn’t do a whole lot to stand out from the pack. "Last One Standing," the band's 2nd EP and fourth release overall, offers five songs that feature loud and shouted vocals met with titanic riffs to combine for an overall generic sound that I’ve gotten used to hearing for more than twenty-five years. Though these guys are definitely pissed off about something, what it might be is beyond me. I found this EP to be so unsatisfying that I found myself at a loss of words or need to describe it.

Refuse Records Bandcamp



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Defeater – S/T (Epitath Records)

Rightfully regarded as one of the best current acts dedicated to writing, producing and performing hardcore music, Defeater to the many are a band dedicated to maintaining and building on hardcore punk's 40-year legacy and need little to no introduction. Formed in Boston in the early to mid 2,000’s, the band set its course playing melodic, yet dark and ambitious hardcore that involved lyrical concepts that often displayed the bands gift for storytelling. On their fifth album to date, Boston’s Defeater break from their Bridge9 Records family to release a vinyl version with Epitaph Records.

Musically, the record sounds good as a whole. However, perhaps due to the band's history of basing their albums on an overall concept, song wise, there isn’t really an individual song that stands out amongst the others. It can also be noted that Defeater’s sound or approach hasn’t changed or evolved much from record to record. It should be noted that a lot of great, noteworthy bands begin to slip creatively after a few releases.
With Defeater now on their fifth album, it’s good to know that fire is still burning. And while this album didn’t exactly blow me away, only time will tell if that initial reaction changes to something more positive. The album feature eleven songs with the vinyl version appearing on color vinyl.

Defeater
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The Kreutzer Sonata – The Rosehill Gates (Don’t Panic Records & Distro)

Don’t feel bad if the name The Kreutzer Sonata doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue, being the Chicago band most likely took it from the 1889 novella by Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy or the Beethoven-penned sonata that came before it. How an American band picked up on and ultimately decided to use it as their band name is beyond me. So, let’s just get to the music featured on The Rosehill Gates.

Wow, just wow! Don’t you just love it when something completely and totally takes you out of your comfort zone and knocks you right on your ass? You know, the kind of stuff you listen to alone in the dark and keep stashed away like a sticky porn mag when the folks stop by. The tunes you only break out when certain deviants come over for a visit? Well, that’s the impression I got from listening to these hardcore delinquents. On their third album to date, Chicago based Kreutzer Sonata unleash twelve scorching hardcore, street punk anthems that mirror the authentic tough gritty nature of the city they were crafted in.

The songs on The Rosehall Gates often reflect on the past and the band's time together.
The music is loud and fast with screamed, over the top vocals - down, dirty and thoroughly authoritative. With only two songs making the four-minute mark, you get the feeling that the band closely adhere to punk's Loud, Fast, Rules ethos. Favorite songs include the fast and furious opening track "Degenerate Theory" and the equally devious "Feasts and Famines." Overall, The Kreutzer Sonata’s The Rosehall Gates demonstrates the band's ability to grab hold of and not let go of the listeners attention and focus.

The Kreutzer Sonata

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The Gold Needles – Through a Window (Jem Records)

I have to admit to being a bit taken aback by these Londoners. With the band's penchant for creating a sound that harkens back to the 60’s psych-pop era, who in their right mind would question my wanting to board a time machine to visit a golden age of rock and pop exploration and exploration? That said, it should be noted that Simon, Dave and Mark offer a lot more than incense and peppermints or nostalgia peppered retrospect. The trippy ten song Through a Window opens with "Do You Want What I Need," which almost immediately transports you to a different time, sound and approach to music. With each song that follows, the band stays true to its roots, coupling excellent songwriting with a strong sense song structure, even if the whole retro approach is a bit much at times. (The Gold Needlles and the entirety of Through a Window never step outside of their 60’s time machine.) I couldn’t help but feel the warmth and familiarity in these songs. Favorites include, but are not limited to "Here She Goes Again," "Sunset Girl," and the clap happy sing along, "Winning a Losing Game." Highest recommendations to fans of acts such as The Byrds, CSN & Young, The Zombies and The Box Tops.

Jem Recordings

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The Dickies – I Dig Go-Go Girls / The Dreaded Pigasaurus 7-inch (Slope Records)

Okay, so it’s been close to thirty years since I saw The Dickies perform at Trenton’s infamous City Garden’s and aside from that trip south of heaven, I really haven’t spent much of any time listening to the first wave Los Angeles joke punkers. In listening to their cover of Cheap Trick’s "I Dig Go-Go Girls" and their own "The Dreaded Pigasaurus," I really don’t feel any sense of loss in never giving their back catalog much attention. Nor do I feel anything was gained in hearing from them some thirty years later. Whereas, I fully understand and accept The Dickies legacy and influence on countless bands that followed, I’ll sum up my review and overall reaction with, “Not for me.”

Slope Records

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Alpha Hopper – Aloha Hopper

There are times when having no prior knowledge or awareness of a band or artist can be a positive in getting to know and form your own opinion about their music and its presentation. Such was the case with Buffalo, New York’s Alpha Hopper and their self-titled eleven song album. The four-piece band delivers fuzzed out, chaotic beauty that finds influences in psyche, garage, hard rock and experimental rock. Whether or not drugs or Satan were involved will be left to rumor and/or speculation. Most interesting is how the vocals take somewhat of a back seat to the heavy rhythms and fuzzed out riffs, making for an interesting aesthetic. I found many of the leads, changes and instrumentations presented here to be quite impressive. However, the usage of a vocalist or lack thereof made me wonder if their presence served any actual purpose. Overall, Aloha Hopper’s frenetic energy appealed to me in a Fu Manchu meets The White Stripes kind of way. Good stuff to take along on the manic ride.

Bandcamp

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TV Sound – Out of True (Killing Horse Records)

It’s been a while since we last heard from Kearny, New Jersey’s TV Sound. However, with memories of “Amber Glass High” and "Telecommando" still fresh on my ears, there was a certain amount of excitement and eagerness in hearing what Jim, Dave and Paul were up to. TV Sound plays melodic garage rock that carries warm tones and a jangly vibe that is simple, yet intimate, giving them a very band next store feeling. This EP features four songs that make you want to lean in and either clap or sing along. Though I felt drawn in within seconds of the opener "When You Get There (It’s Gone,)" I can’t help but feel that the fourth and final entry, "Well Bred Gentleman." really put the hooks in me. Overall, it’s just good to hear from a band that not only survived the 90’s, but lived on to strive in the Aughts (and whatever we're calling this decade.)

Killing Horse Records

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Perspective – Lousy

The first thing you’ll notice when visiting the Bandcamp page for Perspective’s Lousy is that the background they use is so dark that you might have to employ special ops gear to read any information about the band without risking losing your sight or permanently damaging your retinas. As far as the music goes, the band's spacey jam pop didn’t appeal to me in the least; so much so that curiosity was quickly turned to annoyance and anger. (Imagine being trapped on an elevator for ten hours with no food or water while you’re gh the speakers over and over.) Making these twelve songs a living hell to get through. In listening and reviewing one’s art, finding something you can relate to or at least something constructive to add work as essential tools to either praise or perhaps helpfully critique. Here was case where a band’s music and the vehicle used to promote it only warranted scorn.

Bandcamp

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Rod of Contention – If Might Makes Right…Then Rod is God (Indecision Records)

With a rather dumb looking cover and an idiotic title, San Diego’s Rod of Contention doesn’t do much to lure in the listener or convince anyone they’re about to listen to anything beyond the outright generic. Happily, however, the four song EP does have some strong points. On the follow up to their seven-song debut "Lies," ROC tackle elements of metal, thrash, hardcore and punk with varied results. While there are some excellent riffs, chord changes and bass lines to be found within, one never gets the sense that the band is offering anything special or unique.

Bandcamp

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The Wastedist – Surf and Turf (Rattown Records)

Oh, to be young, drunk and handsome again. Or to be skating a half pipe or being find myself funneling a tasty wave. Okay, maybe just drunk. I guess I’ll have to leave the rest to Florida’s The Wastedist. Originally formed out of the wastelands of the sunshine state back in 2008, the self-described good looking trio applied their mutual love of surf, skate and drinking to create a sound that’s fast fun and thoroughly enjoyable. As I pulled the record out of its sleeve and marveled at the glowing green vinyl and its psychedelic swirl, my beautiful wife interjected just what I, myself, was already thinking. “That’s a beautiful looking record. I kind of doubt it’s going to sound half as good as it looks.”
Oh, how wrong could two people be. In listening to the nine-song barrage that is “Surf and Turf,” we both got an earful of fast, party-themed surf and skate punk that was both enjoyable and kick ass. Though the members of The Wastedist are still in their twenties, they mention bands such as The Germs, Discharge and the Dayglo Abortions as influences, and I couldn't help but hear elements of Agent Orange, The Adolescents, The Vandals, D.I. and even Boston’s Jerry’s Kids within.

Rat Town Records


Warxgames – Violent and Depressed (REACT! Records)

It’s been six long years since Baltimore Maryland’s Warxgames released their one and only EP ““9 Trax / No Nightmare,” a lifetime to many independent bands and underground scenes. Imagine my surprise when, in a recent interview, the band's front man Tony Pense said that not only is the band still together but would be releasing their new record in a matter of months.

The promised 7-inch features nine fast, loud and apocalyptic assaults that forgo solos and perfectly timed breaks for complete annihilation and chaos. With short, caustic bursts of chaotic angst that rarely make the one minute mark, who has the time or space to fit any? WarxGames' approach to Hardcore can be compared to old school hardcore pioneers such as The Necros, Void, Negative Approach and early Black Flag. Whether you’re into old school hardcore or current leaders in the sub-genre of Punk, I highly recommend checking WarxGames out.

WarxGames

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Swill – Fresh Air (Rat Town Records)

Before we go any further, it might help to bring some much-needed, angry old man shaking his fist at the clouds clarity to the table. Melodic punk, pop punk and mall punk are three distinctly different things with different characteristics. Often confused with one another and even copped by numerous acts who, for whatever reason, feel that adding the word “punk” to their description gives them some sort of edgy cred. Perhaps this explains my apprehension when finding Swill’s Fresh Air in the pile of new releases I was asked to review.

Originally released back in April on Rat Town Records, Fresh Air marks Swill's full length debut. Right out of the gate I felt drawn to Jacksonville, Florida’s melodic punk trio and their impressive, ten song, full length debut. Fast, energetic, upbeat with melody and muscle. The opener and title song "Fresh Air" draws you in carving out some tasty riffs that spiral in a lot of interesting directions, giving one the feeling of skating a pipe or finding yourself funneling your way through a tasty wave. The percussion has a speedy, rolling, heavy-on-the-toms feel to it. Perk up the ears, close your eyes and you’ll surely get a visual of the action unfolding. Cut to 1:46 of the opener and you’ll be treated to one of the tastiest bass lines out there. Throughout these ten songs you’ll hear plenty of uplifting riffs and chord changes. The percussion is very front loaded, taking somewhat of a leadership role throughout the album. Vocally, there is a nice blend and balance that works well in the melodic punk side of the pond, yet would find acceptance and kinship amongst the hardcore crowd. Overall, I really felt drawn to Swill’s sound, application and their overall musical balance. I was often reminded of the bands that brought me out of my shell as a teen finding inspiration in the more emotionally and melodically connected hardcore punk acts.

Rat Town Records

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xXx Presents – Still Having their Say (Bridge Nine Records)

As teens in love with 80’s Punk Rock and Hardcore, we often looked to fanzines for information regarding our favorite bands. It’s been said and often repeated that fanzines were one of the few voices for underground music and the counter culture that often fostered it. For myself and many others, xXx fanzine was one of the very best publications of its time.

As fanzines of that time continue to resurface as books to document the histories of such publications, 2017’s all-encompassing book “xXx Fanzine (1983-1988)” was, to say the very least, titanic. Long after purchasing the book, I decided to enhance my experience by giving the tribute album Still Having their Say a good go around.

The limited 12” (300 copies) color vinyl pressing features 19 songs of current and quite varied hardcore and hard rock luminaries paying tribute to many of the bands who originally appeared within the pages of xXx fanzine. Though good in most respects, like Walter Shreifel's acoustic take on Agnostic Front’s “Society Sucker,” Fu Manchu’s take on the Circle Jerks classic “When the Shit Hits the Fan,” and a few others, the tribute falters where most every other one does - in the simple yet often unrealized truth that, at the end of the day, we’d all prefer to hear the originals. And while there are definitely some excellent moments to be had, having heard most of, if not all these cover songs before (any of the included on these bands' albums,) I can’t really tell if any of the music included here was recorded for this project. While not bad by any means, Still Having Their Say” didn’t provide anything new to these old ears.

Bridge 9 Records

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Gross Polluter – Cynical Scumbaggery / Piss Popular (Rattown Records)

Fast punk rock out of Orange County, CA, Gross Polluter (formerly known as Smogtown) step out with two songs that are parts punk, part garage punk, and almost instantly forgettable. Though “Cynical Scumbaggery” and the B side “Piss Popular” briefly bring to mind classic bands such as The Germs and Crimpshrine, there’s nothing here that would warrant further listening or investigation regarding the band. Though I fully understand their might be an audience for Gross Polluter, I was not the least bit impressed.

Rat Town Records

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Rat Fancy – Stay Cool (HBBTM Records)

On their 2019 debut Stay Cool, Rat Fancy unleash ten songs of fuzzy and warm jangle pop that feature some nice hooks, rhythmic jaunts and catchy melodies. However, after reading the press kit and bio for both Rat Fancy and lead singer Diane Barraza, I was quite surprised at how her voice is the one and only consistent reason I found Stay Cool to be so grating and unenjoyable. To each their own, and I might find myself in the minority here, but her chirpy and overwhelmingly bratty vocal approach made listening to these songs a painful experience. And while the album has its share of hooks, warm rhythms and fuzzed out remnants of jangle and power pop, it’s hardly enough to cover for that one rather large factor. The vinyl version comes with a download card that I almost immediately designated for the circular file.

HHBTM Records


Devo – This is the Devo Box (Rhino/Warner Bros.)

Here I am, weeks removed from the overwhelming crowds of Record Store Day 2019, still in awe over coming home with the grand prize that the Devo box set was, is, and will surely continue to be. The exclusive Record Store Day release served as both a time capsule and a vivid tour through the band's early recorded history.

Like many, I was only ten when introduced to the band through the video for “Whip it.” By then, I was already reaping the rewards on an allowance that included an album of my choice every other week. After seeing the video and hearing it at the local roller rink the following weekend, I chose “Freedom of Choice” based entirely on the single. What I didn’t expect but was jazzed to learn was that the entire album was amazing. From the thunderbolt charge of “Freedom of Choice” to the quickened pulse of “Girl U Want,” I was transported to this outer world of geek-strong “beam me up and take me to your leader” nerdism.

The box set features the six albums released by Warner Bros. between 1978 and 1984: . Q: Are We Not Men?, We Are Devo! (1978), Duty Now for the Future (1979), Freedom of Choice (1980), New Traditionalists (1981), Oh, No! It's Devo (1982), and Shout (1984.) Housed in a sturdy box, repressed on a different color vinyl showing the original art work and covers, the sound quality is outstanding and I can honestly say, I enjoyed unwrapping and listening to each record as a whole. While I’ve continued my appreciation of Devo over the years, I’ve admittedly done so by listening to collections of their work and an occasional spin of Freedom of Choice.

Listening to each of these records chronologically had quite an endearing effect on me. The box itself is limited to 3,000 copies. And while I fully understand both the monetary cost (around $120) and time it might take to listen to each album, I still hold it in the highest regard. Whether or not you decide to seek out the box set, I highly recommend looking into Devo’s recorded works.

Devo

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Tri-State – Hey Pal

While I can’t quite remember who first alerted me to the term “Dad Rock”. I can authoritatively narrow it down to either Jim Testa, (Jersey Beat) James Appio, (Cool Dad Music) or Al Crisafulli (Dromedary Records.) Which brings me to Essex County Dad Rockers Tri-State. Formed in 2010, and featuring Jeff Zelevansky (guitar/vocals), Brady McNamara (drums), Julian Brash (guitar/vocals), and Scott Stemmermann (bass,) Tri-State’s music can be best described as a laid-back pop rock affair. Hey Pal carries a warm, lived in vibe highlighted by plenty of hooks, harmonies and guitar driven melodies. The album features nine songs, with the opener “Toasts and Boasts” and “First Responder” being personal favorites. (RIYL The Hasbros, Bastards of Melody and the Anderson Council.)

Bandcamp

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The Heavy – Sons

When I was first introduced to England’s The Heavy, I couldn’t help but feel that soul music was on a brilliant crash course with rock & roll. When first introduced through the lead single “How You Like Me Now?” from their 2009 sophomore effort The House that Dirt Built, I felt that I almost immediately was being treated to something special.

Fast forward ten years and I’m getting a similar vibe from a somewhat old and familiar place. Sons opens like a neutron bomb with “Heavy for You,” its screaming guitars, pounding rhythms and Kelvin Swaby’s soulful screams calling out “I got taste/ I got lust/ I got all those things that you want. “ From there, it’s just one groove-heavy soulful trip that combines classic R&B and eccentric rock that features a lot of interesting twists and turns. (Including the electro-funk inspired “Simple Things.”) If you’re a fan of James Brown, Jimi Hendrix or Sly & the Family Stone, you should feel right at home with Sons. Though I found it hard to scale this album down to just a couple of praise worthy offerings, I couldn’t end this review without noting that “Heavy for You”, “Better as One” and the album's closer “Burn Bright” deserve serious accolades as well as countless returns to the dancefloor. And while it’s rare that a band that gave me instant gratification year agos still feels vital and irreplaceable, this one does.

The Heavy

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Shit Kid – Detention

When you’re a kid, a common tactic of bullies is to call another out as weird or weirdo. Though intended to be hurtful, it ultimately means you don’t fit in with all the squares who choose to walk a straight path or care to fit in with the status quo. As you get older, that weirdness takes you places while enabling you to thrive in creative areas far beyond those of your peers.

Which brings me to Stockholm, Sweden’s Shit Kid aka Åsa Söderqvis. In listening to Shit Kid for the first time, I found myself swimming in the pool of weird genius that was both simple and brilliant. Each song carries the warm simplicity of a home recording, while still sounding clean and tight in all the right places.

Söderqvis’ approach feels like a strange yet compelling cross between a young Liz Phair and early Lilly Allen. Åsa’s voice can be bratty and commanding while vulnerable and innocent at others; at times off key, yet completely on target.

“Detention” features eight songs that carry a sense of intimacy and vulnerability, one that feels honest and integrally quirky. In listening to “Detention” on vinyl, I felt myself falling deep into a spell of the songs featured on Side A, with the opening title track “Detention”, “Romance”, “Last Mistake” and “Summer Vacation” becoming instant favorites. Still, flipping over to the B side quickly led me to “Home Wondering (I don’t want to go to prom.)” and “Lost in Dreamland.”

In listening to “Detention” and reading up a bit on Sweden’s Shit Kid. I got the feeling that I was experiencing something different, unique and somewhat special. Kind of like the first time I heard Bjork’s voice with the Sugarcubes.

Bandcamp
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The Sweet Things – Borrowed Shoes on Borrowed Time (Spaghetty Town Records)

After two praise-worthy singles on Spaghetty Town Records, The Sweet Things return to the turntable with more of the rock n roll swagger that made them so appealing to those longing for a return to rock's edgy, street wise depravity.

On their debut full length, New York’s Sweet Things strike hard with ten songs that showcase their knack for creating dirty, bluesy and totally infectious style rock & roll. With elements, reminiscent of the Stones, the Stooges and the New York Dolls, The Sweet Things seem hell bent on bringing back a somewhat dangerous street wise edge to the genre. There’s definitely a Jagger/ Richards kind of kinship between guitarists/ vocalists Tierney and Behrman, one that has me visualizing them cozying up to one another to share the mic at shows.

There’s a lot of guitar swagger on tracks like “Liquor Lightning” and “Fix to Kick”. However, on songs like the title track, “Borrowed Shoes and Borrowed Time” and the aptly titled “Drained” the band show their ability to change pace and take it down a notch. Aside from the songs I mentioned, you be hard pressed to find a deuce in the deck. As for me, my personal favorite was the fiery and raucous “Through the Cracks of the City”. If you’re looking for a stand out guitar rock band with a punk twist. Look no further.

Spaghettytown Records

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L’mour – Look to the Artist: 1978-1981 (Beach Impediment Records)

When you approach the highway of late 70’s/ early 80’s, you’ll quickly notice the monuments built to bands like Cheap Trick, The Knack, The Cars and many more, each and every one of them worth both our praise and air guitar salutes. For, if it were not for them, we might have dragged out vapid versions of punk rock for a few more years or dived right into a synth saturated world of emotionally void new wave.

But what about the many power pop acts that populated that same highway, yet never received the same spotlight or praise that say, Cheap Trick, The Knack or the Cars continue to rightfully receive? What about the countless other bands that cut their teeth honing their look at style at bars, clubs and local halls? What about Richmond, Virginia’s L’mour and the fourteen-song discography “Look to the Artist”?

Compiling fourteen songs recorded between 1978-1981, “Look to the Artist” documents L’mour’s recorded history in its entirety. Most of what is featured here is very basic, run of the mill, three chords and six pack rock 'n’ roll, material that might have been improved through a better recording and a more hands on producer. If you choose to read the bio while listening to the music, you’ll have a hard time matching the two. Sure, there are some good bass lines sprinkled here and there, but not nearly enough to mask the terrible vocals, muffled guitars and distant drums. Overall ‘Look to the Artist” is a complete and total mess that took more than couple of attempts to get all the way through. While it’s usually an enjoyable adventure, tracking down lost recordings or a band that might have, fpr whatever res]ason, slipped through the cracks. Listening to L’mour only serves a reminder that some things are best left unfound.

For more information about L’mour, or to order, go Here.

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Weezer – The Teel Album (Crush/Atlantic)

There comes a time in any band or artist’s creative life when the chemistry or ability to write songs of an impactful nature begins to gray. Though the causes can vary, it’s something that eventually happens to everyone. Unfortunately, perhaps due to contractual obligations, ego, or whatever keeps them from realizing that the magic they once wielded in long gone, they keep going. Sadly enough, the once great Weezer continue to ignore the overwhelming evidence brought up in this case.

While there was a time when listening to a Weezer album was rewarding. (Think “Pinkerton” or “The Blue Album.”) Those days are decades past. Since then, it’s felt as if the band has basically been phoning it in while relying on indie cred and an occasional night of drunken karaoke

Look no further than a collection of cover songs to prove my point. Weezer’s attempt at
covering FM radio staples such as Toto’s “Africa” Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” and The Turtles “Happy Together” sound tired and void of any injection of wit or sense of humor.
While I’ve never one to shy away from a cover or two, “The Teel Album” and Weezer’s vapid attempts at relevancy just serve up more proof that Cuomo & Co. need to check their answering machine and check their inbox featuring the countless messages to stop recording.

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Maximum Penalty – 89’ Demo (Vinyl Reissue) (Reaper Records)

Maximum Penalty represent an important place and time in my experience with New York Hard Core. At the time of its release, I was waist deep in the second issue of my fanzine Unite, sitting in on studio sessions and recordings and going to just about every hardcore show I could sniff out. Though it signaled the beginning of the end chapter of the second wave of New York Hardcore, I myself, could not have possibly felt more at home.

Though often finding themselves on a bill and being compared to the likes of Breakdown and Raw Deal (a band that would soon to become known as Killing Time,) Maximum Penalty seemed a bit more soulful, maybe even spiritual, perhaps due to their lyrics, Jimmy Williams' soulful growls and Millie’s groove heavy bass lines. Musically, the band merged elements of hardcore, metal and hip hop to create a sound that would go one to become common place with countless other hardcore acts of the 90’s.

Songs like “Acceptance”, “Hate”, “Nowhere to Turn to” and “All Your Boyz” have aged well since first appearing on the demo some thirty years ago. Featuring the original nine songs that appeared on the 1989 cassette tape as well as an isolated vocal recording of “All your Boyz.”

Presented in a gatefold cover, including a 12’ X 24’ fold out poster featuring show flyers and images from back in the day and a digital download. The first pressing is limited to 600 copies and comes on blue vinyl.

My one complaint, and this is one that has nothing to do with the music: Upon opening the poster, I noticed a photo I had taken thirty years ago appears in the collage. I was never approached, informed, credited or compensated for its use.

Reaper Records


Tied Down – Self Titled (Refuse Records)

Hailing from the Northeastern corner of England and featuring members of Vorhees and Break it Up, Tied Down take a similar approach to what they put forth in the past. When you name your band after a Negative Approach song, chances are you’re going to sound a lot like Negative Approach. And while there’s nothing wrong from finding influence in one of the great architects of the genre, it doesn’t necessarily give your band a shot at longevity or credibility. That said, I have to admit coming away with an overall positive opinion of what I heard in these five songs. Though from England, Tied Down sound as if their influences come from across the Atlantic in cities like Boston, New York and other areas where Hardcore music found its origins.

Tied Down

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The Wanna-Bes – Broken Record EP (Mom’s Basement Records)

Don’t let the band’s name fool you. Longview, Washington’s The Wanna-Bes are about as convincingly authentic as a rock band can get. On their latest single and follow up to their 2017 full length “Out Went the Lights,” The Wanna-Bes mix elements of punk, power pop and hard rock to create pulsating rock & roll with a big guitar sound, driving rhythms and sneering vocals. “Broken Record”, “Talk to You”, “I’m a Drag” and “Hangin’ On” each teem with rock & roll authenticity, exuding a confident swagger and confidence, reminiscent of bands like The Rye Coalition, Rocket from the Crypt and Drive Like Jehu. These four songs will make your dick harden with an adrenalized shot of bombastic energy and passion.

The Wanna-Bes

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Eat My Fear – Taking Back Space (Refuse Records)

“Taking Back Space” is the 2nd EP from Berlin, Germany’s queer, feminist hardcore act Eat My Fear. The four-member band play a type of screamo punk core that can best be compared to the Riot Grrl movement of the 90’s. (Think Spitboy meets Bratmobile.) My first and lasting impressions of this six song EP were not good ones, as I found the vocalist's mix of dysphoria and ear piercing screams to be both scathing and unlistenable, ultimately failing to succeed in delivering any intended message. While somewhat comparable and inspired by Olympia, Washington’s G.L.O.S.S. (Girls Living Outside of Society’s Shit,) Eat My Fear fail to come close to warranting praise or even the most casual listen.

Eat My Fear

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The Membranes – What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away (Cherry Red Records)

Old punks never die…. Or so I’ve been told. Which is notable, considering England’s The Membranes joined the punk circus way back in the late Seventies. Originally formed out of Blackpool, Lancashire in 1977, The Membranes' style of dark post punk was highly influential on bands such as Sonic Youth and Big Black before eventually calling it a day. Since resurrecting in 2009, The Membranes have kept busy recording and touring the world and performing at festivals.
On their latest, the soon to be released “What Nature Gives .. Nature Takes Away,” the Membranes whet the source with its brand of dark and sinister post punk. There are additional strokes of goth and psychedelic rock that deepen the already murky romantic undertones of the songs. In listening to this, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if Glenn Danzig teamed up with the Stranglers with the sole intention of writing love songs?”
Featuring sixteen songs, “What Nature Gives…” is being promoted Cherry Red Records as a double LP. RIYL bands like Joy Division, Mission UK or My Bloody Valentine.

The Membranes


Frontside – Society’s View

Wow, talk about surprises! Due to the EP’s rudimentary artwork and title, I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting much. Yet, Frontside’s five song EP “Society’s View” impressed me right out of the gate. The San Diego, California five piece play a raw, no frills version of hardcore that has a first wave appeal, with short bursts of fast, yet even paced guitar driven anger and aggression, creepy crawl rhythms and bass lines, and snarled yet easily comprehendible vocals. Frontside have it all covered. Having been quite pleased regarding what I’ve thus heard from Safe Inside Records. I’d highly recommend looking into the label and the bands that call it home. This looks to be a digital only release. So be sure to check out their Bandcamp.

Bandcamp

Autoclave – S/T (Dischord Records)

It’s been quite a while since an Autoclave EP spun on my turntable. Considering I sold all my original records some twenty years ago, I’m guessing 25. So when I saw that Dischord was reissuing a remastered 12’ of their original EP’s, I excitedly added it to my cart. Members of Autoclave would go on to form and perform in notable acts such as Team Dresh, Helium, Slant Six, Wild Flag and Ex-Hex, to name a few.

Like many of the Dischord bands that preceded them. Autoclave challenged the perceptions of what punk, or in this case, post punk should sound like, with a sound more akin to what would come to be known as Math Rock, an approach that features complex chord structures and start, stop progressions. Perhaps inherent to their more complex approach or the fact that they were an all-female band playing within what was essentially a boy’s club, Autoclave stood out.

The record compiles eleven remastered songs from their 7-inch EP and two additional songs, each of which provides an interesting yet complex trip through the past.

Dischord Records

POW! – Shift

Okay, to start things off, let me first say that prior to being sent this submission, I had never heard of or had any previous knowledge of POW! With that said, I can approach this review, or to better put it, observation, without any personal preconceptions or prejudice. Weird and unconventional in every sense of the world, POW! possesses so many interesting and quirky elements that it would be senseless to attempt to pin them down or fit them into some convenient compartment. Think Kraftwerk meets Devo meets a cyber, horror punk version of Gary Newman on the set of Stranger Things: Gloomy, dark, haunting and as good as it gets. If space punk were ever to become a thing, POW! Would surely be the band to man the first shuttle. Though punk has tried the spacey electronic approach with varied results over the years, POW! Seem to pull it off effortlessly.

Bandcamp

Charlie Sub and the Sound Dogs- The Bronx is Burning

I was having a conversation with my wife this morning about my first trips to the Bronx and how the burnt-out buildings and crack heads interested me so much more than the zoo we were driving to. So it's ironic was given a submission featuring a title that closely resembles that earlier conversation, even when realizing that Charlie Sub and the Sound Dogs sound nothing like anything that ever came out or went near the area.

The 4-song EP opens with a 38 second instrumental that had me thinking I was being treated to something in the realm of Charlie Parker or John Coltrane. (Which, by the way, would be both inviting and satisfying.) While undoubtedly soulful and bluesy, their overall sound feels way too polished and corporate sounding for my taste, perhaps even outdated by today’s standards. “The Bronx is Burning” features some rich instrumentations, keyboards and horns. However, it seems to lack any sense of character or grit, important traits that often draw one to an artist or genre of music. Charlie Sub and the Sound Dogs walk a tightrope between orchestral rock and country music. You know, the kind of stuff you Dad might put on in the car or mention he got complimentary tickets to see when he booked his hotel room in Atlantic City. Though parts of the Bronx may still be burning. C.S.S.D. surely didn’t start it.

Bandcamp

Bad Reputation – Music from the original motion picture soundtrack

Growing up, the walls of my bedroom were covered with Joan Jett posters. I had a scrapbook featuring every Joan Jett article and interview I came across. I even convinced my Mother to take me to a Hell’s Angels benefit where she was performing. To say I was a fan would be a major understatement. Looking back, one of my greatest opportunities as a writer and photographer came years later when I was given a photo and backstage pass to an Irving Plaza show where Joan Jett & the Blackhearts headlined a show that included the Eagles of Death Metal and Valiant Thor. A co-founder of the Runaways (the first all-girl hard rock act,) solo artist, long time front woman for Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, producer, actress, and vocal supporter of the LGBTQ community, Joan Jett has more than earned her title as an icon as well as a member of the Rock & Roll hall of fame. The upcoming rock doc on Joan Jett’s life in music looks to be honest, raw and unrelenting. Getting my hands on the soundtrack was just the grease I needed to get my motor working. The perfect appetizer for what is sure to inform as well as well as raise more than a few nostalgic hairs.

“Fresh Start” opens the 18-song soundtrack with the classic Joan Jett & the Blackhearts stomp-the-yard bounce and pomp. The iconic and untouchable title track “Bad Reputation” follows with an equally strong presence. The early recording of “I Love Rock n’ Roll” with former Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook. (two musicians who contributed to her first solo record) sounds hollow and tinny, yet it highlights the earliest sessions that would bring Jett to the forefront. “Androgynous” featuring Miley Cyrus & Jayne Joyce is by far, the worst song on the album, sounding more like a drunken attempt at karaoke than a well thought out collaboration.

There are so many great and instantly recognizable songs to be had here, most of which we’ve been blasting over our speakers since the early Eighties. “Bad Reputation,”“Do You Want to Touch Me (Oh Yeah,)”“Victim of Circumstances” and many, many more. Listening to the soundtrack brought back a lot of great memories and made me look forward to seeing the movie. Joan Jett is more than worthy of the icon status put upon her. I’m really looking forward to seeing and hearing her finally tell her own story. Until then.

 



The Police – Every Move You Make (The Studio Recordings)

If you got into music in the early 80’s, chances are The Police are your favorite band, or at least one of your favorite acts to date. Record sales and chart topping singles aside, Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland wrote and recorded many of the era's best songs. Though known widely for their pop rock wisdom, the trio would at times, venture into jazzier territory, most evident on songs such as “Murder by Numbers” and “Tea in the Sahara.”

Every Move You Make features each of the band’s five studio albums - 1978 ’s debut Outlandos D’Amor, 1979’s Reggatta De Blanc, 1980’s Zenyatta Mondtta, and 1981’s Ghost in the Machine. And their swan song, Synchronicity. Each has been half- speed remastered at Abbey Road Studios and pressed on high quality 180-gram vinyl, making for noticeably superior listening quality, one that truly enhances the overall experience. (More about half-speed remastering here.) Also included, and this was the clincher for me, is a bonus LPm “Flexible Strategies,” which features the B–sides of the many singles the band released. The box itself is quite sturdy, and the snug fit makes expelling the records from its shell somewhat of a task. However, any audiophile would be grateful regarding the construction.

My only complaint, if it is one, regards the 12 X 12 book that’s included. Though it’s pages are loaded with many rare and often intimate images, there’s no commentary, essays, or text to be found. Any fan of the band, myself included, would love to read stories about or by Sting, Andy and Stewart. Or perhaps, at the very least, stories and observations from the many bands and artists who found inspiration in their music. I found this to be a major misstep in regards to the release and the only noticeable one worth mention. The original price of $130 has skyrocketed to about $200 on Amazon since its initial release. I’d suggest nosing around both online and at your favorite record store before plucking down the extra cash.

Whether you’re a fan, completest or audiophile junky, you’d be remiss in not investing in this limited-edition release. And while career spanning box sets can be hit or miss due the often-heavy price tag and the sheer amount of music, I found the packaging and mastering of the bands recorded output to be overwhelmingly positive. Considering this is a limited run, I’d advise seizing the moment when the moment is here.

The Police Official

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Giuda – E.V.A. LP (Burger Records)

As one who doesn’t really follow music trends or pay any attention to the charts or mainstream music, relying on friends whose taste in music consistently provides inspiration, as well as plain old ear to the underground habits. I’ve managed to stay informed when it comes to music that might appeal to me on one level or another. In the case of Italy’s Giuda, I owe a great debt to longtime friend and Spaghettytown Records kingpin, Ted Dougherty. For, if it were not for him, I may have never been given the chance to get a taste of what Italy’s Giuda were cooking up.
On their latest ten song LP, the band continues to quicken the pulse, keep the toes tapping and the hands clapping along with each note. Listening to any Giuda track is an exercise in mirth. An act of celebratory indulgence that feels as natural as it does necessary. Overall E.V.A. exudes with confidence and good time swagger. Somehow, I feel as if Giuda found a lot of influence in 70’s power pop, punk, disco and glam. “What if the Bay City Rollers took on a more glam punk role?” E.V.A. is outstanding throughout. With all its bounce and pomp, with all its uplifting and upbeat rhythms, I can’t help but equate Giuda’s sound to punkish power pop meets roller derby’s energy and vibe.

Giuda

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Dyke Drama – New Hard Pills

Whenever I visit Olympia, I’m sure to make a pit stop at 5th Avenue to pay a visit to Rainy Day Records. The selection, staff and atmosphere each provide a special experience for every visitor, whether they’re a local regular or, like myself, an out of towner. What I’ve come to really look forward to is their attention to promoting local artists. And though I might find myself overlooking an artist with the name Dyke Drama, the store’s detailed description and mention that Dyke Drama was the post G.L.O.S.S. (Girls Living Outside of Societies Shit) project/nand of singer Sadie Switchblade caught my attention. New Hard Pills follows 2015’s Tender Resignation and 2016’s Up Against the Bricks.

In listening to Dyke Drama and New Hard Pills for the very first time. I couldn’t help but get swept away by the fast paced and upbeat energy Sadie puts forth. Songs song with a passionate aggression and urgency, though presented on a 12" format. The 45 rpm record only features four songs, each of which became instant favorites. Think punk rock aesthetic and energy without the tired clichés that often accompany punk music.

Dyke Drama

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The Cheap Cassettes – "Worse N’ Better" / "Hieroglyphics in Lipstick"

Seattle Washington’s The Cheap Cassettes return with a new single that continues to boost the band's power pop presence and overall ability to create edgy hooks and …
Simply said, The Cheap Cassettes have forged a path so formidable that I can’t help but feel that an underground revival of power pop, i’s hooks and resounding honesty, has the nessasary chops to keep it relevant for years to come.

Bandcamp


Fried Egg – Square One

Naming your band Fried Egg could mean a number of things. Either you suck and don’t plan on sticking around too long; you’re really good, but didn’t put a lot of time or thought in to naming your band; or you really don’t give a fuck either way. In listening to Square One, I was convinced that they just didn’t give a fuck.
Virginia’s Fried Egg combine the latter two to offer something that will have you throwing yourself into the pit and looking to share or steal the mic. D–Beat punk meets an early American hardcore sound with an in your face, basement show authenticity. In listening to the nine songs on Square One, you can sense influences from early Black Flag, as well as Detroit’s Negative Approach and Boston’s SSD. Square One, the band’s first full length to date ,features nine scorchers that warrant numerous listens as well as an exploration of their earlier recordings. I highly recommend checking out their bandcamp and booking them for your next show.

Fried Egg

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Colour TV – Some People

Sussex County, NJ trio Colour TV step out with what looks to be their first EP to date,
three songs of dull, uninspiring blues-rock that took me nowhere. The slow-moving opener “Some People” features the lyrics “Some people are slaves. Some people are free.” “Some people are blind. Some people can see.” The following entry “Don’t Feel Right” ups the energy level but suffers in that the vocal energy just isn’t there. “Nothing Is” stays flat despite the promise that you’re free to go now. The show is over. Overall, these songs just feel lazy and uninspired. Though I tried to find some background information on the band, my search came up empty. The only saving grace here is… Wait, there was no saving grace.

Bandcamp

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The Specials - Encore

Original members Terry Hall, Lynval Golding, and Horace Panter return under the name in which they originally formed in 1977 to perhaps revive and test to see if any of those creative juices were still flowing. My first, second and third reactions when listening to Encore were very good. Yet somehow, I couldn’t help but think these songs would be best served under a moniker other than The Specials.

“B.L.M.,” with its infectious rhythms, will have you feeling as if you’ve been invited to Kingston, Jamaica, complete with a Studio One reggae and dub spirit throughout. Side B’s “10 Commandments,” by far my favorite cut on the album, had this pessimist believing in what I was hearing.

Like with most albums, Encore has its highlights and lowlights. Yet, as far a reunion, comeback, and “first record in longer than you can recall” albums go, Encore was a true joy. As a lifelong fan of the Specials, this album threw me a curve, in that it isn’t the second wave ska I will always remember about their sound. The application of reggae, dub and rock steady found on these twelve new offerings (each important ingredients that inspired the sounds of Two Tone Records and each wave of ska) are quite good. And though the album definitely has it’d good and not so good moments. Approaching it without any high expectations allowed me to enjoy the album more than I would have I been expecting to hear something likened to, say, “Ghost Town” or their legendary 1979 self-titled The Specials.

The Specials


Cyclone Static – From Scratch (Mint 400)

Music has a power to take you places, whether it’s geographically or some journey through time, something I was immediately reminded of upon getting my first taste of the band Cyclone Static. The band's gritty guitar rock sound, sneering vocals and the devious rhythms featured on From Scratch had me longing for the dirty clubs and basements I frequented back east. I can go on and on about James Salerno’s imprint on the local scene or the fact that the ten songs on From Scratch represent Cyclone Static’s debut. However, bands and releases such as this one deserve to be searched and routed out by potential listeners. Let’s get right to it.

As noted earlier, Cyclone Static are crafted practitioners of guitar rock that doesn’t refrain from occupying some post punk, post core territory. Favorites include “Runaway” (thankfully, not a cover of the Bon Jovi song of the same name.) and “Sacred Island,” with it’s cool rhythms and gritty vocals. Also worth noting are the opening chords and bass lines that cut through “Company Man” which bring to mind AC/DC’s “It’s A Long Way To The Top.” From Scratch rocks throughout these ten songs, further proof that guitar rock is not just chic revival, but more like a sleeping dragon that has returned nourished and prepared to breath new fire.

Cyclone Static

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Radon – More Of Their Lies


Not to be confused with the great Kentucky Post Core mathematicians Rodan, Gainesville, Florida’s Radon were more known for the melodic pop punk sound they brought to their community and to the world, one that was influential on many but would take years to be brought to the mainstream. For what it’s worth, Radon was always a band I let someone cut me in line so as to avoid seeing, hearing or investing time in. Regardless, that was then and this is now. So, with new ears and an open mind, I sat down and gave the Florida band a thorough listen. Fast forward to 2019 and Radon sound a lot like they did to me in the Nineties.
There’s some bounce to go with “More Of Their Lies'” twists and turns. However, the highlights and the energy usually found in the pop punk formula seems absent. Instead, those elements get lightly sprinkled throughout and hardly outweigh the ones where Radon just feel like they’re phoning it in. Overall, this record did nothing to change my feelings about the band, their music, or their legacy.

Dead Broke Rekerds

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Protein – "Alive" 7-inch EP (Refuse Records)

The bio for Poland’s Protein certainly gives them a lot of credit for the band's hard work promoting hardcore and straight edge ethics through their label Youth2Youth Records. Yet who are we to argue with the written word or the many good deeds the band has done for Europe’s hardcore and straight edge community? Though from Poland, Protein’s sound and approach is cut from the American Hardcore text book. While influences ranging from Turning Point and Floorpunch are predominant throughout the band’s sound, Protein mention Belgium’s True Colors as a major influence. I can’t help but think how they too were products of American hardcore acts such as Youth of Today. While these six songs sound rather impressive, a debut worth noting, you’d be hard pressed trying to convince yourself that you’re not listening to any random 90’s straight edge hardcore act which was, for the most part, a revival of the 80’s.

Refuse Records



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Shiners Club – Can’t Have Nice Things (Indecision Records)

Whoever said “Old dogs can’t learn new tricks” never met the members of Shiners Club. Not to describe or compare these hardcore scene veterans as old dogs, but somehow, that old phrase best describes the lack of veracity in that statement. Shiners Cub and their debut LP “Can’t Have Nice Things” show that, despite their life long connections to hardcore music, they are more than capable of making music outside the confines of that sub-genre. The music itself has a dark tone that might move in the direction of hard rock and 90’s indie rock territory. (Think Laughing Hyenas and Afghan Wigs.) Though “Can’t Have New Things” offered a good listen, each of the twelve songs seemed to be on the same the same wave length rather than one song flowing or connecting to the other. I felt as if I was listening to one long winded breath of air. Overall, ”Can’t Have Nice Things” took several go throughs before garnering my appreciation, with “Touch my Face” being the first to grab my attention.

Regardless, it seems as if Shiners Club saved the best for last. As the final two songs, the devilish “Mia Culpa” and the title track “Can’t Have Nice Things” stood out and would arguably be the best on the album. Not a bad effort by any stretch of the imagination. Still, one that took some coaxing to properly appreciate. Looking back, I find it important to note that many of the records I get the most mileage out of stalled upon their initial go-round. Somehow, I feel that Can’t Have Nice Things will grow on and with me in time.

Indecision Records

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Regres – "Tu I teraz" 7- inch (Refuse Records)

Back in the late 80’s when I had a zine called Unite, I somehow managed to extend its reach outside of the U.S. to Europe and parts of Asia. During that time, I managed to procure a small yet rewarding collection of pen pals. One of them that will remain unnamed introduced me to European hardcore and in particular, his country of origin, Poland, memorable exchanges that not only served as an eye opener to the world outside my door, but influenced me to keep tabs and seek out music outside of the places I’ve had the pleasure to travel.

“Tu I Teraz” translated from Polish to English means “Hear and Now.” A somewhat provoking title that, along with the EP’s cover photo, makes for a thought provoking call to hear what lies within. Regres take an edgy, yet well rounded path that mixes elements of 80’s emo, hardcore and screamo, aspects that might draw comparisons to what might have come out of the Ebullition Records camp in the early to mid-nineties. Each of the six songs on the EP have a personal and introspective vibe that come off feeling honest and sounding intelligent, altogether working overtime to earn a spot amongst your record collection.

Refuse Records

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Wallbreaker – Democracy Dies (Refuse Records)

I have to admit to being a bit reluctant to give Wallbreaker’s Democracy Dies a listen. Whether it was the band’s name, the overtly politicalized title, the somewhat cliché album art or all of the above, Democracy Dies just didn’t look or feel like something I would be into. Boy, was I wrong. So, after dialing back a bit, I found a review I wrote of their 2017 demo. On Democracy Dies, Wallbreaker deliver twelve hellraising tracks that pick up where that demo left off. The album tackles that raw, angry and vital hardcore that drew me to its core as a teen, displaying many appealing characteristics that brought to mind “Victim in Pain” era Agnostic Front and SSD’s “The kids will have their say” and even Kraut’s “Adjustment to Society”. Democracy Dies hits all the right chords, making it a great listen from start to finish.

Refuse Records


Pale Lips – After Dark (Spaghetty Town Records)

Though I’d never heard the term “Bubblegum Punk” prior to reading about Montreal, Canada’s all- female four piece Pale Lips, I can honestly report that I fully understood and appreciated it the moment I heard them for the first time. Originally formed in 2013, the four-piece rock outfit features Jackie (Vocals), IIona (Guitar), Lynn (Drums) and Jamie (Bass.) On their second album and follow up to 2016’s Wanna Be Bad, Pale Lips venture forward with twelve new songs that have the listener bouncing, bopping and pogoing until you’ve worn holes in the carpet and worn down your record player's needle. Pale Lips apply strokes of 70’s rock and Roll, power pop and early new wave to perfect a sound that bring to mind the Ramones and the Donnas, while perhaps unintentionally adding a dash of Japan’s Shonen Knife. Songs like “All My Baby Brought Back Was The Blues,”“The Kids,” and “Johnny” carry the album's upbeat and uplifting sense of celebratory energy really put the hooks and bounce on display while completely reeling in the listener. After Dark packs a lot of punch without ever showing the Pale Lips as over serious or self important, thus providing balance and a little something for every listener. Definitely one of my favorite records from the early start of the year.

Spaghetty Town Records

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Taking Back Sunday – 20

Turn of the century Emo revivalists such as Thursday and Taking Back Sunday introduced wearing your heart on your sleeve to an entirely new generation of kids who often turned to MTV, FM radio, and visits to the mall for their punk rock look and form of homogenized punk rock. The kids who were around when punk broke wide open in the early to mid-nineties with bands like Nirvana, Green Day, The Offspring and countless others were quickly approaching their thirties and were becoming more and more focused on careers and raising families than keeping tabs on bands they worshipped in their post teen years.

Though Long Island’s TBS came around at the advent of what many refer to as Mall Punk, pretend punk, and the marketing and rebranding of Emo, it would be criminal to mention them in the same breath as bands such as Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance or damn them all to hell, Good Charlotte. Something about TBS and a small contingent of bands cut from a similar cloth initially resonated with me. This double LP, commemorating the band's 20th anniversary, features songs taken from each of their seven studio albums. Though I was only familiar with songs from their 2002 debut Tell All Your Friends and their 2004 sophomore effort Where You Want to Be, I felt that through listening to 20 I was given a window into their later recordings. 20 features 21 songs in all, two of which - “All Ready to Go” and “Song for Dan” - are brand new recordings. 20 is available on numerous formats, mine being a beautiful gatefold 2 X LP bearing lyrics of each song on the sleeves. Overall, a comprehensive look back at the band's 20-year history.

Taking Back Sunday

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Motosierra – S/T (Spaghetty Tlown Records)

Translated to English, Motosierra means "chainsaw." Pretty accurate when you listen to the Uruguayan powerhouse. Originally formed in the city of Montevideo (Uruguay’s largest city) in 1999, Motosierra's approach to hard rock can be compared to a mix of Motorhead and Turbo Negro with a bit of Thin Lizzy peppered in here and there. Fast, tight and straight up vicious and sung in their native Spanish, an aspect that I feel only seems to intensify while accentuating each song. Simply put, I really love what I’m hearing on this 12-song ripper. It’s forceful, vicious and dangerous. No mater how you like your music, Motosierra stake their claim for making rock and roll that sounds dangerous and flat out evil. Despite the fact that Motosierra has been together for more than twenty years now, the band has just few scant releases to call their own. Somewhat puzzling considering how good their recorded output sounds. One can only hope that they’ve found a home or at least a launching pad for both publicity and future recordings.

Spaghetty Town Records

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The Morlocks – Bring on the Mesmeric Condition (Hound Gawd Records)

Take two tablespoons of H.G. Wells inspired science fiction, ateaspoon of comic book noir, and two heaping cups of garage rock and you get a pretty good idea of what San Diego’s The Morlocks are cooking up. Having been in and out of commission since the Eighties, it would be acceptable if the band had gone through somewhat of a Spinal Tap unevenness in their sound and approach. Yet, through break ups, lengthy time periods apart and a few member changes, the band has managed to authentically stick to and hone the sound that originally inspired them, one that these five garage rockers do very well.

Bring on the Mesmeric Condition features 10 impressive songs deeply rooted in garage rock and psychedelia's simple, raw energy and bombast. It's a record that builds from one song to the next, complete with cool chord structures, a healthy amount of distortion , and Koizumi’s snarled and sneered vocals. “Bothering me” opens the album with a sense of swagger that assures the listener that, if they’re looking for dirty rock n’ roll, they’ve come to the right place. “Heart of Darkness” lives up to its namesake with a snakebit twang that might find itself in the scene of a movie where a beaten and blood soaked body gets dumped in the desert for the vultures to feast on. That theme seems to reoccur with song titles such as “One Foot in the Grave”, “High Tide Killer” and my personal favorite, “Easy Action”. Overall, a great album that’s all killer and no filler.

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The Mods – Reactions (Ugly Pop Records)

When visiting a record store, I’ve made it a practice to bring a list of the records and titles I’m specifically looking to acquire. It’s just a little habit I fell into over the years, one that’s helped to control my urges and keep me on somewhat of an even keel. Being that over time, my list has dwindled and some of the titles within it aren’t as readily available as I’d hoped, I often find myself forgoing the list and letting my eyes point me in other directions. This tactic often allows me to discover lesser known gems that might be just as, if not more satisfying, as what I came looking for.

Such was the case with The Mods Reactions. Considering that when I brought it to the counter, the store’s owner did a double take, remarking, “I haven’t had a chance to listen to this yet, but by the look of it. It’s bound to be great.”

Reaction revisits the music of late 70’s Toronto band The Mods and their aborted, unreleased album. The Mods mixed punk’s raw energy with power pop looks and hooks. Heavily influenced by the Kinks along with contemporaries like the Jam, the Buzzcocks and the Undertones. These recordings had me wondering, “What if Sham 69 had had developed a more pop friendly sound?”

Comparisons to lesser known (yet worthy of exploration) acts such as Canada’s The Dogs and Ireland’s The Number Ones can easily be made. While recorded 40 years ago, Reactions features enough moments to elicit numerous spins on your turntable. The album collects the bands 1978 45 single as well as the tracks intended to be featured on their unreleased 1979 album. In listening to The Mods, I can’t help but wonder what direction they might have gone in musically. Judging from what is presented here, the songs, images and liner notes provide evidence that The Mods seemed to be heading in a direction that reached beyond the limits of the Mod or Punk sound. As I write this. Reaction features thirteen songs, liner notes, band photos and a reprint of an old show flyer. I can’t help but be thankful for my judgement when picking this complete unknown off the shelf.

Ugly Pop Records

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School Drugs – Relative Suffering

Pure mania at its apex! School Drugs sound like the soundtrack to being locked in a room to fight your demons. Only in this case, the demons wind up on the short end of the stick.

The six songs on “Relative Suffering” overcome the listener like a tidal wave of sonic emotion that grows in strength lie a tsunami as one song feeds into the next. The dual vocals on songs on “Burn” and “Relentless” sound as if they came straight out of a torturous battle with schizophrenia. Considering how much territory School Drugs cover on “Beyond Suffering,” it would be criminal to handicap them with one or even two genre specific boundaries. To put it simply, the best way to describe New Jersey’s School Drugs is to listen to the music they’ve created. For all of you vinyl enthusiasts out there, “Relative Suffering” is available on orange vinyl.

Hell Minded Records

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Pushed Aside – 1989 Demo 7” (Indecision Records)

Just as the second wave of hardcore was coming to a close, we began to see the promise of a third wave, one that offered a glimpse of hope that would soon fade with the rise of tough guy metalcore. At the time, many promising bands would emerge and leave a lasting footprint before fading to grey. Pushed Aside fit into that pattern , having existed for a year or less, appearing on the long out of print “The Iceman Cometh” 7” live compilation, breaking up shortly before they were able to record something of their very own.
What they left us with has been reissued and put to vinyl for a limited window of time.

The five-song demo starts off with a slow-paced intro before shifting into first gear for the sped up “Locked Down.” Though the lyrics are well written and rise above the often generic, cookie cutter topics straight edge bands seem to cling to, the vocals and musicianship leave a lot to be desired. Taken into consideration that this a thirty-year-old demo reissued for vinyl enthusiasts and nostalgia geeks like myself, I can’t say I expected much. Regardless, these songs failed to illicit any emotion or jog any particular memory. These five songs may have sparked a fire when they were originally released. However, hearing them now didn’t have any impact whatsoever.

Indecision Records is offering two color versions of the 7”. Green/Clear split 300 copies and Blue Splatter 700 copies.

Indecision Records

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Better Than A Thousand – Value Driven Vinyl Reissue (Youth Crew Records)

By the time Ray Cappos' post-Violent Children/ Reflex from Pain/Youth of Today/Shelter band
Better Than a Thousand surfaced in in 1997, my interest in his musical output and spiritual beliefs had reached a titanic low. Considering the epically bad Shelter album Beyond Planet Earth, even the most head strong fan had to be hoping for a rewind or a do over. With twenty plus years to look back on, perhaps Better than a Thousand was the rewind needed to ever so slightly return to what endeared him and his passion to so many others.

Right out of the gate, Better Than a Thousand sounds like an extension of Cappo’s early efforts with Youth of Today and early Shelter. A return to the well, so to stay. Anyone familiar with Cappo’s work should note that Better Than A Thousand were not going for a different sound or message. If the vinyl reissue did anything for me, it’s that it allowed me to revisit one of the more overlooked and under listened to entries in his catalog.

The reissue features its original thirteen songs, an updated cover and comes on color vinyl. Remastering was provided by Shelter/Better than a Thousand alumnus Ken Olden and produced by Dharmavit Das.

Youth Crew Records

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Iron Chic / Toys that Kill – Split (Recess Records)

For as long as I can or want to remember, split records were a great way to enjoy a band you loved while being introduced to one you may or may not have even vaguely heard of. With an EP box dedicated to 7" inch splits and countless other split LP’s littered throughout my collection, it’s pretty easy to assess my interest as more than casual. Having been a big fan of Long Island, New York’s Iron Chic since experiencing them at a Brooklyn show I attended with Jim Testa, I was given more than a reason to look into their split LP with California’s Toys that Kill. The 12” split offers nine songs: Four from Iron Chic and five from Toys That Kill.
Iron Chic’s appearance shows the band's strengths and gift for consistently providing anthemic melody laced hardcore. “The Old Man of Crete,” “Kid Icarus,” and “Amazing Fantasy” showcase the band’s ability to write and put fourth songs that appeal to every sub-genre of Punk and Hardcore.

And though my first taste and second go around with Toys That Kill wasn’t all that favorable, the band's final entry to the split, “I Can Hear It Stop,” kept me from entirely writing them off. Just as with any record and in particular, splits, you’re bound to hear a lot of peaks and valleys. Thanks to the presence of Iron Chic, there were enough peaks to warrant investigation.

Recess Records

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Offended by Everything – Evergreen

Being that we live in a society where thin skinned individuals who seem to find new and creative ways to be offended on an hourly basis, it’s surprising that the term “Offended by Everything” hasn’t become the rally call of the times. All observations aside, let’s focus on the band and their just-released EP. Offended by Everything are a Dallas, Texas based emo, pop punk outfit representing a wave of the sub, sub-genre that I’m not particularly fond of. Think Thursday meets Taking Back Sunday at a New Found Glory sponsored “Sensitivity Training” seminar. While the five songs featured on “Evergreen” weren’t bad in any way (note the riffs on the opening track, “Deadweight,”) Offended by Everything aren’t producing anything I haven’t heard countless other times for what seems to be forever. If you’re into bands like Anberlin, Mayday Parade or
A Loss for Words but don’t want to color outside the lines, then by all means go for it. Otherwise…

Stand By Records

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Struck Nerve – Self-Titled (War Records)

Though Philadelphia’s Struck Nerve are a relatively new band, the five-member hardcore act has spent time in a slew of notable hardcore acts such as Jesus Piece, Agitator, Uzi Kids and Pain Strikes. And while titles like “Play the fool”, “Life’s Too Short”, “All Talk” and “Keepin’ It Real” might find themselves vying for awards in the cliche department, I found these four songs to be quite good. Struck Nerve play fast-paced, high energy hardcore that is highlighted by a sense of urgency and focus that reminds me of an older hardcore style. The mpressive musicianship is fronted by double guitar leads, chords and jagged riffs and well timed breaks. Also worth mention are Anthony’s clean, decipherable vocals and a sharp focused delivery, elements that only enhance the overall delivery of the songs. Though I really didn’t and still don’t know a whole lot about Struck Nerve, this four song EP had me wanting to hear more. The vinyl version is limited to four hundred copies. You can also visit their Bandcamp and download it there.

War Records
Bandcamp

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The Verdict – Hostis Humani Generis (Edgewood Records)

Having grown up on the East Coast, I always considered Richmond, VA a hot bed for bands flying the flag of independence. Whether it be punk, hardcore, power pop or indie rock, there always seemed to be something interesting happening in the state's capital. Perhaps that had something to do with my checking in with The Verdict. The Richmond band/collective features, count ‘em, twelve active members. So many that only nine of them could fit on the cover. “Hostis Humani Generis” (Latin for Enemy of Mankind) features six short blasts of meat and potatoes hardcore that, even after a few go -arounds, didn’t impress me or stand out in the least. And as much as I’ve always claimed to love hardcore, I realize that, for every band I’ve loved and admired, there at least a hundred bands like The Verdict. They say that it takes a village. However, we’re also warned that too many cooks spoil the broth. In this case, the latter seems to apply.

The Verdict

Trapped By Lies – Demo '18

Tacoma, Washington’s Trapped By Lies enter the fray with a five song demo. The four-piece hardcore act, who cite the legendary Black Flag and New York City’s The Cro-mags as influences, shows a band that has a long path ahead of them. They need time to grow and improve, but that's not to say that this is all bad. The musicianship and vocal approach are not nearly as rudimentary as the recording and production quality. Only time with tell if Trapped By Lies will find a niche in the North West’s hardcore scene.

Trapped By Lies

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Permanent Tension – Dedicated to the Guilt that Should have been Felt but Never Was (Forced Abandonment Records)

When a friend (in this case, Tohm) asks you to give his band’s material a listen and a possible review, a certain feeling of worry accompanies the sense of responsibility one might feel. “What if I hate it?” “What if I think it sucks?” Such was the case when the band’s singer, a longtime friend, reached out to me asking that I not only listen, but could I form enough opinion to review it.

Featuring former members of Four Fingers, Johnny-Cab Suicide and numerous other New Jersey home wreckers, Permanent Tension bring forth eight bursts of noisy aggression that hijacked my attention and held on long enough to elicit an emotional reaction and response.
On their third offering to date, Permanent Tension offers an all-out thrash, screamo attack with surprising elements of math rock peppered throughout. In listening to its eight songs one can detect a strong kinship with 90’s power violence acts such as Man is the Bastard, Neanderthal and Spazz. Intended or not, comparisons to Rorschach can also be made. And while the screamo vocal approach is clearly not my thing, the slowed down instrumentals inspire thoughts of doom metal gods Sleep. Noteworthy entries include “Newt” and the following track “Pendulum,” with “If the Accident Will” and “Hug the Dark” being my favorites. Overall, “Dedicated…” is a scorcher that took some time to fully appreciate, but in the end had its fair share of redeeming qualities. Whether you’re into thrash, scream, power violence or doom metal, Permanent Tension should quench your thirst for such darkness.

Permanent Tension

The Ratchets – First Light (Pirates Press Records)

Guitar punk is one of the coolest sounds to ever emerge from the ashes of punk’s origins.
That blue-collar approach at writing and releasing the angst via stripped down, raw bombast has been a common thread in much of the best songs bands such as The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers and Social Distortion have produced.
Having harnessed a curious taste regarding New Jersey’s the Ratchets lately, I was excited to see their latest album highlight a package Jersey Beat’s Jim Testa had sent over to me.
The opportunity to hear and learn a little about them for the very first time, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relatable and identifiable kinship with the band and their working-class sound.

The Garden State has quite a reputation for giving birth to acts that mirror the areas tough, middle class values. First Light, the band's eleven song return to the well, sees the band navigating territory that mixes elements of folkish street punk, Oi! and rock n roll, while honoring the guitar punk ethos mentioned earlier. The Ratchets' authoritative delivery has a sense of hands off realism that feels as honest as it does heartfelt, loaded with hooks, great lyrics and a socio-political edge that one can easily relate to. A nice tonic for fans of bands like Gaslight Anthem who prefer a less earnest (dare I say clichéd?) approach.

Available Here

Odd Man Out – Odd Man Out LP (Refuse Records)

Not to be confused with the late 80’s band of the same name that featured Steve Caballero and Ray Stevens of skate punk greats The Faction, Olympia Washington’s Odd Man Out were a straightedge hardcore band formed sometime in 2008 and featured members of Angel Dust and Gag. Considering my admiration for the band Angel Dust, I was somewhat surprised by how rudimentary and outright terrible this collection sounded. Lackluster and downright lazy riffs, shift and breakdowns that support gruff, growled vocals that bring back memories of the “So easy, even a cave man can do it” commercial spots. This release is their discography so far, containing songs from both their 7-inches and tape, with four new tracks exclusive to this release and three covers never officially released. There are several covers here including Youth Brigade’s “I Object” somewhere around the middle; unfortunately, Odd Man Out don’t do any better when they venture outside of their own material. Overall, 18 tracks of raw hardcore I myself struggled to get through.

Available Here

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Warzone – Open Your Eyes (Revelation Records)

With the song “As One”, Raybeez and Warzone led the charge for a new chapter in New York Hardcore’s storied history. The track featured on 1987s Revelation Records 7-inch compilation titled “Together” ushered in a new wave of bands and ideas that would dominate the sub-genre for the rest of the decade and influence many others for decades to come. Raymond “Raybeez” Barbieri, the former Agnostic Front drummer and one of the architects of New York Hardcore, would double as Warzone’s front man and spokesperson for hardcore music, scene and family up until his untimely death on September 11th, 1997.

With the recent parting of one time Warzone guitarist and the twenty-year anniversary of the death of Ray, I’ve found myself revisiting many of the memories and recordings from that long-gone yet often celebrated era. The thirty-year anniversary edition features each of the original ten song recordings for the 1988 Caroline Records release and a 16 page, 12x12" booklet with many never before seen photos, lyrics, and liner notes by author Tony Rettman. Also featured is an interview conducted with Raybeez around the time of the original release.

1988’s “Open Your Eyes”, Warzone’s second LP, easily slides in between the bands best, 1987’s “Don’t Forget the Struggle, Don’t Forget the Streets” and its worst, 1989’s self-titled Caroline Records release. Not bad but considering the impact made by “Don’t Forget the Struggle…” just a year prior, not great by any means. Though well intentioned, opening the album’s title track with a speech by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was questionable at best. Though followed by the sound of a bomb dropping and anti-racist, anti-discrimination lyrics, I can recall the initial reaction being quite negative. Highlights of the reissue include, but are not limited to “Dance hard or die.”, “Always – A Friend for Life” and the albums closer, “Striving Higher – For A Better Life.” A must-have for fans of American hardcore, NYC street punk, and of course, for those who were there.

Order it Here

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Joe Strummer – 001 (Ignition Record)

It’s been sixteen years since the passing of Joe Strummer, taken down by a heart attack at the age of fifty. Without exaggeration or overestimating the long shadow he cast as both a member of The Clash and his post punk solo work, his early departure was one that many, including myself, took harder than that of the many eulogies we rush to post on social media. It seems that not a day passes when I don’t recall London Calling being the first record I bought with my own money. Or how, at the age of eleven, I persuaded my Mother to take me to see the Clash perform in concert at New York City’s Bonds Disco.

This long-overdue limited box set, a 32 song retrospective, features rare, seldom heard and unreleased songs that explore Strummer's work outside of the legendary punk band, The Clash, from his pre-Clash rock n’ roll outfit The 101’s to the Mescalero’s and everything in between, including a 1986 collaboration with former Clash bandmate Mick Jones. Strummers post-Clash endeavors reveal him as a conscious explorer looking to experiment with a wide range of sounds, tones and colors in order to create a canvas uniquely his own. Though his love for stripped down rock n’ roll cannot be overlooked, it isn’t until Strummer focuses on folk, soul, country and Latin that he really takes on a glimmering shine. While some of the work presented here is admittedly oddball, there are some real gems to be found throughout. Strummer’s work with The Mescalero’s might be his most focused work outside of The Clash. There’s no denying that “Coma Girl” is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. His performance with Johnny Cash on Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and “Over the Border,” an inspiring collaboration with reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, cannot go without praise as they showcase his ability to branch out and change gears. In the end, 001 goes on to prove the important lesson that music still matters and Strummer’s legacy is still being felt. “The future is unwritten.” Rest in Peace, Joe.

Check it out here

Glenn Campbell – Sings for the King

You’d be in your right mind to ask why someone who grew up on punk and hardcore is writing about someone whose name is synonymous with country music on a site called Jersey Beat. Truth be told, though seldom seen, during the site and fanzine's long existence, Jim Testa and his many contributors have proven that music, in its many colors and shapes, often finds a way to erase borders and finds itself in unexpected places.

In my sometimes less than humble opinion, Glenn Campbell’s legacy deserves a little closer examination. Considering that long before Campbell was scoring hits like “Summer Nights,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” and “Rhinestone Cowboy," the Country Music and Musician Hall of Famer was a seasoned session musician with quite an impressive resume - one that credited him on records by the Mama’s and Papa’s, The Everly Brothers, Frank Sinatra, The Ronettes, The Beach Boys, and even the King himself, Elvis Presley.

On the previously unreleased and just recently found 1967 recording session “Sings for the King,” Campbell demos 16 songs with the intention of presenting them to Elvis Presley himself, as songs the King might consider recording in the future. Now one might wonder why Mr. Presley would choose Campbell to be his delivery boy when it came to helping him in considering what to record somewhere down the road. That answer might and can easily be found in Campbell’s voice. In listening to these songs, one can easily close their eyes and open their mind to realize how, intended or not, Campbell’s voice mirrors that of Presley’s. Without mocking or mimicking either artist, you could visualize Elvis sliding into these songs like a comfortable pair of slippers, part rock 'n’ roll and part country with enough soulful interplay for a King. There are some real praiseworthy moments to be had here. The opening track “We Call On Him” is a soulful gospel achievement that is both inspiring and beautiful. “All I Needed Was the Rain” is quite possibly the best evidence needed in tracking down why Campbell was chosen to work with Presley, while “How Can You Lose What You Never Had” and the session's closer “Restless” are worthy or mention and high praise. If you’re looking for something a little different to add to your collection, I highly recommend wrapping your ears around this collection of songs. While you’re at it, try putting some time aside to watch the 2014 rockumentary “I’ll Be Me.”

Get it Here

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Billy Idol – Revitalized (Capitol)

If you grew up in the early to mid '80’s, you might remember him as one of the early faces of the video revolution and the poster boy for faux punk.
Billy Idol originally gained fame during a short stint in the English punk band Chelsea, before leaving along with Tony James to form Generation X, who achieved mainstream success while releasing three albums. Upon the band's breakup, Idol would move to New York, where he would soon meet guitarist Steve Stevens and forge a new career as the snarling yet amiable face of the newly launched “All Music, All the Time” channel known as MTV. Singles such as “Dancing with Myself”, “White Wedding” and “Rebel Yell” established Idol as an early 80’s icon and sex symbol.

On Revitalized, Paul Okenfold, Moby, Crystal Method and a cast of DJ’s that include Idol himself give Billy Idol’s best known songs the remix treatment and reinvent them as dancefloor mashups. From the opening (Cray Remix) of “White Wedding,” you’re reminded of how awful and unnecessary remixing and reimaging any artist's work is. (Leave that shit on the dancefloor or in your imagination.) While the majority of Idol’s solo catalog has not gotten better with age, even his best songs that still carry some nostalgic value feel hollowed out and unimportant. Listening to these remixes only served as a reminder of how heartless and droning techno sounds. Overall, unless you’re a huge fan of Electric Dance Music (EDM,) Revitalized doesn’t even warrant a casual listen. To quote someone who recently shared his horrible experience of seeing a widely beloved act from the '60's:“I’d have to be on some serious drugs to enjoy this kind of shit.”

Blood Pressure – Surrounded (Beach Impediment Records)

Blood Pressure are a Pittsburg based Hardcore band featuring a cast of many hardcore luminaries from the area. The hardcore scene collective has been up, running and sharpening their version of venomous hardcore since way back in 2009.
The bands bio, which can be found on their bandcamp page is as entertaining as it is nonsensical. “Say there was a Keystone State Wrestling Alliance of sorts that consisted of a plethora of regional hardcore punk bands instead of a gaggle of scantily clad lowbrow beefcakes in spandex... Pittsburgh's own BLOOD PRESSURE would surely be the undisputed heavyweight champions of this fictitious league that I envisioned whilst rocking a slash in that alley across from the Rock Room.”
Musically speaking, Blood Pressure pack a lot of punch into these ten songs. Playing fast paced, no holds barred and no punches pulled hardcore with barked vocals that guide each of its entries with a sense of relentless urgency. Though each of these tracks pack all the aggression and power of an oncoming train. None of what’s being presented hear stands out or sets itself apart. With each entry sounding like the one before or the one to follow. The overall impression is that you’re simply the same ninety second song ten times. Whether that was just part of the game plan or not, is not known to me. Intended or not, “Surround” failed to move me in any way.

Beach Impediment Records

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Great Reversals – Stalactite (Ugly and Proud Records)

Detroit’s Great Reversals have been delivering tasty, yet dirty rhythms and devilish metal breakdowns since their first demo surfaced in November of 2009. As someone who’s always been curiously enamored with just what makes Detroit music so ballsy and real. I was eager to hear what this motor city band had to offer.

On “Stalactite”, Great Reversals deliver complex riffs, leads and breakdowns complimented by roared, impassioned vocals that deliver intelligent, introspective lyrics. Each song carries a sense of raw, honesty that solidifies their impactful urgency, both individually and as a whole. I found myself being drawn to the core of what this band has to offer from the opening rhythms on “No Mind.” Call it a possession, an obsession or whatever you want. I felt hooked from the very start. Great Reversals pension for creating dark, dense and intense songs really shine on here. Think parts Integrity and parts Bane. Bands who both displayed and benefitted from their metal influences. Ugly and Proud records are currently accepting pre-orders with a release scheduled for November. The EP is available in Grey and Clear color options and featured on a one sided 12’ with a screen-printed B side. With the bands knack for mixing the aggression and nihilism of hardcore with the proficiency and power of Metal. Fans of both should find common ground.

Ugly and Proud, Bandcamp

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Primitive Weapons – Surrender Yourself (Party Smasher Inc.)

Ev Gold of the band Cinema Cinema once told me that a key asset to listening to something outside of your normal comfort zone is that you have to “surrender to the trip,” wise words that can be applied to most any experience in life, words that have come to mean a lot to me over the course of time. It's one that I find myself applying to my daily life, and words that came to mind when listening to the Brooklyn band Primitive Weapons' third full length. For those who enjoyed the experimental phase of many hardcore and post hardcore outfits. it might be worth noting that Mind Over Matter guitarist, Arty Shepherd shares membership with former On the Might of Princes’ Chris Rodriguez here.

The aptly titled “Surrender Yourself” is, without any doubt or hesitation, one of the most interesting and unexpected submissions thrown my way since the inception of this column. And while the vocal approach Primitive Weapons unleashes is definitely not my thing, it is an approach that challenged me as it swept me up in its vortex. One that coupled with its musicality made me feel as if I’d been unwilling absorbed into some sort of demonic possession. Whether intended or not, I sometimes found it challenging to distinguish the choruses from the instrumentations. “Surrender Yourself” features eight tracks with six of them clocking in at over four minutes a piece. Musically, Primitive Weapons\ sound melds Metal and Post-Hardcore experimentation, without forming too close of an alliance with either. Though not my usual bag of tricks, I found “Surrender Yourself” to be quite rewarding.

Party Smasher Inc.

 

The Cheap Cassettes – "Kiss The Ass of My Heart" EP

Who in their right mind could abstain from checking out a band with a name as cool and retroactive as “The Cheap Cassettes?” Not me, that’s for sure. While my own sanity might come into question every now and then, my decision to check out what Seattle’s The Cheap Cassettes had to offer was quite rewarding. Featuring four songs, “Kiss The Ass of My Heart” is a cocktail of pub rock meets punk with a nuts and bolts approach that gives these songs a raw and honest appeal. As I listened, I could picture myself experiencing them live in a dirty basement of bar room, leaning in and singing along. Overall, The Cheap Cassettes’ sound aligns pretty well with their name - simple, easy and instantly gratifying, bringing to mind the vibe you were trying to convey with the bands and songs you carefully chose for those mix tapes you sent out to your friends and the girl you might have had a crush on at the time.

The Cheap Cassettes

 

The Subjunctives – Demo 2017

When a band name drops or even hints at being influenced by the great Husker Du or the mighty Stiff Little Fingers, you’d be best served to at least give them a listen or a long look see. Though their 2017 demo is a year old, I felt a desire to give these four songs a good listen to best gauge what these “three nice boys playing fast pop punk” had to offer. On their four song demo, The Subjectives take a minimalist approach to fast punk, one that quickly reminded me of early Bay Area punks Crimpshrine. Whether intended or not, there’s hints of “Kerplunk”-era Green Day and “Unfun”-period Jawbreaker on “Guinevere in Ray Bans and Chucks” and “Headed East Again.” Yet somehow, it all comes together on “Patriotic, But Fucked Up.” While The Subjunctives might have one foot firmly planted in East Bay’s pop, garage punk past, it sounds as if they’re truly on their own path here in Seattle. Here’s looking up your address.

The Subjunctives

 

Chain Whip – S/T

Straight outta Vancouver, BC comes a relatively new act whose simple yet direct approach to early 80’s American hardcore has a touch of English street punk and Oi. Think New York’s Urban Waste and D.O.A. meet England’s The Blitz. Sneering, or better yet, growled vocals meet crashing rhythms and a somewhat muffled, if not tuned down guitar sound. Overall, Chain Whip’s sound is as frenetic as it is energetic. While each of the five songs featured here resonated with me, like the fearless “Let’s bomb East Van” and the painfully earnest “Six day weekend,” it’s the fifth and final cut “How many chances / These eyes” that If had to choose (I mean, gun to my head.) would be my favorite. In listening to Chain Whip, I hear enough elements of the past and present to feel positive about Chain Whip’s future. Give this one a few go arounds. You might think so too.

Drunken Sailor Records

Indonesian Junk – Darkness Calling

My mother used to talk about the summer her Mom removed her from the stoop of their Brooklyn apartment and sent her to spend a year in Milwaukee with her grandparents. As she described the changes her daily life underwent, I imagined going from cooling herself off in the borough's countless fire hydrants to milking cows and curdling cheese. For better or worse, that has been my image of Milwaukee since I was a kid. In comes glam punk rockers Indonesian Junk to shake up and redraw our presumptions of that land to the North.

The self-described glam punk trio got their start in 2014 with designs on mixing punks sleaziness with power pop riffs and chords that paint a picture that mirror that of New York’s bowery and lower east side during the 70’s than any Milwaukee imagery you might come up with. “When I Find You” has a laid back, yet sinister vibe to it that reminds the listener. “Come On And Love Me” carries a similar “Lay, stay or go away” nonchalant vibe about it while featuring more than its share of hooks and devious turns.
“I Could Die” has a slow and somewhat bluesy narrative that teems with swagger and confidence. Raunchy and devilish. Indonesian Junk really put the hooks in me.
With a NY Dolls, Dead Boy, Lords of the New Church meet 70’s era Rolling Stones vibe, how could anything possibly go wrong?

Indonesian Junk

 

For more reviews by James Damion, click here...

 
 
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