Jersey Beat Music Fanzine
 



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


We 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.

Big Scary Monsters

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The Wedding Present - Tommy 30 (HHBTM Records)

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.

HHBTM Records

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M is We / Night Battles - Split EP (Broken Sound)

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.

Broken Sound

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Second Arrows – S/T (Hell Minded Records)

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.

Hell Minded Records

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A Tribute to The Hellacopters: South America to the max! (Devil’s Beat Records)

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.

Order Here

Discharge – 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.

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Catbite / Omnigone Split (Bad Time Records)

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.

Bad Time Records

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The Unfit - S/T (Sub-Pop) (Share it music)

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.

Sub Pop

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Jeff Rosenstock - No Dreams (Polyvinyl)

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 derailed.

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.

Polyvinyl

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The Flatmates - S/T (HHBTM.com)

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 melodies.
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.

HHBTM Records

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Tom Barrett - 051480

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 subject matter.

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.

Bandcamp

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The Bobby Lees – Skin Suit (Alive Records)

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.

Available 7/17/20. Pre-Order Here

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How Tragic – Past Lives (Spaghetty Town Records)

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.

How Tragic


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Alice Bag – Sister Dynamite (In the Red Records)

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 'Sister Dynamite."

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.

In the Red

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Dinosaur Eyelids - Sticker Famous

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.

Bandcamp


The Dodies – It’s One Hell of a Ride (Vampire Poodle Records; thedodiesband.bandcamp.com)

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 story.

Bandcamp

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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.

Bandcamp

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The Sinclairs– Sparkle (Cleopatra Records)

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 past.

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.

Cleopatra


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You, Me and This Fuckin' Guy - Garden Variety Fuckers
(Dromedary Records)

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.

Dromedary Records

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Local H – Lifers (AntiFragile Music)

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.

Local H Bandcamp


Last Straw - Demo 2020 (Youngblood Records)

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.

Youngblood Records


Cold Feet - Punk Entity

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.

Cold Feet


Dave Clark Five - All the Hits (BMG)

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 impressionable years.

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.


Pitch & Bark – Nowhere Near Ohio (Reissue - Snappy Little Numbers)

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.

Snappy Little Numbers


C-4 - Goes to War Demo (Triple B Records)

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.

Bandcamp


Mephiskapheles – 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 The Specials.

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.

Jump Up Records


Scaners - S/T 7-inch (Spaghetty Town Records)

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.

Spaghettytown Records / Scaners Bandcamp

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Legendary Shack Shakers – Live from Sun Studios (Chicken Ranch Records)

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 to LSS.

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 entirety.


Positive 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.

Bandcamp

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Sick 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.

Spaghettytown Records


Teenage Cenobite - Live (Feel it Records)

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.

Bandcamp

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Saigan 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.

Triple B Records

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Big Takeover - Madhouse (Triple B Records)

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?

Triple B Records

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Be All End All - Better You Than Me / Famous Last Words (Triple B Records)

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.

Triple B Records

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Restraining 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.

Triple B Records

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Barrels - S/T (Arctic Rodeo Recordings)

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.

Arctic Rodeo Recordings

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Youth of Today – "One Night Stand" / "Anarchy in Vienna"

Wow, 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.

Rev HQ

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Wire – Mind Hive (Pink Flag)

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.

Wire's official site

Reclaim – Break EP (Extinction Burst)

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.

Extinction Burst Records

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Vacancy – s/t (Extinction Burst)

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 impact.

Extinction Burst Records

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Behind This Wall – V/A (Extinction Burst)

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.

Extinction Burst Records

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Cel Damage – Zebulon (Extinction Burst)

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.

Extinction Burst Records

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Constant Elevation - s/t EP (Revelation Records)

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.

Constant Elevation

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Agnostic Front - Get Loud (Nuclear Blast Records)

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.

Get Loud!

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Power 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.

Power Alone

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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.

Get it Here

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Radio 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 and soon.

Outloud Records

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Dead Furies – Stay Gold (Spaghetty Town Records)

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 you're craving.

Spaghetty Town Records, Bandcamp

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Merda – 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 hands.

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.

Spaghetty Town Record, Bandcamp

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Suicide 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 loud.

Spaghetty Town Records, Bandcamp

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Los Vigilantes – Que Descaro / Tus LLegan (Spaghetty Town Records)

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.

Spaghetty Town Records

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Bitch 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.

Spaghetty Town Records, Bandcamp

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Fitness 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.

Bandcamp

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Jack and Sally – Who We Become (Engineer Records)

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.

Jack and Sally

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Jean Caffeine – Love What Is (Joe Records)

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 here.

Jean Caffeine

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Bear 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.

Bear Away

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Sleave – Don’t Expect Anything (Engineer Records)

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.

Sleave

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State Drugs – Takings and Leaving

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 released it.

Jigsaw Records

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Hammered Hulls – S/T (Dischord Records)

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.

Dischord Records

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Armchair Martian – Reissued Demo

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.

Snappy Little Numbers

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All Eyes West – Like Lightning

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 Samiam.

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.

Jumpstart Records

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Foxhall 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 length debut.
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 Sailors”.
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.

Order it Here

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Echo and the Bunnymen – The John Peel Sessions (1979 -1983) (Warner)

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 this more.

Get it Here

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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 one.

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.

Arctic Rodeo Recordings

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Cro-Mags – From the Grave (Victory Records)

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 very least.

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.

Victory Records

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Juliana 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.

Order it Here

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The Cheap Cassettes – See Her in Action

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 and anthems.
“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.

The Cheap Cassettes

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Ankle Monitor – Permanent Eraser

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.

Ankle Monitor

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Dead Blow Hammer – "No Repercussions?"

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 download.

Patient Zero Records


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Cinema Cinema - CCXMD

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 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, guys.

Bandcamp

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BOOK REVIEW:
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.

Akashic Books

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Weathered 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.

Weathered Statues

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Circle 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.

RevHQ

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Glue Traps – Future Shocks

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.

Order Here

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Iconoclasts – Demo 1983 (Queer Pill Records)

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 looking for.

Queer Pills Records

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Sarcasm – War-Song (Radio Raheem Records)

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 good.

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.

Sarcasm

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The Psychos – One Voice (Radio Raheem Records)

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.

The Psychos

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Lagwagon – Railer (Fat Wreck Chords)

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 are not.)

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.

FAT Wreck Chords


The Gerbils – Are You Sleepy (Elephant 6)

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.

The Gerbils

Pleather – "Wasting Time"/"Riot" 7-inch

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.


A House Safe for Tigers – Space Between (Headless Actor Records)

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.

A Safe House for Tigers

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Fast Eddy – Toofer One (Spaghetty Town Records)

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.

Fast Eddy

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Killer Hearts – S/T EP (Spaghetty Town Records)

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.

Killer Hearts

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Skating Polly – "New Trick"

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.

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The 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.

Hex Records

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

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

The Elevator Operators

D.O.A. – 1978 (Sudden Death Records)

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

Sudden Death Records

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

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

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

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

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

Beer City Records

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Longward – S/T

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

Longward

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We The Heathens – Approach Thunder

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

We the Heathens

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School Drugs – Modern Medicine (Indecision Records)

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

Indecision Records

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Having Issues – Always Having Issues

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

Having Issues on Spotify


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Risk – Demo ’19 (Slam Records)

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

Risk - Demo '19

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The Anderson Council – Worlds Collide (Jem Records)

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

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

 

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Comb the Desert – "Middle Middle Vocal Chord" EP

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

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

Comb the Desert

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Buffet – All American

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

Buffet

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Waste – Last One Standing

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

Refuse Records Bandcamp



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Defeater – S/T (Epitath Records)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Kreutzer Sonata

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The Gold Needles – Through a Window (Jem Records)

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

Jem Recordings

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

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

Slope Records

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Alpha Hopper – Aloha Hopper

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

Bandcamp

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TV Sound – Out of True (Killing Horse Records)

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

Killing Horse Records

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Perspective – Lousy

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

Bandcamp

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

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

Bandcamp

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The Wastedist – Surf and Turf (Rattown Records)

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

Rat Town Records


Warxgames – Violent and Depressed (REACT! Records)

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

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

WarxGames

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Swill – Fresh Air (Rat Town Records)

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

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

Rat Town Records

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

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

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

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

Bridge 9 Records

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

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

Rat Town Records

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Rat Fancy – Stay Cool (HBBTM Records)

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

HHBTM Records


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

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

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

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

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

Devo

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Tri-State – Hey Pal

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

Bandcamp

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The Heavy – Sons

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

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

The Heavy

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Shit Kid – Detention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spaghettytown Records

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

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

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

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

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

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Weezer – The Teel Album (Crush/Atlantic)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reaper Records


Tied Down – Self Titled (Refuse Records)

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

Tied Down

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

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

The Wanna-Bes

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Eat My Fear – Taking Back Space (Refuse Records)

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

Eat My Fear

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

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

The Membranes


Frontside – Society’s View

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

Bandcamp

Autoclave – S/T (Dischord Records)

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

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

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

Dischord Records

POW! – Shift

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

Bandcamp

Charlie Sub and the Sound Dogs- The Bronx is Burning

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

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

Bandcamp

Bad Reputation – Music from the original motion picture soundtrack

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

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

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

 



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

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

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

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

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

The Police Official

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Giuda – E.V.A. LP (Burger Records)

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

Giuda

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Dyke Drama – New Hard Pills

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

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

Dyke Drama

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

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

Bandcamp


Fried Egg – Square One

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

Fried Egg

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Colour TV – Some People

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

Bandcamp

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The Specials - Encore

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

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

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

The Specials


Cyclone Static – From Scratch (Mint 400)

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

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

Cyclone Static

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Radon – More Of Their Lies


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

Dead Broke Rekerds

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

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

Refuse Records



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

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

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

Indecision Records

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

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

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

Refuse Records

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Wallbreaker – Democracy Dies (Refuse Records)

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

Refuse Records


Pale Lips – After Dark (Spaghetty Town Records)

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

Spaghetty Town Records

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Taking Back Sunday – 20

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

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

Taking Back Sunday

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Motosierra – S/T (Spaghetty Tlown Records)

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

Spaghetty Town Records

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

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

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

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The Mods – Reactions (Ugly Pop Records)

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

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

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

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

Ugly Pop Records

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School Drugs – Relative Suffering

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

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

Hell Minded Records

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Pushed Aside – 1989 Demo 7” (Indecision Records)

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

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

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

Indecision Records

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

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

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

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

Youth Crew Records

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

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

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

Recess Records

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Offended by Everything – Evergreen

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

Stand By Records

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Struck Nerve – Self-Titled (War Records)

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

War Records
Bandcamp

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The Verdict – Hostis Humani Generis (Edgewood Records)

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

The Verdict

Trapped By Lies – Demo '18

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

Trapped By Lies

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

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

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

Permanent Tension

The Ratchets – First Light (Pirates Press Records)

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

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

Available Here

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

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

Available Here

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Warzone – Open Your Eyes (Revelation Records)

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

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

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

Order it Here

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Joe Strummer – 001 (Ignition Record)

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

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

Check it out here

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Glenn Campbell – Sings for the King

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

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

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

Get it Here

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Billy Idol – Revitalized (Capitol)

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

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

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Blood Pressure – Surrounded (Beach Impediment Records)

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

Beach Impediment Records

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Great Reversals – Stalactite (Ugly and Proud Records)

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

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

Ugly and Proud, Bandcamp

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Primitive Weapons – Surrender Yourself (Party Smasher Inc.)

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

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

Party Smasher Inc.

 

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

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

The Cheap Cassettes

 

The Subjunctives – Demo 2017

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

The Subjunctives

 

Chain Whip – S/T

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

Drunken Sailor Records

Indonesian Junk – Darkness Calling

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

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

Indonesian Junk

 

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

 
 
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