Jersey Beat Music Fanzine
 


STEVE ADAMYK BAND – Paradise (Dirtnap Records, www.dirtnaprecs.com)

Hell yes! It’s been a long three years since “Graceland,” Steve Adamyk Band’s last album came out. For those tuning in late, Steve Adamyk Band is a band out of Canada, specifically from Ottawa, the nation’s capitol. They’re masters of garage punk and power pop. They’re right on the cusp between these styles, managing to extract all of the best parts of both to create music that’s bouncy, melodic, rockin’ yet has a toughness to it. “The Letter” begins the album, and for an LP named “Paradise,” it’s quite appropriate that there’s a healthy dose of surf sounds, as well. “In Death” is one of the most “punk” tracks of the album, with a simple melody, simple rhythms, and powerful guitars. The title track is a very driven song, moving deliberately ever forward, in the way of a Marked Men track. “Waiting to Die” is a song in two parts. The first is almost ballad-like, but can anything Steve Adamyk does really be a ballad? Part two gets raucous again, with a Ramones-core feel, but with a pall of darkness over the whole song. I love the retro power pop feel of “When I was Gone.” It’s got the feel of one of the edgier radio hits of guitar-fueled pop rock from the late 70s. And so it goes with the rest of the dozen songs – every one is a gem. Recommended.

THE COOL GREENHOUSE – Landlords b/w 4Chan (Drunken Sailor Records, www.drunkensailorrecords.co.uk)

This new single from the UK band features two super-retro tracks very reminiscent of the massive creativity of bands in the post-punk era of the early 80s. The bands feature synth bleeps and blips and minimalist guitar, along with blasé spoken word vocals telling stories loaded with sardonic wit. The A-side tells the tale of paying too much to live in a crap apartment to fuel the luxuries of the landlord, and trying to complain to the council and having to deal with the sorts of monkeys they hire to help the people, in this case, literal monkeys. The B-side is told from the perspective of the sort of Internet troll you find on the title on-line service. This was my first exposure to this band, and now I plan to hunt down their previous releases – it’s that good. And even better, proceeds from the sales of this single will be donated to the London Renters Union, a grassroots organization that’s focused on changing how housing works in the city.

DRUG APTS – Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances (Mt.St.Mtn., www.mtstmtn.com)

Formerly known as Drug Apartments, this Sacramento band has shortened their name and extended the length of their releases with this, their first full-length LP. Drug Apts offer up a dozen songs of dark arty post punk. Though, taken as a whole, the songs tend to blend into one another a bit, there are some standouts to discuss. The opener, “stereo,” features a throbbing bass and ominous sounding guitar stabs. Whittney K’s vocals are often violent and chaotic throughout the record; her dynamic range is awesome and a highlight of the record. “Straight Shooter” has more of a 90s grunge feel than most of the record, and so stands out from the rest of the tracks. The track has grunge’s hard guitar sound, a classic rock and roll edge, and powerful vocals. I like how “thursday at two” opens with just the distorted, loud bass line and mysterious vocals, and when the guitar comes in with its own winding line. Everything slowly builds, getting louder, pitches rising, until the full band explodes in a cacophonous rage. “saints” is a great track that starts out with a hard edge, and slowly transforms into a bouncy one. And the short instrumental, “sparks break,” is a bright breath of fresh air. This is a record that I’m likely to revisit in the future, but maybe a track or two at a time.

FREAK GENES – III (Drunken Sailor, www.drunkensailorrecords.co. uk)

Another band has come out with a third LP and titled it “III.” While the album title may not be creative or original, the music on it certainly is. Freak Genes are an English band that blend early punk, new wave, power pop, and psychedelic music into minimalist arrangements that are packed with energy and mania. Many of the tracks feature synthesizer and drum machine. Some of the tracks are angular and abrupt, while others are melodic and easy. The album grabbed me right from the start, with “Waxing Moon,” a track that’s very disjointed, with buzzy sections that jut and other sections that are smooth and relaxed. “Canned Laughter” is a favorite, and is one of the oddest tracks of the album, with dark and twinkly synths dueling with each other, guitar and bass used as percussion instruments, and vocals that are more loudly spoken than sung or shouted. The final quarter of the track changes mood completely, as the synths and guitar play a vaguely medieval melody. “Breach” focuses on the guitar (but keeps the drum machine) and is more of a traditional power pop or early punk sounding track, and is another favorite. I like the bright melodic lines and use of keyboard in “Strange Light.” The bridge and run-out on “Get Ready to Go” are stupendous swirly synth spectacles to behold. I enjoy the bluesy “Stitches,” a track with a retro 50s rock’n’roll feel that’s been heavily altered via synth and droll vocals. “Close Up Fear” closes the LP with a hopping track that reminds me a bit of The Legendary Pink Dots’ “Catch a Match,” for it’s monotone rapid-fire vocals. III may not have as good a name as their previous album, “Qwak Qwak,” but it has even better music.

PROBLEM DAUGHTER – Grow Up Trash (Wiretap Records, wiretaprecords. limitedrun. com)

I don’t predict, I guarantee that this record is going to show up on multiple year-end “best of” lists. The songs are universally great and the songwriting is creative, way above and beyond the typical pop punk band, with unexpected shifts in tempo, in melody, and in feel. “Mercury in Retrograde” is a perfect example of this – this one song goes through so many changes in its short two and a half minutes, yet it’s all a cohesive whole. It starts off with a big, epic sound, then goes through a short period where it’s a little more standard pop punk, the tempo slows, a short hesitation, and the song starts anew with an almost RVIVR-like feel, with madly jangling guitars. The song then has a cool start-stop feel, rapidly shifting tempos and rhythms. It then picks up again as a slower song with bigger emotional content, bringing us to a big close. “Take a Walk on the Mild Side,” a spoof on the title of a famous Lou Reed song, has similar shifts, as if there are three or four songs within one. “Self Amusing Smile” is a favorite, running the gamut from dark, quiet ballad, to a mid-tempo Rocket From The Crypt inspired lope, to Americana-tinged pop punk, time signatures constantly moving. Pretty much the only song that doesn’t shift around like this is the penultimate “Tired About It.” It’s more of a standard emotional pop punk sound familiar to West Coast fans, yet still a powerful track. Front man Regan Ashton’s vocals are among the most unique and recognizable in the punk world, and only add to the excellent qualities of these songs. This record is highly recommended.

SLEEP IN. – The Stars On Your Ceiling (Know Hope Records, www.knowhoperecords.com)

New Jersey’s Sleep In. waited a full five years after their debut LP, “Setting,” to release their sophomore effort. Both LPs are chock full of melodic post emo songs, but where the debut was slightly mathish and busy, the songs on “The Stars On Your Ceiling” are smoother and more relaxed. And that may be the downfall, at least for me. The smooth post emo sound, to my ears at least, just doesn’t pack enough interest or energy. To me it comes across as the adult contemporary version of punk. That said, there are some moments of the album I did enjoy quite a bit. “6th and Catherine,” the second track of the LP, in particular, has a creative arrangement, with rollicking guitar licks and a bouncy melody. The singer-songwriter feel of “A Million Messages” reminds me of LA’s Divided Heaven, and is another favorite. It’s got a slightly Americana feel and a more genuine emotional feel than many of the other tracks. “This Old House” is a pretty waltz-time song, with a tender sound. I would suggest it might sound even better with a cleaner jangly guitar sound. It would add a delicateness to the song that I think would greatly improve it. The shift to straight time on the chorus gives the song a different feel, a change in texture that increases the interest. And the closer, “Let Me Let You Let Me,” is a gorgeous, sad song that opens with just bare vocals and acoustic guitar. Piano and harmonized vocals join in, and we hear where the album title comes from, as the lyrics tell us a tale that seems to be about concern for an ex or an ex-roommate, at least, that swallows their emotions along with booze to keep secrets and feelings hidden. “Said you’re taking a day to sort through your feelings / Now you’re half a bottle down, counting stars on your ceiling / I think you lost it, I think you lost it again.” It’s a beautiful way to end the album, with a very moving song that slowly builds, as do the emotions. Yeah, there are some really nice moments on this album. But I need more than mere moments.

TEENAGE BOTTLEROCKET – Stay Rad! (Fat Wreck Chords, www.fatwreck.com)

You know Teenage Bottlerocket, right? So you know what to expect: Ramones-core inspired pop punk, with catchy melodies, harmonized vocals, and tons of bouncy goodness. As is typical with Teenage Bottlerocket records, there’s little in the way of political content here, lyrics sticking to themes of relationships and various juvenile topics. Just the song titles can give you an idea of what I mean, like “Wild Hair (Across My Ass)” or “Night of the Knuckleheads.” That’s not to say all of the songs are inane (though the inanity is part of the fun of TBR). “I Wanna Be a Dog” is more about wanting to live a carefree life than actually wanting to be a dog, despite lyrics such as “You can teach me how to think while I lick my balls and when you get home I can hump your leg.” Yeah, even in the meaningful songs, TBR tries to convince us they’re just a bunch of delinquents. “The First Time That I Did Acid Was The Last Time I Did Acid” may or may not be a song about the dangers of drug abuse, but it’s certainly a hard-hitting track, with more of a hardcore sound than the usual TBR pop punk song. I don’t know who Clint Carlin is, but TBR want to kill him, as told in a song called “I Want to Kill Clint Carlin,” one that sounds in places a lot like a classic Naked Raygun track, making it one of my favorites of the album. “Stupid Song” isn’t stupid at all, about the need for distractions to take our minds off the drudgery and crap in our lives. The bridge is extra poppy sounding, reminding me of Masked Intruder somewhat. “Little Kid” is the most poignant track of the LP, I’m guessing written by Ray Carlisle about missing his brother Brandon, who died just over three years ago (this is the first full album of original TBR songs since Brandon’s death). The song is about having difficulty accepting the passage of time since then, remembering how they were together as kids, and how he’s having trouble living in the moment again, like kids do. I love the use of a single guitar note percussion effect played against the chord changes in the other guitar. Yes, we know what to expect in Teenage Bottlerocket album. Great fun pop punk music.

WEIRD OMEN – Surrealistic Feast (Dirty Water Records, www.dirtywaterrecords. co.uk)

French garage psych trio Weird Omen have released the LP teased with a new single a few months ago, and it fulfills the promise! Weird Omen are an unorthodox group, featuring a rhythm section of drums and guitar, with the lead instrument being a baritone saxophone. It’s an odd instrumentation to use, but it’s used to great effect to create music that blends garage punk, power pop, and fuzzed out psych. The album opens with a rerecorded version of “A Place I Want to Know” from January’s single. It manages to sound darker and more mysterious on this version. The production of the LP generally is darker and less dry than the single. “Earworm” is the perfect name for the fourth track, because it owes a debt to pop punk; it’s a melodic, bouncy number, even as it has a dark, thundering sound, courtesy of the bari sax and the production. “Surrealistic Feast” is a favorite track. It’s a heavily psychedelic track, with droning guitar and sax plus swirling melodic line in the modal vocal choir. “Collection of Regrets” has a dusty sound to it, like it could be the soundtrack to some movie set in the Old West, but covered by a psych punk band. “Trouble In My Head” alternates between a Sonic Youth feel on the verses and a jangly 60s pop feel on the chorus. The closer is a gorgeous 50s rock and roll ballad, “I Will Write You Poetry.” After a calm, quiet, clear start, though, the song gradually gets noisier and more chaotic, ending in a glorious of ringing vocals, fading into epic guitar feedback. A fitting close to an amazing LP.


BAZOOKA – Zero Hits (Inner Ear Records, www.inner-ear.gr)

Bazooka hail from Athens. That’s Athens, Greece, not Athens, Georgia. And, as the songs are all sung in Greek, I can’t tell you what they’re about. But the music is a mixture of garage, punk, and funk. Funk? Yes, funk! The first two tracks, “Ela” and “Filaki,” are pretty straightforward mid-tempo garage punk, full of energy and tension. I especially like the jangly guitar sound juxtaposed with the garage feel of “Filaki.” The third track, “Keno,” though, adds a group of trumpets and 70s soul-funk guitar effects to mix in with the garage punk, creating something pretty unique. “Menos” and “Oi Vlakes Kanoune Parelasi” are a pair of cool tracks, with buzzy synth and ominous feel, the latter being a little bouncier than the former. A lot of the tracks have a bit of retro feel to them, harkening back to an era in the 80s when bands weren’t afraid to experiment with new sounds and be different from everyone else. “Mesa Stin Poli” and “Vradini Vardia” are good examples of this, with clean minimalist guitars repeating a couple of melodic lines, while the bass and drums pound out the solid beat incessantly. They’re a couple of my favorites of the album. And “Adiafores Maties” reaches even further back to 60s garage sounds for inspiration, complete with keyboards and just the right guitar tone. “Min Kitas Piso” changes things up a lot with an acoustic folk inspired track, with gang vocals keeping things in a punk-like realm, loads of reverb giving it a slightly other-worldly feel. The closer, “Ta Spao Ola,” is another unique one, blending garage punk with an Afro-Cuban sort of feel. If you’re looking for something different, something original, yet retro, give this a spin.

THE BURNT TAPES – Never Better (Wiretap Records, wiretaprecords. limitedrun.com)

You don’t normally expect a band from London in the UK to sound like they’re from the West Coast of the United States, but here we are. I guess the Internet really is making the world smaller and smaller. The Burnt Tapes play melodic, emotionally driven pop punk with gruff vocals. It’s a sub-genre that’s been growing quite a lot in recent years, and one that typically packs people into small clubs, everyone pressing toward the stage and singing all of the lyrics at the top of their lungs. It’s the sort of music that usually finds show-goers returning home soaked with spilled beer, their souls filled to the brim. It’s a sound familiar to fans of bands like Western Settings, Hot Water Music, Bastards of Young, Spanish Love Songs, and many others. The title track opens the LP strongly. After some initial moments of ambience, the song explodes with a melodic line that’s crunchy and soars, yet has bounce to it. Gruff gang vocals shout out in conflict, “I want to be alone / But it gets lonely.” The song dissolves back into ambience in its waning moments. There are some other standout tracks, too. “Yuzi” reminds me a lot of Spanish Love Songs, with its great gliding melody, dark feel, and self-deprecating lyrics. “Forty, Forty-Five” is a great ballad with instrumentals that alternate between epic and quiet, huge gruff vocals, and guitars that sometimes jangle like mad. It has a feel that reminds me of The Penske File. I do like all of the tracks on the LP, actually, though I wish there was a little more variety.

THE CHOCOLATE WATCHBAND – This Is My Voice (Dirty Water Records, www.dirtywaterrecords.co.uk)

The Chocolate Watchband began life some 54 years ago, in California. The psychedelic garage rock band was short-lived in its original incarnation, suffering multiple line-up changes and breaking up in 1970 after just three LPs. In 1999 the band reunited, including a few of the early and original members, and have been performing ever since, even releasing a couple of albums of new songs, including this latest LP, on garage rock specialist label Dirty Water Records. The record finds the band in familiar territory, offering up psychedelic rock songs with politically charged lyrics. For example, the bluesy “Judgment Day,” written at the height of the Great Recession, is about the desperation of those who lost their jobs and everything else during those dark times, and the urge to fight back. The title track, a hypnotic psych track, discusses the lack of fact-based decision making going on in the world, and how it’s been replaced with hatefulness and division. “Trouble Everyday” is a Bob Dylan-esque song with spoken lyrics over a funky jam. And the closer, “Till The Daylight Comes,” opens with a snippet of Donald Trump saying, “Remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” The song is, ultimately, one of hope. The daylight will come; we will get out of this darkness, somehow. Musically, the song has a distinct feeling of a spiritual, uplifting to the soul. Speaking of the music, it’s quite varied. The opener, “Secret Rendezvous,” is the most raucous, most garage-rock track of the album, the closest to the proto-punk of yore. Other songs are more blues-rock, some are folksy, some are roots rock’n’roll, and some are more garage-like than others. The sitar, a mainstay of psych music back in the day, makes appearances on a couple of the tracks here, too, most prominently in the instrumental, “Bombay Pipeline.” The variety is great. The sentiments are great. But I can’t help but feel that the music is a little too smooth, a little too calm, other than that opening track.

FRANKIE AND THE WITCH FINGERS – ZAM (Greenway Records, www.greenway records.storenvy.com)

LA’s Frankie and the Witch Fingers’ fifth full-length album in six years is a mélange of psych, garage, metal jams, and power pop. Sometimes this works really well, sometimes not. Some tracks rock like mad, others are a little too wanky. Some have a modern melodic component; others are retro rock and roll jam snooze fests. One of the tracks that I like a lot for its tension is the instrumental title track. Yes, it’s an extended jam, not a “song, but the power and energy in it are intoxicating, and the repeating swirling guitar line and dissonant guitar clatter bring my ears to the brink of exploding. I really like “Cobwebs,” a track that’s primarily a slow burner, but has a bridge that dramatically increases the tempo and injects some great power pop melodic content, guitars jangling away. “Purple Velvet” is another one rooted in the power pop tradition, focusing more on the song and the melody than on the jam, with the keyboards injecting some bright flair. “Work” has a strong garage punk streak running through it, and halfway through it turns into a powerful psych-grunge track. On the other hand, tracks like “Pleasure” sort of turn me off. It’s a total throwback to stoner rock from the 70s, full of wah-wah pedal and jammage. “I Am” is another like this, but it’s just a short track that ends very abruptly, leading into “Underneath You,” an excellent oddball track with angular lines and super processed vocals. Yes, it’s also an extended spacey jam, but the eccentricities injected into this make it worthwhile. Toward the end of the track, it begins to smooth out and soften. The opening and closing tracks, “Dracula Drug” and “Head Collector,” are outliers that feel so very different from anything else on the album. The former starts out with ambience and odd sounds underneath a steady beat. Slowly, musical instruments join in and it does become more like the rest of the album, though more subdued. The closer, on the other hand, is entirely calm and sedate, with strings joining in on the trippy psych ballad. While the album is a mixed bag, there’s more goodness here than not.

THE NATIONAL LIGHTS – Whom the Sea Will Keep (Bloodshake Records, thenationallights.bandcamp.com)

It’s been a long twelve years since The National Lights released their debut LP, “The Dead Will Walk, Dear.” And this new EP, original conceived as a follow-up LP, was written over a decade ago. But as these things go, the band broke up and the members went their separate ways. Until now. Reunited, the upstate New York folk outfit have now released a five song EP inspired by maritime lore. And, while the songs are deeply rooted in traditional folk, the arrangements are rich and lush. The first track, “Swift Ships,” is an ode to regret, telling a tale of a man who left his love to sail the seas. And while he had a full life, shaking “hands with kings and thieves” and lining his shirt with silver, he never saw his love again, and realizes that he had been a fool and didn’t really have a full life after all. I really love the vaguely Irish sound of “A Dead Whale or a Stove Boat,” arranged for piano, acoustic guitar, and concertina. I can imagine a Celtic harp would sound gorgeous in this song, too. Similarly, “Joshua Slocum Sets Sail” has a Celtic feel, and I can imagine the delicate guitar and ambience of the piano being replaced with a Celtic harp, and the bridge being played on a pennywhistle. It’s this sort of thing that gives these original songs the feel of updated, modern arrangements of traditional sea shanties. Quietly gorgeous.

PANDEMIX – In Condemnation (Dirt Cult Records, www.dirtcultrecords.com)

This is a difficult album to listen to. Not because it’s bad (it’s not!), but because the anxiety is palpable in the ten tracks, and that anxiety seeps into you. Musically, the songs teeter on the edge of old school punk and early post-punk, with angry guitars, angular melodies, and accusatory vocals. The lyrics of these songs are unsettling, full of animosity and despair. For example, in “A Pox,” Pandemix calls for “a pox on humankind,” decrying the privileges of some, the indifference of others, and the thought too many people hold that the fate of humanity doesn’t depend on us all. The band doesn’t exempt themselves from this damnation, either, as vocalist Shannon Thompson cries out, “I am sickness, my own malignancy / The worst possible version of me.” Nor are those who are traditionally considered part of the “left” spared as targets. In “Can’t Assimilate,” Thompson, who is a trans woman, defiantly states that she won’t assimilate into society’s expectations, and says she will “Wear their hate like a badge.” In the same song she slams the LGBTQ “establishment,” asking, “Pride on whose terms? Pride in what?” I’m more confused and troubled by the opening track, “No Monuments,” though. I’m not sure whether the lyrics are those of resignation or defiance. “No monuments to honor / No history to remember / We are a generation / Without heroes or splendor.” Are Pandemix saying that our generation is one that has become powerless to create change? Or one that willfully denies that past lessons of history? Either way, the songs convey these mixed emotions incredibly well.


EVEN IN BLACKOUTS – Romantico! (Stardumb Records, www.stardumb records.com)

Ever since I heard last year’s greatest hits compilation, The Princess Foretold by Her Henchmen, Even, Even In Blackouts have become one of my favorite bands. I had thought I had discovered them too late, though, as they had ceased activity nearly a decade earlier, their last LP having been 2009’s Thresholds From The Basement. But, thankfully, the release of last year’s compilation turned out to be a teaser for the band’s emergence from hibernation. Now comes their first album of new music in ten years, and I couldn’t be happier! Sixteen tracks fill up thirty-two minutes on the album, so most of them are fairly short. A couple of them are “joke” tracks, in which John “Jughead” Pierson and Scott “Gub” Conway use the track titles in silly product pitches. And, though not all of the songs here can be played even in blackouts (many make generous use of electrified instruments), the care and attention to detail that went into each of them is clearly evident. [The name Even In Blackouts referred to the band's original acoustic incarnation, which meant they could play a show even in a blackout. - Editor]

Themes of separation and loss run through the record, reflecting the amount of time the band spent apart, not only due to the hiatus, but also due to Jughead’s move to Japan and other losses. This is clear in the two-part song “Doubt.” Envisioned as a single song, Jughead says he ran out of music halfway through, so he sent the rest of the lyrics to Gub, who turned it into “Doubt Part II.” As you would expect, the theme continues through both songs, but the sound is very different. “I’m lonely when you leave me but alive when you are near,” both songs aver. The song(s) are/were written in the wake of the initial reunion of EIB, Jughead musing on how much he missed not only Gub, but everyone else in the band, and how they complete each other. Part I has a very martial feel, propelling ever forward with a solid steady beat, while Part II has more of a grungy Americana sound. The bouncy mostly acoustic “Blood” belies the aching lyrics about a break-up so bad that it has left the protagonist with a numb heart.

Jughead explains that he rarely writes pop punk songs, because he feels it’s not his talent. But this album has two good ones. “The Denouncement” is a short simple one with a poppy darkness, and “Reason” is a glorious sounding hymn in praise of living life in the moment. “Who needs a reason / To watch it all pass by?” the song asks. I especially love the closing vocal choir, voices raised toward heaven.

“Intergalactic Space Travel” is a favorite track. The music is truly glorious, epic sounding, even, yet bouncy as all hell. The lyrics seem to refer again to the physical separation of the band, with Jughead halfway around the world; it might as well be an intergalactic distance. “It was only movies and words that moved me to our significance,” the song states, as if the band didn’t recognize what they had and meant to each other until they had stopped. But I think my number one favorite has to be “Intention In Tension,” both for the story behind it and for the song itself. Jughead explains that the song “Sunshine,” from Screeching Weasel’s second album, “Boogadaboogadaboogada,” was one of his favorites (mine too!), and that Ben wrote it mostly about a woman they had met on a tour. Jughead had gone to visit her after the tour, and when he told Ben about it, Ben wrote “Sunshine.” This song is Jughead’s response, years later. Where the first song was blunt and accusatory, “Intention In Tension” is delicate and tender, the confusion and mixed feelings of a young immature kid laid bare. The music is light and airy, perfectly matching the feel of the lyrics.

“Killer Bear” is both cute and dark at the same time. Opening with a group of kids singing a simple song, “You’re with me / You’re with me / You’re with me / You’re my killer bear,” the track is no kiddy song, though it has the feel of one. Instead, the lyrics are about the worst, basest aspects of ourselves that we all try to keep caged inside. When they come out, the results are disastrous. The melody is simple, the arrangement raucous, and the old-timey sounding ending is one of those details of production that make this record stand out from the plethora of releases that come out every week.

The closer, “The Kindness,” is the song of ultimate loss: that of a loved one, in this case Jughead’s mother. The track has the sound of a lament. “Oh mother night / With the darkest wit / You will be missed / The memory, the kindness, the sound / And soon all of this will be gone.” But as sad as the lyrics are, the music has a triumphant quality. It reminds me of the Renaissance tradition of the “merry dompe,” a musical elegy to mourn the passing of a great person, but played in a way to lift up the spirit.

Now that EIB is back, I’m fully on board. I hope that, even with Jughead based so far away, some US touring is in the plan. [As this review goes to press, the band is touring Japan.] I’ve found one of my top albums of 2019 already.

FEELS – Post Earth (Wichita Recordings, www.wichita-recordings.com)

Feels, operating out of Los Angeles, is described as an “American psych punk grunge post-rock band.” And that may be accurate for a band that brings enormous diversity of genres to its recordings. Lyrically, the record is a condemnation of the current state of the nation and the planet. “Car,” the grungy opening track references current president DJT and our “one nation under fraud.” “Just trust what I say,” he tells the people. The title track is a blend of grunge and indie pop, slowed down and telling the tale of a future in which billionaires buy themselves tickets on spaceships leaving a dying planet. The fuzzed out bass is prominent, and the vocals slide, oozing the detestation that both sides must feel toward the other. “Awful Need” reminds me so much of Stereolab, with its minimalist repeating lines and steady, smooth vocals. “Deconstructed” has the instrumentals of an old-school punk tune, but the vocals seem a little bit sarcastic. I like the stripped down “Tollbooth;” most of the track full of empty space, with minimal drums, bass, and guitar, plus dry, present vocals very up front. The middle of the track, though, explodes in a ferocious burst of punk energy before settling back down into the slow groove to end the track. “Flowers” closes the record out with a quiet ballad that shifts from indie pop to noisy grunge. Taken individually, many of these songs are timely and enjoyable. Taken as a whole, the shifts in genre are sometimes jarring.

TINY MAGNETIC PETS – The Politburo Disko EP (Vitamin C Records, tinymagneticpets.bandcamp.com)

This is totally retro synth pop, straight out of the 70s and 80s. Some of it is disco-like, some is more ambient. It’s like mixing Vangelis with a softer, smoother version of, say, Human League, and then adding a pinch of Julee Cruise singing Angelo Badalamenti. There are five tracks on this EP, and the sound alternates somewhat. “Enigma Code Variations I & II” is a buzzy instrumental that hums with a mournful vibrato. “Bitzed” is a chill dance track, with throbbing bass-synth line straight out of the 80s. “Non-Aligned” is darker, more mysterious, and slicker. Synthesized strings ebb and flow, as the buzzy bass synth bleats out a computerized line with perfect synchronicity and drums pound with a tribal ferocity. “A Strange Kind of Loneliness” quiets things down, with the flowing synths reminding me of Vangelis’ epic recordings of the 70s, while the underlying ambience and breathy vocals remind me of the Cruise/Badalamenti team up for the Twin Peaks soundtrack. The title track closes things out with another chill instrumental with a relaxed dance beat. If you miss 80s synth pop, this is for you. For my tastes, it might be s bit too smooth and chill.


THE OLD FIRM CASUALS – Holger Danske (Pirates Press Records, www.piratespressrecords.com)

Anyone familiar with this band from the San Francisco Bay Area? You should be, because it includes none other than Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen. The band has been kicking around for the better part of a decade, releasing a plethora of singles and EPs, yet this is only their second full-length LP. The band is described as being a combination of street punk, Oi, and melodic hardcore. OK, sure, though I always thought of “street punk” being more of the sound of DIY punks than long-standing accomplished punk “stars.” The Old Firm Casuals certainly sounds way slicker and more professional than your average street punk band. But what I like about The Old Firm Casuals is that they aren’t afraid to mix things up. Some of the songs are definite throwbacks to old school hardcore punk, while others are more straight-up rock and roll in the vein of bands like Motorhead. After an ancient sounding blast of a battle horn, “Get Out Of Our Way” blasts out with speed and fury. Shouted vocals and gang backup vocals are key features of this classic hardcore track. After this we get “Motherland” and “Pendulum,” a couple of hard rock and roll tracks, a short metallic instrumental, “De Ensomme Ulve,” and a couple more rockers in the title track and “Casual Rock n Roll.” Then we get to the raging hardcore punk track, “Traitor,” one that’s sure to get the circle pit going on a massive scale. My favorite track, though, I think is “The Golden Fall Pt 1.” It’s another short instrumental track, but it’s the most interesting, most different thing on the record. It’s in waltz time, and I love the epic melodic punk feel it has. I wish they turned this into a full-on song. It might not really be “street punk,” but The Old Firm Casuals fills a niche in the punk scene, and maybe fills a few.

GOLDEN DAZE – Simpatico (Autumn Tone Records, www.autumntone.com)

Golden Daze is the perfect name for this LA outfit. The music is a hazy blend of folk and dream pop, drizzled with psychedelia. Acoustic and electric guitars intertwine with moody synths and otherworldly vocals, while the percussion subtly floats underneath. Playing this record is like walking into a shimmering other reality. It’s the beauty of a rainy day, the sun shining through a break in the clouds, the laziness and haziness. Nowhere is that shimmer more evident than on the opening track, “Blue Bell.” Acoustic guitars twinkle and twirl as the delicate vocals, sung in a half whisper into your ear, turn the grey day into one of enchantment. “Wayward Tide” is another favorite, again making use of glistening acoustic guitars. Many of the songs also utilize synths to create an ambience underneath the melodies, evoking that otherworldly feel. I really like the repeating melodic line of “Drift,” and its unexpected chord change at the end of each iteration. The title track closes the LP, with a simple song, ambient synths underneath simply strummed acoustic guitar, electric slide guitar, and those haunting vocals. This is one of those albums that are perfect to play when you’re housebound, sitting in front of a fireplace reading a book or something like that. Gorgeous.

GOOD SHADE – Way Out (Dirtnap Records, www.dirtnaprecs.com)

Garage punk meets power pop meets 70's pop rock? Yes, yes, and yes, on this fourth full-lengther from the Ohio outfit. The diversity and energy make this album a great listen, nearly from beginning to end. “Maybe,” one of the pre-release singles opens the album with an epic sound, rapid tempo, driving beat, and soaring vocals. The other lead single, “Must Have Been,” is already a candidate for favorite song of the year. It’s got that Marked Men rapid pace garage punk sound, but the rapidly changing unorthodox chord changes really make the song a treat. A lot of the tracks are kind of like Marked Men meets the Buzzcocks. “We’re Open” is an interesting one, because it has the garage punk driving guitar sound, but it’s also got the 70's pop rock thing going on in the chorus’s melodic line. “Something’s Wrong” is a nice slower one, with a garage pop feel – but a third of the way in, it gets quiet and indie sounding for a bit, then erupts in a psych explosion. “Just Leave” leaves me a bit cold, though. It’s a tad too heavy on the 70's pop rock feel for my taste. But, yeah, overall this is a great listen.

KOMPLIKATIONS – No Good News (Rockstar Records, www.rockstarrecords. de)

There are no complications here on this, the fifth EP from the Belgian synth punk trio. Keyboards, drums, and vocals are what you get on these five stripped down tracks. It’s all very spare, very simple, very uncomplicated. Angry shouted vocals work closely with the buzzy synths to fill the space that would normally be taken up by guitars and bass. Imagine 70s punk crossed with early new wave, then strip away everything that isn’t absolutely necessary, and you get a sense of the sound you get from Komplikations. And with song titles like “Mouthy Leaders” and “Haters,” you know the songs are politically relevant. The pared back sound can be a bit jarring, but these are good songs.



LENNY LASHLEY’S GANG OF ONE – All Are Welcome (Pirates Press Records, www.piratespressrecords.com)

Lenny Lashley just may be Boston’s Boss. Like Bruce Springsteen, Lashley plays energetic working class rock and roll with elements of folk and punk in the songs. Like Springsteen, Lashley uses organ and sax in his arrangements. Lashley’s songs are maybe a bit more raw and honest sounding. Though Lashley’s been kicking around for the better part of two decades, this is only his second full-length LP as Lenny Lashley’s Gang of One, his debut coming nearly 6 years ago. Lashley also writes songs that champion the underdog and make a statement. Case in point, the title track, which references the poem, “The New Colossus,” part of which is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. “Give us your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free,” he sings. It’s a song aimed directly at the Trump administration, as Lashley asks, “Have we forgotten what we stand for?” “Where do we go from here, now that hope is lost?” he pleads. The song even includes a clip of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. “Live Like Lions” has elements of country, thanks to the slide guitar, and vaguely Irish music, courtesy of the accordion or concertina (not sure which it is) and the vocals that sounds a bit like Dave King of Flogging Molly. “Lonesome” has that same dichotomous character. I love the acoustic guitar and concertina, but not being a big fan of country I could do without the slide guitar. But that doesn’t apply to “Double Miner, a tune that sounds like a traditional song out of the old west. “Betty” is the most raucous of the ten tracks, and the first to feature saxophone. It kind of feels like something the SNL house band might play for the live audience to get them warmed up and rowdy. “Revolution” is another one that’s more rock than anything else, and proof that the back half of the album is more rockin’ than the front.

THE LOST TAPES – Inconvenience (Rockstar Records, www.rockstarrecords. de)

Part dark post punk, part goth this reminds me somewhat of what you might get if you crossed early 80's TSOL, late 80's DC band Strange Boutique, and mixed in a healthy dose of Bauhaus. Though that’s the general feel of this album, the first track, “Cyanide,” is completely different and undoubtedly the best of the bunch. It has a much harder, edgier feel, slightly angular melodic lines, and angry shouted vocals. The rest of the album from this German band doesn’t quite measure up to the promise of that first track. Each song, in turn, seems to lose more edge, become less focused, until we reach the halfway mark with the dirge-like “Double Vision.” On this one, the drums slowly and repetitively pound, the bass line is unchanging, and the whole song just seems to drag. The back half of the album picks things up again, but never recaptures the energy of the opening track. These tracks start to blend into each other, with little differentiation. The penultimate track, “Buildings,” tries to replicate the edgier feel, and to a degree succeeds, with a more rocking sound that most of the LP. But it’s only a couple of songs from this album that interest me.

SNAKERATTLERS – All Heads Will Roll (Dirty Water Records, www.dirtywater records.co.uk)

Snakerattlers is married duo of Naomi and Dan Oliver Gott. Hailing from the north of England, the guitar and drums pair produce a huge, gritty, greasy sound. They play a cross between garage and rockabilly, in all its raw powerful glory. This, their sophomore full-length LP, features eleven tracks whose big sound belie the diminutive size of the band. Tons of reverb, as befits the genre, vocals that are sung as much as shouted with gusto, and pounding percussion are the main features. After a short instrumental introductory track that sets the mood, we get “All Heads Will Roll,” a dark dirty dirge sure to blacken your soul. Other highlights include “She’s Strange,” which has a Latin influence and “Rattle Rock Stomp,” with its cool noisy intro, retro rock progression and growled and shouted vocals pushing out lyrics that merely consist of the title sung over and over. Another great track, “I’ll Destroy Your Soul,” sounds like they really mean it. The closer, “Wild,” reminds me a bit of power pop garage rockers LA Drugz, which is a high compliment. Dirty Water continues its winning streak.


AM TAXI – Shiver By Me (Mutant League Records, www.mutantleaguerecords.com)

Music always sounds better when the band playing it is having fun. And that’s one thing that’s immediately striking about Chicago-based AM Taxi: they’re quite obviously enjoying what they’re doing. The music has a bright sound to it, even the emotional “down” songs. Unconventional instruments (for punk-based music) such as piano, organ, and trumpet make their way into some of the songs, adding a great feel to the texture of these tracks. The opener is pretty simple, but a blast of fun. “Saint Jane” is bouncy and melodic garage-punk with some great sing-along parts. It sets a fantastic mood for the record. “Harpoon” is one of my favorites of the album, with a more of a lean toward indie rock. Harmonized vocals, a pounding beat, some great hooks, and sparkling guitars make this a winner. “Fighting In Cars” is similar, but with a bunch of jangle, and is another great one. I like how the band mixes things up on this record, and each song sounds distinct. “Movie About Your Life” is acoustic, with handclaps and keyboard punctuating the song, which sounds like something that might come from Teenage Bottlerocket. “Swim Before You Sink” has a punk rock show tune feel to it, in a way that’s really fun. “L’Patron” is smooth and almost lounge-like with its keyboards, but it occasionally gets big and epic. Given the band’s bio and their flirtation with a major label, I wasn’t expecting to like this record much, but I really do like it!

EERIE WANDA – Pet Town
(Joyful Noise Recordings,
www.joyfulnoiserecordings. com)

Marina Tadic has had an interesting life. Born to Croat parents in the former Yugoslavia, her family was forced to flee and become refugees during the Bosnian war that ripped Yugoslavia apart. Settling in the Netherlands, Tadic became an audio and visual artist, creating musical act Eerie Wanda with band mates Jasper Verhulst and Jeroen de Huevel. Eerie Wanda’s sophomore full-length LP is a study in delicate minimalism. Acoustic guitar or ukulele, bass, and miscellaneous percussion glide under Tadic’s smooth, easy vocals, reminding me at times of Julee Cruise, made famous by David Lynch during the TV run of Twin Peaks. But, while Cruise was singing retro rock song written by Angelo Badalamenti, Tadic’s songs are more island influenced, warm and breezy, such as the title track and “Magnetic Woman,” or influenced by retro pop music, like “Big Blue Bird” and “Moon.” Though they don’t break new ground, the songs are very soothing and relaxing to listen to. I enjoy “Rockabiller,” a “love song” to the title character. It has a minimalist repeating line pulsing under the vocals, with a hint of rockabilly feel, but it’s still so quiet and understated. “Hands of the Devil” has a great flamenco guitar sound, complete with clapping, but the chord progression is more of a bluesy one, making for an interesting listen. Beautiful.

GULAG BEACH – Potato Mash Bash (Rock Star Records, www.rockstarrecords.de)

Hailing from Berlin, Gulag Beach aren’t looking to push the boundaries of punk rock, but they’re very comfortably rocking out with some classic punk sounds on this, their fourth full-length LP. There are eight songs, four to each side – well, really seven songs. The closer of each side is “Death Is Not The End,” with part 1 on side A and part 2 on side B. Topics are classic punk themes, too, with “Ode to Capitalism” including lyrics such as “Work – Eat – Die” repeated multiple times. “The Need to Be High” is a song about the need to use substances or activities – anything that releases dopamine, to relieve the stress of daily life. Like I said, this record isn’t earth shattering, but it’s a fun one. I’ll bet the live shows are pretty raucous.

WEIRD OMEN – Girls Are Dancing On The Highway b/w A Place I Want To Know (Dirty Water Records, www.dirtywaterrecords.co.uk)

New single from French band Weird Omen, a band that already has four LPs and three other singles floating out there. The band is hard to pin down, genre-wise, but they seem to combine elements of garage punk, power pop, and fuzzed out psych. Plus they’ve got a baritone sax! They’re actually a three-piece, with guitar and drums filling things out! That’s a pretty unique concept, and it serves them well; there’s a lot of cool noodling going on in the bass line, more so than if it had been a traditional electric bass. This adds to the awesome psych feel. The single is a teaser for a forthcoming LP, and it certainly does whet the appetite. The A side is a dark, chaotic track, while the B-side has the stronger power pop sensibility, and is my favorite of the pair. Good stuff!

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BAND ARGUMENT – Patchwork (bandargument.bandcamp.com)

Band Argument is a new San Diego band that features Jordan Krimston and Sil Damone, formerly of Big Bad Buffalo, along with Jake Kelsoe and Alex Simonian, performing music different than anything that’s come from Krimston and Damone’s previous efforts. First, Krimston steps back from guitar duty and gets back behind the drum kit, actually his primary instrument. Damone sings and plays bass again, and Kelsoe and Simonian play guitar and MIDI. The resulting music is a glorious mash-up of math-pop, dream-pop, new wave, and a sort of neo-futuristic electro-music. The five songs on this debut release are, to my ears, more creative and original than much of the music being released today. The lead single, “Buddy,” opens the EP with angular melodic and rhythmic lines most reminiscent of new wave, then adding in some hip-hop rhythms and rapping. The electronics are front and center, giving us a strong taste of what’s to come. “Standing On Shoulders” sounds a bit like Cymbals Eat Guitars tune, but with a cool underwater sounding warble in the electronics. This one is dreamy but edgy. “Long Jump” has a breezy island feel to it, thanks to steel drum sounds from the synth, and a throbbing rhythm. “Sneaker Keeper” has a cool jazz vibe mixed with startling noises punctuating the track. “Dinner” closes the EP with more angular rhythms and guitar/MIDI lines over smooth, relaxed vocals, the opposition of these elements keeping the track in an off-kilter balance. I really liked Big Bad Buffalo, and I like Krimston’s other current bands (Miss New Buddha, Weatherbox), but Band Argument has the originality to make a real splash, should they make the effort.

CALIFORNIA HEARSE (californiahearse. bandcamp.com)

Southern California’s Gentlemen Prefer Blood may have called it quits, but their rhythm section, consisting of Dr. J on bass/vocals and Mike Spaid on drums, have decided to press on as California Hearse. If you’re familiar with the sounds produced by Gentlemen Prefer Blood, you’re going to instantly feel at home here; the half dozen tracks have the same general mix of anthemic pop punk and power pop. “Welcome Home” seems to reflect this, welcoming GPB fans home to this new band, the expansive opening guitar licks sounding just like GPB. Other songs add influences from bands as diverse as The Descendents and Social Distortion. Their first show will be at La Escalera Fest 8 in San Diego this April, and I know I’m looking forward to that, based on this EP.

OFFENDED BY EVERYTHING – Evergreen (Standby Records, www.standbyrecords. com)

Texas’ Offended By Everything call themselves pop punk, but this reminds me more of the poppy emo that was so trendy in the 2000s. This new EP from the still pretty new band (they only formed in 2017) contains five tracks that, if you’re a fan of that genre, are performed in workmanlike fashion and should be enjoyable enough. To my ears, though, these songs and so many like them have little variation and are overwrought. The one exception is the title track, which is an acoustic version of this style of song, and I think this works so much better acoustically than as a full electric band.

RADAR STATE – Strays (Wiretap Records, wiretaprecords.limitedrun.com)

Wiretap’s latest release comes from a “super group” of sorts, with Radar State consisting of Matt Pryor and Jim Suptic of The Get Up Kids, Josh Berwanger from The Anniversary, and Adam Phillips of The Architects and The Gadjits. As a result, the music on this debut LP is bouncy, melodic pop punk with a clean polished sound. In a way, it almost sounds like it could be a new Get Up Kids release, but this record has more of an edge and less jangle than The Get Up Kids songs. Favorite songs include the anthemic “Anywhere,” which contrasts tough guitars with a poppy melodic line and a fantastic descending line in the chorus. I really like the guitar fiddling and flourishes on “Self Hurt Guru,” which also has a great “Fat Wreck Chords” pop punk sound. “Defender” is probably the most aggressive, punk song of the album. It’s got a power to it, as does “Good Catholic,” with the latter having a lot more bounce. And a third track in a row completes the troika, “Leather Dye.” It’s dark, up-tempo, and gets all misty in the middle. The only song that feels out of place is the closer, “Play For The Game.” It’s acoustic for its first two-thirds before the full band comes in, but even then, the whole song feels so different from the rest of the album, It’s more of a low energy ballad. I see this band is coming through town on tour in a few weeks, though, and I’ve put them on my calendar. Should be a good time.

SLUM SUMMER – Ababo (Jigsaw Records, www.jigsaw-records.com)

Fronted by Englishman Hugh Noble and formed after his move to San Diego, Slum Summer is an indie band that includes another UK ex-pat, Grant Stewart, on bass, as well as Americans DJ Anderson (drums) and Jen Edwards on guitar. The songs are nearly uniformly gentle indie pop, with a slightly folk-psych undercurrent. Guitars jangle clearly, while the bass and drums pump out the beats and Noble’s smooth, even vocals sing out. The problem is that, within those parameters there could be plenty of opportunity for variation, but Slum Summer don’t take it often enough. Well, I guess musically there’s some variation. “Trampoline” has a doo-wop sort of feel, while “Vauxhall” has the feel of a country ballad. “Sing Sing The Rain” has a funky beat to it, and so on. I think it’s really Noble’s vocals that sound identical from song to song. And it’s so dominant in the mix, maybe too much so. Every little flaw is laid bare in those vocals because of that mix. Then there’s how clean the guitar tone is on every song, and the amount of reverb they have – again, too much, I do like some of the songs. “The Rub” is a nice driving indie tune, and the dueling guitars jangle in different ways. And the opener, “Annabel,” is, well, similar. The songwriting has some good potential, I think, but Slum Summer could do with some help producing their records.

TROUBLE CUTS – Parasite b/w Who Is Right? (Lavasocks Records, www.lavasocksrecords.com)

My interest in this record from a band out of Portland that rarely plays outside their local area is clear: the bassist is none other than Kyle Henner, formerly of 90s Bay Area band Nuisance, and the drummer is Jonno Peltz, who played in the short-lived hardcore band Breeders in Urbana, Illinois in the early 80s. This 7” EP comes on clear red vinyl and features a pair of tracks. The A-side is a rocker, for sure, with early rock’n’roll guitar flourishes. It’s a mildly up-tempo track packed with a bluesy power. The B-side is a slow-burner with a dusty desert feel. The vocals complement the style really well, with a dry delivery. Not only is it good to see people from bands I enjoyed years ago still making music, it’s great to hear that it’s really good music.

VAN DAMMES – Risky Business (Rock Star Records, www.rockstarrecords.de)

Pop fucking punk rock from Finland! The Van Dammes, from Helsinki, have issued forth a challenge to the world. The six songs on this EP are nothing short of a huge blast of fun energy. Lo-fi in just the right way, this record is a must for all fans of garage-like pop punk. Formed in 2013 in Brussels, the band has relocated further north. This is the fourth EP from the quartet, which features guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards – and the keyboards add a lot to the fun here! Five of the six tracks are under two minutes, with only the mid-tempo closer passing that mark. The title track opens the record in spectacular fashion, raging like mad. Things don’t let up one bit for “I Don’t Like Music Anymore,” with a bit of a Radioactivity vibe, but with more of a melodic bounce. I really like “100m,” and its use of the keys to echo the melodic line of the vocals. That closing track, “Tax Free World,” is a good one, too, but feels a little out of place with its more loping feel and more of a focus on melody than speed and power. This is a highly recommended record!

VINTAGE CROP – Company Man (Drunken Sailor Records, www.drunkensailorrecords.co.uk)

This four song EP features a classic punk sound out of Australia. The mid-tempo tracks feature angular melodic lines and shouted vocals. The band this most reminds me of is Art Brut, the great UK band, as they have a very similar feel. Song topics primarily seem to revolve around economic exploitation, particularly the title track and “Stock Options,” which closes the EP. Favorite track: the off-kilter “Right to Censor.” Good stuff.

 

WEAKENED FRIENDS – Common Blah (Don Giovanni Records, www.dongiovanni records.com)

OK, yeah, this came out in the last quarter of 2018. Our fearless editor tells me it literally fell through the cracks – he found it had fallen behind his CD cabinet. But never fear – good music stays good, and this is indeed good. The trio hails from New England (Boston and Portland, Maine), and I hear a few different things in here that make me happy; I hear influences from grunge, from indie pop, and from pop punk. “Peel” is a solid grunge track, with a tough feel, solid bass line, and fuzzed out guitars. “Waste” also has a big grunge sound, but with a lot of bounce added in. “Early” reminds me so much of Washington D.C.’s Tsunami, a favorite indie pop band from back in the day. Some of the songs remind a lot of local San Diego band. Squarecrow. Not that they’re an influence – how can they be? Squarecrow is a tiny local band – but the way the vocals have a bit of a tremor, almost like a subtle laugh, reminds me a lot of Squarecrow’s Todd Allen and the way he sings. The title track is a good example of this. And the songs have the same light-hearted feel like Squarecrow, though the lyrics may not be as light-hearted as the music implies. “Not Doing Good” is another example of this. The closing track, “Hate Mail,” features a guest appearance from Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis, and the unmistakable guitar tone adds another layer to the song. I wish I had heard this record earlier. Perhaps it might have displaced something from my 2018 best records list…

RATIONS NOISE / UNKNOWN RIVER DRIVER – Split 12” LP (86’d Records, www.86drec.com)

This split LP comes from a pair of bands from Long Island, and it features an amazing diversity of sound! Each band contributes five tracks, with Unknown River Driver up first. Just this one band likes to mix things up, with styles ranging from post-punk to pop punk, but all with a strong grounding in 1990s sounds. “Remains” blends heavy early-era emo vocals and a grunge-doom feel with a beautifully clear guitar tone. “Isaiah” is a great, epic sing-along pop punk track with shouted vocals and a simple melodic line. “Pour” is a dark track, mixing second wave emo with an almost metallic edge. “Song of the Cicada” is a pretty, delicate instrumental that doesn’t even sound like it came from the same band. It’s got a Japanese feel to it, both in the melody and arrangement. The band’s final track, “Misery and Liberty,” is a more standard melodic punk rock tune. And then comes Rations Noise’s side! Now, this is definitely not your typical Jersey Beat fare. This is experimental noise and found sound mixed with musical instruments. And I love it! This is sonic art of a sort that was made during a very creative period in the 1980s, but is not often heard anymore. And these five tracks are a good introduction to people unfamiliar with the genre, as the tracks are short and rhythmic, some even with a discernable melodic line in places. “Screams of the Wounded and Dying” opens with some eerie sounds, and then distorted synthesized voices intoning emotionlessly about pain and mourning. The nightmarish sounds continue, as a pulsating melodic line repeats, sounding like a distorted harmonium, and the eerie sounds resolve into a rhythmic beat. “Litany for Hancock Airbase” opens in a similar manner, but this track remains dark and foreboding, until the very end when a beautifully bass line takes over from the buzzing and droning. “Dronestruck” (speaking of drones) consists of dark ambience swelling and ebbing, punctuated by a rhythmic banging pattern that’s repeated, while a guitar plays rising and falling notes. “Consoles” may be my favorite. It’s dark and buzzy, with a strong repeated rhythm, periodically interrupted by some other randomly evil sounds. “Cont’d Litany” closes the side with a harsh noise blended with guitar lines, distorted voices begging forgiveness at the start and end. There is a consistent theme around unjust warfare throughout these tracks, as well. Highly recommended!

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