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.
Were Promised Jetpacks – "Out of Interest"
EP (Big Scary Monsters)
I first heard the name We Were Promised Jetpacks back when
their 2009 debut "These Four Walls" dropped on Fat
Cat Records, so it's somewhat strange that I've never found
the time or interest to give the band a listen. Odd considering
the Edinburg, Scotland band have one of the catchiest handles
ever known to indie rock.
The bands' second release on Big Scary Monster Records features
five big, atmospheric songs that I couldn't wait to free myself
from. The EP's title "Out of Interest" is eerily
telling, as nothing featured here captured any of mine. While
I'm sure there's an audience for orchestrations such as these,
I found no kinship in listening to this.
They say that in music and just about everything else, that
there's something for everyone. It's a fundamental truth.
For me, this was a complete and total bore. Think, the Smiths
on horse tranquilizers. If heroin had a sound, WWPJ would
most likely lead the way.
Wow, this brought me back in so many ways. You see, back in
the early to mid-Nineties, I dated a beautiful woman I had
known since my teens—a girl who loved music just as
much, if not more than myself. With different yet often compatible
tastes and a love of different genres, we did our best to
influence one another through mixtapes and record exchanges.
One particular band that she wasn't able to sell me on (most
likely due to my own unrefined, narrow acceptance) was the
Wedding Present. That is, until I begrudgingly agreed to accompany
her to a small venue in Tribeca. That night, I decided to
open my mind, heart, and ears to new experiences and sounds.
To quote the late great John Peel, "The boy Gedge has
written some of the best love songs of the Rock' n' Roll Era.
You may dispute this, but I'm right, and you're wrong!"
With recognizable influences ranging from the Buzzcocks to
the Fall and a gift for clever songwriting, one would be foolish
to overlook a band like the Wedding Present.
Though singer/songwriter/musician David Gedge would be
the group's only mainstay, his leadership and focus would
leave an everlasting and impressive mark on the Wedding
Present. As one who's never been a fan of re-recording old
material, I might have otherwise passed up the opportunity
to pick this up. However, there is a noticeable improvement
in the sound, as the original had a somewhat tinny sound
throughout. There's also a bit of added muscle to the most
evident songs in the guitar sound. Getting the chance to
hear the band for the first time in more than twenty years
via an improved recording left me with a joyous impact.
Featuring twelve songs, Tommy 30 is borderline
genius, a perfect reminder and document of its time. Luckily
and not so surprisingly, the songs have aged very well and
are even more enjoyable thanks to these re-recordings. I'd
feel remiss in recommending this album without urging everyone
to look into their back catalog. Think early Cure meets
the Smiths without all the weirdness and anti-social mannerisms.
Post-punks M is We teams up with Night Battles to create
one of the most exciting couplings in recent memory, taking
different paths toward a similarly dark destination. Musically,
both M is We and Night Battles offer satisfying and compelling
tracks. With “What You Carry,” Carrboro NC's
post-punk M is We bring to mind long gone acts such as Joy
Divison, Tubeway Army, and early-day Cure, with a touch
of Factory Records weirdness. The synth-heavy style gives
their sound a definitive dark wave nuance.
As for Raleigh's Night Battles, a band I've previously reviewed,
“Flat On My back” is a slow-burning entry that
carries a dark, sinister vocal approach, moving rhythms,
and genre-shifting guitar riffs to make for a post-punk
track that warrants praise and comparison to "Slip"-era
Quicksand. Though the record only features two songs (one
from each contributor,) listening drew me to long for more
from each act. Once again, proving that big things often
come in small packages.
Featuring a cast of present and former members of Deadguy,
Everytime I Die, Ensign (a personal favorite,) The Banner,
and Nora, Second Arrows instantly fit the "featuring
present and former members of," if not "supergroup"
label. On Second Arrows' 8-song self-titled debut, the band
puts together one hell of a tormented metal storm without
straying very far from their core, or operating outside any
metalcore lines. Though the musicianship is very good and
the vocals are what you might come to expect from the metalcore
camp, I never got the feeling I was listening to anything
I hadn't heard countless times before, ultimately making it
a listening experience I would not repeat. The album was produced
and recorded by Kevin Antreassian (Dillinger Escape Plan.)
With hardcore music now entering its early forties, I'm not
expecting to hear anything remotely groundbreaking from this
sub-genre of punk. That's not to throw any dirt on a style
of music I've been nurtured by for decades. It's more like
a grumpy older man's take on things. This isn't bad, but nothing
sets it apart or makes it unique.
Tribute to The Hellacopters: South America to the max! (Devil’s
Thanks to Devil’s Beat Records for coming up with
the idea and releasing this incredible tribute to the Hellacopters,
South America to the max. Formed in 1994, Sweden
garage rockers the Hellacopters brought with them influences
ranging from The MC5, the Stooges, and early punk to even
heavier bands such as Motorhead and Venom. Much like the
Hellacopters, the South American artists featured on this
tribute deliver cutthroat and concise eulogies that both
honor the Hellacopters and elicit plenty of interest in
what they're doing otherwise. Favorite tracks include "Ghoul
School" by Uraguay's Motosierra, "Toys of Flavor"
by Argentina's Cobra Sarli, "Sometimes I Don't Know"
by the ska flavored Brazilian act Cianide Summer, and "Venus
In Force" by Argentina's Bad Magick. Though no booklet
or liner notes detail the history of The Hellacopters or
tells the story of the bands involved in the tribute, the
album’s cover highlights each group, their personnel,
and country of origin.
Considering that most tributes tend to fall short of accomplishing
their mission, I found these covers to be an excellent tribute
to the Hellacopters while shining a light on some noteworthy
acts that you might want to look into. The vinyl version
is limited to only one hundred copies. So, if you want one,
you best do it quick.
– Protest and Survive: The Anthology (BMG)
At a time when people worldwide are risking their safety to
take to the streets and protest police brutality and demand
equal rights, we need to speak out about music that cried
out and sometimes screamed for change... a time to write about
the mighty Discharge.
Formed in 1977 during the first wave of punk, England's Discharge
would go on to arguably, become the most politically charged
band in the history of punk rock. Their 1981 EP "Never
Again" and their 1982 full length Hear Nothing, See
Nothing, Say Nothing are considered to be landmark recordings
that have stood the test of time.
While I had seen the name embroidered on the backs of countless
punk rockers' dungaree and leather jackets throughout my
teens, getting an earful of Discharge would have to wait.
It wasn't until a friend gave me a mixed tape that featured
"Hear Nothing..." that I heard the error of my
ways. While it's easy to compare and speak of the similarities
between Discharge and the band CRASS, Discharge's output
and influence on many punk, metal, and thrash acts to come
can never be questioned.
This two-disc collection features 55 songs in all, six
of which are unreleased gems. Disc One features 29 tracks
taken from their many releases. Disc 2 is a goldmine of
remixes, alternate takes, extended versions, and demo tracks.
Also included is a booklet that features band photos and
the history of Discharge, written by the legendary music
historian Ian Glasper.
No matter where you sit, Protest and Survive:
serves as a great addition or introduction to Discharge,
their music, and their message; whether as a collection
for diehards or a musical Cliff Notes to newcomers, Discharge's
Anthology is an absolute must.
Featuring Philadelphia's Soul/Ska Catbite and the East Bay's
Ska/Punk newcomers Omnigone, the two acts team up on a split
7 inch for independent record label Bad Time Records. Each
band offers a Clash cover as well as an original. Philly's
Catbite took a few listens to grow on me and never left any
lasting impression. Their style brings the L.A. ska band the
Interrupters to mind with more of 90's third-wave ska vibe.
Catbite's decision to cover the Clash classic "White
Riot" was, at the very least, unfortunate. Their take
on the song sucks out all the intended anger and outrage of
the original, giving it a cartoonish Saturday morning breakfast
cereal vibe. I like the energy and angst Omnigone put forth
on their two songs. Their ska/punk sound feels both authentic
and appealing. Their music evokes punk and metal elements,
which give their version of ska a cool yet demented angle.
Their slightly updated "Nothing New." provides the
song with somewhat of a breath of fresh air. Overall, I found
this split to be enjoyable, yet not all that sustainable.
Altthough Seattle's The Unfit has been kicking the tires of
rock & roll since 2012, this 10-song self-titled LP stands
as their debut. When an album introduces itself with a title
like "Caged Rats and Hamster Wheels," you know damn
well what you're getting yourself into. Whether or not there's
a reason behind the bands' sloth-like approach to releasing
music, they've more than made up for what might otherwise
seem like lost time.
The Unfit mix things up seamlessly, as the raucous foursome
feature songs that are fast and unflinching at times and
slow and deliberate at others. Knuth's vocals have a confident
snarl that matches up with bombast created by bandmates
Johnson, Lee, and Johnson. Think Rock & Roll with a
Punk attitude. Imagine members of Black Flag and Rocket
from the Crypt forming a band with a heavy AC/DC influence.
Let's hope the Unfit don't leave us waiting too long for
a dose of new songs. In the meantime, I'm sure these will
keep me occupied.
On Rosenstock's fifth solo album to date, the pop-punk veteran
and once frontman of The Arrogant Sons of Bitches and beloved
Bomb the Music Industry follows similar themes present in
much of his solo output, emotional and frustrating themes
such as alienation and disenchantment with an added level
of emotional derailment that might come from enduring a speedball
of issues politically, socially, and environmentally. These
topics can be easily relatable. However, in listening to these
pop-punk meets power pop songs, one can quickly conclude that
Rosenstock sounds like a man growing more and more emotionally
The quick-paced and loose nature of these songs reminded
me somewhat of the sound and approach of the music coming
out of Lookout Records in their early days. Thirteen songs
that, while not bad, took numerous listens to absorb fully.
To wrap up this review, I'd feel remiss without reiterating
that Dreams isn't a bad album in any way, j ust
one that didn't appeal to me.
Is it possible that this is the same Bristol indie-pop act
that briefly appeared on the Eastern sea border's horizon
during the late '80s? Why, yes, it is. On their first album
in thirty-four years. The Flatmates, featuring both original
members and newcomers return with thirteen songs of pop-flavored
Sadly, there wasn't much here to warrant more than one casual
l and, for the most part, a painstaking listen. Which, unfortunately,
can almost entirely fall on the band's chosen vocalist Lisa
Bouvier. In enduring this record, it quickly becomes evident
that the choice to have her carry these otherwise likable
songs was a bad one.
Maybe it comes with getting older, but at some point in life,
you realize that it's the little things that bring us the
most joy. For me, the less complicated, the better. Perhaps
that is why I gravitated so much toward Jersey City singer,
songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Tom Barrett's latest
offering. "051480" is a collection of solo acoustic
songs recorded at home during the recent Coronavirus pandemic,
an entire album of songs he dedicated to his wife, Stacy.
Songs that resonate with the listener on multiple levels,
serving as calm in the storm. The level of warmth, intimacy,
and soothing on these tracks could easily find origins in
the simplicity of the recording, lack of overproduction, and
Favorites such as "...Kitties...", "I haven't
kept up with you.", " (other) Birds", "Together,
together, together...", "halfway there, you guys.",
and "Pink moon II" help create a sketch of a songwriter
in his stripped-down and raw best. While it isn't yet clear
if and how these songs will be released or distributed beyond
Tom's Bandcamp page, I couldn't help but feel drawn and
captivated by these arrangements.
Fuzzed out and devilish garage rock from Woodstock, New York
that’s frenetic, feral, and totally twisted. Skin
Suit features 13 songs that are part rock show, part
demonic possession. Intended or not, the band's knack for
creating a somewhat raunchy sound while not surrendering any
territory in production value is worth noting (and it probably
helps that Jon Spencer produced.) The Bobby Lees' penchant
for creating fuzzed-out garage rock leaves very little room
for improvement, warranting - no, insisting - on the listeners'
attention. While it's hard to make comparisons when something
this fresh sounding and honest comes along, imagine the White
Stripes and Dead Moon joined the devil himself for bluesy
mud bath. Choosing a favorite song here would be like choosing
one way to enjoy chocolate.
Brooklyn-based badass band How Tragic make quite an entrance
with their 4-song EP "Past Lives." It's quite rare
when something immediately grabs your attention and has you
gravitating to its core. As someone who witnessed a fair share
of street fights as a youth, that's what I thought of when
hearing the opening seconds of the opening track "Deathwish."
"That voice! That voice!" Could there be a better
vehicle than Paige Campbells' voice for these four songs?
Absolutely fucking not!
"Deathwish," "Spare Me," "Let
Me Down," and "Done" are equally grandiose.
With the bowel-shaking shrills overload the senses, parts
confident strength and swagger, part vulnerable innocence.
These songs feel honest and lived in, adding strokes of
emotive brilliance that play with elements of punk, pop-punk,
and power pop without settling in long enough to be generalized
or put on a shelf.
How Tragic live somewhere between L7, The Donnas and The
Distillers. In my humble opinion, even better. This small
sample hints at greatness.
Wow! Is it possible that punk legend Alice Bag, the same woman
who fronted the seminal L.A. punk band The Bags, is back with
this album? The Bag, who released one essential E.P. and appeared
in the incredibly influential documentary "Decline of
Western Civilization?" Yes, it's that Alice Bag, and
I find myself scratching my head as to how 2020's "Sister
Dynamite" is only her third solo album to date.
Sister Dynamite features 12 songs that immediately
resonate with the listener, with enough hooks to leave the
kind of marks you'll not only remember, but recall in conversation.
"Oh, those? I got them while listening to Alice Bag's
Music and vocals combine with uptempo, fast-paced, and
compelling elements. The strength and conviction conveyed
in Bag's voice are remarkable. Edgy guitar leads and pounding
rhythms accompany each note acting as a knockout combination.
Choosing a couple or even a handful of favorites from the
album would be quite a task, one I'm not sure I can handle.
Instead, I'll report that each of the album's twelve entries
had my eyes and ears at attention.
When you find yourself in a slump when it comes to new and
exciting music, a band like Dinosaur Eyelids comes along and
drops an album like Sticker Famous in your lap and
screams in your ear "You're not too old for this!"
Thanks to New Brunswick's Dinosaur Eyelids and their latest
offering, that slump came to a screeching halt.
The album features 11 songs that capture both the raw, cathartic
energy of both a hard-hitting local indie band and the technical
chops of a more established one. Whereas 2017's Left Turn
On Right put some serious hooks in me, somehow, 2020's
Sticker Famous actually might be a step up for the
band. Featuring a hard rock and garage edge and appeal that
completely knocks the listener on their ass, the album showcases
a heavy guitar sound, rhythmic twists, and varied vocal range.
Though Dinosaur Eyelids are cooking up their very own snake
oil, comparing or likening them to greats such as Fu Manchu,
Hot Snakes, and New Jersey's own Rye Coalition seem accurate.
As I finish my review and try to nail down the recording's
'absolute halcyon moments, whether I’m being reminded
of the Foo Fighters best days on “Shake” or “Never
Leaving Here,” the fiery guitars featured within “Never
Gonna be your Woman” or on songs such as, “Nogward
Spiral” and “Shot to Shit” Owhere the vocal
range seems to be channeling that of Chris Cornell,) I found
Sticker Famous to be an incredible rock album. One
that delivers on all cylinders.
Dodies – It’s One Hell of a Ride (Vampire Poodle
Israeli garage rock duo the Dodies make quite an impression
on their thirteen-song debut LP, combining bombastic guitar
work and percussion with vocals that show off a wide range
of emotions and styles. Yoni Avittan fronts the band as lead
vocalist and guitarist, as Ran Aronson sings backing vocals
while simultaneously playing bass lines on keyboard with one
hand and playing the entire drum kit with the other.
"Boiling Point" brashly opens the affair, instantly
distinguishing itself as a personal favorite with its confident
swagger. "Sell Out" and "Alien" follow
suit with similar output before "Suleyman" slows
things a bit, allowing the listener to take a long enough
breath to notice the Dodies ability to change gears with
just enough and maybe more knack for creating a music palette
that features many colors and shapes. While it's a tough
call, choosing favorites from such an excellent and well-balanced
recording would include the aforementioned "Boiling
Point" and the subdued "Buffoon," which stayed
with me the longest. In the end, The Dodies deliver so many
different elements to these songs that strictly referring
to them as "Garage Rock" only tells part of the
65's - Never Say Never (Pyrrhic Victory Records)
As I've come to embark on a project that involves reviewing
decades of photos I've taken at shows, practice spaces, and
beyond, I can't help but wonder where many of the bands and
musicians are today. Being that it's been forever since I
last heard New Jersey's blue-collar rock band The 65's, I
had no idea what to expect from "Never Say Never."
Though the band's personnel might have seen some personnel
changes over the years, (name one that hasn't ) The 65's continue
to capture the gritty emotions of lives fully lived. "Never
Say Never"'s three songs make a lasting impression, thanks
to Joe Pugsley's gravely vocals and jagged guitar leads and
the rhythms of Steele, Strucke, and Roessler. The three songs
featured here combine elements of punk, bar room grit, and
blue-collar rock, reminding me somewhat of early Social Distortion.
While I'm sure mentioning one's past musical endeavors and
achievements is very important when writing a bio, it's essential
in gauging the attention of a prospective listener. It can
also elicit a certain amount of enthusiasm that otherwise
might not be present. Such was the case with the Sinclairs
and the ten surf-rock tunes on Sparkle. Formed by
founding Damned drummer Rat Scabies and Billy Shinbone, the
duo set its sites on creating a surf-noir sound that might
remind listeners of those classic Spaghetti Westerns of the
Though featuring a collection of well performed and produced
songs that pay homage to what very well might be a lost
and often under-appreciated subgenre of rock, The Sinclairs
never seem to pass as anything more than a tribute to the
surf rock sound. Though not a bad album, per se, Sparkle
quickly had my interest drifting away. By the third song,
"Recover," I couldn't help but think I was navigating
one long, 2:00 am Viagra infomercial. Though I love revisiting
a good surf tune by acts such as The Ventures or the late,
great Dick Dale, The Sinclairs failed to interest this listener.
The album will be available May 8.
Me and This Fuckin' Guy - Garden Variety Fuckers
While mentioning that John S. Hall both formed and fronted
the avant-garde masters King Missile might seem like a lazy
man's attempt to gain one's interest, it's nearly impossible
not to notice both his presence and the uncanny likeness
You, Me & This Fucking Guy share with the aforementioned
act. Add Azalia Snail and Dan West (Lovey Dove) to the fold
and you have a trio with a very memorable name on what,
by all means, sounds like a concept album. The expletive
heavy narrative that is Garden… gets old quickly and
seems to drag on forever. I would have enjoyed this a lot
more as a two-song single as opposed to an entire album.
Unfortunately, I got a lot more than needed; the album’s
12 songs would have come across much better if shaved down
to just a few. Overall, this lacked the substance and depth
to be enjoyed as anything more than a campy single.
In all likelihood, when thinking of Local H, you probably
think of the ominous, yet catchy single "Bound for
the Floor" from their charting 1996 album As Good
as Dead. Understandable, considering it was their first
taste of worldwide airplay and the song's accompanying video
received heavy rotation on MTV. However, Chicago's Local
H had been actively playing in small clubs since the late
'80s, having released albums and singles before Good
as Dead as well as contributing to compilations and
soundtracks under a more indie cloak. Maybe that's why being
given a new Local H full length in 2020 was somewhat unexpected—perhaps
allowing me to go into listening to Lifers with
little to no expectations. Before, that is, having my mind
more or less blown.
The aptly titled Lifers offers 11 eclectic songs
that feature dense. dark, ominous, and engaging elements.
While sounding like a fresh breath of sinister aggression,
one can't help but find remnants of the '90s with moments
that reminded me of the likes of Monster Magnet, White Zombie,
and notably Nirvana on "High and Stupid." There's
calm within the storm as the acoustic charms of "Sunday
Best" show that Local H is more than capable of providing
some reflective moments. Overall, it's a whirlwind of feral
energy. It's quite rare when a band creates its best work
this late in its career. However, Lifers might
be their best work to date—a record worth exploring
with focus, attention, and determined intention.
I still fondly recall my first trips to the Anthrax club in
Connecticut. I was sixteen, maybe seventeen, but damn did
those shows shape me and my love of straight edge bands and
what was called posi-core. Perhaps that's why I still keep
a lookout for young groups who come up from that area and
continue to fly the flag of clean living. Last Straw's demo
features four songs, with one being an instrumental intro.
It wasn't easy to get a thorough feel for the band, though
they certainly aren't breaking much new ground by sounding
like an 80's posi-core act and addressing issues like peer
pressure and drinking. But hey, I'm sure today's kids are
dealing with a lot of the same things we did back when dinosaurs
still walked the earth. I have to admit to liking what I hear.
The riffs, breakdowns, and vocals each sound great. If you’re
into bands like Youth of Today, BOLD or Wide Awake, you’d
most likely want to check this out.
If the legendary Black Flag and Santa Cruz weirdos BL'AST
were ever to join forces to start a side project, it would,
without a doubt, sound like Cold Feet, reminding me of all
the great and eccentric bands that came out of the west coast
during the first and second waves of American Hardcore.
This EP delivers 8 tracks of fast, frantic punk that sound
and feel deeply-rooted in American Hardcore’s fabric,
yet original in that it all feels honest, free of any sense
of being a nostalgia act.
For all of you locals and old school Punks, this would
please any fans of New Jersey's Adrenaline OD or New York's
Stisism, "Punk Entity" is available as a digital
download and limited color vinyl. For more information,
check out the link below.
Whenever rock or mockumentaries depict the first wave of British
invasion acts of the early Sixties, I can't help but recall
a band named the Dave Clark Five. When it comes to ensembles
with a saccharine sound and matching suits, The Dave Clark
Five almost instantly come to mind. While often credited with
the Beatles as the first rock and roll act to cross the Atlantic
Ocean, the DC5 would never come close to what the Beatles,
the Rolling Stones, or Kinks would accomplish in the following
Although hit singles, million-selling records, and their
private DC-3 monikered plane might look nice on Dave Clark
Five's resume, their music hasn't survived the changing
times. Songs such as "Bits and Pieces," "Glad
All Over," and pretty much, everything in between has
not aged well, sounding like safe, ttoned-down versions
of what rock & roll offered. This two-disc, sixteen
song collection never once captured my attention or admiration.
Also featured is a thirty-two-page booklet telling the band's
history through stories and images. Do yourself a favor
and stick with what you've got.
& Bark – Nowhere Near Ohio (Reissue - Snappy Little
Though labeled as a reissue, this EP marked both my introduction
to the band name and their music. I felt somewhat compelled
to listen and hear what I might have missed the first time
around. Unfortunately, I found myself drawn into a slow-paced
and somewhat dreary soundscape, music that just never grabbed
hold of my attention or piqued any of my interest. Although
some cool instrumental exchanges lurk within, the vocal delivery
on these five songs is mind-numbingly awful, making these
five songs more of a grind then a grove. There are other Pitch
& Bark releases available through Snappy Little Numbers.
However, judging from what I heard on “Nowhere Near
Ohio,” I took a pass on any further investigation.
Wow, the production on here is terrible, almost as bad as
the vocals. I'm not sure if the feedback from the amps is
intentional, given the overwhelming amount of it. One can
easily assume it is. Featuring six songs, the only notable
one is the sixty-one-second instrumental "Intro Bashing,"
the only remotely decent offering. Only time will tell if
C-4 blows up within the realm of hardcore. Judging from this
demo, I wouldn't recommend holding your breath.
– Might-Ay White-Ay Reissue (Jump Up Records)
Since its creation more than fifty years ago, ska music has
gone through many changes, both musically and stylistically.
As a lifetime fan of all eras, waves, and approaches to the
music, Mephiskapheles may have been the only band that merged
ska's jazz-influenced horns and funky beats with heavy metal
‘s incendiary guitar sound.
Formed in NYC back in 1991 during the third wave of ska,
Mephiskapheles not only invigorated an already impressive
scene, they challenged the accepted norm of what elements
of sound were expected and accepted within the sub-genre.
If there were ever a least likely mash-up of different styles,
then the Jamaican inspired rhythms and dancehall beats with
heavy metal guitars and streetwise lyrics would probably
be the least likely to be tested. Mephiskapheles' mix of
ska beats, rhythms and funky horns with strokes of metallic
genius and devilish vocals set them apart from their contemporaries
The metallic and somewhat guitar funk-tinged riffs had Mephiskapheles
sounding as much as early Faith No More as Two-Tone Legends
In listening to Might-Ay White-Ay for the first
time in years, I not only gained a love and appreciation
for the band Mephiskapheles. I was reminded of how important
ska was on the streets and in the New York City underground
during the late 80’s and throughout much of the 90’s.
This reissue contains fourteen remastered scorchers and
is featured on white vinyl.
Drawn in by the super creepy cover image, I somehow knew that
listening to this EP would make me a believer. Featuring three
songs of hypnotic and relentless synth punk, one can't help
but almost instantly fall under its spell. It's music that
sounds ahead of its time yet brings to mind pioneering electronic
music such as Kraftwerk, Tubeway Army, and New Order. Upon
listening to these songs, you'd probably want to venture over
to their Bandcamp page, where you'll find many other previous
releases. Beam me up and take me to your leader.
Shack Shakers – Live from Sun Studios (Chicken Ranch
When I think about the roots of rock and the lesser documented
rock steady, I often note the simplicity and absence of overproduction
as crucial ingredients that made the music so identifiable
and significant, basic applications that stripped the music
to its core, revealing its true beauty and appeal. That's
what immediately comes to mind when I sit down and listen
Though JD Wilkes and Kentucky's Legendary Shack Shakers have
been releasing music since 1998, "Live' was only the
second album I've come to be lucky enough to own. "Live
from Sun Studios" sounds like the perfect setting for
the Legendary Shack Shakers. The simplicity and authenticity
of the bands' sound and approach are untouchable and, for
the most part, long forgotten. The Shakers merge elements
of the bluegrass, blues, classic country, rockabilly, and
vaudeville. Imagine, if you will, a melting pot of Tom Waits,
Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams III performing at a carnival
of misfits and outcasts.
The live recording adds an element of laid back intimacy
and inclusion. Each of the eight songs warrants individual
praise. However, to get a full appreciation of what the
band brings. I highly recommend listening to this in its
No – Kyanite (positiveno.bandcamp.com)
They say that all good things must come to an end, and while
listening to the last words of a loved one or beloved band
can be bittersweet, one has to be grateful for being able
to have experienced the creative spark their music created.
Richmond, Virginia’s Positive No had a way of channeling
everything great regarding indie pop and alternative rock
since its existence, while sounding fresh and unique. While
often compared to Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna and Sonic
Youth's Kim Gordon, or even Bjork, Tracy Wilson's voice
deserves a category all its own, conveying a wide range
of emotions via breathy whispers and chaotic shrieks. Instrumentally,
the band delivers inventive and complex leads and rhythms
that show up consistently and prominently in each song.
Each of the nine songs on Kyanite leave a lasting,
indelible footprint. While songs like “Escalator Up”,
and “Exit Strategy” are worthy of mention and
praise, I found about six songs, including “Hot Air”
and “Why do you sing in the middle of the night?”
literally stood on the shoulders of giants. While calling
it a day while releasing the best material to date is somewhat
unimaginable to me, it can't go without noting that Tracey,
Kenny, Colden, and Keith left us with a catalog of songs
and releases worth high praise and countless listens. While
it's a bit early in the year, I'd be willing to bet the
farm that Kyanite turns out to be my favorite album
of 2020. Kyanite was recorded and mixed at Magpie
Cage by the legendary J. Robbins.
Bags - Only the Dead Die Good (Spaghettytown Records)
There's an immediate draw to this Richmond, Virginia rock
outfit. The cleverly titled, six-song EP "Only the Dead
Die Good" fires on all cylinders, featuring cutting riffs,
jagged rhythms, and a vocal assault that can bring to mind
the Distillers' Brodie Dahl and the Donnas' Brett Anderson.
The E.P. opens with the title track, introducing Medina's
dominant vocal style and Kirk's incendiary guitar riffs and
leads. The fourth song, "Livin' with Nothing," features
rhythms that have enough kick to be featured in a Kung Fu
flick. Considering I had no prior knowledge or expectations
regarding Sick Bags before hearing this, I have to admit that
this knocked me on my ass. Don't sleep on this.
If you were ever a fan of early 90's Amphetamine Reptile
Records or late '70s, early 80's No Wave, then I'd recommend
checking out Richmond VA's Teenage Cenobite. They're noisy,
experimental, a bit psychotic, and a whole lot of off-center
synth noise with a psychedelic vibe.
While exciting and unique, I never felt as if this was something
worth more than one or two listens. Not bad but not overwhelmingly
good. Perhaps if I hadn't fully absorbed the music that
inspired Teenage Cenobite, I might think differently. 'Live'
features six songs, will be available on cassette, and made
available on Feel it Records.
Terror - Anatomy of Terror (Triple B Records)
Excuse me as I dip my toe in the extreme metal end of the
pond. Having become quite fond of heavy metal over the last
ten or so years, I decided to take a listen to some of the
recent releases found in my mailbox to get a closer look
at a sub-genre I've spent avoiding for most of my life.
This brings me to the ten-song "Anatomy of Terror"
by Boston's Saigan Terror.
Featuring ten songs of metal core that was, as its very
best, formulaic and unimaginative, "Anatomy of Terror"
was an extremely hard listen. Though the recording features
some impressive musicianship, riffs, breaks, and breakdowns,
the vocals, which consist of a combination of gut-wrenching
growls and groans, evoke pure misery.
Okay, this was a lot better. Big Takeover (a band name most
likely inspired by the song of the same name, by the legendary
Bad Brains) play a more urban, perhaps hip hop inspired, metallic
hardcore. On their five-song debut, thery put forth a rather
impressive EP featuring some fierce riffs, breaks, and breakdowns.
Featuring five songs, each of which carries a certain bounce
and soulful rhythm, one can't help but feel the marriage of
different influences and sounds help benefit the band while
making "Madhouse" stand out. The one thing that
had me figuratively scratching my head was why a five-song
EP is being pressed and priced as an LP?
All End All - Better You Than Me / Famous Last Words (Triple
While it's hard to judge or adequately describe a band after
sampling two songs, it's pretty safe to say this was mind-numbingly
terrible. After listening to this twice, I came away with
no different opinion whatsoever. To describe the bands' sound,
I'll refer to their Bandcamp page, "Too Hardcore for
Smartphone punks." "Too punk for clap mosh losers."
A band in touch with the times and its changing technology.
Order - The World is Too Much (Triple B Records)
Hardcore punk comes in many different shapes, sizes, and
of course, sounds. Being that I was an Eighties kid drawn
to hardcore by bands that played something more akin to
punk than metal, I tend to lean towards bands of that ilk.
Which brings me to "This World Is Too Much." Though
it's been a while since I picked up a copy of Restraining
Order's self-titled debut ep, the lasting impression it
left almost immediately gravitated me towards the Massachusetts
hardcore band's debut full length.
Drawn in by the cover shot of lead singer Pat Cozens launching
into the air while wearing a Double-O band tee to the gatefold
that opens up to the song lyrics, this reminds me of falling
in love with hardcore as a maladjusted teen in the mid-Eighties.
With a sound that finds influence in first wave hardcore icons
SSD and Negative FX, Restraining Order’s approach is
a bit more stripped down, yet impressive and easily relatable,
with raw yet melodic vocals that deliver purposeful lyrics,
stabbing riffs and barreling rhythms.
"This World is too Much" opens with the fast-paced
and anthem inspiring "Never."
The title track, one of my personal favorites on the album,
takes a more slowed down and deliberate route. There are so
many standout efforts on this album. If I had to narrow it
down to just a short list, I’d note that “What
Will You Do?” and “Be Like Me” are more
than deserving of praise.
Hamburg, Germany's Barrels impress from the first note to
the last. Applying an intense mix of hard and alternative
rock, Barrels manage to coalesce excellent musicianship with
intelligent lyrics and songwriting. These five songs teem
with an urgent authenticity that's become quite rare these
days, instantly making their mark while making the listener
cry out for more. With each of the five entries providing
such an integral appeal, I found it hard to designate one
specific song as a favorite. However, with the EP's opener
"Wrong Wings," providing such instant gratification,
I'd feel safe mentioning it. For fans of The Afghan Whigs,
Drive Like Jehu, Rocket From the Crypt, and music bombastic
enough to make the hairs on your neck stand up.
Youth of Today – "One Night Stand" / "Anarchy in
what a total and complete waste of time and money. Shame on
me for even considering adding this to my recent cart. What
Revelation Records marketed as a two-song EP featuring a live
performance of the Sex Pistols "Anarchy in the UK"
titled "Anarchy in Vienna." and a studio-recorded
cover of Paul Anka's "One Night Stand." turned out
to be a one-song clunker. What I got was a poorly recorded
live performance where Ray Cappo lazily half sings "Anarchy
in the UK." As for "One Night Stand," the song
doesn't seem to appear on the record. In its place, however,
are some spoken word crap about positivity and outtakes from
what seems like an afterschool special. And I thought subliminal
messages only appeared on metal records people found time
to play backward.
When contacting the label, I was told: " If you put the
needle down in the same place twice, you can get two different
things." Once I figured that part out, I got what I was
hoping to here. However, by then, I didn't care as much. If
you're still a fan of Youth of Today some thirty years since
they put out a record, more power to you.
While Wire's 1977 debut "Pink Flag" still stands
as one of the best punk albums ever released, its timing,
and the fact that it was labeled "post-punk" while
the original punk scene was still in full swing, only add
to the art punks' legend. Though a bit more obscure than some
of the big four of the first wave of '77 punk, Wire is still
surviving and thriving with the help of somewhat cult following,
releasing albums that sound as diverse as there memorable.
2020's "Mind Hive" follows Wire's 2017 release "Silver/Lead,"
and will be released on the bands' label "Pink Flag"
in January 2020.
Dark and deep textures fill each song giving them somewhat
of a John Carpenter horror theme and feel. While "Mind
Hive" might not gain the landmark status of say, "White
Flag," (entries created decades after their debut rarely
do,) I found it to be both inspiring and challenging, an album
worth mentioning amongst the some of the best in indie rock
and beyond. Favorite songs include the album's opening track,
"Be Like Them," the lead single "Cactused,"
the dreamy "Unrepentant," and "Hunger"
really put the hooks in me. Overall, "Mind Hive"
features nine songs of often dark and sinister post-punk that
should satisfy long-time fans of the band and novices alike.
Fast, furious, and unbridled, not to mention compelling, Reclaim
walk a thin line between straight-up punk and traditional
hardcore, while featuring enough break downs and mosh parts
to put any mosh pit on notice, Reclaim manage to do so with
a certain amount of musicality and style that sets them apart
from the average, every day HC band. When describing Reclaim's
borderline punk sound, I mean to give them a bit of distance
from the more metal and thrash acts that have dominated hardcore
over the years. When listening, I feel it gives them a more
distinct sound. One that quickly and authoritatively sets
them apart from the pack.
Wow, to say this was unexpected would be the understatement
of this still, very early 2020. Call me an old so and so,
but when a young band immediately reminds me of influential
acts such as the Savages, Killing Joke, Gang of Four, and
the criminally underrated The Sound, I can't help but rejoice
at the moment. Complete with inspired leads, dark rhythms
and powerful, yet haunting vocals of Kierston Olsen, Vacancy's
debut six song 7-inch combines both an instant and lasting
Drawn in by what I thought might be a tribute to the late,
great New Jersey hardcore band Turning Point, I found myself
combing the Mojave Desert for evidence of any existence of
hardcore, punk or indie music on this album sampler compilation.
What I found were six exciting bands that show enough diversity
and originality to jumpstart and sustain a scene of their
very own. Released in the summer of 2019 and featuring the
bands Reclaim, Noble Bones, Marron, County Fair, and Cel Damage,
each group contributes one song with styles that range from
punk to hardcore to scream to indie rock.
On "Zebulon," the band's 2019 four-song cassette
EP, Cel Damage live up to their namesake, blending hardcore,
metal, power violence, screamo, and other elements of extreme
music for skin-crawling results. Featuring four songs, the
only adjective one could muster: torturous. While there are
some compelling riffs, rhythms, and chord changes within,
I struggled to find any positive traits to come away with.
Fans of extreme metal might think otherwise.
Featuring an all-star cast of bands that helped to define
hardcore music and culture from the late Eighties to the challenging
and sometimes confusing Aughts, Constant Elevation sound just
as focused and goal-oriented as their namesake. With players
who contributed and even fronted bands such as Side By Side,
Youth of Today, Judge, Rival Schools, Chain of Strength, The
Movielife, I am the Avalanche, World Be Free, and more, it's
safe to say, expectations were high. Though containing only
three songs, "Fuck Runnin'," "Mouth In Motion,"
and "Fletch," this EP not only displays a sense
of chemistry within its members but a collective sense of
how a good hardcore song should feel and sound. Only time
will tell if Constant Evolution sticks around long enough
to write more songs and inevitably record a full length. Getting
a sample of what Constant Evolution has to offer makes one
wish for such.
It's never a good thing going into a record review knowing
full well that at the very least, you'll having nothing new
to say about a band that hasn't left much or any impression
on you since their first full length that was released 35-plus
years ago. Considering the impact of "Victim in Pain"
and my appreciation of the recently aired rockumentary "Godfathers
of Hardcore., I find myself sitting here writing about Agnostic
Front's latest studio album, "Get Loud." Featuring
fourteen songs, "Get Loud" is every bit of what
you'd expect from the band's conception in the early Eighties.
And in all honesty, that isn't a whole lot. If you're reading
this to get a description of what "Get Loud" offers,
stop reading this and listen to anything the band has released
since "Victim in Pain." Whether that's an encouragement
or deterrent is entirely up to you.
All due respect to AF, but its storied history and nostalgic
call to the past hasn't produced anything minutely exciting
or different that would distinguish one album from the next.
And as much as they deserve the credit they get as architects
of New York Hardcore, while one can give credit for the band's
personal lyrics and dedication to the fast, loud, and hard
as fuck mindset, the tag and the constant reminder of such
only reinforces their status as a nostalgia act. Overall,
it seems that Agnostic Front would greatly benefit from playing
shows and touring, with a promise to stay out of the studio.
Alone – Rather Be Alone (Indecision Records)
There comes a time in every genre and sub-genre when everything
starts to sound the same. It could be the style or how the
listener's taste in music evolves. In my case, it could be
a combination of both. As someone who spent a good part of
his life both participating, supporting, and celebrating hardcore
music, it feels as if the majority of the hardcore bands today
aren't producing anything I haven't heard for close to thirty
years. Take into consideration Power Alone's "Rather
Be Alone." Though California's Power Alone doesn't suffer
from any musical or technical issues, their mix of metalcore
meets screamo sounds tired and overdone, ultimately making
these 11 songs rather tough to get through. Not terrible for
what it is, but nothing I haven't been hearing and disliking
for too, too long.
The Radio Buzzkills / The Hypnic Jerks – Hi-Sci Fidelity
Split (Milksop Records)
On this space-themed split, I got to hear two bands who were
otherwise strangers to my ears.
St. Louis, Missouri’s The Radio Buzzkills combine nerdy
pop-punk vocals with upbeat punk riffs and rhythms that come
together to create something that feels honest, yet edgy.
“Without a Trace” and “Mulder Suicide”
both have a Lookout Records vibes that had me harkening back
to younger days when I could muster enough energy to pogo
with the best of them. The B side, which features Chicago’s
The Hypnic Jerks’ let loose on ‘Planet Zero’
and ‘Inanimate Lifeform.’
Sound outer-worldly with a Ramones edged version of pop-punk.
Short, fast bursts of fun, melodic jams that had me craving
for more. You can visit the site to learn more about the vinyl
pressing, ordering the record, or downloading options.
Buzzkills / Black Russians – Mutually Assured Destruction
Split (Outloud Records)
Another theme-driven split, this one including Radio Buzzkills
and Black Russians, featuring cover art of what very much
resembles a 70's Marvel Comics battlefield. The fact that
I had just heard St. Louis's pop-punk ambassadors Radio Buzzkills,
I was eager to drop the needle on this cold war-themed split.
Featuring RB's 'You're my Chernobyl' and 'Can't Stop the Western
Block,' the quartet is somewhat of an eye-opener, one that
should elicit further digging.
As for Side B's Black Russians, this was my first taste of
them. I don't know where they're from or what kind of mischief
they're up to. Still, this band knocked me on my ass with
some high-octane shit — reminding me of the 'Fast, Loud,
Rules' ethos of earlier punk bands such as The Stimulators
with a Teenage Bottlerocket influence and a sound that resembles
New York's The Wyldlife. The songs 'We'd have a Riot doing
Krokodil,' 'Communist Party,' and 'Ain't Putin up with You,'
the Black Russians are a band I hope to be hearing more of
Don't you love when an opening chord assures you that the
record you just dropped the needle on was well worth the hunt?
Well, that's what happened when Dead Furies "Stay Gold"
entered my ears, laying ground as more proof that true rock
& roll is a living, breathing entity, one that features
fiery riffs, edgy rhythms, and bluesy swagger. Formed in Estonia,
yes, Estonia in 2016, releasing new music on a somewhat frantic
pace. "Stay Gold" marks the Dead Furies' fifth release
and first for Spaghetty Town Records. The fourteen-song album
features elements of punk, garage rock, rock & roll, the
blues, and due to the piano keys, I hear, boogie. Overall
their sound can be compared to the likes of The Stooges, The
NY Dolls, Motorhead, and Rocket from the Crypt. Considering
this album is so consistently good throughout. I find it somewhat
of a task to mention individual songs. I can safely reference
it. Whether you buy it on vinyl or download it on Bandcamp.
A heavy dose of Dead Furies high octane rock is just what
– Descarga Adrenergica (Spaghetty Town Records)
Judging from the cover image, one might think this was either
70’s church music or an audio how-to on adventurous
masturbation techniques. Either way, it’s going to be
the peak of listening pleasure. Add a band name and album
title that, correct me if I’m wrong, are Spanish variations
of the word shit, and you’ve got one hot mess on your
Formed some twenty years ago in Brazil, and embracing different
elements of punk, including power violence. “Descarga
Adrenergica” surprisingly marks the band’s first
U.S. release. Musically, Merda sound quite reminiscent of
the hardcore bands I was listening to in the late ’80s
to mid-’90s. Loud, quick and urgent, but difficult to
pigeonhole. While digesting twenty-two songs sung in Brazilian
might seem intimidating to some. As a listener, I could not
feel more engaged.
Generation – Prisoner of Love (Spaghetty Town Records)
United Kingdom's Suicide delivers fast, explosive guitar rock
from across the pond. The lead single 'Prisoner of Love' as
well as the B' sides' Shitty in the City' and 'Rotten Mind,'
carry the kind of bombastic swagger you'll never get from
a major label or FM radio. Suicide Generation is the equivalent
of the dirty porn magazine you hid within your copy of Field
and Stream. If you dig dirty, balls-out rock n' roll as I
do. Then I highly recommend picking this up and playing it
Vigilantes – Que Descaro / Tus LLegan (Spaghetty Town
My stepfather’s family was from and remained scattered
across the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. After hearing Los
Vigilantes, I thought of giving them a call or sending them
a link to check out local sons Los Vigilantes. While a lot
more laid back and pop-leaning than anything I’ve heard
on Spaghetty Town records. I can honestly say I both enjoyed
this and the fact that the label’s music has a global
appeal. Los Vigilantes reminds me a lot of the kind of music
that would be played at those family gatherings while we indulged
in mofongo, pasteles, plantanos, and empanadillas.
Queens – City of Class (Spaghetty Town Records)
In keeping with my international thread and politically incorrect
nature, I give you Bitch Queens. If Australia's Hard-Ons and
Sweden's Hellacopters ever decided to have a love child, chances
are the results would sound a lot like Switzerland's Bitch
Queens. The eleven songs on “City of Class” exhibit
all the traits of a pure hard rock classic. Complete with
plenty of high energy, high octane, testosterone-fueled riffs,
rhythms, vocals, and maniacal bombast. While viewing the albums
cover art, I felt quite confident regarding what lay waiting
inside. However, I could never have imagined I'd become sucked
in so quickly. In closing, I feel lucky to be heading into
the new year on such a high note.
Women – New Age Record (Sorry State Records)
In what is easily the most exciting and oddball release in
recent years, Fitness Women’s experimental sound is
as unique as it is innovative. The four-piece North Carolina
act plays a style of post-punk that might be beat heard than
described, mixing bass, guitar, drums, and synthesizer. Fitness
Woman’s style and delivery are about as strangely addictive
and original as I’ve heard. While the 11 songs featured
on ‘New Age Record’ may vary in length, there
is no limitation regarding their experimentation and recognizable
attention to creating free form art. The only similarities
or comparisons I can make lead me back acts such as Germany’s
Kraftwerk and New York’s late Seventies, early Eighties
No Wave scene. I honestly haven’t been this impressed
or surprised this much in a long, long time. Released by the
great Sorry State Records label and limited to only three
hundred vinyl copies that include a lyric sheet.
Bios have a way of overstating a band or artist’s ability
and, though often with the best intentions in mind, it often
equates to an infomercial where a host blows smoke up your
ass in order to sell you something you really don’t
want. In the case of the band Jack and Sally and their five-song
debut for Engineer Records, I might have enjoyed listening
to this trio of Londoners more intently if I had not read
the two-page synopsis that accompanied their CD.
Comparisons aside and somewhat ignoring the fact that this
was conceived as a concept record about a character named
“Macy”, I did my very best to listen with educated
ears and an open mind. Though the five songs on the EP feature
some good moments with melodies, harmonies and emotional
twists, I struggled to find anything that set it apart from
the horde of pop rock, pop punk and saccharine emo bands
I’ve been hearing for over twenty years. Though not
bad, it’s definitely not very memorable or worth more
than a casual listen.
Featuring four songs, one being a cover of The Who’s
“The Kids are Alright,” the “Love What Is”
EP elicited little to no reaction from this listener. Complete
with programmed drums, each song shares the feel of a record
recorded at home on a Casio cassette recorder. While I really
wouldn’t go as far as saying the four songs are bad,
I really struggled to find anything here worth celebrating
or writing about. Personally, I found Jean Caffeine’s
bio to be a lot more interesting than the music presented
Away – Never the Same Place (Engineer Records)
Awesome melodic punk from Scarborough, North Berkshire. Four
punkish songs that bring to mind acts such as New York’s
Iron Chic and Pennsylvania’s The Menzingers deliver
both an instant and lasting appeal, complete with vocals,
riffs and rhythms that sound well produced, yet raw and infectious.
There’s a marked sense of honesty in these songs I found
to be quite captivating. Complete with an edgy bombast, these
four high adrenaline anthems carry a sense of urgency that
made me want to jump from my chair to the speakers they were
blasting from. Though the EP’s title “Never the
Same Place” might indicate otherwise, I can’t
help but feel a certain sense of cohesion in these songs.
Though most likely not intended there seems to be a common
thread that connects each song. Overall, the each of the four
songs on “Never the Same Place” connect and resonate
with this listener, serving as a perfect tonic for those looking
for new bands and music to latch on to.
With a name like “Sleave” and the working title
“Don’t Expect Anything”, one can’t
help but think they’re getting left off the hook while
being waved forward as to say, “Move along. There’s
nothing worth seeing here.” Only you'd be ambushed by
something so good, you’d find yourself debating whether
to keep it secret, or shouting its virtues from the nearest
rooftop for all to hear. In my case, it was just more evidence
that there has always been something about Richmond, Virginia
that has it churning out so many amazing bands. Featuring
twelve songs of Sleave’s emotional, yet powerful brand
of pop punk meets melodic hardcore, "Don't Expect Anything"
is insanely good.
You might find it a little strange when your introduction
to a band or artist is through a collection of singles or
previously released tracks. It ranks up there with going straight
to the Cliff Notes without ever bothering to read the book,
or purchasing a greatest hits collection without ever bothering
to get acquainted with the artist’s discography. Still,
I ‘ve always considered it a good way to get to know
a band before deciding whether or not to look any deeper.
In the case of State Drugs and the collection of songs
on Takings and Leaving, I got a genuine and distinct
feel of a band deeply rooted in the aesthetics of indie
rock. I found it interesting how connected and cohesive
these songs sound considering that this is a collection
of various songs from their years together. In listening,
I became interested in digging into State Drugs past and
felt as if I’ve found a new friend in the label that
Most notably featuring Alec MacKaye (Faith, Ignition, The
Warmers) and Mary Timony (Autoclave, Helium, Ex-Hex) as well
as Chris Wilson and Mark Cisneros, Hammered Hull's debut EP
had me scrambling to hit the pre-order option on Dischord
Records' website faster than a gunslinger pulling his colt
.45 out of its holster in a spaghetti western.
Having grown up on a steady diet of Dischord Records releases,
one can only feel a sense of creative nourishment that has
leaves an indelible mark on one’s socio-political conscience,
s omething that grants each and every release on the label
a certain level of importance and intimacy.
The fast paced urgency that Hammered Hulls bring is undeniable.
Three songs that manage to strike a cognizant chord with
this listener in a very short time. Something that doesn’t
often happen with such a small sample size. The 7-inch ep
features the songs “Written Word” (not a Government
Issue cover), “Self-Inflicted,” and “Looking
After You”. The EP was recorded and mixed at the legendary
Inner Ear Studios by Don Zientara and Ian MacKaye.
It only took me a few seconds, but in less than a minute’s
listen of the opening track on Armchair Martian’s reissued
demo I felt the influence if not close resemblance to punk
rock's legendary Husker Du. Though the band's attention to
speed and upbeat intensity are instant draws to these songs,
one can’t dismiss their knack for melody and warm harmonies.
Call it pop punk, call it power pop, call it whatever you
want. The five songs on this reissued demo are worth checking
out. I’ll leave digging up the background and history
of the band up to you.
It happens all the time. You go out to see one of your favorite
bands and find yourself discovering a new one to latch on
to and absorb every song they release, filling your ears and
subconscious while crying out for more. For me, it would be
hard to think of a band that’s come to represent that
sentiment more than Chicago’s All Eyes West.
Formed in 2010, the Chicago trio of Justin Miller (vocals/bass)
Jeff Dean (guitar) and Ronnie DiCola (drums) has been steadily
touring and recording since then. Their brand of raw yet
melodic punk has, at least for me, mixed elements of New
Brunswick, New Jersey’s Lifetime's hardcore bombast
with the melodies and song structure of Berkley, California’s
Like Lightning marks the band’s first full
length since 2015’s Doomer, and features
11 songs of guitar driven punk that hits the listener like
a bottle of Jack, full of incendiary hooks, rhythms and
vocals that are forceful, yet not forced. Upon closer investigation,
comparisons to Vic Bondi (Articles of Faith, Alloy, Dead
Ending) can be applied. The abundancy of songs here that
really stand out only reinforce how important and essential
All Eyes West have been to me throughout the decade. In
the end, I feel that the band will never release enough
music to quench my thirst. No matter how much output AEW
deliver, I’ll always crave more. File under essential.
Stacks – The Coming Collapse (Snappy Little Numbers)
Featuring Bill Barbot (Jawbox, Burning Airlines,) Jim Spellman
(Velocity Girl, High Black Chairs,) Brian Baker (Minor Threat,
Dag Nasty, The Meatmen, Bad Religion,) and Peter Moffett,
(Government Issue, Burning Airlines,) Foxhall Stacks' personnel
reads like a punk rock Cosa Nostra. Considering the musicians
that make up Foxhall Stacks, I had some pretty high expectations
for “The Coming Collapse”. Having missed their
initial cassette release, I was eager to here the band's full
Featuring ten songs of warm guitar rock and power pop excellence,
the grand hooks, harmonies and melodies throughout give the
entire record an uplifting and laid back feel, honest and
somewhat intimate. The appeal of “The Coming Collapse”
is both instant and lasting, arguably matching, if not overshadowing,
some of the members’ iconic past endeavors.
While I was expecting this to be good. I seem to have found
a record that makes my pulse race and my blood pump with youthful
exuberance and optimism. The album's leading single “Turntable
Exiles”, might register as the best song ever. Other
absolute favorites include “The Old me”, “Take
Control”, “Top of the Pops” and “Rough
Undoubtedly, a great record from start to finish. One that
would fit comfortably in any era. There really isn’t
a wasted note within. Get it, love it. live it.
and the Bunnymen – The John Peel Sessions (1979 -1983)
As kids digging through record store bins searching for anything
that even resembled punk or new wave, there was one rule that
trumped every other rule that might have applied. If it had
the words, “John Peel Sessions” on it, grab it.
Whether you knew the band or not, if Jon Peel recorded it,
you were almost guaranteed that it would be something special.
And while the bins weren’t exactly bursting with John
Peel Sessions, you just knew that if you found one, it was
something unique and special.
This two LP, twenty-one song release comes on color vinyl
(the red color I have is was limited to five hundred copies)
and features each of the live tracks recorded with Peel
for his Studio 1 BBC show. The mastering is fantastic, making
the sound rich and clean.
I really enjoyed getting an early peak at a band I would
come to love as teen and still do today. Hearing rougher
versions of favorite songs such as “Heaven Up Here”,
“The Killing Moon” and “Ocean Rain”
turned out to be quite a treat. It’s also worth mentioning
that I eventually learned more about John Peel. His obsession
with music and record collecting, and his passion for giving
new and exciting acts the exposure they needed, should be
both celebrated and used as a template for the present and
future. Whether you cherish John Peel's work, Echo &
the Bunnymen, or getting the chance to hear a band before
they broke big, this is for you. As for someone who still
fondly recalls seeing them perform live at New York’s
Jones Beach as a teen, I could not have possibly enjoyed
Garden Variety - The Complete Discography 1991-1996 –
Deluxe 3xLP Box Set (Arctic Rodeo Recordings)
Before I go any further, I want to make it crystal clear
that the following is an observation, description and reaction,
as opposed to a standard record review. Having long considered
Garden Variety and what the band helped to create in 1990’s
New York City and beyond as absolutely essential, I've accumulated
any recorded material like pieces of some sort of holy grail
or lost ark. The mere knowledge of or search for the band's
recorded output can be considered as somewhat of a gateway
drug to countless unsung and lesser known independent acts
of that time.
As someone who likes to refer to himself as somewhat of
a storyteller, as opposed to a mumbling idiot, I often refer
to my first time seeing Garden Variety perform at downtown
New York’s Brownies as a turning point in my music
listening and all around appreciation. Where one door was
quickly closing, their music opened another, much more interesting
Featuring Anthony Roman. (Bass, Vocals,) Anthony Rizzo.
(Guitar,) and Joe Gorelick.(Drums, vocals) Long Island’s’
Garden Variety would remain active from 1991-1996, releasing
two full length LP’s, a number of splits, a 7 inch,
and various compilation tracks. Though the band’s
sound was often described as post-hardcore, anyone who ever
listened to their music or saw them live would tell you
they were so much more.
This box setincludes three albums in all, each colored
vinyl that really stands out and jumps off the turntable.
They include the band's two LP’s: their self -titled
debut full length as well as the follow up, Knocking
the Skill Level. The third record, Teamsters,
(the one I savored the most) features music from those 7
inches and compilations I mentioned, as well an interview
and performance they did with none other than Janeane Garafalo.
To seal the deal, Arctic Rodeo Recording housed this collection
in an actual wooden box. (You know, the kind you find your
better wines in.)
The sticker, button, poster and booklet included just made
preordering this all the more special. And when I say special,
I really mean it. I think it’s important to both credit
and thank everyone involved in putting this together and
bring it to life. Overall, one couldn’t possibly ask
for more as Arctic Radio delivers a perfect balance of quantity
and quality. I strongly advise visiting the label for more
details and ordering yours while it’s still available.
When I was given the opportunity to review the latest installment
of Harley Flanagan’s Cro-mags, I admit to lacking any
interest whatsoever. Considering it’s been more than
thirty years since the landmark release of the Cro-mags one
and only great or even cohesive recording “Age of Quarrel,”
expecting anything even close would be foolhardy, to say the
When reviewing any new Cro-mags material, it should be
noted that, due to a 2018 court settlement, Harley Flanagan
has complete control and ownership of the name “Cro-mags.”
So anyone expecting any inclusion of John Joseph - or anyone
with a creative stake during the bands heyday - has been
omitted from present and future consideration. So, without
taking sides, let’s get to the music.
On the follow up to June 2019’s 3 song EP “Don’t
Give In,” on “From the Grave” we listen
as Flanagan exposes his inability to explore new musical
territory or even deliver anything remotely unique. The
three song EP opens with “From the Grave” and
follows with the similarly themed “PTSD,” both
of which find Flanagan’s vocals drowning in rhythms
that might be best served supporting or backing him. Considering
that one of the three songs is an instrumental, one might
assume that Harley’s vocals just weren’t up
for the task.
While these three songs are decent metal nods, I honestly
don’t hear anything worth celebrating or even revisiting.
It might be worth mentioning that former Motorhead guitarist
Phil Campbell is credited as the Mags' guitarist. I honestly
don’t know what his creative input on the EP is, but
it certainly adds to an otherwise pointless narrative. Though
the EP seems steeped in its own misery. I wouldn’t
go as far as deeming it terrible. I would, however, describe
it as painfully uninteresting.
Hatfield – Sings the Police (American Laundromat Records)
If you were into indie rock or wandered anywhere left of the
dial on FM radio during the 90’s, you probably know
Juliana Hetfield from her work with Evan Dando of the Lemonheads,
her involvement with the Blake Babies, or her solo efforts
such as “Spin the Bottle” (which appeared in the
defining Gen X film “Reality Bites”) or the catchy
chart topping single “My Sister” from her sophomore
album Become What You Are. Since then, Hatfield has
continued recording and performing at a respectable pace.
For me personally, her recent projects in which she’s
released tribute albums of the works of Olivia Newton John
and now, The Police, both of which both captured my attention
and increased my understanding and appreciation in doing so.
In the case of 2018’s “Juliana Hatfield sings
Olivia Newton John” Hatfield allowed me to revisit a
recording artist whose work may have been otherwise overlooked
due to my own avoidance of Newton’s somewhat easy listening
endeavors. However, with the Police being one of my long time
absolute favorites, I was more interested in Hatfield’s
approach, how her voice would work with the songs and what
liberties she might take in covering them.
What’s most notable is both the beauty and vulnerability
in Hatfield’s voice. It’s worth mentioning that
she sounds timeless, as if she’s still in the infancy
of the peak of her artistic career. What I found most impressive
is her interpretations of favorites such as “Next
to You”, “Da Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”, and
the more frenzied offerings on Side B.
Whereas most tribute and cover song projects often fail
to achieve their intended goal and often reflect a creative
drought in one’s career, I’ve found Hatfield’s
efforts to be more focused and on point. When it’s
time to call it a day, I’m happy to have given this
a spin. Sings the Police features twelve songs
which includes standards such as “Can’t Stand
Losing You”, “Roxanne” and “Every
Breath You Take” and came on Translucent Blue vinyl
and was accompanied with a digital download card.
Seattle, Washington’s The Cheap Cassettes return with
three more songs of gritty, guitar driven punk pub rock that
solidifies their ability to create relatable blue collar themes
“See Her in Action” opens the three-song ripper
with a raunchy edge and great lyrics like
“She’s got a necklace made from the teeth of all
the boys who called her cheap.” that just jump off the
page. “Only Lovers Left Alive” follows with some
distinct riffs, pounding rhythms and vocals that bring to
mind the swagger of Johnny Thunder and might draw some comparisons
to what I’ve been hearing in bands like New York’s
The Sweet Things and Chicago’s Criminal Kids “Lil’
Bit Everyday” brings the EP to a close with its bluesy,
yet upbeat raucous vibe. With this being the third time I
find myself reviewing an EP from The Cheap Cassettes. One
can only hope that an LP is just around the corner.
I have to admit to being caught off guard by New Jersey’s
Ankle Monitor, considering I haven’t listened to or
cared for much power violence, screamo or noise core. The
five tracks feature here represent that of the sub genres
I mentioned. No more, no less. Having never being a fan or
gaining any understanding of what attracts one to this form
of particular form of catharsis, I’ll leave any judgements
to those who can. Cool name, but nothing I’d welcome
into my ears.
Being that I hadn’t listened to Dead Blow Hammer in
quite some time, I really wasn’t expecting to hear anything
special from these hardcore veterans. Maybe that’s why
I was somewhat surprised by the effect their latest EP had
on me. Featuring former members of Cause for Alarm, Agnostic
Front and Against the Grain, it seems suiting that DBH's sound
and delivery seem steeped in hardcore punk’s early days.
Though the music is fast paced, and urgent, it never feels
rushed or as if it’s trying to catch up with itself.
In listening, one can’t help but get caught up in the
whirlwind of driving guitar riffs, pounding rhythms and unique
vocals that blend the emotional depth of Shawn Brown (Swiz/Dag
Nasty) and the all-out rage of Roger Miret (Agnostic Front)
Each of the five songs on "No Repercussions"
carry their own sense of individuality and personality,
a strength that gives Dead Blow Hammer their own unique
style and identity as opposed to a lot of more recent releases
in modern hardcore which are best judged as a whole. Not
to say that digesting a release as a whole is a bad thing.
It’s just that listening to DBH allowed me to address
each song individually.
The opening track "Caste System Skunks" and "Imperious"
quickly became favorites as I found myself giving them numerous
spins and countless listens. If you’re into “United
Blood” or “Victim in Pain” era Agnostic
Front, I highly recommend looking into Dead Blow Hammer.
"No Repercussions?" is available on color vinyl
and is limited to six hundred copies. There’s an additional
sixth song I failed to mention that is available as a digital
Music comes in many colors, shapes and sizes. Much like photography,
we paint with many brushes, adding contrast and shadows where
needed. If there ever was a band or musicians who fit that
description, it would be Brooklyn’s Avant Gard duo Cinema
While it might seem hard to believe, my first exposure to
Ev and Paul came in 2009 when tagging along with Jersey Beat’s
Jim Testa to a weekend-long music festival known as the Brick
City Sound Riot. It was there that I got my first taste of
a number of bands I would grow to become friends with. It
was there when I first saw Cinema Cinema put a rather laid
back crowd on notice.
Through four previous releases, the duo of guitarist Ev Gold
and drummer Paul Claro has delivered shades of post punk,
post hardcore, noise and experimental music while performing
and touring at a relentless pace, one that might test the
mental stability of weaker heads. There have also been a lot
of additional elements such as working with legendary producer
Don Zientera, the artful Martin Ribisi, and touring with iconic
hardcore punk act Black Flag.
Featuring seven songs, the biggest element present on ‘CCXMD
’is the music itself, as Cinema Cinema show that
creating new music should allow one to experiment with new
sounds while taking full advantage of the creative spirit
and its sometimes-boundless space. Most evident here is
the duo’s experimentation with what feels and sounds
like free jazz. Aside from the dizzying riffs, pounding
rhythms, experimental reverb and artful tuneage, the addition
of Matt Darriau on the horns give CC’s Swans meets
Big Black noisy experimentation a twist that will also appeal
to fans of say, Miles Davis and/or John Coltrane. And while
I loved each of the bands previous endeavors. I strongly
feel that this is their best work. Getting to witness a
band you love grow by leaps and bounds with each step is
quite rare. When it does happen, you take notice. Thanks,
Soulside – Washington, DC, 1986-1989 (Book)
If there was ever a band that impacted me the way The Clash
did when I first heard "London Calling" for the
first time, it was DC’s Soulside. Though my first taste
of Soulside came towards the tail end of their existence,
It’s pretty safe to say their music and lyrics had more
of an impact on my sociopolitical ethos than any band before
or after. Therefore, placing it in my cart when visiting my
favorite distro site came just seemed like a no brainer.
Featuring photos, flyers and anecdotes from their four
years as a band as well as their tours of the United States
and Europe, you would think there would be little to gripe
about, right? Well, as much as any fan of the band or any
photo related books celebrating the spirit of punk, hardcore,
indie or any unreported underground music, the rather small
6.5 X 6.5 book is filled with a lot of washed out photos
that look as if and most likely were taken with point and
shoot and disposable cameras. Images you might find collecting
dust in a box underneath the bed. There are some cool anecdotes,
show flyers and a visual discography of the bands output.
However, in the end, I found this collection to be overpriced
(Retails at $22.00 – $30.00) and underwhelming. If
you’re not familiar with Soulside, I highly recommend
going to Dischord records and grabbing whatever records
you can. As for this book, I’d take a pass on it.
Statues –Desolation (Snappy Little Numbers)
Colorado’s four-piece Weathered Statues really put the
hooks in me with their four song EP ‘Desolation’.
Originally formed in 2015 under the name Cloak of Organs,
Weathered Statues play what can be described as dark post
punk that brings to mind acts such as Siouxie and the Banshees,
Savages, Mission UK and the Jesus and Mary Chain. The band
mixes guitar, bass, drums and synthesizer with a haunting
vocal style that switches from dark and moody brooding to
banshee like screams seamlessly. Though I haven’t really
been exposed to much of what Weathered Statues are into in
recent decades, what I’m hearing on ‘Desolation’
is so good that it would be foolish to pass this up.
One – Demos and Comp (Puke N Vomit Records)
If someone ever talks to you about the good old days of hardcore,
stop them before shielding yourself from any nostalgic ooze
that might erupt. Ask them about the impact tape trading had
on them and how it opened their ears to countless bands and
scenes around the country and throughout the world. Many bands,
despite being very good and even popular among those that
attended the gigs they played, lived off of live recordings
and dubbed demos.
Circle One was one of those bands I latched onto through tape
trading. Formed in California during the early 80’s,
Circle One were inspired by and compared to the likes of Black
Flag, The Germs and countless others. As for myself, I would
always put them on mix tapes with such as bands as The Adolescents,
Agent Orange and J.F.A. Demos and Comp features just
what the title suggests, the ten songs on their 1980 demo
four songs from two 1981 demos and two from two different
Mystic Records compilations from that era. The LP I received
came on red vinyl and includes a show flyer sticker, a post
card featuring a picture of vocalist John Macias (R.I.P. 1962-1991,)
and a two-sided inset that features the bands on one side
and an essay on Circle One’s beginnings, end, and all
the in-betweens. Demos and Comp sounds very necessary.
A record worth having in your collection whether you remember
the band, are a hardcore/punk archeologist, or just want to
add another killer record to your growing collection.
Baltimore’s Glue Traps are back with an impressive twelve
song 7’ inch that shows the band basking in the glow
of Mystic Records style early American hardcore glory. Featuring
members of WarXGames, Syringe and my longtime favorite Deep
Sleep. Glue Traps' “Loud, Fast, Rules’ approach
leaves little room for guitar solos, metal riffs or breakdowns.
with traces of bands such as Negative Approach, Poison Idea
and bands you might find on the great indie record label Grave
Mistake Records. Songs such as ‘Radiate’ and “No
Utopia’ stood out as instant classics, but I’m
confident future spins will only give birth to more. Future
Shocks begs the question, “What would us hardcore
punk holdovers do if it were not for bands like Baltimore’s
Glue Traps?” Let’s hope we won’t need to
answer that question anytime soon.
Well, here’s one that sort of caught me off guard. When
you open yourself to listening to unreleased material, you
have to be pretty open minded, if not completely prepared
to be underwhelmed. So, when listening to Iconoclast’s
unreleased 1983 demo, I have to admit to having rather low
expectations. Judging from the band photo on the cover and
the fact they were from England, I was expecting some anarcho
punk that found inspiration in acts such as Discharge, Crass,
Conflict and Crucifix. I also had preconceptions on why the
demo went unreleased and forgotten for so long. Did they break
up? Was the material subpar? In listening to these four tracks,
I get the feeling that they were pretty damn good. And though
the band were from England and could have visually passed
as female versions of G.B.H., I sense more of an early L.A.
punk influence. In the end, I’m really glad I gave this
one a chance. If you’re into early 80’s punk acts
such as The Avengers or you’re an archeologist when
it comes to music. This just might be the thing you’re
Curiosity is a complex emotion, one that can reap many rewards
while digging up a treasure trove of truths. One that can
also leave you black eyed and bitten if you get too close.
Brooklyn, New York’s Sarcasm were one of the many unsung
heroes of the early New York Hardcore and Thrash scenes of
the early 1980’s.
War-Song features twelve tracks pulled from their
two original 1986 demos ‘Man of God?’ and ‘War-
Song’. Hearing these songs and this band for the first
time since it was recorded more than thirty years ago only
served as a reminder of why Sarcasm were considered so underrated
amongst their peers. Maybe they just weren’t that
Both the vocals are riffs on these songs, not to mention
the overall recording quality, are pretty bad compared to
many of their contemporaries at a time when thrash and crossover
were making a lot of noise amongst the extreme music community.
Whether you’re mining for thrash, crossover or hardcore,
you’d be much better served elsewhere. Respect to
Radio Raheem Records for bringing life to so many lost archives.
However, some things are best left uncovered.
Having heard The Psychos occasionally over the years, I admit
not expecting much beyond a little unearthed history. I have
to admit to enjoying some of these tracks, as they remind
me of some of the raw and tribal elements the first drew me
to the early recordings of New York Hardcore acts such as
Agnostic Front, The Mob and Urban Waste. Like many bands of
their time and since, the Psychos had a revolving cast of
characters that included, but were not limited to Roger Miret’
(Agnostic Front) Billy Milano (S.O.D., M.O.D.) Billy Psycho
and Tommy Rat (Trip 6, Rejuvenate)
Understandably, The Psychos appeal would never be felt
beyond the early New York Hardcore roots it took part in
creating. As far as the bands recorded legacy goes, time
and the many changes the sub-genre of punk would go through
have not been kind to these songs. Thus, rendering ‘One
Voice’ as more of a historical artifact than anything.
I these recordings serve any purpose, it would lie with
those who were there in those early days of New York’s
early days of hardcore. Included is a LP includes a 16-page,
12" x 12" booklet and is limited to 500 copies.
Who would have imagined that more than twenty years after
seeing them live at Coney Island High, that I’d be listening
to a new album from the same band? Time sure does fly and
somewhere during the decade’s past, the bands I used
to love to see back in the day have somehow managed to keep
it together while remaining relevant. Railer opens
up with “Stealing Light,” a song whose intro had
me reaching for the album cover to check if they were covering
Maiden’s “Number of the Beast” (which they
Each of the twelve entries on Railer are fast paced
and upbeat, with the exception of the slow burning intro "Suffering."
There are some great vocal harmonies, bass lines, guitar leads
and pounding rhythms. There’s even a speedy, upbeat
cover of Journey’s “Faithfully” However,
I can’t help but feel as if I’m locked into a
90’s Offspring themed beach party surrounded by beer
kegs and teens wearing backward caps while insecurely squeezing
colorful plastic cups. Not a bad album at all, but definitely
one that would be better received decades ago. While Railer
certainly displays all the elements that made skate punk and
pop punk so relatable. it also shows why the trend disappeared
or just died out.
Reviewing a record from a band you’ve never before heard
of can be both rewarding and confounding. When you don’t
like what you’re hearing, especially when it’s
a reissue, you might try looking back to when it was originally
released, what you were listening to at the time, and whether
or not you would have liked it back then. ‘Are You
Sleepy, the Gerbils' 1998 debut, gets the reissue vinyl
treatment after being out of print for, well, forever. To
properly address and authoritatively answer the question the
album title might ask, yes, I am quite sleepy. Sleepy and
somewhat sluggish after listening to this 90’s reissue.
While it might be worth praising the label Elephant 6 and
note their dedication to releasing and reissuing some really
noteworthy power pop, The Gerbils strike me as all pop with
little or no power. In listening to the eleven songs on Are
You Sleepy, I get a strong sense of jangle pop with some
sychedelia added to the mix. And while there are little moments
sprinkled throughout, the record's slow paced approach and
whispered, yet droning vocals never managed to grab a hold
on me. In the end, I found myself struggling to find even
the most remotely positive thing to come away with.
I once had a crush on a coworker who wore a cool pleather
jacket. Though it was a long time ago, seeing a 7-inch single
by a band named Pleather brought back memories of that bob
haired girl I spent many a lunch break with. On the band’s
two song vinyl debut, Hattiesburg, Mississippi’s Pleather
mix bouncy, upbeat and rhythmic pop punk with an edgy, relatable
sound. In judging the overall quality and impact of a single,
I tend to judge how many flips it gets on the turntable. Being
that I lost count of how many times I flipped my copy, I’d
say the impression was very good.
House Safe for Tigers – Space Between (Headless Actor
There are times when reviewing music that's so far from what
you’ve gotten used to and writing about that you find
yourself soul searching, leaning in closer to hear something
that you can identify with and scratching your head when you
can’t. Such was the case with Space Between
by A House Safe for Tigers. Formed in Buffalo, New York by
duo Mark Constintino and Brendon Delmont, who each have pasts
rich with hardcore-punk and synth-heavy rock, their collaboration
shows a more grown up approach to synth heavy material. There’s
an environmental esthetic that runs through the album, with
some great harmonies and melodies throughout. However, I never
felt as if I was hearing anything worth celebrating. And while
it’s clear A House Safe for Tigers are on their own
trip and doing their own thing, suffice to say it’s
not mine. Call it indie pop, baroque or chamber pop. The subdued
approach and overall results on Space Between just
never resonated with me. If this is your thing, then I’d
recommend checking it out. If not, well.
Fast Eddy, not to be confused with Fast Eddie Clark of Fastway
and Motorhead, is a four-piece rock & roll band from Denver,
Colorado. Formed in 2017, they’ve since cemented their
reputation as a rock act to be reckoned with. On “Toofer
One” Fast Eddy display their capacity to produce loud,
bombastic guitar driven rock & roll that is both appealing
and necessary. “Hurricane Alley” introduces the
record and for myself, the band with a sound that sounds just
as impactful as its namesake. Bombastic, high voltage guitar
rock with a fast, up beat sound that comes across as authentic
and captivating. “Milwaukee” and “Lost”
follow with a more bluesy, guitar driven swagger. Working
in cahoots to deliver an edgy and dynamic sound that’s
worth numerous spins on the turntable.
Texas hard rockers Killer Hearts kick it into high gear, playing
fast, yet tight punk influenced rock & roll. Relentless
riffs, pounding rhythms and screamed vocals join forces to
create a unholy alliance that has produced four of the most
scorching sonically tracks these ears have heard in some time.
Think Dead Boys meet The Stooges on the fiery road to hell.
”Do Your Thing”, “Midnight Lucifer”,
“Annihilation” and “Killed By Volume”
each live up to their titles with their pounding and relentless
attack. This is the kind of rock & roll that your parents
either warned you about or took out to dance around the fire
when summoning the demons. In giving numerous listens to Killer
Hearts, I found myself drawing comparisons to other great
acts such as Drive Like Jehu, Rocket from the Crypt and New
Jersey’s the Rye Coalition. If you dig greasy, dirty
rock & roll with punk authenticity, you’d be a fool
to pass this one.
I have to say I was pretty excited about this record. Something
about the name Skating Polly, the fact that the band featured
Louise Post and Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt, and the cover
photo and the artfully engraved B–side. However, “New
Trick” never woke from malaise of the opener “Louder
in Outer Space”. It might be worth noting that on the
band’s Facebook page, it states “Recording songs
that we would want to listen to and playing shows that we
would like to see. And taking over the world.” Which,
by all accounts can be respected regarding how much time they’ve
spent making music. That said, maybe I was expecting something
different considering the upbeat name and personnel involved.
Instead of feeling woke, I found myself sliding into my chair,
wishing for more caffeine in my muddy cup pf pick me up. Perhaps
if I went into listening to “New Trick” with lower
expectations or hoping to revisit outtakes from a Cowboy Junkies
session. I might have formed a different opinion. In the end,
I just didn’t find anything worth praising when it came
to these three songs. I also found it somewhat shitty how
they managed to put three songs on a one sided 12" LP
and charge upward of twenty dollars for it.
Funeral – Discography 2001 – 2004 (Hex Records)
Jeezus Weezus, what a ghastly name for a band. One that might
be best suited for an 80’s Goth act or a Swedish Death
Metal band. A band I might have skipped over wanting to avoid
the misery that would most likely come along with it. That
said, I’ve never been one to turn my back on a discography.
Featuring a staggering thirty songs, The Funeral’s Discography
collects everything the band recorded during their 2001-2004
existence, including two full lengths and several demos, Perhaps
due to the CD age, this will be the first time the songs will
be available on vinyl. All the material has been remastered
for this collection and comes on a double LP in a gatefold
jacket, complete with hundreds of pictures and flyers, as
well as a booklet detailing lyrics, shows, and an oral history
of the band, download card included. First 100 copies on colored
vinyl with the rest being issued on black. In listening to
Funeral one will immediately notice the metallic edge to their
sound, astyle and influence I came to accept over the years,
but never quite warmed up to. Funeral possessed many good
qualities such as razor sharp riffs, breakdowns and sing along
vocals, but again, it’s nothing I haven’t heard
countless times before and nothing I’d never voluntarily
listen to again. Though this would without a doubt, appeal
to many. I found Funeral’s discography to be as uninspiring
as the band’s name.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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
– 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
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.
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
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
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.
Polluter – Cynical Scumbaggery / Piss Popular (Rattown
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.
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
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
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.
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.)
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
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.
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 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.
Sweet Things – Borrowed Shoes on Borrowed Time (Spaghetty
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.
– Look to the Artist: 1978-1981 (Beach Impediment
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Wanna-Bes – Broken Record EP (Mom’s Basement
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
“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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Reputation – Music from the original motion picture
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Morlocks – Bring on the Mesmeric Condition (Hound
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.
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.
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.
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
Indecision Records is offering two color versions of the 7”.
Green/Clear split 300 copies and Blue Splatter 700 copies.
Than A Thousand – Value Driven Vinyl Reissue (Youth
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 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.
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.
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.
Cheap Cassettes – "Kiss The Ass of My Heart"
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.
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.
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
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