Jersey Beat Music Fanzine
 


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


Angel Hair Insect Immortality (Three One G Records; angelhair.bandcamp.com)

Like nails on a chalkboard. Angel Hair created a sound that warranted the term You Call That Music? that every punk ever heard a dozen or so times a day. The noisy, experimental hardcore band introduced us to a new way to perform and express our emotions. It was dark yet cathartic to me. The band also introduced me to the term hearing loss, while turning me on to bands like Heroin, Antioch Arrow, Swing Kids and more close to home, Rorshach. The chaotic and often unpredictable noise was a stark contrast to Metalcore, and a welcomed alternative to the perseverance of the many tired tropes that overpopulated hardcore. Now, decades after their break up, San Diegos Three One G records steps up to put together most if not all the band's recorded history. Being somewhat of a punk archeologist myself, Insect Mortality was an absolute must-have. To have so much of the band's recorded history in one place gave me geek bumps. Whether youre a fan of the era's artsy detour or just looking for something to scare the squares, scoop this up. The record features 17 songs. The album comes packaged in a gatefold cover on yellow vinyl from threeoneg.com. (The color variations may differ.)

Vidro Up Till Dans (Beach Impediment Records; vidro.bandcamp.com)

Straight outta Stockholm, Vidro add four songs to a somewhat flooded hardcore market on their American debut with Richmond, Virginia's Beach Impediment Records. The band puts fourth four aggressive offerings that grow on you with each step forward. Hardcore excellence with a sense of hard rock prowess thrown in, powering the tough sound, while peppering it with more accessible hard rock elements. Though a quick ride, Up Till Dans (whatever that means)["up to dance" - Editor] has a way of winning over the listener's attention, with the track Frstr Det Som Frstr Dig []destroy what destroys you - Editorbeing the killer.

Peace Decay S/T (Beach Impediment Records; peacedecay.bandcamp.com)

Texas thrash-metal band Peace Decay are back with their self-titled follow up to 2021s debut 6-song Death is Only Ten scathing entries of well-played rhythms and leads and tragically terrible vocals. Honestly, I had a bad feeling about this one. From the band name to the album art, everything about it said mediocre thrash. Understandably, thrash and most extreme music sub-genres are a love/hate dance. Peace Decay, however, did nothing to ignite any love whatsoever.

Bad Beat LP 2024 (Triple-B Records; triplebrecords.net)

While background information on Detroits Bad Beat seems scarce, the Hardcore outfit's debut LP really impresses despite their lackadaisically named LP 2024. A closer look seems to prove that the band puts a lot more hard work toward their music than their image and media kit, something I personally found impressive. Sixteen scorchers that raise the bar for hardcore bands with amazing riffs, timing, and the biggest, baddest and best bass rhythms known to the sub-genre. Each songs eeks out an identity and personality all its own.

Conservative Military Image No Squares in Our Circle (Triple B Records)

Its been decades since I heard the term Skinhead Band, and at this point in my life, I do my best to avoid any and all labels that stigmatize or marginalize anyone. Instead, I choose to approach the music without any judgements regarding social or racial ideals. You know the term: Labels are for soup cans. Drawn in by the intriguing cover image of two skinbyrds, yet turned off by the non-inclusive title No Squares in our Circle (I have no idea what that suggests,) these Chicago stompers more than make their presence known. While the songs are quite good and show off some unique characteristics, I cant, in the least, relate to the violent, drunken, fist-flying ethos it supports. Next.

Trenchkoat Apocalypse Hits (BigNeckRecords1.bandcamp.com)

The second album from English hardcore band Trenchkoat features 12 songs that feel as if theyre caught up in a tornado: unrelenting chords rhythms and demon spirit vocals. (Imagine Jigsaw from the movie franchise SAW fronting a hardcore band.) Apocalypse Hits reminds me of the pre-teen weekends spent sneaking into local theatres to catch the latest slasher films making appearances on the screen. Though those films certainly didnt hold up or warrant return visits, the memories of being a juvenile delinquent looking for trouble are gold. Though this fast paced, fire-in-the-hole noise isnt something Id listen to normally, the fact that it brought back fond memories and had me recall my some of horror director John Carpenter's film scores is definitely a plus. Not my thing, at all, but worth hearing. The vinyl comes with a 16-page fanzine.


Teen Cobra Buzzkill (Big Neck Records)

Buzzkill follows the group's 2020 debut EP, "Teen Piranha." If it's your thing and you dont mind testing your ear drums limits, go for it.


The Stools - Live at Outer Limits 12-28-19 (Big Neck Records)

While the vinyl LP is sold out, heres a chance for Stools fans to revisit that "Outer Limits" show or hear what you missed. Though I do recall reviewing one of their albums for this column, I honestly have no memory of their sound or style. While trying to listen to this album with an open mind, I could honestly find nothing worth noting or retaining. Detroit rockers the Stools might deserve more respect and mention for their years together honing their chops as a bluesy, punk rock fused band. Unfortunately, this live album wont do it.

Kid You Not Heres to Feeling Good All the Time (kidyounotfl.bandcamp.com

In my late teens, I had a good friend who used the term I kid you not more often than any used car salesman ever mouthed. Fast forward a couple of hundred years and I find myself reviewing a final release by a band that has left us with four noteworthy albums, but seems to have called it quits. This titanic eponymous album leaved us licking the wounds of our loss. Sad, considering this is really good stuff. First off, you cant go wrong with the title Heres to Feeling Good all the Time. It announces a celebration worth attending. The party gets started with the opening track, the look in the mirror with the self-awareness and humbling self-realization of I am who I am. And I wish that I wasnt. Kid You Nots uptempo post-core sound is immediately contagious, featuring uplifting vocals, ever-reaching harmonies and riffs, and well-placed and subtly giant rhythms. If there was ever an award for not judging a book by its cover, Kid You Not brings to mind many of the bands - including Hot Water Music, the seldom celebrated Iron Chic, The Menzingers, and others - who inspired so many fans' sing a-longs, raised pints and support.

Sleave How to Get Over (Engineer Records)

Richmond, Virginias Sleaves feature 10 radio-friendly AOR tunes worthy of an A&R rep's wet dream. Polished, clean, and well-produced songs that went through me without ever making a connection or striking a nerve. While the music and production are worth noting, perhaps its the corporate rock vibe that seems to flow through each song that turned me off. The track How To Get Over begs for your attention, but youd have to play it for me a dozen or so times before I remembered it. Pass.

Bad Bad Hats S/T (Don Giovanni Records; dongiovannirecords.bandcamp.com/)

Taking a deep dive into Don Giovanni Records catalog has always been a rewarding journey, one that has included Screaming Females, The Ergs and many, many more. Mining the just released LP from Minneapolis, Minnesotas dynamic duo Bad Bad Hats was quite fulfilling as the 10 songs on this disk almost immediately brought warmth to my cold heart. The duo of Kerry Alexander and Chris Hoge have been writing, recording and touring since they met in college more than ten years ago. Through four previous albums, their brand of warm and upbeat pop rock has brought the term indie-rock back to relevance. Alexanders voice is warm and heavenly. I found myself bobbing my head and tapping my feet to every note. The songwriting of Alexander and Hoge deserves praise as their efforts seem grounded in classic applications and 90s pop appeal. Whereas all ten of the entries warrant praise, the rhythmic Let Me In had me in a dance minded trance. Back to my Body was the perfect detour from the norm. And Meter Run had a bubbly pop genius about it that cant be denied. While I cant confirm whether or not this album brought the sun out today, its a strong possibility.

Faz Waltz Endless Beat (spaghettytownrecords.bandcamp.com)

Released back in January, 2024, Endless Beat" is Faz Waltz' tribute to the raucous and raw rock & roll and boogie of the Fifties. And while I find it more than admirable that they avoided an overdone cover treatment by writing new tunes with an old, familiar approach, I couldnt help but think that a band I admittedly love and have dedicated considerable free time hasn't kept their eyes on the ball and hands on the wheel by continuing their upward trajectory. Worth noting, the delivery, recording and production are aces. Its focus on the "once upon a time" was a bit disappointing for me. All in all, not a bad record by any sense. Just one whose focus turned me off.

The Boatsmen - Hard Livin' (spaghettytownrecords.bandcamp.com)

Swedens hard rockin delinquents The Boatsmen are back, and thankfully, havent mellowed over time. The band and the music on "Hard Livin'" feel like the perfect soundtrack to a night of drinking and bad decisions with your friends. A night youll morally regret, yet repeat on a weekly basis. You know, that night you met Lemmy Kilmister and regretfully challenged him to a Last man standing drinking game. Sure you didnt win, but you sure enjoyed losing. Okay, so I got way off track. Hard Livin delivers hard, relentless, bombastic, hard rock and punk, bringing to mind some of hard rock's best and hardest, such as Motorhead, Rocket From the Crypt, or Hot Snakes. Twelve songs, not a bad one in the deck. Through their last two albums, I feel as if Im channeling some incredible hard rock. Hard Livin has me hoping for more.

Wallbreaker - Wallbreaker (RefuseRecords.bandcamp.com)

Wallbreaker's two-song EP admittedly took a few listens to have its appeal sink in. (Isnt that how it always goes? ) This self-titled EP fits that bill. Formed by Jeremy Evans (Coke Bust, WarXGames - two bands I would highly recommend looking into;) Jeff DeSantis (Bloodtype, Bleeding Edges Label;) Ken Ramsey (Glory Fades;) and Ben Wood (Chainsaw To The Face), the New Jersey-based hardcore band finds influence in great hardcore bands such as Life's Blood and Sheer Terror. Raw and angry as fuck. Having recently received a small taste of Wallbreaker, I knew what was coming, and I wasn't expecting much. However, after a few closer listens. I was more than convinced. Surely, Wallbreaker seems to be playing it safe when it comes to their brand of hardcore, but if it aint broken

Merauder - Master Killer (Rebellion Records; rebellionshop.com)

Music is very subjective. Just because you're not into a record, or you straight-up hate a band's sound, doesn't necessarily mean it sucks. Such is the case with Merauder. While many in the Hardcore and crossover community go nuts for them, Merauder is like many of the outerlying crossover, tough guy bands of the 90's that did not appeal to me. While earlier recordings show ties to Hardcore and especially metal crossover, their 1996 Century Media release "Master Killer" sent them directly into the "Metal Core" universe. This latest reissue of 1995's "Master Killer is the first vinyl issue since 2021, available again on color vinyl and imported from the Netherlands. Unfortunately, listening to these 10 songs for the first time since 1995 was not the least rewarding. Featuring the original ten songs, this marks the first time that the promise of color vinyl was more rewarding than the music itself. Hard pass.


The Fastbacks 1985 Okay (HeySuburbiaRecords.com)

Ask any music-minded Seattle resident about The Fastbacks and expect a barrage of praise and admiration for a band that helped inspire the birth of Sub-Pop records and pioneer the entire grunge rock scene. Recorded July 9th, 1985 in a Pioneer Square basement (my wife and I almost moved there and never once regreted our decision not to,) the 12-song demo has been carefully remastered. (Well done, I must say.) 1985 Okay marks the first time Ive listened to The Fastbacks since my time in Seattle (2017 2021.) I found it hard to digest that a demo, basically an introduction to a newly formed band, could be so impressive. Though not polished or overproduced, the songwriting and final results are quite impressive. Theres a notable cover of Jefferson Airplane's Somebody to Love." It can also be noted that Warnicks vocals and approach are incredibly versatile. I mentioned I had not listened to the Fastbacks since my Seattle days, but this record's appeal guarantees numerous spins, no matter where I call home. The record comes in limited edition white vinyl and available through Italys Hey Suburbia label. On the downside. If there is one. Id like to voice my dismay regarding reissues that are void of any cookies that tell the story about the band members and history. I would gladly trade the color vinyl for a backstory, images and, at the very least, a lyric sheet.

Mary Timony Tame the Tiger (Merge Records)

Before reviewing Mary Timony's "Tame the Tiger," it's important to celebrate the singer-songwriter-guitarist's 30-plus years of contributions to indie music and culture as a member of bands such as Autoclave, Helium, Wild Flag, Hammered Hulls, and Ex Hex, among others. Her voice, songwriting, and guitar play have contributed so much to independent music that nothing less than a statue erected in her honor would suffice. On this solo release, "No Thirds" opens the journey with Timony sounding like a troubadour with a tale to tell. Authentic on all levels. One can feel Country and Folk vibes with the scent of Sheryl Crowe thrown in for good measure. Gentle strokes of folk-inspired melodies and emotional soundscapes carry the listener through like a gifted storyteller. Tame the Tiger is a 10, if not a 10+, a record thats warranted countless listens and has confidently occupied my turntable since its arrival.

Moira - Demo (Refused Records; moirapl.bandcamp.com)

Earlier today, I had the chance to listen to a rather impressive four-song demo of Poland's female-fronted Moira. The band delivers some dark hardcore that feels quite dynamic and uplifting, songs that feature a deep emotional core. Screamed/shouted vocals and sharp as fuck instrumentals forge a thick-as-fuck bond that impresses on every level. Appealing to both hardcore and metal purists alike, I have to admit that Moira caught me off guard. However, I didn't expect anything nearly as moving, dynamic, or satisfying as these four songs. I loved this and cant wait to hear more.


Outer World - Who Does The Music Love? (outerworldmusic.bandcamp.com)

Featuring Tracy Wilson and Kenny Close of Richmond, VA's Positive No, Outer World seems to be an evolving project from the songwriting duo. Wilson and Close make for a dynamic songwriting team, creating a soundscape that includes dreampop, shoegaze, and trip-hop elements. I am dumbfounded regarding how Wilson's singing has held a grip on me since I first heard it back in the mid-Nineties, both angelic and haunting simultaneously. At any range or level of emotion, it perfectly conveys the song's mood and its intended emotion. If these two songs are any indication of what's to come, sign me up.

The Hasbros - God Hates the Hasbros (thehasbrosnyc.bandcamp.com)

Since my editor agrees that my reviews have no actual timetable, I thought I'd step back to discuss what was one of 2023's best releases. Since the Hasbro's debut album, 2018's "Cart Before the Horse," the Queens, NY, band has earned both my respect and admiration. How could they not, with their innate ability to forge excellent musicianship with a sense of songwriting that has me referencing acts as far-reaching as early R.E.M. and Canada's The Doughboys? "God Hates the Hasbros" features all the melodies and hooks needed to relate to and invite a record into your "must-have" tune-a-verse. There's a certain looseness to the musicianship that feels more like cadence, as it might point to their chemistry and desire to create and communicate with one another. The album features nine songs, each of which glistens like gems, making their connections and impact. Favorite songs include the power pop sparkler "Eye to Eye," the emotive (yes, I'm a sucker for slow jams) "Days of Night," and the "knock it out of the park" aggression of "Hell or Me." In the end, it makes me happy to write about and promote something as rewarding as "God hates the Hasbro's." Learn it, know it, live it.

Public Acid - Public Destruction (beachimpedimentrecords. bigcartel.com)

There comes a time in every reviewer's life when you get tired of using the same words and terms to describe your thoughts about a recording. My time came when listening to Public Acid's 8-song firestorm, choosing to skip the ingredients of that word salad. Let's focus on the record at hand. While North Carolina's Public Acid delivers more than its share of pummeling and bludgeoning, there's no further tale to tell. The band fails to distinguish themselves otherwise unapologetically, forgoing any rhythm, harmony, breaks, or breakdowns. Each minute-plus song fails to distinguish itself from the other, thus leaving little to no impression. Should you take a moment to read the bio on their Bandcamp page, you'll get the impression that they take themselves way too seriously. Pass.

Canal Irreal - Someone Else's Dance (Beach Impediment Records)

While finding little information about this Chicago hardcore band, I must admit that "Someone Else's Dance" is some of the best stuff I've recently caught up with from the respective hardcore camp. Fast, furious, and unrelenting. Canal Irreal's sound travels much further than the limitations of its sub-genre. Granted that, as of late, my attention span has been that of a squirrel. Realizing that "Someone Else's Dance" kept my attention throughout its 11 tracks, it is at least admirable. The 10 songs offered on "Someone Else's Dance" feature fast and upbeat leads, reprises, and above-the-rim vocals, paying respect to while giving just about every genre, sub-genre, and "post" addition a swift kick in the tush. Listening to the album countless times, finding new elements to celebrate each time, says a lot. Great stuff worthy of its sold-out vinyl status. I recommend going to the Beach Impediments Bandcamp page and listening to it.

Sexpill - In Dust We Trust (Beach Impediment Records)

From the first note (if you want to call it that,) I knew Sexpill was not my thing. To be more precise, if given the choice, I would never choose to listen to this again. "In Dust We Trust" features 12 songs of absolute misery, scathing noise that sounds like nails on a chalkboard and reminds me of being awakened on a Saturday morning by a jackhammer performing "Ongoing Construction Project." "In Dust, We Trust" marks the Texas bands' first 12-inch LP and shows a universe of space for improvement.

Mala Vista - In the Dark (SpaghettyTownRecords.bigcartel.com) (Pre-Order)

You'll not often see me reviewing singles, especially considering how difficult it is to gauge a band's appeal through one or two songs. New York's Mala Vista might be the rare exception to the rule. The single "In the Dark." transports me to a specific time and place with its colors, chords, and vocal associations that would sit comfortably in a Lower East Side club, bar, or dive. Think 80s post-punk or guitar rock. Think about the kind of excellence and individualism the typical music lover and show attendee would love and a corporate rock record label would pass over. I'm old, so it might be hard to compare any current acts. Instead, board my time machine back to another time when acts such as the Plimsouls, Dead Boys, and Johnny Thunder were corrupting our eyes and ears. "In the Dark" is a killer track that will send to their Spotify page seeking more,


Bloodshot Bill - Trick and Treat Vol. 2 (GhostHighwayRecordings.bandcamp.com)

If you're still into 1950's hillbilly and rockabilly, then this 5-song 7-inch ep is for you. Limited to three hundred copies or available for download. I didn't find anything remotely interesting or noteworthy in these songs, just revivalist horse hockey that can probably suck the bumper off a '57 Chevy. Hard pass.



Bad Anxiety - S/T (RefuseRecords.bandcamp.com)

While it took me a hot minute to find any background information regarding Mississippi-based Bad Anxiety, I learned that it is more or less a solo project of Hampton Martin, self-claimed King of Hattiesburg, Mississippi DIY Punk. He's perhaps best known for his being a member and contributor of the Delta States and Judy and the Jerks. The four songs featured on this EP are rough yet appealing. Sampling this for the first time reminded me of the fondness I've always felt regarding the raw and unadulterated punk noise of the '80's and NYC's The Stimulator's "Loud, Fast, Rules" ethos. Jagged guitars, bratty vocals and punk rock angst, generating enough excitement to make you forget about the rules of the game that punk sought initially to defy. Good stuff you should check out.

Drink Deep - "DD" EP (Refuse Records)

Whether or not Berlin, Germany's Drink Deep took their name from Rites of Spring's most recognizable song is none of my business. There's no argument regarding the pressure it might bring to live up to the choice. Respectively, Drink Deep sure does wear that "Revolution Summer" sound and ethos on their sleeves. Whereas the eight songs on their debut EP certainly play homage and find influence in bands such as Rites of Spring and Embrace, it never feels gimmicky or unoriginal. Just eight songs that hit all the right buttons musically and raw nerves emotionally. Impressive.

On Patrol: Discography (1993-1996, Richmond, VA) (southernpunkarchive.bandcamp.com)

If you're familiar with my column (and I know you're not,) you'll see that I love discographies of all shapes and sizes. Tracking down the recorded output of a band I have no prior knowledge is a particular passion. Such was the case with Richmond, VA's On Patrol. Hearing On Patrol decades after their initial existence was sure to bring some surprises. What transpired was beyond any expectations as I found myself enjoying every track. What surprised me most about these recordings is their kinship with the Cali-punk acts and Lookout bands such as Crimpshrine and Operation Ivy. Present is the desire to skank and have fun being a total nerd. Absent are the tough guy breakdowns and metallic worship. It features 36 songs from a handful of 7-inch EPs and an LP. Plus, a handful of live hits. On Patrol's bouncy rhythms and uplifting spirit inspire me as someone who's become aware that I may never uncover everything I might have initially missed out on. I'm grateful for discographies like this to remind me.

Nausea - Cybergod/ Lie Cycle (Svart Records; revhq.com)

Europe's Svart Records bring New York crust-punk Nausea's 1991 "Cyborg" and 1992's "Lie Cycle" EP's together for the first time on a remastered 12-inch with the bonus track "Here Today." Most notably, Nausea appeared on Revelation Records' 1988 classic "New York Hardcore" The Way It Is" and was an essential part of the "Squat or Rot" movement that supported the squatter practice of the time. Nausea's sound was scathing and brutal, earning a small yet dedicated following. Hearing them for the first time in 30 years (remastered or not) did not improve my opinion of Nausea nor my appreciation of the band or crust-punk genre. Knowing there would undoubtedly be a remaining niche of punks and hardcore archeologists out there eager to remember the days when deodorant wasn't a key ingredient in the survival kit, I'd give it some attention. Perhaps hearing these again will renew your memories of dumpster diving, squatting, and panhandling on the Lower East Side. Note the records' limited Transparent red vinyl and insert. (Limited to 400 copies. (Release date: March 28. Pre-order now.)


Trash Knife - Weird Daze (trashknife.bandcamp.com)

"Weird Daze," the ten-song debut LP from the Philadelphia quintet, combines excellence with an aura of fun as it produces something that most would consider punk but has an appeal that anyone looking for honest-sounding, high-energy moods and tempos would find themselves drawn to. Trash Knife and the 10 recordings on "Weird Daze" make their impact while leaving a lasting impression, highlighted by fast and fiery screamed vocals, rapid-fire riffs, and snake-like rhythms. I'm often reminded that when you findd yourself hooked on a band and their music, keeping tabs on when and where their next show was happening became part of the experience. Music, lyrics, and snotty, growling vocals keep you drawn to a core that can be compared to early punk bands such as the Avengers or Germs.

Nightfreak - S/T LP (nightfreakchicago.bandcamp.com)

Despite only visiting Chicago once, the city has been a regular topic of my daily conversations and targets for future travel. Sure, the winters are cold, and there are neighborhoods where you better watch your ass. But such cities are a breeding ground for honest, badass music. Such is the case with "Nightfreak." Nightfreak displays a gift for high-octane guitar rock that screams and declares independence from corporate interference on their self-titled 9-song debut. Elements of punk, hard rock, and musicality bring to mind the raw energy of garage rock. Nightfreak displays the raw power and savagery fueling a debut juggernaut. Like my friend Tohm used to say, "This is the tits." On a side note. I sent this over to a friend who runs a label thats geared toward this kind of debauchery, and he loved it.

Asbestos - Wishful Thinking (11pmrecords.bandcamp.com)

Congratulations, Asbestos! If your intentions going into the recording studio were to say, "Fuck you, we set out to make a record you'd hate and immediately designate for the circular file," you won the prize. If not. Oh well. Musically forgettable and vocally punishable by death, "Wishful Thinking" doesn't show any hope for this relatively young punk/hardcore act, a band that can be significantly improved by not making their attempt at tuning up a key focus of your recording session and rethinking the screaming bloody murder into the microphone. The opening basslines on the third track, "Double Bind," are the only savior throughout this 7-song dumpster dive. However, it's far too late into the game.

Morons Moron's - Go Pop (bigneckrecords1.bandcamp.com)

While it's pretty apparent Poland's Moron Moron's didn't put much thought into naming their band, this Molotov cocktail of garage punk and rock 'n' roll produced here warrants attention. If you're a fan of no-nonsense and unfiltered guitar rock, you're in the right place. The EP features two songs, "Cadillac Eyes" and "Your A Sleaze." If you're a Rocket From the Crypt Fan Club member and have five and a half minutes to spare. I highly suggest this.

Heatseeker - Illusion of Will (Refuse Records)

I have no idea what inspired their five-year break from recording, but the Warsaw, Poland hardcore band Heatseeker must have been tackling essential duties. Their new album offers an all-out assault that takes grip of your interest and attention, lifting any preconceptions about time apart, putting any strain on the member's personal or creative bond. Heatseeker possesses all of the ingredients necessary to demonstrate both its style and message. (The beats, the breaks, and the breakdowns.) This 6-song 7-inch EP comes on black and green vinyl. For those mp3 folks I keep hearing about, it can be downloaded on their Bandcamp. This is a record that has me digging deeper into Heatseeker's past recordings as well as their influences.

Junta - Self-Titled (Sentient Ruin Records)

As a kid from the New York streets, it's always good to see and hear new bands coming up, making noise, and keeping that D.I.Y. spirit alive. Junta struck me with their raw, DIY approach to hardcore punk. I appreciate the novelty of their dedication to Anarcho beliefs. What separates Junta from the typical "Squat or Rot" bands I'm used to is the attention to more of what I would consider the rhythmic focus of their music. The vocals are impressive, too, in English and in Spanish. Overall, New York's Junta impresses through 11 well-executed and produced songs.

MooM - Plague Infested Urban Dump of the Future (Lixiviat Records)

Far be it from me to trash the work of another (especially when they seem pretty passionate about the art they create) but there are times like these when, as a listener, you don't feel any connection to what is unfolding around you. Israel's MooM flies under the grindcore flag/power violence banner. I've never enjoyed metal styles and often questioned how others possibly could. On their full-length debut for Lixiviat Records, the Tel Aviv, Israel band sticks with what they know, delivering a torturous mix that the LP's title can best describe. Meanwhile, the instrumentation of Ez Ra, Gad, and Heshbon is pure misery and torture to the ears. The death toll doesn't take hold until Sima enters the picture with what is, without a doubt, the most scathing and unenjoyable vocals I've ever heard. Thanks to Lixiviat Records for the informative and helpful email. Unfortunately, this is far from my kind of art.

Stymie - Toil and Folly (New Rage Records)

Bios attached to a file describing an artist's infinite influence and misunderstood genius don't appeal to me. Listen to the music on your terms, write what comes to mind, and then read the buyer manual if you're still interested. That's the route I took to "Toil and Folly." Low or no expectations can be suitable for someone swimming with the indie and college rock of the time. Stymie were an unheralded Seattle band that recorded this album some 30 years ago. It's finally being released by New Rage Records, who have similarly unearthed seminal recordings by Alcohol Funnycare and Sweet Water. Stymie would have fit right in with all the hooky bands of their era. It brings me back to when every small club and bar hosted the best band you'd ever heard. When the guy you met behind the merch people later that night was in the band. Essentially, this collection of songs is a "10", not a bad one in the bunch. In taking this collection in, I can't help but wonder if their trajectory would have differed if Grunge hadn't hit Seattle so hard. Check it out.

Samiam Stowaway (Pure Noise Entrtainment; purenoise.net)

There's a quote in a movie, I don't know which one, that goes, "Have you ever loved a band so much it hurts?" Well, that's how I feel about Berkeley, California's Samiam, formed way back in 1988 (yeah, during the Reagan administration.) Like many Berkeley and Gilman Street associated bands, their signature sound was based on the pop-punk sound. What set them apart was their incredible lyrics and ability to express the emotions that came with life's insecurities and failures without getting all Wikipedia on you. Samiam - like, say, Jawbreaker - was incredibly relatable. All Samiam fans have their favorite albums and songs. Mine being "Factory" from the 1997's "You're Freaking Me Out." Back to the present, and I'm trying to find the words to adequately describe the band's first release since 2012's "Complete Control" sessions. As I go into this review, I realize I've had it on repeat for hours without feeling the slightest intention of playing anything else. It's one of the rare occasions where each song immediately becomes part of you. The vocals, rhythms, and warm yet punchy guitar leads. As I get deeper and deeper into "Stowaway." I can't help but feel this is a 10. While many songs stand out, it's the album itself and the way all the dots connect.

Snail Mail - Valentine Demos (Matador.com)

Following the urging of a reliable music nerd whose name shall remain unknown, I gave Lindsey Jordan's project Snail Mail a good listen. Having loved the song "Speaking Terms," I went out and bought the album "Lush," in which it is featured, and quickly found a new voice to anchor my calm. 2021's "Valentine" came, and that anchor remained. So when I got wind of "Valentine Demos," I stepped up and pre-ordered a copy. Featuring a small offering of just four songs, this might be Snail Nail's best and most captivating work to date. "Demos", as expected, delivers wispy and intimate offerings that are both captivating and lush. I've always been a sucker for warm, cozy acoustics, and hearing those loose chords on "Headlock" had me choked up. Snail Mail has been labeled as Pop, Alternative Rock and even Folk. If you ask me, labels are for groceries. Suppose you're not already familiar with Snail Mail. I highly recommend tracking down "Lush", "Valentine," and, of course, "Valentine Demo." You'll indeed thank me later.

Bulldoze - The Final Beatdown (Streets of Hate Fanzine; streetsofhatenby.bigcartel.com)

Originally released on CD in 1992, now on vinyl for the first time since 2011, "The Final Beatdown" would mark New York knuckle-scrapers Bulldoze only full-length. Originators of beatdown style, one that influenced a wave of dumbed down hardcore bands that proudly wore the "School of Hard Knocks" label. Ten songs of heavy, unimaginable, and unintelligent stompers. Suppose you're a fan of 25 ta' Life, Commin' Correct, or Rick ta' Life on a Horse. Well then. You might want to relive this. Limited 100 copies on Gold/Black splatter vinyl.

Ozma - Rock And Roll Part Three (ozmamusic.bandcamp.com)

Aside from an eye-popping instrumental intro, "Domino Effect, California power-pop act Ozma's " "Rock and Roll Part Three" is a complete letdown and reminder of why rock radio is unlistenable, bringing to mind the bloated and overproduced corporate rock of the past. Ozma, despite some Herculean guitar playing, never connected with me. Musically notable, however, the vocals are a corporate label honcho's wet dream and an average music fan's castration nightmare. "Rock And Roll Part Three" does little more than wish there would be no sequel. Please note that my reviews are my opinions and not meant to hurt any feelings.


Combust - Promo 2023 (Triple B; bbbrecords.bandcamp.com)

Combust is an up-and-coming New York Hardcore band that arrived on the scene with a six-song demo in 2017. Featuring a chugga-chugga metalcore sound and street-level, non-intelligent lyrics, the two-song offering was painful to get through. "Dark Corners," with its unnecessary broken word intro, and "N.Y.H.C." ruin the journey before it begins. Honestly, it's the worst I've heard in forever.

Reagan Youth The Poss Tapes 1981 1984 (Cleopatra Records; revhq.com)

Considering the sad and gruesome past surrounding this early New York City Anarcho-Punk band, one scarred by drug addiction, murder and suicide, the surviving cast of the original band have spent more than a decade on the road with revolving fill-ins too young to have seen the release of 1984s Youth Anthems for the New Order. Instead of creating new anthems to rally listeners in an era of political unrest, they have instead, rolled out some less than quality outtakes and live recordings. The Poss Tapes is just more of that. Featuring a mish-mash of 19 demo and live recordings, "The Poss Tapes" is a collection of expired leftovers and sloppy seconds, an offer of table scraps even a dog might turn its nose up to. There's no blaming a band for wanting to keep their name on the mind of people or make some fast cash by resurrecting unearthed material, but this only goes to lessen whatever is left the band's legacy. The record includes liner notes by original bassist Al Pike and comes on color vinyl. None of which makes this worth checking out. Instead, more crap for the circular file.

Pushed Beyond all Reasonable Limits by Brian Garrity (www.diwuelf.com)

Pushed Beyond All Reasonable Limits explores and celebrates the rock photography of Minneapolis's Brian D. Garrity. Having grown up in California with a stop in Seattle, geographical locations would have surely provided plenty of ammunition for his passion and long presence as a rock photographer. His life in Minneapolis, however, would serve as the launching point for a lifetime of capturing timeless moments. The book features images of bands such as Radiohead, Marilyn Manson, Rancid, Nirvana, Husker Du, Babes in Toyland, Lunachicks, Ice Cube, Motorhead, Evan Dando and Julianna Hatfield, Garbage, Rollins Band, Deftones, Luscious Jackson, Pigface, Hole, Descendents, Limp Bizkit, Alien Sex Fiend, The Offspring, The Melvins, and so many more, images that have been published in Rolling Stone, Spin, Alternative Press, and several other print and online outlets.

The perfectly timed captures, natural lighting, and slow-motion captures are each worth praise. However, it's the many images of fan reactions, interactions, and bands hanging out backstageor just grabbing a meal that make this collection priceless.

Pushed... does more than document the fans and bands. It visually documents what it feels like to be in love with live music. No matter the artist or observer, we're all brought together for the same reasons. As with any release from DiWulf Publishing, you can always count on quality printing and binding. No matter your sub-culture, they're sure to have something to keep you informed and entertained. Those reasons and many others make this such an engaging book.

COA - Trauma Dump (triplebrecords.net)

You might have noticed that I've kept my ears peeled regarding Triple-B Records releases and Bandcamp posts.That's fitting, as Triple-B has been consistent in releasing hardcore punk, the music I've been drawn to for most of my life. It's a label worthy of attention if you're dedicated to the 'core. In the case of Boston's COA (Colin of Arabia), their five-song, gritty, and back-to-basics aggression fits well with that urban landscape. It's worth noting that, though COA has been around for quite a while, this is their first recorded material to be released in ten years. Not bad, but not all that impressive, either.

Restraining Order - Locked Inside (Triple -B Records)

When taking in Restraining Order's new album, Locked in Time, one can't help but make comparisons to East Coast neighbors Transit. Not by sound, but by the sense of growth and maturity the album shares with 2021's Glow On. Since Restraining Order's impressive 2017 demo, the Massachusetts Hardcore act has appealed to different eras of the core with their raw, aggressive approach and the new era of more elevated musicianship and characteristics. Whereas 2019's full - length debut "This World is Too Much" was a big leap forward, 2023's Locked Inside is a total and complete thrust into the future. A good one, at that. “Addicted” opens the album like a category-five storm. The relentless punch of the follow-up “Left Unsaid” adds gas to an already out-of-control fire. From there, things level off without ever wavering in intensity, energy, or unabated savagery. “Wouldn't You Agree” slows it down with its deliberate pace and focus. The title track “Locked in Time” is, by far, my favorite of the album. Restraining Order remains a favorite as they evolve musically while keeping one foot in Hardcore's original sound and another in its future. Where that might take them is yet to be known. However, the growth and progression of the band see no bounds.

Private Mind -The Truth You See (Triple B Records; triplebrecords.net)

Melodic Hardcore from Long Island. "The Truth You See" features eight songs in all, four from their 2020 debut and four newly baptized ones. Dark and moody, yet introspective and melodic. Elements to build on and take them in whatever direction they wish to go. Each song stands out. "The Truth You See" offers reminders of great bands such as Turning Point and Balance & Composure can be heard on my end.

Fyzxical - Is This Your Life? (Triple B Records)

What goes better than purposely misspelling your bands name and flexi-singles? Well, I don't know. That difficulty of sorts didn't stop me from lending my ears to the single from this mystery hardcore band. While hearing "Is This Your life?"" and Fyzxical for the first time, my reaction was hardly felt. While lyrically, vocally, and musically, this isn't bad, it just doesn't inspire further listening. Perhaps more material will encourage more of a reaction. Until then, pass.

Just a Minor Threat - Photos of Minor Threat by Glen E. Friedman (Burning Flag Press/Akashic)

"Just A Minor Threat" features iconic images of the legendary band taken by archetypal photographer Glen E. Friedman, including classic images and variations of Minor Threat in front of the Dischord House, Buff Hall, 930 Club, CBGB, and more. Before acquiring the book, I made the short trip to Washington DC's MLF Memorial Library to join Glen and Ian to discuss the book, images, shows, and, in particular, friendship. As I sat there surrounded by people my age and a half dozen or so older, it hit me that the iconic, beloved Minor Threat broke up 40 years ago, and I realized how much that hardcore/punk band and Friedman’s work helped mold and shape me. I felt thankful for what's been a long and rewarding journey. I enjoyed every word, story, and exchange with people in the crowd who attended the shows and were a part of booking the gigs. Whether you've seen them countless times or seeing them for the first time in this book, there's something for everyone. Friedman's shots always come from a place of love.

Code Orange - The Above (Blue Grape Music; bluegrapemusic.com)

If there's ever been a band that flat-out scares the skin off of me. Pennsylvania's Metal Core gods Code Orange owns all rights to blow back my hair while making the hairs on my body hair stand on end. On their sixth album to date, it's not as much as whether this is good. It's great. What you'll be asking yourself as you begin to rank their albums in importance and magnitude is. Have they added any new dimensions or elements to their wall of fiery sound to keep us on our toes? To this the answer is absolutely YES. The fourteen scorcher, 'The Above,' opens the album with a similar energy that each prior juggernaut exhibits by completely taking you out of your previous mood and transplanting you into one all of their making. That's it. That's what great music does. What I love about Code Orange and 'The Above,' is how after years of making intense music together. They still feel genuine, intent, and set apart from anything else I'm listening to. The duel vocals, fiery riffs, the depths of the rhythms. Those that keep my attention throughout and remain long after. As my long-time friend Ev Gold (Cinema Cinema) told me, "You have to surrender to the trip."


SAMUEL - High Places (samuelsc.bandcamp.com)

What drives a group of musicians to reform or reconvene and record after 27 years apart? It's a story I'd be interested in sitting in on. Imagine the shock when one of the members contacted me for permission to use a couple of images I took of the band for their seven-song anthology, "94-95."" Before considering such inquiries, I gave the somewhat ambitious 8-song affair 'High Places' a listen, and found eight songs of tight indie rock with impressive vocals, warm rhythms, leads, and excellent strong structure that keeps it interesting throughout. Though we never made that deal to use those images, I appreciate the interest and admit to enjoying this, and I can't help but praise Vanessa Downing's vocals.

BOLD - Speak Out (Revhq.com)

If you ever decide to jump into reissues, it's very important to understand that all are not created equal, and continually cruising on memory lane is unhealthy. In the case of BOLD's 1988 debut Speak Out, I'm should have avoided going down that path. If only every reissued, remastered, and multi-color vinyl LP could achieve its intended goals by impressing the listener and maybe even blowing some minds. In the case of BOLD'S 1988 debut and only full-length blast, it's a question that comes into focus. Originally released in 1988, Speak Out would be the New York Hardcore imprint Revelation Records' eighth release. Thirty-five years later. Revelation has given it a full-on repress and a vinyl reissue for the ages, as the color vinyl and accompanying 40-page book are pretty impressive. That said, while respecting aspects such as packaging, presentation, and the color variations of the vinyl, Bold weren't much to fuss about back then and have certainly not aged well. For myself and many others. BOLD always came off as a saccharine version of Youth of Today, aside from a few songs such as "Talk Is Cheap,"" "Nailed to the X," and "Wise Up." What I remember most about Speak Out is how underwhelmed and downright disappointing the album was. Remastering and reissuing it on color vinyl with a 40-page booklet hasn't changed that. Beloved as they might have been by some in the CBGB HC scene, they also got a lot of hate from those who found them gimmicky and preachy, and they were often derided as a carbon copy of their mentors Youth of Today. Side note, they were barely 14 when they formed the band, so cut them some slack. At least their heart was in the right place.

MONEY - "Money" EP (beachimpedimentrecords.bandcamp.com)

When previewing Money's upcoming eight-song EP, I found myself quickly disinterested, unraveled, and left retreating with my hands over my ears. Even as my knowledge and appreciation for Metal sub-genres has grown, many elements still escape my interest and level of appreciation. Darkness can be a great thing. It's worked its way into music since the beginning and shows no signs of decline. But if you don't weather the storm, what's the point? Listening to Money offered no rewards. Instead, it sounds one-dimensional and limited in its scope and ability to evolve musically. There are no breaks, breakdowns, face-melting solos, or bridges to brighter places. It's just scathing darkness and riffs to no end. If this is your kind of misery, go right ahead. Available in "coke bottle" clear and white vinyl.

GOLPE - "Assuefazione Quotidiana" EP (beachimpedimentrecords.bandcamp.com)

Another preview. This one is from Italy. Not having any previous knowledge of GOLPE or its personnel helped me to go into this review with open ears and an open mind. Hearing GOLPE for the first time shows how much Italy has contributed to rock, punk, and hardcore. It would seem the 'Loud, Fast Rules' ethos of NYC. icons the Stimulators professed had an international reach. The band's debut has a stripped-down, early hardcore appeal, bringing to mind the legendary Italian hardcore band Raw Power. Worth checking out.

FURY – "Resurrection" EP (LG Records; dischord.com)

Originally recorded in 1989, this meat and potatoes reissue of the shared studio session that coalesced between members of DC's Swiz and Ignition during the last ten minutes of the recording of Swiz's "Hell Yes, I Cheated." Considering the time allowed and the spontaneous nature of the recordings, these tracks are raw and stripped down to their bare bones. Both bands are known for their raw and uninhibited approach to hardcore, and the sogs presented here don't stray any further. Anyone familiar or new to these recordings will benefit from this short and meaningful collaboration.


Cleons Down - 1995-1997 (Council Records; cleonsdown.bandcamp.com)

This reissue collects the 11 songs Detroit’s Cleons Down recorded during their short, mid-Nineties time together (hence the title "1995 - 1997.") The lesser-known Cleons Down sound reflects a time when punk and hardcore music became more experimental, expressive, and emotive. While I've been attempting to feature fewer reissues (or in this case, a discography,) my appreciation of bands that guitarist Jeff Dean played with (The Bomb, All Eyes West, Airstream Futures, Dead Ending, and countless others) warranted a review. Originating in Michigan and existing in that mid-Nineties frame, it's no wonder that Cleons Down reminds me of the many bands that were related to Council Records such as Current. Those bands shared certain rhythms and grooves, start/stop breaks, and lyrics that served as an inward monitor. As an example, the song "Loss for Words" perfectly encapsulates the mood and ethos created by Dischord's "Revolution Summer." Cleons Down also brings to mind bands like New Jersey's Turning Point and Lifetime. Each listen has produced an additional, go to song for me. It should be noted that shortly after my purchase of the MP3’s on Bandcamp, I went ahead and ordered the album, due largely to the album's amazing art and cream soda-colored vinyl. Note: The vinyl version looks to be sold out. Therefore, I highly recommend downloading the MP3's or streaming the collection, and checking back to see if a new pressing becomes available.

Das Damen - 1986: Keeps Me Wild (Reissue)(Dromedary Records; dromedaryrecords.bandcamp.com)

The year was 1986, and guitar punk and power pop were still making waves and kicking down doors. Formed in 1984 in New York City at a time when Alternative Rock was still defined by having a rougher edge that thrived and survived left of the FM dial, a time that fostered bands like Husker Du and The Replacements before rightfully anointing them as legends and heroes of alternative culture. Noisy, fun and raw, Das Damen - Jim, Alex, Phil, and Lyle - cultivated a sound that reflected life in New York City and til' this day, reminds me of what you might dig up in the stacks at Greenwich Village's long defunct Other Music or Freebeing Records. Favorites include, but are not limited to, the spacey, psychedelic "Behind My Eyes" and the watery, yet scorching "Trick Question." The reissue features 17 songs of "all killer, no filler." Guitar rock anthems like this were a blast to ingest in 1986 and a pleasure to revisit in 2023.

He Who Cannot Be Named - Imposter (Spaghetty Town Records)

If you're unfamiliar with HWCBN, you will most likely remember him as the maguitarist with punk legends, the Dwarves. Is he a superhero, villain, or anti-hero? Well, perhaps that's for another day. What is quite apparent is his ability to craft songs ripe with melody, hooks, and pop-punkish sounds you might not expect from a masked artist. Granted, HWCBN'd bag of tricks relies heavily on catchy rhythms, melody, and hooks. What might catch you unaware is the secret sauce of catchy songwriting you get with 'Imposter,' an appealing 14-song palate of tasty power-pop-punk that should satisfy the harshest critic. As someone who tends to avoid what I might see as a gimmick (like, say, the lucha libre masks,) I can honestly confess that this was quite a surprise that has garnered many listens.

Saetia - Collected (secretvoice.bandcamp.com)

Collected, as the title suggests, brings together the 17 songs the New York-based screamo band recorded during their short yet active existence from 1997-2000. Though Screamo shares links to Punk, Hardcore, Emo, and other forms of extreme music, it makes my list of the worst sub-genres music has ever developed. Its dissonant sound and caustic screams are not conducive to most ears. One might liken Screamo's origins to mental illness and prolonged stays in mental facilities. To each their own, considering Saetia had quite a following in their day and were forerunners of the Screamo scene. The 17 songs featured here represent the band's entire recorded history. Here's your chance to look back on the Satias' time. Now available on vinyl for the first time since 2016 and housed in a durable gatefold cover. Due to the vinyl version being temporarily out of stock, I’m including a link to a bandcamp where you can listen before choosing to download, or wait until it becomes available.

DFL - My Crazy Life (trustrecordscompany.com)

Holding the deluxe edition reissue of the 1993 release of "My Crazy Life" feels somewhat strange, as I had completely forgotten the existence of the original CD I owned. I wonder how it became so mangled before being passed on to a buddy of mine? Formed in 1991 and featuring both Adam Horowitz (Ad Rock) and Michael Diamond (Mike D) of the Beastie Boys, and a cast of characters that once boasted Brian Baker (Where do I start?), and released via the Beastie's Grand Royal label, the 27 track expanded version features the original album and a live show performance. It was underappreciated at the time of its release; listening to it now is rewarding as it shows Horowitz and Diamond's love of and appreciation of their hardcore/punk roots, especially if you love first-wave hardcore acts and surf punk. "My Crazy Life" is a good go-through, a fun racket that never takes itself too seriously. As a bonus, the deluxe reissue also includes a 20-page, full-color oral history, a massive, full-color 'zine packed with unpublished flyers, and, the piece de resistance: a complete, totally unreleased live show that was recorded at a huge party at G-Son Studios the day after album tracking was completed. The fanzine's flyers show that DFL played with a lot of amazing bands such as Fugazi, Pennywise, Strife, and the legendary yet often overlooked Wool.

Samuel S.C. - "94-95" (samuelsc.bandcamp.com)

A good reissue or, in this case, discography allows you to relive and cherish the moment you first heard an artist. Or, in my case, saw them perform live. If not for tagging along with the long-forgotten band Baby Gopal for a show at Connecticut's Tune Inn, I might have missed out on the band Samuel. Now we have their firsdt new music in 27 years. I thought it might be fun revisiting this rather sparce seven-song discography. Listening to Samuel for the first time in years, maybe decades, I'm reminded of the uplifting movement and drive that made indie music and college rock such an essential part of taking the next step. Downings' voice carries weight, adding depth to lyrics about life and its varied experiences—guitar leads and rhythms crash and cascade, adding muscle to each song. The production, something I don't often mention, is excellent. Though their initial recordings are scant, the overall output is impactful. Each piece helps to make this a rewarding return to my younger years.

The Chronics - Do You Love the Sun? (Spaghettytown Records; chronics.bandcamp.com)

As another Summer descends over the horizon, we grab hold of whatever remains, hoping to save what we can for those cold, sunless days ahead. The Chronics "Do You Love the Sun' sounds like an album written to welcome the first days, rays, and waves of the season. Ten songs of upbeat guitar-driven Italian pop rock with influences ranging from the Ramones to those syrupy beach anthems I recall hearing on Saturday morning cartoons in my youth. Each piece leaves a lasting impression with upbeat and poppy chords and rhythms. My favorites of the bunch: The opening track "Surf Town" and "I Can... I Go Home" put the gas n the tank. For those lacking knowledge of Italian power pop, you're closing yourself off to a world, or in this case, a country bursting at the seams.

Cinema Cinema – Mjolnir (nefariousindustries.com)

There I was, speaking to a fellow music nerd, running out of adjectives to describe Brooklyn's Cinema Cinema and trying my hardest not to scare the Bejeezus out of her. It would seem like demons and tortured spirits were racing out of my jowls while simultaneously trying to convince her they don't eat babies or burn down churches. Just days earlier, I was handed an advance of the CC's upcoming release, "Mjonlnir." My approach was tepid at best. After more than ten years of love and admiration for Ev and Paul, it would seem that there would be a slow decline or middling of those creative juices. Upon further investigation, however, that revelation proved untrue.

Before we go any further, try naming an act, major or independent, that's still evolving and developing more than ten years into its existence and you’re bound to come up empty. Is it possible that Brooklyn's Cinema Cinema coincided with releasing their latest album a week from my birthday and on the exact anniversary of my wedding? The world may never know.

As in the past, a deep dive into any CC noise rock experimentation can be likened to a dark psychiatric venture into the soul of a sociopath, an investment in time and research into the most profound thoughts. As usual, Ev and Paul have brought in some help with the producing prowess of long-time friend Martin Bisi, while coming full circle by adding Thor Harris of the Swans (a band that has always influenced Cinema Cinema's sound) on synthesizers. "Mjonlnir." is a record that demands to be listened to in its entirety—nothing against singles or sampling tracks, it's just that these eight offerings deserve your full attention. I might be going back more decades than warranted, but "Mjonlnir" made me wonder: What if John Carpenter directed "Apocalypse Now?" Like Ev Gold once told me, "You have to surrender to the trip."

Is it mere coincidence that the release of Cinema Cinema latest album happens a week from my birthday and on the exact anniversary of my wedding? The world may never know. Regardless, I highly recommend your investing the time and whatever brain damage you might suffer while taking that trip. "Mjonlnir." Is more than music. It’s art at its conceptual halcyon.

INTENTION! - Brand New Story (Beachimpedimentrecords.bigcartel.com)

While I may not be the person you would turn to for advice or knowledge of Japanese hardcore, my understanding is that hardcore music is an international movement that, by all means, affects the entire universe. Attending a couple of Japanese hardcore matinees while visiting Tokyo might also get my foot in the door upon introducing myself to Intention and giving the seven-song vinyl version of "Brand New Story" (originally released in February 2023 on CD) a thorough go-through. All of the usual components of hardcore are there: The breaks, busts, and aggression are upfront and present. While "Brand New Story" lacks that immediate impact that might set them apart from their peers, second and third listens were more rewarding.

Redemption '87 - S/T (25 Year Reissue) (newagerecords.bandcamp.com)

Every now and then, an older man like myself needs to replenish his record collection with a new, shiny, and in this case, blue-with-white-splatter piece of vinyl. As a Token Entry super fan, finding Timmy Chunks (Token Entry vocalist) had a band on the opposite coast and playing guitar, I just had to see what that was all about. Featuring Chunks and Eric Ozenne, Redemption ’87 were a lot more than just a “band with former members of…” Choppy riffs attached themselves to raw vocals reminiscent of the energetic punk noise of the East Bay at the time. Redemption '87 deserves recognition as they offered a healthy balance of '80’s hardcore timing and urgency with East Bay punk rhythms and energy. "At the Hand of Our Disease" and "From Experience" remind me of why Redemption '87 appealed to me. While "A Solution" perfectly displays a connection to their East Bay home Most notable and something I might have overlooked or forgotten the first time are the outstanding and anthemic covers of Antidote's "Something Must Be Done." and 7 Seconds’ "I'm Gonna Stay Young Until I Die." The band’s debut is now available on 175 gram black-and-white marbled and 205 gram blue-with-white splatter vinyl. I, myself, chose the latter.

Don't Sleep - See Change (End Hit Records)

I've never met Dave Smalley, but if I did, I might thank him for providing me with over four decades of life-affirming music. At this point in our punk rock lives, is there any reason to doubt or question any band or project that includes Dave Smalley? That's a question I found myself asking when approaching Don't Sleep's new album and second full-length, "See Change." Not that I go around rating albums as they do on Pitchfork (not knocking them in the least.) But "See Change' without overthinking is a strong 10. With Smalley's vocal gift of expressing power without ever forsaking melody, there's no reason to approach "See Change" with any trepidation. Deep Sleep features accomplished punk musicians Tom McGrath, Garrett Rothman, Tony Bavaria, and Jim Bedorf. The nine-song affair opens with "Harrison Graves" before effortlessly coalescing into "Promises Made." You're convinced this isn't your run-of-the-mill. "Dead on the Inside" follows, teasing that this will be your favorite track, deserving a cherished spot on your next mix tape. (Do people make those anymore?) "Outside In" quickly finds itself in the favorite track on the album. Eventually, you realize that every damn song on this album is your favorite. Worth mention and praise is Smalley's cover of Tom Petty's "Running Down a Dream." Having heard a few of his covers of past classics has cemented my opinion that Smalley can do it all. At this stage in our lives, it becomes rare when a record scores an absolute ten on my rating scale. However, "See Change" does just that, reminding me of a time when we listened to albums as a whole and built a certain intimacy with music.

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Graven Image - Studio Sessions '82-'83 (Beach Impediment Records)

For a time, the act of reissuing or bringing unreleased material to life was exciting. However, the practice has resulted in countless letdowns, drawing comparisons to Hollywood's obsession with reboots. Graven Image's "Studio Sessions '82-'83" avoids such disappointment as it perfectly reflects many of the best elements of early American hardcore: raw, fast, and vital. The album features 22 tracks, from the band's 1982 "Your Skull is My Bowl" and 1983's "Kicked Out of the Scene" sessions, along with a few unreleased gems. The included 12x12" booklet helps reflect on and tell the story of a band worth recollecting. Show flyers include the likes of Honor Role, Minor Threat, The Necros, and countless others, to illustrate the importance and status of the rarely mentioned Richmond, VA band. I want to note that I originally downloaded the MP3s. However, the material's overall impact inspired me to invest in the vinyl version.

The Melmacs - Good Advice (Spaghettytown Records)

Hailing from the Leipzig, Germany, the Melmacs' debut is about as good as it gets, 10 songs that immediately impress with a bouncy, upbeat sound whose origins and influences most likely spring from late 70's and early 80's pop punk and power pop. The lively and energetic elements in "Good Advice" are essential ingredients that make each of the ten songs uncomparably appealing. Leads, rhythms, and keys lay out a well-rounded and well-executed collection of songs, that inspire and instigate listeners to react to every lyric, note, and beat. Though, by no means would you associate The Melmacs with ska, lead singer Bimmi's raspy tones can easily be compared to that of the Intrrupters Aimme Allen. Bimmi, Remo, Max, and Connie have released an album that warrants countless listens and high praise. "Good Advice" easily makes my "Best of 2023" list.

Rancid - Tomorrow Never Comes (Epitaph Records)

It's mind-boggling to listen to new Rancid recordings in 2023. Yet, here I am, staring at my calendar, doing just that. Rancid formed in 1991 out of the ashes of the short-lived but highly influential Operation Ivy, and this is their first release since 2017. Although "Tomorrow Never Comes" doesn't explore any new territory or offer surprises, true to form Rancid navigate through 16 songs that showcase the band's knack for accessible punk tropes. “Tomorrow Never Comes” features all the signature elements that made you love or hate the East Bay act. Armstrong and Frederiksen still carry the same chemistry that made the band relevant over thirty years after their coming together, guttural vocals meet fast-paced punk leads and rhythms addressing relatable blue collar themes. Not bad. Not bad, at all.

The Donnas - Early Singles 1995-1999 (Real Gone Music)

The recent Record Store Day delivered several vinyl releases that caught my eye and eventually took control of my attention, the most notable one being The Donnas' "Early Singles." Whether you remember the Donnas from their major label hit "Take it Off." or for their time as pop punk favorites with independent legends Lookout Records, it is hard to think of them in any terms other than icons. However, if you've been living on a distant planet and are unfamiliar with the Ramonesesqe goddesses, "Early Singles 1995-1999" is your chance to get the bands' Cliff Notes, with 14 singles from their early indie label recordings. The Donnas' fast, upbeat, up-tempo sound was, to say the very least, addictive.

These fourteen non-LP tracks more than vindicate its $29.99 list price. The covers of Alice Cooper, KISS, and Reo Speedwagon are noteworthy, adding to the energy and bombast of their originals. The record includes images, liner notes, and a whole lot more. Its limited production of only 2,000 copies might impede your ability to get your hands on the gold vinyl version, which will take some serious hunting. However, I've already seen a CD version and hope for further pressings.

Audio Karate - ¡OTRA! (Iodine Records; deathwishinc.com)

Southern California's Chicano pop-punk act Audio Karate (not to be confused with the Massachusetts Karate) returns to form with an eight-song collection of rare and unreleased material that, in my case, serves as an introduction to the band and its sound as we await a new release (due June 30th.) These eight tracks from the past serve as an introduction to a band I might have missed the first time. "Lovely Residence" introduces the band's sound and style, accurately reflecting pop punk's height of popularity. Loaded with hooks, melodies, angst, and lack of any danger associated with punk rock. Comparable yet not as well known to the many pop punk acts of that era, Audio Karate originally broke up in 2007, only to resurface in 2009. Overall, the songs on "¡OTRA!" are a good look back on the band's past, engaging and seemingly perfect for a raunchy late 90's teen movie.

Merauder -'93 demo (Reaper Records; revhq.com)

The continuous draining of the past by long-dormant hardcore bands continues, this time with Brooklyn-based crossover act Merauder. Reissues have become a bank account-draining affair that refuses to release us from the past. This one features four songs, with "Fear of Sin" listed as a bonus track. The music might appeal to fans of tough guy crossover or straight-up metal bands with connections to hardcore, such as Biohazard. These songs will always sound awful lacking any personal appeal to someone like me who saw bands like Merauder as a gateway drug to the thug core elements that engulfed the movement.

Merauder - The Minus Years (Upstate Records; revhq.com)

A collection of unreleased studio recordings and the bands' '93 demo (which, by the way, is reviewed separately above.) Each of these is available for the first time on vinyl, featuring frontman Javier "Sob" Caprio (AKA Minus.) My reaction to hearing Merauders’ earliest recordings is just as bad, if not worse, than seeing them live at CBGB's or experiencing their 1995 full-length "Master Killer."" Listening to Merauder some 30 years later results in an even worse reaction. Best compared to the metalcore acts of the time, their music, lyrics, and tough-guy persona never appealed to me. Merauder will always remind me of the violence that brought CBGB hardcore to a temporary yet memorable end.

Hirax – Raging Violence (armageddonlabel.bandcamp.com/)

Time, memory loss, and clever publicists have a gift for altering the past and reshaping our memories. Using words such as "rare," "legendary," and my favorite hook line - "limited to..." The truth of it all is that nostalgia is expensive, and the cost is more than a monetary one. It attempts to rob you of your intimacy and often stagnates your ability to move forward. In listening to "Raging Violence" by L.A.'s long-forgotten thrash band Hirax, that sentiment takes center stage. "Raging Violence" marks the reissue of Hirax's 1985 album, whose purpose was to "bridge the gap between straight-up fans of traditional metal and the embryonic crossover hardcore/punk era that was evolving in 1985."" The reportedly legendary Hirax illustrates hardcore's second wave attempt to bring thrash, speed metal under the sub-genres umbrella. Successful or not at the time, I could not find common ground in any of these 14 entries, often finding these songs comical and unintentionally laughable. Think Dungeons & Dragons finds a soundtrack while lost in a fictional medieval forest. The vinyl version is - of course - limited to 500 copies.

Hirax - Hate, Fear and Power (armageddonlabel.bandcamp.com/)

A reissue of the second album of LA's thrash metal band Hirax is possibly worse than the band's debut. Faster, more intense, and relentless, yet... worse. In listening to these eight tracks, I can't help but think I'm not the best person to judge or review thrash metal. That, or I'm just sick of hearing less-than-worthy reissues. Like Michael Corleone says in Godfather III, "They keep bringing me back in." The vinyl version is limited to 500 copies. Approach with extreme caution.

There Were Wires - S/T Reissue (Iodine Records; deathwishinc.com)

Drawn in by the album's compelling cover art and the opportunity to catch lightning in a bottle by getting my hands on something I might have missed when it was initially issued, I proceeded with tempered curiosity to check out this reissue. Formed on Martha's Vineyard in 1999, There Were Wires found a home in the Screamo section of hardcore punk. Their self-titled release was and is a collision of discordant cacophony. The screamo dissonance immediately reminded me of the band Orchid, with influences coming from better-known acts such as Portraits of the Past and Converge. This album is a reissue of their debut full length and is being made available on vinyl for the first time. The deluxe edition features 15 songs, four of which are from their "God City" demo. Sadly, perhaps due to the fact that I take no pleasure in screamo core, none of what’s presented here positively impacted me, although it certainly might appeal to those who camp in the screamo side of the woods.


Poor Lily - Toxic Envelope (poorlily.bandcamp.com)

When my editor asked me to review the latest EP from this New York/Connecticut rock/punk trio, I dialed back to a review of the band's punk rock opera "Dirt on Everyone" from my old blog. Whether or not I or my partner in crime Dave penned the review remains a mystery. Looking back, I think we both liked it. So here we are in the Spring of 2023, and a moment to catch up with Poor Lily arrives. "Here Come the Waves" opens their new four-song EP, setting the pace for an impressive set of aggressive assaults that bond speed with accuracy as everything comes together and cuts right to the chase. "Police Take Notice" follows with similar results: Fast and to the point. As compelling and focused as the entries mentioned earlier feel, "Concealed Carry" and "Golden Age of Idiocy" add layers to Poor Lilly's output while giving their musicianship and songwriting depth. "Toxic Element" marks a leap forward in Poor Lilly's often frenetic approach, adding layers and texture to what is already an impressive sound.

Erik Core - May Day (Rock*Cult Records)

While not a household name back East. Erik Core's imprint on California's East Bay punk scene cannot be denied. The 16-song album opens with the reflective "Ways and Means," a musically well-rounded song that will remind you of the tremendous yet less explored solo work of Joe Strummer, Tim Barry (Avail,) and the widely respected Frank Turner. "May Day' follows and ups the ante. By now, Erik Core and "May Day" have defined themselves as a busker's tale of Americana, and one that has either been lost or hidden deep in the interior. All through "May Day," the listener can't help but feel swept up by the intimate nature of these songs. Think of a punk rock version of Woodie Guthrie with the storytelling element you'd expect from Johnny Cash. The laid-back acoustics and whistley rhythms are praiseworthy. While punk's history of folky, stripped-down guitar rock is a surprisingly crowded field, Core stands firmly on his feet, delivering authentic, storied folk-punk that immediately resonates with the listener.

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Crime Scene - Dark Tidings (Reality Records)

I find it pleasing to go into a review with no expectations or clue of what's coming down the road. Listening to "Crime Scene" makes you feel like you just won tickets to an 80's Hardcore-meets-Motorhead guitar clinic. Five songs mix hardcore, metal, and hard rock, with some of the best guitar parts I've heard in recent digging. There's a point in the song "Camello" where the pace slows down just a notch, and a more sinister vocal enters the fray, darkening the mood with its ghoulish vocalization. Though I left this session with little to no information regarding this band or its release, I couldn't help but want to pass it on to you.

Reality Records

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Black Valley Moon – It Makes Magick (blackvalleymoon.bandcamp.com)

On what is, by far, the most uneven and lopsided EP I've heard in years, “It Makes Magick” left me wondering what made the wheels fall off and will they ever be replaced? Formed in 2019 by Down By Law bassist Sam Williams, this Florida garage-rock entity parlays storytelling elements of punk, country, the blues and rock n’roll admirably at first, feeling like something that would perfectly fit on Jack White's Third Man Records. While that garage rock element is dominant, one can also hear elements of horror-punk weirdos The Cramps. BVM’s choice to cover Lords of the New Church's classic "Russian Roulette" and the Billy Idol standard "White Wedding" reflects where the band's tastes might dwell. However, while the band's rendition of "Russian Roulette" is damn good, their take on Idol's "White Wedding" comes off like a sloppy cover band's drunken performance at a high school reunion, signaling the end of what at first seemed promising and the beginning the EP’s descent into a recorded abyss.

As forewarned, all that is good or encouraging about this EP comes crashing down on the cover of “White Wedding” and the final two songs, "Curse of the Fairchild" and "(Oh Please) Monkey Don't." Though these two entries might best reflect Dark Valley Moon’s intentions, they put a nail in the coffin for me. Ultimately, this listener quickly grew tired and frustrated with what was being attempted. Only time will tell if, hopefully, more focused music awaits.


Scraps - Demo '85 L.P. (Refuserecords.bandcamp.com)

Listening to '80s Hardcore, no matter where it originates, can and usually is a great pleasure for me. Knowing to apply a generous heaping of salt regarding the often raw and scathing elements of the sub-genre's earlier days can help digest what can often be a bitter pill. These early recordings of the French Hardcore band "Scraps" include three different versions (a 3-track tape, a 6-track tape, and a 7-track tape). Referred to as "legendary," I can't help but want to cut off the hand of whoever decided to pen such an overstatement. The vinyl version contains all the tracks, admittedly raw, chaotic, and primitive. Listening reminded me that some things are best left forgotten, buried, or in this case, burned. Sounding primitive and less than rudimentary, navigating through these songs produced sub-zero rewards and a heavy dose of regret.. Unless you're an archeologist looking to add a long-buried bone to your collection, and even then. I'd recommend digging somewhere else.

Pillsbury Hardcore - Ghosts of Straight Edge Past Black (Black Claw Records)

As 80's hardcore re-issues continue to surface, less than stellar material is bound to flood the pool. As many "long out of print" or "available for the first time on vinyl" editions continue to surface, the re-issue field will surely suffer. Which, unfortunately, brings me to Pillsbury Hardcore and "Ghosts of Straight Edge Past." I recall hearing Pillsbury Hardcore when I first began consuming and hoarding any hardcore/punk music my young, curious, and somewhat obsessed newbie self could get his hands on. Whether or not I cared for southern California's Pillsbury Hardcore's take on hardcore and straight edge, in general, was lost among the decades of better things to come. Fast forward 35 or so years. I can't blame the metalheads at my high school for mocking me and my questionable choices. In listening to "Ghosts of Straight Edge Past," I'm immediately reminded of how dry the Hardcore re-issue well has become. While the bratty, juvenile view of the songs is acceptable, musically and especially vocally, "Ghosts..." is a tough pastry to swallow. One that a poster, all the stickers, flyers and bursting color vinyl in the world couldn’t improve. As far as 80's hardcore music, culture, and the message straight edge sought to convey, Pillsbury Hardcore's contribution lacks any substance or reward. While one can't blame a band for wanting to document and share its legacy, there are many times when things are better left to fond memories of the past and a pocketful of cool stories.

COLD AS LIFE - "In Memory of Rodney A. Barger 1970-1993 (A389 Recordings)

Detroit, MI Hardcore act Cold As Life immediately remind me of the tough guy bands that grew out of the late '80s, then knuckled their way into the '90s and beyond. The album's title, "In Memory of Rodney A. Barger 1970-1993," refers to the tragic 1993 murder of front man Rawn Beuty (Rodney A. Barger.) Available for the first time on vinyl, "In Memory of..." chronicles the band's early years in an impressive, chronologically remastered document. The album respectfully explores the band's legacy through images, lyrics, artwork, and more. Amongst the recordings is an unreleased track. Whereas Detroit has been a hub for high-octane rock bands throughout history, the same can be said for hardcore. Though my introduction to Cold As Life was dicey. I was quickly won over and significantly impressed with these twenty-plus songs. For fans of Negative Approach, Slapshot and all that raw and angry darkness.

Get it Here


At All Cost - Nothing Comes Easy (Trip Machine Laboratories; tripmachinelabs.limitedrun.com/)

Memories are often crucial when it comes to reissues of any kind. In the case of Al All Cost's "Nothing Comes Easy," recalling where I was and my reaction to that first demo, and the friendship I later formed with the band's drummer, remain after more than thirty years; each played a significant part in my pre-ordering this vinyl reissue. In the realm of the unexpected, the thought of New York Hardcore unit At All Costs demos finding their way to vinyl more than thirty years after their release are, to say the very least, surprising. Strange how I recall listening to AAC's demo at a friend's house, that shadowy image of a skateboarder on its cover, and a review included in what I believe was the third issue of my fanzine. Formed in 87' while attending high school, the Rockland teens, influenced by their recent discovery of Hardcore, formed the band seeking to contribute to what was inspiring their hearts and minds. Pre-Ordering a copy of the vinyl record and taking advantage of the opportunity to preview the demos through Bandcamp allowed me to sit and look back at the whats, wheres, and whys of the era. At All Cost played fast-paced and positive-leaning Hardcore that, while reading like many of the more positive leading acts of the time like Youth of Today, sounded more like bands such as Absolution. Housing sixteen songs in all. "Nothing Comes Easy." accurately depicts a time when New York Hardcore was both growing and evolving into something new. Along with their '88 and '90 demos, the reissue includes an exceptional pre-Halloween performance on the legendary WNYU Crucial Chaos radio show. For those who might not be familiar with the show, it was an essential college radio show that was a catalyst for many bands in the punk and hardcore family. Being invited to play live on the show was a significant step in promoting your band and maybe giving a shout-out to supporters. While I no longer have the original demos to compare, the production quality sounds excellent. Favorite songs include but are not limited to the first version of "Decisions"(there are two,) "Hidden Lies," and due to its vicious percussion and vocal followthrough, "Walls Around Me." Overall, a must for fans of '80s and '90's Hardcore. Vinyl color options vary. I highly suggest pre-ordering your copy in order to get the one you want.

Slugger - S/T (LSM Vinl/Pirates Press Records)

California's Slugger throw their boots into the ring with their six-song self-titled 10-inch. Self-described as "pure, unadulterated, skinhead rock 'n' roll that is no mess, no fuss, brick-wall oi," you should be fully aware of what you're getting before you place your order. Not to put a negative light on the band, culture, or music, but the vocals sound muffled and pushed to the back, and it's impossible to ignore the lowbrow, dumbed down lyrics. Slugger put forth a shit show that would be quickly forgotten if not so incredibly awful. I was not the least impressed. Representing many of the tropes and characteristics of Oi music and Skinhead mantras, the music and message within are simplistic and not the least bit interesting.

Antagonizers ATL - Working Class Street Punk (antagonizersatl.bandcamp.com)

Described as Atlanta's premier Oi!/streetpunk outfit, the Antagonizers stay close to the roots of Oi!'s origins without coloring outside the lines. Despite that, "Working Class Street Punk" is sharp and worthy of raising a pint in support and unison. The eleven songs provide their share of hooks, sing-alongs, and chants, music that reminds one and might be inspired by Sham 69, the Business, Rancid, Dropkick Murphys, and even Stiff Little Fingers. Favorite songs include, but are not limited to, the opening track, "Pressure," "This Song's for You," and "Bad Situation."


Stockholm Syndrome - Death Watch (yofc.bandcamp.com)

If, by chance, you find yourself craving early 2000's East Bay thrash (and why the hell wouldn't you?), you might want to check out Stockholm Syndrome and its 16-song discography "Death Watch." The short-lived and somewhat unknown thrash act warrants a second and more in depth exploration of their recorded output and unreleased efforts. Side A features an unreleased studio session from 2004, and Side B contains the entire recording from their debut 2004 EP "One Way Out." The song "Leaders" is a stand-out and striking entry, and one that I feel best represents what the band did best. While each piece is brutally savage, the musicianship and vocals clearly convey the message of each song, whether a commentary on personal themes or the global threat of nuclear war. Stockholm Syndrome's recorded history keeps your attention throughout.

Indre Krig - Destroyer (beachimpedimentrecords.bigcartel.com)

Admittedly, I became a late bloomer regarding Thrash and Metal in general. Thanks to a friend and his impressive record collection, there came a wave of appreciation and fandom regarding the speed and aggression often related to the music, which led me to give Copenhagen's Indre Krig a listen. "Destroyer" follows up on their 2021 demo with a hailstorm of an EP featuring fast-paced, rip-your-head-off-and-piss-down-your-neck thrash that leaves little to no breathing room. "Destroyer" features six songs of speedy punk thrashcore that, unfortunately, do little or nothing to distinguish themselves from one another or elicit more than a quick go-through. While the musicianship is solid, producing some fine moments, they are minimal at best, as the length of the songs barely reaches the two-minute mark. The vocals are typically high-pitched, screamed thrash that offers little to no range. The opening rager and EP title "Destroyer" opens with an interesting guitar lead (one that reminded me of something from Gorilla Biscuits' "Start Today.") However, the EP quickly descends into a rather disinteresting black cloud of, at best, sub-mediocre thrashcore.

Vidro - GLÖD (beachimpedimentrecords.bigcartel.com )

Sweden's hardcore band Vidro caught me off guard as the 11 songs featured on the album raised the bar and had me using adjectives rarely applied to music of this nature: Impressive, as well as dynamic, atmospheric, and adventurous come to mind while listening. Given that, perhaps due to the bio's description and lack of prior knowledge of Vidro, I was not initially impressed or even interested in what was musically composed. After taking a deeper dive into what I was experiencing, I felt both my horizons and senses were being treated to something unique. It's worth noting that Vidro sings in their native tongue, a fact that should not deter those limited to the English language.

Powerhouse - No Regrets (Blackoutrecords.com)

Originally released in 1997 on CD, this 2022 Blackout Records reissue and Lars Fredrickson (Rancid)-produced full-length marks its first appearance on vinyl. For those unfamiliar with Blackout, the Bronx-based label is responsible for many landmark and respected releases from Killing Time, American Standard, Outburst, Sheer Terror, and of course, the landmark compilation "New York Hardcore:" "Where the Wild Things are." Hearing "Powerhouse" for the first time was gratifying as the band seemed to bridge the signature styles of 80's Hardcore with the overall sounds and ethos of the 90's. It's fast-paced and impressive musically, with crazy rhythms, leads, and breakdowns. It's also vocally appealing, as you can decipher much of the lyrically appetizing messages throughout the album, which are engaging and relatable. "No Regrets" warrants numerous spins on your turntable or many clicks on whatever platform you choose to listen to music. Call me a gatekeeper if you choose. Considering my age and lack of a keen eye for what's new and upcoming. I am grateful to have a sharp memory of what I was doing, listening to, or missing out on decades ago. While passing over and ultimately missing out on the East Bay hardcore band. I felt somewhat rewarded for the second chance to listen to the reissue.

Bitch Queens - Party Hard(ly) (lux-noise.bandcamp.com

With the release of 2019's full-length "City of Class" on Spaghetty Town Records, my introduction to Switzerland's Bitch Queens inspired severe admiration and fandom, with a sound that reflects punk's early nihilism and influences like The Stooges. The Bitch Queens' music has a confident swagger that's present throughout. On their latest five-song EP "Party Hard(ly), Bitch Queens continue to put forth flame-thrower rock n' roll with a punk-infused attitude that grabs the listener by the throat and doesn't let go until they're baptized and circumcised in the bands' unique ring of fire. When looking back on 2022, "Party Hard(ly) easily reaches the year's top records.

Fake Names - Expendables (Epitaph Records)

Fronted by Dennis Lyxzen (Refused) and featuring Brian Baker (Minor Threat, Bad Religion) and Michael Hampton (Faith, SOA) on guitar, Johnny Temple (Soulside, Girls Against Boys) on bass, and Brendan Canty (Fugazi, Rites Of Spring) as a guest drummer, Fake News' personnel represent an essential chunk of this reviewer's record collection. There was a time in my life (about a week before hearing this particular record) when the term "Supergroup" gave me douche chills. However, I've found that musicians who have played significant roles in bands that inspired me while informing and expanding my musical taste have forged new paths. The cast of Fake News shines a bright light on my issues with the term "Supergroup," leading me to accept the term, while perhaps better understanding its use. "Expendables" can sometimes sound polished while mostly feeling intimate and relatable. As I listen to "Delete Myself" and "Go,"" I can envision myself leaning into a sweaty mic during a basement show. With ten songs I felt myself rallying around and singing along with, I found "Expendables" incredibly rewarding, with go-to pieces from the album's opening blast "Targets" to the thumper "Delete Myself," to "Go" with its rapid heartbeat, and the anthemic "Don't Blame Yourself." Each wave a blue-collar flag. Its singalong guitar rock meets pop punk vibe make this a favorite of the year and one worth celebrating through 2023 and beyond.

Urban Waste - NYHC Document (Puke N Vomit Records)

Urban Waste was one of New York Hardcore's original and most highly influential bands. Chances are that if you were attending hardcore shows on the Lower East Side in the early '8os, you got to see them playing alongside some of the earliest icons of the sub-genre. If you're still going to shows, you might even catch them reliving days of old alongside those same OG's of that era. Legacy acts, as one might put it. "Document" is precisely what the title suggests, documenting the band's short yet impactful history through 28 songs, including the ultra-rare and pricy but already reissued 1983 EP, along with demo and live tracks that haven't aged particularly well and a booklet. In over 40 years, Hardcore music has undergone many changes while evolving to include and encompass many distinct elements. Therefore, looking back and being reminded how raw and bare bones the music was could be can be either a good or bad experience, depending on who's listening. In choosing whether to indulge in any more reissues or repackaging, it might be wise to be cautious about what you consume. As someone who became unimpressed with the sales pitch "featuring unreleased demo and live tracks" too long ago to mention, I often avoid these things entirely. Even as one who considers himself a passing fan of Urban Waste, I cannot recommend this to anyone who wasn't part of the scene at that time experiencing the early days of NYHC and longs to relive that era. In such a case, approach with caution. Or better yet, hold on to your memories.

Verbal Assault - On/Exit (Atomic Action Records)

When examing many of the best hardcore and punk acts of the past, one might confuse the term "melodic hardcore" with being soft or less impactful. In most if not all cases, this would be both untrue and unfounded. With respect to both sides of the coin, in more cases than not, the bands offered more melodic and, say, reflective and socially conscious music that had an instant and lasting effect on me. Verbal Assault will always be one of those bands. Hailing from Rhode Island, Verbal Assault first caught my attention with 1986's "Learn" on Positive Force records. "On/Exit" features two EP's recorded in 1989 at the storied Inner Ear Studios by the legendary Eli Janney. Through eight blasts, "On/Exit" shows VA's incredible growth and maturity as musicians and as a band. The groove-heavy movements of their songs made the band stand above many of contemporaries of their time, often making Verbal Assault the center of any conversation about bands that stood out at the time.

Soulside - A Brief Moment in the Sun (Dischord Records)

While many bands and artists have influenced me over the years, not one has had the instant and lasting geo- and socio-political impact of DC's Soulside. Being able to indulge in new Soulside music 35 years after first hearing them is both exciting and rewarding. The 12-song LP opens with "Times Like These," a song that reflects on the current state of things, proving that the issues we dealt with back in the '80s are just as - perhaps more -relevant today. In the end, the elements that initially drew us to Soulside are still intact and impactful. "A Brief Moment in the Sun" resonates musically, lyrically, and consciously. What Soulside has created feels unique and even timeless. Just as "Less Deep Inside Keeps,"" "Trigger,"" and "Hot Bodi-Gram" served to educate our minds and nourish our musical souls, "Times A Moment in the Sun" reinvigorates us both consciously and musically. 'A Brief Moment in the Sun.' is more than an album featuring two or three great songs. Overall, it comes off as somewhat of an opus where each song resonates on different levels of spirituality.


The Gatherers – Mutilator (Equal Vision Records)

Hailing from Bayonne, New Jersey, The Gatherers have cultivated a well-rounded sound that amalgamates varying elements of Hardcore since 2012. On the band's 11-song "Mutilator," (their third full length to date,) The Gatherers throw their weight around, displaying a mix of atmospheric and often visually sonic templates. Emotionally reflective vocals meet post-core instrumentals for what are rather epic results. The Gatherers show a flair for the dramatic on their debut for Equal Vision. I, for one, am not familiar with Hardcore of this nature. Unfortunately, in my case, none of it kept my interest, challenged, or entertained me. Perhaps with a bit more exposure to the band and their sound, I'll find The Gatherers more relatable. Until then, listen for yourself.

Archers of Loaf - Reason In Decline (Merge Records)

When approaching the new Archers of Loaf offering, I had to consider that this was 2022 and not the early to mid-nineties when my fandom had reached unhealthy highs. (Note the Loaf poster that hung over the couch of my Hell's Kitchen apartment.) Well, that was the past, and this is the long since present. The question going into "Reason in Decline" was, at least for me, why they decided to produce new music after all these years, and of course, how does it affect or impact the Loaf’s legacy?

It's funny how much of "Reason in Decline" caught me off guard. This band once jumpstarted or furthered my love for indie/underground rock with a particular thump and left-of-center humor. Considering "Reason in Decline" is the band's first studio album since 1998’s "White T Trash Heroes," the songs here, though just as good if not better, feel anthemically reflective and mature, perhaps Illuminating the band's growth and maturity in Eric Bachmann's approach to songwriting has undergone The 10-song "Reason in Decline" very well may reflect today's head-scratching socio/political society. In listening, I can't help but think of the initial effect and spell Brian Fallon's (Gaslight Anthem) songwriting had on me, as much as I love the newly introspective lyrics. The sonic "Screaming Undercover" is my favorite song on the album. While listening to an entire Loaf album for the first time in ages was noticeably surprising, it was equally nourishing, eliciting numerous playbacks and visits to their early catalog.

>Beach Rats - Rat Beat (Epitaph Records)

Featuring Brian Baker (Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, Bad Religion), Pete Steinkopf and Bryan Kienlen (The Bouncing Souls), and Ari Katz (Lifetime.) Asbury Park's Beach Rats' pedigree alone makes the band impossible to overlook. Knowing the history of these celebrated musicians, joining forces to create music that could instantly be forgotten or mocked, one would be wise to avoid throwing the term supergroup around. Think instead of a collection of newly formed friends looking to create something significant. Beach Rats not only avoid the stigma of the typical "supergroup," they altogether erase it. While admittedly not experiencing any instant enlightenment with "Rat Beat," on a second and a third listen the album put its the hooks in me, baptizing me in its dirty catchiness, rhythms, and unhinged vocals. Notably, it's on songs such as "Heavy Conversation" and the title track "Rat Beat" that one might realize how unique and essential Katz's vocal style is to the punk rock template. In many ways, "Rat Beat" brought me back to all the things that felt real and great about punk and hard rock; choosing a favorite song from these twelve offerings, "Clorox Boys" would help avoid any grief on my part. Easily one of the best albums I've been treated to in quite a while.

Major Conflict - NYHC 1983 (Puke N Vomit Records)

As interest in early '80s NYHC continues to produce reissues and "first time ever on vinyl" releases, it's getting hard to decipher what's worth exploring and what's best left alone. I say that having skipped over some recent offerings from the nostalgia camp. Having prior knowledge of the band and recalling the original impact Major Conflict had on this young hardcore kid, "NYHC 1983" convinced me to go all in. Initially formed in the ashes of Urban Waste by Dito Montiel and former members of the band mentioned above, Major Conflict would become essential to New York's burgeoning Hardcore scene. Having become enamored with the current vinyl release, which became available on CD in 2005, I jumped on the chance to hear those songs again on vinyl. While the content within doesn't hold up to the current standards or whatever followed that first wave of American (and, to be more geographically accurate, New York City) Hardcore, it accurately and authoritatively documents Hardcore's raw and bare-bones origins. "Message from the Underground" and "Outgroup" sound as anthemic as they did almost forty years ago. Among the eighteen songs included are studio, demo, live, and the hard-to-find, long out-of-print 7-inch EP. "NYHC 1983" is a must-have for fans of early Agnostic Front, The Mob, Urban Waste, The Abused, and related acts.

Circlons - "When Only The Music Is Pretty" EP (circlons.bandcamp.com)

LA's Circlons create carefully crafted pop rock, demonstrating a diligent approach to songwriting and structure. Through a mere four songs, Steve, Hunter, Tom, and Kjehl create an atmospheric and often spacious canvas that keeps the listeners' attention long enough to inform and entertain it. The bands' usage of a different vocalist on each of the four songs gives the record an orchestral-driven vibe, one that merits mention and praise. "Radio," "Moon Over Babaluma," "Blue Cheer," and "When Only the Music is Pretty" each showcase the band's gifts for songwriting and lyrical content. Overall, a rewarding set.

Koyo - "Ten Digits Away" EP (Pure Noise Entertainment)

It's rare when something immediately reminds you of a time and place you regularly avoided, covered your ears, squeezed your eyes closed, and held your breath when anyone mentioned it. Long Islands' Koyo reminds me of just such. Not to say Koyos' emotional three-song effort is terrible, or even bad, but it reminded me of all those past acts that made me cringe because of their approach and results. Think alt-rock meets mall-punk meets odd-lot. Though I admit to never hearing the hardcore bands that members of Koyo performed in earlier, their journey to a more melodic vibe feels mawkish at best. While I give Koyo credit for creating something different from their past hardcore roots, "Ten Digits Away" fails to win over this listener.

Lincoln - Repair and Reward (Temporary Residence Limited)

While it's hard to believe it's been 30 years since I first heard the band Lincoln on a split EP with DC's mighty Hoover, the impact of West Virginia post-core band was immediate and lasting. As I sit down all these years and decades later to revisit "Repair and Reward," I quickly recall the admiration and enjoyment I experienced when listening to Lincoln, especially the musicianship and song structure. I am completely enamored with Cotrero's drumming and how his approach to percussion was jazz-like. Temple's vocal attacks would serve as a springboard to what I'd be drawn to for years and even decades to follow, ingredients that make indulging in Lincoln's small yet rewarding discography so nourishing. "Repair and Reward" contains the bands' debut 7-inch, their split with DC's Hoover, and the posthumous 7-inch on Art Monk Construction. Whether old school, new school, or no school, I highly suggest adding this to your collection.


Morning Again - The Cleanest War-Vinyl Reissue (Stick to the Core)

Initially released in 1996 by Conquer the World Records, the 25th-anniversary reissue of the band's debut brings me back to when I was still in love with Hardcore but considered wearing a helmet to shows. Hailing from Copper City, FL, Morning Again were a Vegan, straight-edge metallic hardcore band active throughout the mid- to late-Nineties before parting and eventually reuniting numerous times. Mixing a robust collection of breaks and breakdowns, I can imagine mosh pits getting pretty rowdy with a combination of flailing arms and enough spin-kicks to impress Bruce Lee. Musically, Morning Again would fit in nicely with many their contemporaries, blending their hardcore influences with tight metallic elements. The opening instrumental "Minus One" displays the musical growth Hardcore bands were experiencing at the time. As so many factors contribute to the track, I found this to be the best of the five. "Remedy," the EP's fifth and final offering, also impresses with its diverse ingredients Though I might have initially let this slip through the cracks, hearing the reissue serves as a reminder that I missed something good. If you're a vinyl junkie like myself, Revelation Records released a limited edition (100 copies) of exclusive yellow vinyl.

Vortis - The Miasmic Years (Cavetone Records; vortis.bandcamp.com)

When given the task of reviewing a record, my rule of thumb is to thoroughly listen to the content before ever referring to the label or press kit. The last thing this reviewer wants is for an outsider to inform my opinion before I've derived my own. Such is the case with the new album "The Miasmic Years" by Chicago's Vortis. "Hyperbole" boldly opens the ambitious 17-song affair with some ominous rhythms that feel both heavy and ominous. "Bastard" follows, resulting in an even positive reaction. By then, one realizes they've fallen into an album one soon won't forget. The Chicago trio erupt, spitting barebones rock/punk that is undeniably infectious. (Think: Dwarves had a sloppy one-night stand with Poison Idea.) Spiraling guitar riffage and bratty vocals meet perfectly sloppy rhythms to paint a punkish canvas that satisfies on many levels. High praise for "The Miasmic Years," as the entire album is one to enjoy as a whole or on a song-to-song basis. Last but not least, I highly recommend checking out what the label Cavetone has to offer. If you’re a fan of stripped down hard rock and punk, this looks to a place to go.

The Battlebeats - You Don't Know Me (bigneckrecords1.bandcamp.com)

Thanks to Big Neck Records, I've been introduced to new, unheard artists - in this case, Indonesia's Battlebeats. Formed in 2019 by artist and garage rocker Andresa Nugraha and perhaps a pun on the American TV show Battlebots, these four songs give a hint of Andresa's knack for guitar-shredding garage rock. Simple, yet direct. Battlebots can bring to mind a more nihilistic, edgy Ramones. Not bad.



Cyclo Sonic - Everything Went Stupid (Big Neck Records)

Denver, CO's Cyclo Sonic caught me somewhat offguard, considering I had no idea what to expect. "Everything Went Stupid" offers some high-octane guitar rock that sounds as if it was cultivated in the Seventies, at times reminding this reviewer of more recent flamethrowers such as Rocket the Crypt and the Hellacopters. Sharp, driving guitar riffs, fiery vocals, and punishing rhythms team up to produce a firebomb of a good record that warrants numerous spins on the turntable. The record comes on green vinyl and includes a digital download allowing you to intimidate others while stuck in rush-hour traffic.

Bart and the Brats - S/T (Big Neck Records)

Bart and the Brats, a.k.a. Bart De Vraantijik, is a one-man project that thrusts forward with some bombastic punk rock noise delivered relatively fast. Straightforward punk with an approach and characteristics that, while sounding simplistic, might fit in with a more D-Beat sound that aligns with earlier acts such as Discharge. Not bad, but all together, nothing exceptional. The record features twelve songs, including a Misfits "Static Age" cover.

Municipal Waste - Electrified Brain (Nuclear Blast Records)

Richmond, VA's legendary thrash crossover unit Municipal Waste returns with their high-octane sound and vision. Featuring 14 songs, "Electrified Brain" shows that the mighty Municipal Waste remains royalty in the hard rock and metal scene. The band's gift for over-the-top and in-your-face metal is undeniably solid and intact throughout the record. With high-pitched vocals, massive riffs & rhythms, and powerful backing vocals, it would be hard to mount an argument against them. The album opens with the anthemic title track "Electrified Brain," a song that serves as a sample for a record that never lets up or even comes up for air. Having seen the band live, I'm surprised at how I didn't rush to delve into their deep catalog immediately. Now that there's been some serious digging. I feel exhilarated to add this one to the collection. In all, a flamethrower of a record that never lets up or falters.


Celebration Summer - Patience In Presence (A-F Records)

With Punk Rock entering its fourth decade, it's getting harder and harder to judge bands of the sub-genre by current, outdated standards and influences. The stand-out bands that still wave that flag often strive to add fresh nuances and conceptions, in the hope of keeping that original blueprint while evolving and adding to its explicit purpose. These elements remind me of Northern Virginia/Washington DC quartet Celebration Summer. Mixing aggressive guitar with melodic rhythms and heart-on-your-sleeve vocals and lyrics, Celebration Summer offers a sense of emotionally relatable content that often remind me of favorites such as Husker Du, Jawbreaker, and Samiam. As much as Celebration Summer and their eleven-song "Patience is Presence" came to me as a complete mystery, I can honestly report that this is one of the best new releases I've heard in quite a while. Get it here.

J. Robbins/Her Heads on Fire -Split 7 inch (New Granada Records)

Satisfying on so many levels as this split pairs up the newly formed Her Head's on Fire and the time-proven genius of J. Robbins (Government Issue/Jawbox/Channels/Office of Future Plans). I dived in eager to hear the latest connection that long-time favorite guitarist Jeff Dean (The Bomb, All Eyes West, Airstream Futures) is getting his hands dirty with. As this was my introduction to HHF, it's easy to say that "Certain As" serves as a delicious appetizer to what's to come: Punk-infused rock with a lot of angular twists and turns. I love how the guitar perfectly wraps itself around the vocals, creating a spiral of emotion and intent. Robbins' 'Uncle John' highlights his ability to couple all the right ingredients to create a great song. The rhythms, leads, and vocals coalesce to bring together something that sounds epic and heartfelt.

LHW - Interludes (laytonweedeman.bandcamp.com)

LHW, known to many as Layton Weedeman of The Courtesy Tier or DJ Laytronic, lays down some severe hip hop and jazz interpretations on his debut solo output and first time in the producer's chair. Recorded at his home studio in Brooklyn, NY, with the help of musician and bassist Loisel Machín Rodriguez, the laid-back vibes and chill, atmospheric tempos wrap around your conscienceness while creating a mood that reminds one of the rhythms and flows once reserved for Common, J. Dilla, and Madvillain. As I moved from one beat to the next, I imagined how well this would sound on vinyl, complete with all the beautiful pops and cracks made by the needle and the slightly off-balanced turntable. Regardless, the eight entries on ‘Interludes’ show artistry in ways that fulfill while having you crave for more.

UNDER PRESSURE - "Vicious Bite" and "Vengeance" Demos LP (Cash Sell-Out Productions)

Suppose you've been around Hardcore or any independent music for that matter. It won't be long before you hear the term 'Do it yourself," words so crucial to any independent endeavor. DIY was the cornerstone of labels such as Dischord, SST, and many more. Under Pressure's former lead singer and founder Mauricio Vega, aka Moe Cash, did just that by taking his band's two demos and reissuing them on vinyl. Listening to these two Under Pressure demos, initially released in 1988 and '89, reminds me of a time in my life when I had just returned to my neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens. Our free time (and there seemed to be a lot of it) revolved around consuming copious amounts of questionable substances, hanging out in school yards, graffiti, going to shows, and supporting our friends' bands in any way possible. Under Pressure just happened to be one of those bands.

Under Pressure is best described as a vital, mid-tier NYHC band that sprinkled elements of Oi and Metal within their hardcore approach. Think Killing Time meets the Anti-Heros, with a sprinkle of thrash thrown into the 'Vengeance' demo to show off the new members' evolution and influence. The LP features 15 songs that cover the 'Vicious Bite' and 'Vengeance' demos. 'Think Attitudes' and 'Negative Fool' are stand-out tracks worth mentioning. Reading the provided lyrics helps in looking back and noting how much we've grown and evolved. 'Think Attitudes' and 'Negative Fool' resonate more than others. If you want to add to your 80's hardcore mix, scoop this up before it's gone.

Check out Under Pressure here.


Future Kill - Mind Tasters Floor Wasters (Big Neck Records)

As my wife opened the latest mailer of reviewables and pulled out the Future Kills LP, her initial reaction was, "Wow, this looks terrible." As one who's learned not to judge a book - or in this case, a record - by its cover, I did my best to ignore the tacky cover and give it a good go-through. While enduring the shit show, that is the opener to the nine-song album. I rushed to the Future Kill Bandcamp page to get the 411 on what, at least to my ears, was unlistenable, finding that FK is the brainchild of Kristin Maloney and Mikey Blackhurst of Brain Bag (another band/album I disliked intensely.) I achieved the clarity I so desperately sought. Not to disrespect the many people who enjoy this type of craft but overall and throughout, the noise and experimentation here aren't dynamic or engaging enough to warrant any interest or appreciation from me.

Bashford - Greener Grasses (Big Neck Records)

Hailing from Wisconsin, Bashford has been releasing musical output since 2016. With the ten-song masher 'Greener Grasses' being my introduction to the band's music, Bashford boldly introduce themselves, stepping into the ring with tight riffs, rhythms, and blood-thirsty vocals. Perhaps due to the absence of any presskit or band bio, I went into the album with a less than optimistic outlook. However, the band's mix of Metal and Thrash appealed to my senses. The opener 'Gateway.' really gets the album started on a high note, while the Dio-inspired 'Medication' and the Guitar Hero-worthy 'Supermanic' really help make this album worth checking out.

Klazo - Demik Dementia (No Front Teeth Records/Big Neck Records

Hailing from London, Ontario, Klazo is a duo that features Rob Yadautas on Vox and Guitars and Jesse on Drums. 'Demik Dementia' features 11 live recordings that would generally appeal to fans of punk past and general chaos. Caustic instrumentals meet popish punk vocals. Overall, much better than a casual listener might have expected. If you're into a mix of Discharge and the Business, give it a go. For me, I'll stick to the acts mentioned above.

Lasso – Amuo 7” (Sorry State Records)

Considering how much attention was focused on Raleigh, North Carolinas Sorry State Records during the 2010s and its influence on forming my long-defunct blog/zine United By Rocket Science, I felt drawn to listening to the label/store's most recent offering. Since the days of 'United By Rocket Science', my taste in music has changed significantly, and I embraced these songs with a less judgemental and more observant set of ears. Each of the seven songs on 'Amuo" fails to make the two-minute mark, thus following the age-old dictum 'Loud, Fast rules' - short and to the point. These elements cancel out the tradition of song structure, instead leaving any judgment for the overall outcome. Brazil's Lasso carries that unbridled punk rock savagery into each song with barking vocals, fast leads, and rhythms led by D-beat percussion. As a whole, I can't say whether or not 'Amuo' is worth the listen or not, but I can say that Lasso doesn't do much to distinguish itself from any other noisemakers in the very crowded genre.


Tony Matura - Riding the Secret Subway (Pyhrric Victory Recordings)

'Riding the Secret Subway' takes us on a trip through the past as he re-records six songs he wrote with his old band Secret Subway back in 1979 - 1980. Hence the reason why this sounds so identical to that decades-end power-pop / pop-punk sound. There's a cool story about the Queens band hanging out at Max's Kansas City, CBGB's and even opening up for the Damned. However, in the end, it reminds me of the countless other stories we've heard from burnouts who used to be sniff cocaine off strippers bottoms a long, long time ago. While enjoyable and comparable to much of the sounds coming from that turn of the decade, sound and scene, recording old songs is rarely worth more than a chuckle and a trip to the circular file. Though not harmful in any way, highly unnecessary.

Bandcamp


The Bambies – Summer Soon (Spaghetty Town Records)

Canadian pop-rock trio the Bambies might be as puzzling as they are delightful. Puzzling because they make so many elements work while never entirely fitting into any specific peg: Part garage rock, part pop-punk, part rock and roll. Regardless, these ingredients make for one hell of a record. Pop rhythms meet upbeat power pop with a dash of rock cred and garage appeal, songs whose vivacious charm remind me of a day at the beach minus the sunburn, dried-up sand between my toes feeling. Delightful due to all the elements listed above.

Spaghetty Town Records


SFA - The 87-88 Tapes (State of Mind Records)

Arriving on the New York Hardcore scene in 1985, SFA recorded two tapes with frontman Mike 'Bullshit' Bromberg (Bullshit Monthly, GO!, No Mistake) before becoming a darker and, in my opinion, much better entity with Brendan Rafferty at the helm. After almost thirty-five years, those tapes 'Demo' and 'Tanks a Lot,' plus six additional live tracks, appear on an LP for the first time. The release includes a 12" booklet with flyers, pictures, lyric sheet, and a couple of interviews done with the band. The release serves as a perfect example that the more you go back to the well, the lesser quality and the less reward you'll bring back.

Upon hearing that Mike 'Bullshit' Bromberg was reissuing SFA recording from back in the late '80s, it was hard to share any interest in purchasing, let alone listening to these ancient artifacts of New York Hardcore's past. Having attended my share of SFA shows in the late '80's, I always felt that their sound was more in line with New York's first wave of hardcore than the one they were playing in. And while that's not a bad thing by any stretch, it made them seem out of place. It's worth noting that though the early recordings on these tapes lack any recording or production value, SFA never lacked anything when it came to intelligent and introspective lyrics.

Sure, one might enjoy indulging themselves in a couple of SFA recordings, but as has often been the case, it's quantity over quality, where listening to recordings never triggered much of a reaction during the time of their release. Almost thirty-five years later, they're avoidable, at best. Though I strongly feel early SFA might not bring much satisfaction, I highly recommend looking into Bromberg's later efforts, GO! and No Mistake.

State of Mind Records


Unbroken - Life, Love, Regret (Indecision Records)

The reissue of Unbroken's 'Life, Love, Regret" (originally released on New Age Records in 1994) more than serves a purpose, as it reminds me how much I hated Metalcore from its inception in the late '80s to its apex in the late '90s. It also reminds me how my acceptance and liking of that amalgamation has softened over the years. While many 90's hardcore and metalcore kids will recall this San Diego act, those looking to connect the dots might think of bands such as Integrity, Earth Crisis, and the ever-popular Hatebreed. Not my thing, but pretty damn good when compared to what was happening at the time.

Indecision Records


The Killer Hearts - Skintight Electric (Spaghetty Town Records)

There's a line in the movie 'The Departed' where Jack Nicholson's character says, "In life, no one gives it to you. You have to take it." It's a lesson I was taught at a young age and one that's taken on many different meanings in life. At a time when a lot of people think "Rock is dead," it feels to me as if these people are looking for a handout. If those same people just got off their soft asses and dug a little deeper, they might find the Killer Hearts' debut album and have a fucking heart attack. On 'Skintight Electric,' the Texas rockers prove that high energy punk rock and roll is more than a look or a clever promotional campaign, mixing Hollywood glam looks with Johnny Thunders punk riffs and songwriting. The ten songs featured on 'Skintight Electric' are as good as it gets, showing an undeniable knack for songwriting and structure that many other musicians spend a lifetime attempting to achieve.

Spaghetty Town Records


Paul Rosevear - Halls of Time (Volume 1)

Paul Rosevear is many things: Husband, father, teacher, musician. and singer/songwriter. He is also a former next-door neighbor and, I would hope to consider, a friend. "Halls of Time (Volume 1)” features three acoustic country-leaning tunes that carry a storytelling value bringing legends such as Johnny Cash, Jim Croce, and early Ryan Adams to mind.
The lyrics flow like words from a poet (is there anything out there that can outduel, “Knuckles big as knees?") Sweeping melodies, harmonies, and instrumentals each highlight this EP, while the surprising addition of piano and stunning inclusion of a Hammond organ make these recordings feel even more timeless, thus adding a sense of intimacy that makes the listener feel like they're present during the session. As someone who doesn't listen to or invite much Country Western into my lair, this particular EP might crack open the door for future discoveries.

Bandcamp


Room 1,000 Years Wide – S/T (Self Released/Streaming)

Great Caesar’s ghost, what a weird name! Is there a secret code within the leads to its meaning? Regardless, I'd love to hear the back story on its origin. [Editor's note: It's the title of a Soundgarden song.] Nevertheless, it's always rewarding to see/hear old friends remaining creative after letting the marriage, family, and careers take precedence. In this case, it's a group of old friends, each veterans of the New Jersey indie-rock scene, proving that the need to create lingers long after our college days and late nights at shows. And so I got wind of a new project from longtime friends and collaborators Frank Joseph (Holy City Zoo, The NGHTCRWLRS) and Eric Goldberg (Nico Blues, All Sensory Void, The NGTCRWLRS.) Chill tempos and minimalist production provide for a laid-back, ambient sound that is simple yet rewarding. Considering Eric and Frank's musical past in acts such as Holy City Zoo and The NGHTCRWLRS, the trippy sound of these songs is quite surprising. Each of the five tracks present a sinister, chemically-induced vibe that challenges the listener to take the ride. Fans of 80's synth-pop, such as New Order, Depeche Mode, and Pet Shop Boys, and 90's shoegazers such as My Bloody Valentine and Massive Attack, would be foolish to let this slip by.


No Escape – Selective Punches (A Collection of Ballads & Battle Hymns)

Thirty years is a long fucking time between releases. Yet, as someone whose salad days were dominated by hardcore shows starting in the mid-'80s, I've grown to appreciate many of the bands and people who came out of that time. Though short-lived, No Escape was one of the bands that stood out and stood apart from their peers, separating themselves from many of the cookie-cutter acts that briefly appeared on the scene at the time. No Escape's sound was and has always been intense, unrelenting, and savagely aggro, with metallic riffs and barreling rhythms perfectly wrapping themselves around Tim Singer's urgent screams. And while Singer’s voice is rightfully celebrated for his contributions to the iconic metal core acts Deadguy and Kiss it Goodbye, his imprint as the voice of No Escape deserves just as much merit.
"Lies On Your Sleeve" perfectly encapsulates how perfectly the band's musicianship matches the vocal delivery. The following "Everything You Ever Need" is just another perfect example displaying how those entities merge. "Selective Punches" falls short of a full LP, it serves as a template for "less is more."" And while new material from No Escape was the last thing anyone outside their lair would expect, this release cements that No Escape is one of my favorite and one of the best hardcore bands of their time. For information regarding pressings and color vinyl options, click the link below.

Hell Minded Records


Cinema Cinema – CCXMDII

In returning east, it's easy to see that most of the scene and bands I followed and covered during my days in Jersey have moved on - understandable as most scenes and music trends have a relatively short life cycle. While most bands and even the venues that supported the DIY spirit have moved on to other things, it's rewarding to know that some of the essential cogs are still intact. For me personally, Brooklyn’s, New York’s Cinema Cinema exemplify that credence.
On CCXMDll, the band's sixth full length to date, the dynamic experimental noise duo of Ev Gold and Paul Claro takes their brand of experimentation to new levels. Parts noise rock, parts science project, they turn the knobs of traditional prog and hard rock to dirty it up enough to give it the four-letter kick in the groin it's always lacked. The 18:04 minute opener "A Life Of Its Own" spends ten minutes in a tribal-like trance before growing increasingly ominous and downright spooky (an element that has always served as a drawing card to Cinema Cinema's ever reaching appeal.) "Cloud 2" and "Continued" follow an equally sinister, spacey, and experimental tone.
By now, the band's interest and ability to expand their sound beyond their early recordings shows itself by fusing experimental additions of free jazz. One can't help but notice hearing more of a Miles Davis, John Coltrane influence than that of, say Killing Joke: Most notable, or at the very least, worth a mention, is how with each offering, the Brooklyn duo has added a secret ingredient that gave their recording a certain edge that allowed them to step out and stand apart from the rest. With past sprinklings of legendary producer Don Zientara, the genius of Martin Ribisi, or their manic cover of PJ Harvey's "50ft Queenie," each has served to pepper their recordings with just the right amount of ingredients to sharpen their edge. The addition and return of Grammy-winning saxophonist Matt Darriau augments the free jazz element present throughout these recordings.
Though I'd be lying if the absence of Gold's or any substituted vocals didn't surprise me, in the end, I feel that any such inclusion would only take away from the intended and overall theme. The final burst of creativity, "Trigger," stands out as my favorite, with its tricky rhythms, artsy horn action, and intense riffs. In the end, I felt lucky to have invested my time and thought in CCXMDll'. Overall, these songs challenge the listener and keep you involved and engrossed in a time of shrinking attention spans. That says a lot.
Nefarious Industries
Cinema Cinema HQ


Electric Frankenstein/The Stripp Split 7-inch (Spaghetty Town Records)

Here comes a cool-looking split single from the USA's long-running locomotive Electric Frankenstein and Australia’s the Stripp. Each offers two high-octane rock n' roll songs with a heavy dose of punk attitude thrown in for good measure. Both bands follow the cutthroat paths of hard rocks nihilistic, cutthroat approach,. (think Rocket From the Crypt, The Supersuckers.) Fast, furious, unbridled guitar punk with fierce vocals. While there's no doubt I'll keep my eyes and ears open for more of the Stripp, I have long felt that Electric Frankenstein would greatly benefit from adopting a quality over quantity ethos, as it's become inherently apparent that every song sounds the same. Available on black, pink, or green vinyl.

Spaghetty Town Records

The Screamers - Demo Hollywood (Super Viaduct Records)

The Screamers were a pioneering American punk rock act that helped L.A. establish itself as a bedrock for the area's dominance and importance regarding the early years and first decade of American Punk. Although being marketed as "for the first time on vinyl," my memories of seeing copies of these songs flowing in the punk section at my somewhat local record store on more than one occasion don't lie. (Whether that pressing was unofficial, unauthorized, or downright bootlegged, I seen it with my own two eyes.) The Screamers' use of synthesizers was all but unheard of in punk's more stripped-down, back-to-basics sound of guitars, drums, bass, and a screaming front man/woman. Beyond all the hype and nostalgia lies a recording that hasn't aged well, sounding rudimentary at best. And while documenting the past and bringing to life recordings that may have otherwise been deemed forgettable, beyond the imagery and legend the music itself doesn't hold up or warrant the investment of time or money. For this particular listener, The Screams '77 demo was better left as is.

Super Viaduct


Indian Summer - Cherry Smash (Fun With Tape)

Not to be confused with the Oakland, California band of the same name, which existed from 1993-'94. North Virginia/Washington DC's Indian Summer also existed for a short time in the late '80s. The J. Robbins (Government Issue, Jawbox, Magpie Studio, etc.) produced songs appear on vinyl for the first time since they were initially recorded. Side One's "Why?", "Creeper" and "On the Edge'" feature a hard-edged, fast, and abrasive sound that one would best describe as a mixture of Punk's aggression and Post-Punk's experimentation. Well done, yet very average in comparison to many of their contemporaries. However, on side B's "Cherry Smash" and "Long-Awaited," the band hits its stride to find its identity. The title song "Cherry Red" and "Long-Awaited" feel and sound as if they would have fit nicely within the fabric of the "Salad Days" documentary. In my opinion, side B is what makes these recordings so essential.Despite featuring only five songs, in listening I found each piece to be impactful and nourishing, adding credence to the power and impact DC punk had on so many. As more and more unearthed and unreleased music from the genre becomes available. one has to become wary of production and overall quality. Two things that the pressing of "Cherry Smash" delivers: The songs serve as missing pieces to a puzzle you might have deemed incomplete, with excellent production and artfully crafted vinyl that draws your eyes to its core.

Available on a limited pressing of 95 Coke bottle clear vinyl, "Cherry Red." includes a double-sided inlet that features lyrics, band images, show flyers, and production notes.

Fun With Tape Records

The Boatsmen - VS the Boatsmen (Spaghetty Town Records)

Having been introduced to Sweden's Boatsmen via the "No Heroes, No Leaders, No Artists, No Gods" New Bomb Turks tribute, I found myself jonesing for more.  "Action Delivery" crashes the party with its bombastic guitar assault and razorblade vocal approach, with an opening guitar riff that feels like a head-on collision. As I found myself thinking, "This is a defining moment that can't possibly get better," the second offering, "Friday Night Forever," proved it can.

For those who love hard-edged guitar rock 'n' roll with a raw and stripped-down yet tight sound, the Boatsman is an essential piece to the puzzle. Recommended for fans of Rocket from the Crypt, The Hard-One, Supersuckers, or anything that kicks ass without bothering to take names, the Boatsmen's hard rock esthetic is present throughout - fast, brutal, and relentless, leaving very little breathing room.

'VS the Boatsman" is a swaggering and confident strut through fiery and dangerous rock 'n' roll. Unadulterated and ballsy throughout,  the opening hooks and fast-paced bounce that follow "Thirst Song" make it a favorite of favorites on the album. Somewhere between the insane riffs, rhythms, and screamed vocals lie a confident, cohesive, and fun album.

Available Here

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New Bomb Turks Tribute - No Heroes, No Leaders, No Artists, No Gods. (Spaghetty Town Records)

As one who began to be disappointed by every tribute album I heard sometime in the '90's, I've come to avoid them like the plague, wishing to avoid tarnishing my memories of the intended target or well-intended bands involved. Thanks and praise to the many tributes of late for helping me realize that not all tributes are created equal. While often mentioned and comparable to bands such as Drive Like Jehu, The Supersuckers, Hot Snakes, and Rocket from the Crypt,  at least in my opinion, the New Bomb Turks get lost in the shuffle much too often. Born out of the Buckeye state of Ohio in 1990, the band would release many albums and countless singles, EP's, and splits. They've left quite a mark on the rock and roll landscape playing speedy, garage punk rock. Each song on "No Heroes, No Leaders, No Artists, No Gods" properly honors the Turks while introducing many bands you may or may not have heard before. Contributions from The Boats, The Hip Priests, The Dead Furies, and The Chuck Norris Experiment stood out. That said, it's worth noting that the tribute as a whole more than accomplishes its goal of honoring a great band. While the limited vinyl seems to be sold out, I highly recommend attempting to track down a copy or shaking a download from whatever source you can find. 

  Available Here

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The Slip-Ons - S/T Single (Scamindy Records)

Wow, is it possible that this is the same Scamindy Records that released the much loved and highly praised Doughboys' single "La Majeure" in 1987? [Editor - Yes]If so, where have you been? While there was little to no information regarding the Slip-Ons, judging from the cover image, the three songs presented here were going to rock. Though the name "Slip-Ons" won't win them any awards, the garage-punk n' roll bombast certainly won me over. On "Bad TV," "Cork," and "Kandy Glass," The Slip Ons take the Loud Fast Rules motto and stick with it.

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The Stools - Live at Outer Limits 12-28-19 (Big Neck Records)

What is it about Detroit and the state of Michigan that produces so many gritty and downright dirty bands and artists? The MC5, The Stooges, Alice Cooper, The White Stripes. Hell, I can go on for weeks, months, maybe even years name-dropping some of the raw elemental rock n' roll and punk the city Detroit and the state of Michigan have given us. While this record manages to catch the band's live energy and punk rock prowess rather accurately, it fails to impress or display any far-reaching characteristics or elements the band might offer. But, with all the history and recorded documents of The Stools, I'd wholeheartedly recommend looking into the band's studio recordings.

Available Here

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Rexxx - Pure Pleasure II (Big Neck Records)

Power Pop? Okay. I'll give this a spin. The album's opening hurrah, "Can't Help It," and the follow-up "Hit and Run" set the tone for what is an outstanding and upbeat adventure, an energetic and lively adventure that never lets up or lets the listener down. Here's a collection of songs you'll find yourself singing along to long before you've learned its lyrics. Overall, I found "Pure Pleasure II" to be a well-rounded album, one that exceeded any expectations. An album that I enjoyed more and more with each listen.

Available Here

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Night Battles - Year of No Days (Snappy Little Numbers)

As I wait patiently for my pre-order from Snappy Little Numbers to make its way across the Atlantic, I listen intently to the download guitarist Christopher Skelly shared with me. Also featuring Charlie King on vocals, Dante Bruno on bass, and Ryan Nathan on drums, Night Battles formed in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2016, releasing two EP's in 2017 and 2018. Having been familiar with Night Battles' dark post-core sound for some time now, there was a lot of anticipation regarding their new release. Luckily, the wait is over as I find myself reveling in their eight-song album Year of No Days. These powerfully haunting and complex compositions feel as if they'd be the perfect fit for a Netflix sci-fi thriller, and Year of No Days quickly establishes itself as the band's most fluid and complex release to date: Crashing rhythms, spiraling guitar leads, and far-reaching vocals that echo emotionally dark longing. The term post-punk seems like a lazy way of describing a sound or any inherent characteristics of a band, aside from the heavy influence of post-punk legends the Gun Club. Comparisons to greats such as Killing Joke, The Swans, and even Birthday Party might suffice. And while these eight songs make for a very cohesive record, they also fit into an experiment in sound and emotion.

Snappy Little Numbers

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Bleach Everything - Welcome Idiots: 2012-2018 (Dark Operative)

While I've only been to Richmond, Virginia, twice in my lifetime, I wholeheartedly admit to being forever drawn to the underground music and bands that it's birthed and fostered. Perhaps that's why I find myself getting to know the theme of Bleach Everything two years after they decided to call it a decade. "Welcome Idiots" collects all of the out-of-print and hard-to-find 7's, compilation tracks, and Flexi's, the band released during their 2012 - 2018 tenure. Marking the first and only time all of their recorded material has been made available under one umbrella. Fans of the band or hardcore, in general, will be greatly rewarded by this complete collection of the band's recorded material. As someone who was getting the first taste of the band through 'Welcome Idiots.' I can honestly say I was both pleased and rewarded. From the moment the needle hits the record, the listener, familiar with the band or not, immediately feels and understands they are a part of something meaningful and purposeful. Bleach Everything leaves an indelible footprint on hardcore's expanding landscape in a defining case of quality over quantity.

Rev HQ

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Civic Mimic - Deep Clean (Dromedary Records)

Jeff Herch (Glazer, Decoration) has emerged from the Corona Virus pandemic with a bit of one-man-show side project by the name of Civic Mimic. Aside from social distancing and keeping his hands clean and adequately moisturized, he's busied himself creatively by writing and recording these new songs. The draw of "Deep Clean's" garage rock sound and power-pop leanings is undeniable, three pieces that wrap around you like a close friend who's had way too much to drink. "New Paint," "Cool As Dead," and "Shorted" quickly make their way into your bloodstream and quicken the pulse like a shot of adrenaline. And while the band's overall sound and home studio recordings might scare off some, I found these qualities made Civic Mimic and the three-song "Deep Clean" so relatable. The 7-inch vinyl is available through our old friends at Dromedary Records as a limited number lathe cut and downloadable on the label's Bandcamp page.

Bandcamp

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The Zits - Back in Blackhead

As someone who's often attracted and obsessed with finding unreleased and out-of-print documents of the past, I have come to accept that digging can be a dirty and often unrewarding experience. Regardless, when I saw the black and white cover, the film strip photos, and the hype sticker on this record, my obsessive curiosity took over. The Zits combine elements of power pop and early American punk, youth anthems that sound fun and bouncy. There's a nerdy yet experimental vibe that brings acts such as Devo and the Dead Milkmen to mind. In listening to The Zits, you get a feeling that the band might have inspired many of their high school nerd contemporaries to emerge from the shadows to forge their own ideas into something creative. Though the silly "Beat Your Face" and "Euh Baby Euh" (with its pre-"Bitchin' Camaro" bass lines) stand out as my personal favorites. Each of the thirteen songs featured here gives credence to the short-lived band's influence on many upcoming punk bands from the area. (Think early Ian McKaye vehicle The Teen Idles.) To learn more about the band, their 1981 recording and their influence on punks to come, follow the link and read the story.

The Zits

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The Living – 1982 (Loose Groove Records)

Though I've been trying to wane myself off reissues and nostalgia these days, "1982" by Los Angeles punk act The Living was such an appealing record, I just had to have a listen. Maybe the fact that I've found myself engrossed in Duff McKagen's book "It's So Easy (And Other Lies)"" had me curious about his punk origins in the years before co-founding Guns and Roses. Featuring future Guns bassist McKagen on guitar and impending Mother Love Bone drummer Greg Gilmore, "1982" shows a young band with vision and an uncanny ability to write songs that, while musical, carry the urgency and alienation that were threads woven into punk's ethos from the very beginning. Forgive me if I went into this with somewhat low expectations, as I have lost some of that excitement I once had for unreleased and long-dormant recording sessions. Happily and somewhat unexpectedly, I was pretty impressed with what I heard. The EP features seven songs recorded over two sessions back in 1982, issued on white, yellow, and red vinyl. And while I can attest to approaching "1982" with little to no expectations, it delivers speedy, up-tempo punk with stellar musicianship and appeal. Having gotten used to McKagen's bass lines with G'N’R, I was taken aback by how impressive the guitar leads on "1982" sounded, upfront and leading the charge; songs that feel confident, even amongst the Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, and other contemporaries of the time. Songs that ring true without wearing out their welcome. I guess there's still something, perhaps many more reasons to look back on things. In absorbing "1982", I came out feeling satisfied and impressed. The album pressing is available on colored vinyl (mine is white) and limited to 500 copies. Now, back to my book.

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The Melvins - Working With God (Reissue)(Ipecac Recordings)

Don't worry, folks. I get a strong whiff of sarcasm in the title "Working with God." When one thinks or listens to the Melvins' vast and dark catalog of songs, it would be hard to picture its members joining a local bible study or finding any reason to convert to any specific denomination or -ism. As someone who's lived on a steady diet of The Melvins' 1987 - 1994 releases, which include such classics as "Whodini," "Bullhead," "Lysol" and "Gluey Porch Treatments," I've approached each album that followed with as much caution as curiosity. I found "Working With God" to have enough of what initially drew me to their sludgy core.
Opening the album with "Fuck Around," a foul mouthed parody of the Beach Boys' "Get Around," might have been the wrong choice to introduce the album, but fuck it. The Melvins have proven their intentions countless times before with no sign of slowing down. "Working With God" has a lot to offer, whether it's the driving and sinister guitar leads on "Bouncing Back," or the raging vocals and devilish rhythms on "Boy Mike." "Working With God." deserves placement with some of The Melvins' most cohesive offerings.

Ipecac Records

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Visual Discrimination - In Vain (It's Alive Records)

Just when you thought the hardcore vault was empty and the cupboard was bare comes another reissue from the long-ago past. One that begs the question, "Was this at all necessary?" Unfortunately, nostalgia often comes at a cost, one often rendered by rose-colored eyes and old men in cargo shorts toasting the good old days. Such was the case, at least to my ears, with the reissue of Visual Discriminations "In Vain." Representing the band's second 12" EP, the eight-song release has been out of print and out of reach for some time. Hailing from Southern California's Orange County, the band played a meaty, perhaps more straightforward brand of hardcore than many of their contemporaries from that area, time, and their label Nemesis Records were releasing at the time. Ideally, I could see Visual Discrimination on a bill with some tough guy acts from that time. Whether that's accurate is up for debate. Though not bad when taken in context, the music of Visual Discrimination has not aged well, making the reissue of "In Vain" questionable. Featuring eight somewhat forgettable songs, including a cover of Agnostic Front's "United Blood," it's available on hand-numbered vinyl limited to 300 copies. From what I've read, the band is still booking shows and touring.

Available Here

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Step Forward- Demos 1989 - 1990 (Refuse Records)

Not to be confused in any way with the Boston band formed in 2016, the short-lived Step Forward existed as the late '80s morphed into the '90s and are considered by some to be pioneers of Sweden's nucleus of bands that shaped 90's hardcore, musically and aesthetically. As someone who collected demos through friends and networks of tape traders often listed in the back of fanzines, Step Forward played the uptempo and positive hardcore that appealed to me then and, for the most part, still does. It features all the elements you came to expect from hardcore: mid to fast tempos, breakdowns, and sing-alongs choruses. The lead track "Change Today" and just about everything on the '89 demo serve as a reminder of everything coming out of Revelation Records at the time. Though not very original, it gives you a sense of their influences and the prevalent sound at the time. Overall, I found both the demos and their production to be quite rewarding. And while nostalgia for any era, style, or sound can be a bottomless rabbit hole, sometimes the rewards can justify the journey. This one did. For more information about the band and this release, I highly recommend clicking the link below.

Refuse Records

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Quiz Show - Geographic

Three epic tracks from Montclair University Anthology professor and Shudder to Think founding member Chris Matthews. As someone who's become old and jaded, I find it rare when something - in this case, an opening song, the EP's title "Geographic" - grabs my attention and refuses to loosen its grip. As expected and perhaps hoped, Quiz Show features some of the eccentricities we all loved about Shudder. With Matthews's vocal style carrying more of a sinister edge, "Sunday Morning" builds on the promise of the opener, while the third and final entry, "Januhappy," dips its toe in epic greatness. If you ever need evidence that great things often come in small packages, this is it.

Quiz Show Bandcamp

 


999 – S/T Vinyl Reissue (Music on Vinyl)

I'll be the first to admit not being that enthused by my first go around with England's 999, being that I was only fourteen and had spent much of the past two years on a steady diet of the sneering Sex Pistols and the overtly political Clash. Except for The Ramones, I had little to no room on my plate for something as poppy as 999. It wasn't until a year later, when I got into acts such as The Jam, The Buzzcocks, and a handful of others, that I got hip to the many colors, sounds, and punk rock styles music in general.

For those seeking punk's early snarl and nihilism, 999's "Titanic (My Over) Reaction" ranks high. "Emergency" is deserving of inclusion of any punk rock classics conversation. The quick and racy "No Pity" also rates as a personal favorite. One can easily compare 999 to early punk acts such as Chelsea, The Ruts, and The Rich Kids (a band that featured original Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock.) I can't help but think of 999 as Punk Rock's version of glam rockers The Sweet. It's funny how more than forty years since punk's 77' explosion, there's still much to talk about and rediscover.

Music On Vinyl

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Stonehenge - S/T EP (Killing Horse Records)

Why does the term Stonehenge immediately make me think of that classic mockumentary from the 80's? Though this reviewer couldn't initially shake the vision of dwarves towering over 18-inch styrofoam Stonehenge replicas, those campy visions vanished upon being treated to Stonehenge's bluesy garage and psychedelic grooves. This EP features five songs that put some pretty exciting arrangements and melodies on display. It's an EP that grew on me with each additional listen—an EP and a band worthy of your attention and further investigation.

Killing Horse Records

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Dead Blow Hammer - "Mantis Lover/Shorter Circuits" EP(Patient Zero Records)

Featuring former members of Against the Grain, Cause for Alarm, and Agnostic Front, Dead Blow Hammer return with their second EP, their first since their jaw-dropping 2019 EP"No Repercussions," with four songs that serve as a bridge between old school and newer hardcore. "Short Circuits," "Force to Reckon," "Stand as One," and "Mantis Lover"
avoid some age-old hardcore cliques while offering enough pounding and viciousness to satisfy the punk sub genre's devotees. As noted in a review of their previous EP, there is something notably unique about Garcia's vocal approach that makes DBH stand out. Thus far, I am quite impressed by the bands' output. The EP is available on numerous platforms, including 12-inch vinyl, CD and cassette.

RevHQ

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The Cheap Cassettes - "See Her in Action " EP (Rum Bar Records)

Living in Seattle over the last three or four years has had its benefits, with access to and the opportunity to find acts that I would probably miss out on had I remained in New Jersey. One of the handful of bands I’ve kept tabs on is a very cool D.I.Y. band known as The Cheap Cassettes.
On their most recent five-song EP, the trio continues to embody all of the significant aspects and ingredients of a great rock and power pop act, proving that rock n' roll ain't dead, and it sure as hell doesn't take rocket science to find the formula for a great rock sound. "See Her In Action" features an up-front guitar sound with enough riffs, hooks, and pounding rhythms to remind one of the greats such as The Replacements, Material Issue, and just about everything you'd want from a back to basics, three chords and a quick pulse rock n' roll trio.

The five offerings (two of which are live recordings) here serve to strengthen the core of a band that seamlessly merges elements of punk with a power pop sound. As someone who doesn’t get out as much these days. I really enjoyed the live inclusions.
“See Her in Action” served as a reminder that big things often do come in small packages and how rewarding it can be to appreciate whatever samples of excellence they might offer.

Bandcamp

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Pure Hell - Noise Addiction (Puke ‘N’ Vomit Records)

Being an original act of any scene or type of music is bound to score you some points with the elders. However, it doesn't necessarily make you any better or nearly as good as the ones that came later. It's a fact proven time and time again throughout recorded history. It's something I've witnessed time and time again at clubs and bars and something I saw up close when watching a revision of Pure Hell some years ago. Recorded initially and unreleased in 1978, for the most part, this album would lay dormant until its 2006 release on Welfare Records. Having heard, owned, and seen a reshuffled version of Pure Hell perform at a downtown NYC bar, I quickly realized not all lost things should be found.

Still, with more than a decade since my last listen to Pure Hell, I figured that time apart might elicit a different reaction. Noise Addiction features 15 songs of quick-paced guitar-driven punk rock that isn't bad but never more than above average. Overall, I can't help but visualize Pure Hell as a made-up punk rock band featured on an 80's Afternoon Special. Intended or not, their cover of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Were Made for Walkin." is, at best, unbearable. In listening to Pure Hell, you never feel as if you missed out on anything. On the contrary, ytou might feel as if you've arrived at a late-night nostalgia infomercial. If, by chance, you're looking for some worthwhile long-buried proto-punk, skip this and check out Death's "... For the Whole World to See.”

Puke 'N' Vomit Records

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Omega Glory - II

Given the success Brian Meehan had with bands such as Milhouse and Kill Your Idols, I had high hopes for his new project, Omega Glory. a hope that quickly vanished upon listening to the three entries on "II ."With a name taken from the 23rd episode of the original Star-Trek television series, there were initial hopes that I was about to be treated to some spacious, out of this world jams. But on their second release, New York’s Omega Glory’s brand of extreme music does nothing to distinguish itself from their previous work, nor does it merit any consideration for being classified as music, as the dissonance of both the instruments and the screamed vocals never seem to form any cohesive gesture. For this listener and reviewer, I found it impossible to find anything remotely appealing or worth revisiting.

Bandcamp

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The Ruts - Peel Session (Crypt Records)

To understand the impact that the BBC's Peel Sessions had on upcoming and promising bands is to understand that John Peel loved music and gave his all to provide a voice for artists who might otherwise not receive it. As a teen exploring the racks and crates of my local and not so local record stores, scoring a Peel Session from any band was like unearthing a buried treasure. At the time, I wasn't the least bit aware of who John Peel actually was. But I did know that anything labeled "Peel Sessions " was going to be gold. As for London, England's The Ruts, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better, yet, rarely mentioned punk act from the era. 1979's "The Crack" is one of the essential documents of punks' impact on the era's conscience.

This 14-song session opens with "Savage Circle" and follows with The Ruts' signature anthem, "Babylon's Burning." One can immediately feel reggae's influence on the band as you find yourself drawn into the bounce and rhythmic groove. Early on, The Ruts show off their mass appeal. "Black Man’s Pinch" has the dub quality that feels as if legendary Dub pioneers Mikey Dred or Don Letts were in the engineering the entire session. Side B's "Something That I Said" and "Staring at the Rude Boys," both Ruts signature classics, take on a palpable sense of purpose in this session. In the end, I highly recommend learning more about John Peel and his impact on music as a whole, invest in every Peel Session you can find and add The Ruts "Crack" to your "Essential Albums" list.

Crypt Records

More Info on John Peel's Music Box


Outburst - Miles to Go (30th-anniversary edition) (Creep Records)

Where does the time go? Has it really been 30 years since Blackout Records released "Miles to Go?" All these years later, I can readily recall attending every Sunday hardcore matinee that CBGB's hosted, tuning into WNYU's "Crucial Chaos" every Thursday night to hear hardcore, get updates on the new releases, as well as the 411 on any other gigs that might be happening that week.
Astoria, Queens' Outburst mixed the thunderous power of bands like Sick of it All with the raw energy of acts such as Krakdown and Life's Blood. Brian's booming voice conveyed the band's dark yet honest message with rage and authenticity.

The thirtieth-anniversary release of Blackout Records "Miles to Go" features both the previously mentioned '89 ep and the '87 demo, songs that come racing out of the past, reminding you of your first trip into the mosh pit, stage dive, and the time you moved closer to the mic to join in on the chorus.

While each of the songs still sounds fresh, sonic, and impactful, warranting praise and admiration, "Thin Ice," "Misunderstood," and "SGI/Mission Impossible' from the "Miles to Go" EP and "The Hard Way' have remained my favorites over the years. The vinyl reissue is available on beautiful smoked-grey vinyl and includes a two-sided inlet that contains lyrics and iconic photos from legendary photographer BJ Pappas. A must-have for fans of hardcore, young and old.

Creep Records

Part 1 of Outburst documentary

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BL'AST – “In The Blood” (blastofficial.com)

Formed in 1982, Santa Cruz, California's BL'AST and their landmark 1985 debut "Power of Expression" is considered one of the best hardcore albums ever. Fusing hardcore punk with what felt like a soundtrack to Thrasher magazine, it would forever connect the two. Their second album and first with SST is just as deserving of a reissue spotlight and immediate investigation. By all means, BL'AST was intense, a bit scary, and as real as they came... something I experienced first hand at a CBGB's Sunday hardcore matinee. (Sorry, Cliff, our little exchange before the show scared the fuck out of me.)

'In the Blood' serves as an absolute assault on the senses. Though I've never spent any time in an insane asylum, I'd imagine much of the inspiration behind these songs came from bouts with mental illness. Slow, dark, and murky at times, quick-paced and assaultive at others; a notable departure from many of their counterparts of the time. A must for anyone into fast, loud, and manic hardcore punk. Lyrically introspective and musically penetrating,"In the Blood" was and still is a landmark document of its time: The opener "Only Time Will Tell." with its dark build. The wicked guitar opening on "Look into Myself." and the not so quiet "SSSHhh!!" are the songs on which empires are built.
In listening to these ten songs for the first time in decades, I feel that these guys didn't really take a lot of hardcore's first wave as their inspiration; on reflection and relistening, it seems to come from a much darker place—one of doubt and alienation. From start to finish, "in the Blood." is a reissue worth every moment.


The Gears - Rockin' at Ground Zero (Munster Records)

Though I came into this knowing little to nothing (okay, nothing.) about late 70's Los Angeles punk rockers The Gears, I was curious enough to give this reissue a few spins. Initially released in 1980 and featuring 15 songs of fast, loud, and upbeat punk, Rockin' at Ground Zero rockets back to life, giving those who missed it the chance to hear it again. Here is a record that took a few listens to grow on me. Though not immediate, I came to find a certain kinship with its simple punk approach, garage, and surf rock. Listening and singing along with "Don't Be Afraid to Pogo" gave me more energy than my morning flask of coffee. What's unique about The Gears is that though they were a vital cog in the tail end of the 70's Los Angeles punk scene, their sound offered something very different than bands such as X and the Germs, proving that Punk rock is not a one-dimensional, one-size-fits-all sound or style.
Buying reissues and digging a little deeper in our search for music have always been a rewarding part of appreciating and carrying on a long, sustaining love affair with music. Records like this one make me feel grateful to know that there's still stuff out there to explore after all these years.

Munster Records

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013 - TAKAISIN TODELLISUUTEEN (Punk ‘N’ Vomit Records)

It's not every day that we kids in the states find ourselves talking about European punk or hardcore, with this marking the first time, I've ever heard any form of music from Finland. I find myself eager to admit punk music is universal, and pockets of resistance and rebellious tones know no borders. The opportunity to explore a long-buried, nondomestic release is more than welcome.
Translated to English, "Takaisin Todellisuuteen" means ''Back to Reality."

Originally released domestically in 1983 by Propaganda records. "Takaisin Todellisuuteen" would, unfortunately, be the lone record for Finland's 013. My first impression is quite positive and growingly optimistic. Assuring me that I made the right choice in adding it to my cart. Soundwise, 013 played upbeat and uptempo punk with enough bounce and pop appeal to earn them praise outside of their punk circles. While I have to admit not expecting much here, I'm happy to report that I enjoyed every moment. Favorite songs include, but are not limited to, the title track, 'Takaisin Todellisuuteen' and their revved-up, kinda’ cover of Beatles George Harrison's 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps.' (Yes, I fully understand that there are well-detailed artists you are never to mock or attempt to cover, but...) Though surprising, I admit to loving everything this record had to offer. Going forward, my only question is, "Why did we have to wait so long?"

Puke 'N' Vomit Records

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Change - Closer Still (Refuse Records)

As someone who always found inspiration and solace in the more melodic and positive aspects of hardcore and '80s hardcore in general, I felt an almost immediate bond with these 13 songs. Given that comparisons to bands such as Uniform Choice, Youth of Today, and even Embrace are noticeable and unavoidable, the band's strength lies in its originality and sense of uniqueness and individuality. And though I feel myself swimming in a deep pool of 80's influences, I can't but feel hope for the present and future of hardcore.

Notable is the musicianship and production on Closer Still. Easily, some of the most pronounced vocal leads and bass lines I've heard in recent days. I can picture my old ass back in the pit, cozying up to the mic and singing along. Closer combines all the components necessary to ensure a record any fan of hardcore can identify with and revisit time after time.

Refuse Records

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The Defects - Defective Breakdown (Puke ‘N’ Vomit Records)

When I was 15, I embarked on a group trip to Ireland hosted and sponsored by a group of gun runners for the Irish Republican Army. It was my first trip abroad and about a year into my exploration of all that is punk. That day or two we spent in Belfast was the most meaningful and downright eye-opening of my early life. At the time. exploring punk rock and adding anything that fell even remotely under that banner to my quickly expanding record collection was taking up much of my free and not so free time.

If I had spent more time in record stores or had even heard of The Defects, I would have surely come back to New York with Defective Breakdown in tow. For a band now going on forty-plus years together, 1982's full-length debut for WXYZ records is one worth exploration and documentation.

Featuring 14 songs of fast-paced and raw yet upbeat anthems that immediately resonate with the listener, firmly placing themselves on your punk rock master list, it's worth noting that despite the fast-paced urgency featured on Defective Breakdown, there's a fluid pace throughout that makes one want to dance along. Ironically enough, the album's opening track, "Dance," stands out as my favorite. This reissue marks the first time it's been available domestically in the US. LP includes a 24" x 24" poster. Though I would have loved to have had more about the band, their active years, and perhaps their current whereabouts. The poster aforementioned Other standouts include "Conscription," and the album's title track "Defective Breakdown." Front to back, Defective Breakdown is a reissue worth exploring.

Get it Here

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Fatal Figures - X Minus One (Big Neck Records)

If early Nineties ABC No Rio and Ebullition bands fused with Fu Manchu and the Hellacopters, they would probably spawn a noisy garage rock band like Buffalo, New York's Fatal Figures. Formed from the embers of the bands Blowtops and Towpath, Fatal Figures have quickly carved out a sound and style that stands out and stands above a crowded field of bands that prove that rock n roll is alive, well, and replacing cars with power chords all over the planet.

Fuzz, noise, and feral vocals come together to unleash a record whose bite might be more significant than its bark. Powerful and sonic, the music featured on "X Minus One" keeps you under its spell from the first note to the last. As a super fan of "Stranger Things," I couldn't help but think this would be the perfect soundtrack to that upside-down series. As the music has an unrelenting and unwound appeal that one can't ignore. With four box sets and several other Unwound LP's nearby, I'd feel remiss not mentioning Fatal Figures' cover of "Beguiled." You’ve read my review, now go listen.

Big Neck Records

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Jeff Pezatti - First EP

The recent passing of Naked Raygun guitarist Pierre Kezdy due to cancer was tragic, to say the very least. While it served as a somewhat unnecessary reminder of the lasting impact the Chicago punk band left on so many, it more importantly drove home the adage that life is short and, if possible, you should always tell people how they somehow made a difference in your life. Which brings me to Jeff Pezatti's first solo work nearly 40 years after his first recording with Naked Raygun. Having fronted Naked Raygun, The Bomb, and an integral member of the seminal Big Black, it's somewhat of a head-scratcher when trying to comprehend how and why he hasn't compiled or released solo material over the years.
While the five entries on the "First EP" might show an entirely new side of Pezatti's aggressive punk rock persona, I find it essential to note that these songs have been sitting dormant for some time. Upon first listen, you'll immediately notice that Jeff takes a severe 180-degree turn from his punk rock roots to create a more reflective and somber setting. From the opening keys on "Make me Whole" to the spare and folky refrains on "Retro Girl," one can't help but fall under the spell of Pezatti's experimentation. Both epic and minimal simultaneously, the songs here grow on you with each additional indulgence. Having been saddled with Parkinson's and perhaps, the truths of getting older, each of the five songs featured carries a narrative of maturity rarely reached by punk architects such as he. Overall, it's a slow burn that takes a bit to wash over the listener thoroughly. However, given a chance, it will surely reward you.

The First EP

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Vanilla Muffins - The Devils Fine Day (Puke n Vomit Records)

Right off the bat, one can't help but compare Vanilla Muffins' sound to acts such as Chelsea, the Undertones, and the Buzzcocks with their bombastic yet melodic approach. It's music that, while easily relatable to consumers of melodic and pop-punk, closely mirrors that of early British street punk and oi. (Dare I say, without the right-wing politics or racism that often comes with the term "Oi.") These songs are often fast, upbeat, and melodic. Though Switzerland's Vanilla Muffins never made a wave in the United States' punk and pop-punk revival, I found that these songs were just as good and often better than what was happening at the time. Their cover of WASP's "I Wanna be Somebody" dwarfs that of the original.

And while these songs were originally crafted in the '90's, perhaps due to the influences of late '70s and early '80s punk, I can't help but feel that I'm listening to that era's music. Overall, The Devils Fine Day is one of the best and most crucial reissues to surface this year and beyond. Don't miss out on this.

Available Here

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Nabat - 1981 Laida Bologne Demo (Puke n Vomit Records)

It's not often that I listen to early European or, to be more specific, Italian hardcore other than England's Discharge or Italy's Raw Power. However, with the recent reintroduction and indulgence in bands such as GBH, The Exploited, Heresy, and Broken Bones, I've found a reborn consciousness and appreciation for European punk and hardcore, Exploring unheard and undocumented acts such as Italy's Nabat and their 1981 demo seems only natural. Sadly, most lost recordings would best be left buried. While muddling through these earliest recordings of the band, you'll get a sense of raw yet not intense punk rock that draws more from street-punk and early Oi. Featuring 14 songs in all, some of which are live, it all equals too much of a bad thing. In plowing through this, I never once felt there was anything here worth revisiting or celebrating,

Available Here

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The Clothespins - Basement Boys 1979-1981 (PNV Projectile Platters)

New London, Connecticut's The Clothespins are a long-forgotten punk band from the often-overlooked Northeastern section of the United States. Basement Boys... features 14 songs that revisit their 1979 and 1980 demos, uplifting and bouncy punk that satisfies from beginning to end. Soundwise, The Clothespins took on a first wave punk meets early power-pop sound that featured clever lyrics, edgy hooks, and melodies that could be compared to those of the Buzzcocks. There's a lot to be had here, including a somewhat snotty and spastic cover of the Beach Boys "Barbara Ann." In listening to these unearthed demos. I can't help but wonder why the Clothespins hadn't found a nationwide audience or even taken to a long road of relative obscurity. Luckily, there's an insert providing some color to the bands' background and history, even featuring several flyers.

Available here




Orange 9mm - S/T (Revelation Records)

While 1990 brought us arguably the last iconic NYHC record with Burn's self-titled EP (featuring graffiti writer and New Breed fanzine and tape compilation co-founder Chaka 'Mailk' Harris,) 1993 brought us the full-length debut of post-hardcore pioneers Quicksand. Then 1994 delivered the S/T EP by Orange 9mm, which deserves both further investigation and high praise.

Formed in 1993 by Chaka 'Malik' Harris (Burn), Chris Traynor (Another Wall, Fountainhead), Eric Rice (who would go on to play with H2O,) and Larry Gorman (Reach Out, Fountainhead, Head Automatica,) anyone remotely close or aware of how post-core was emerging and evolving around them had high expectations.

As far as vinyl reissues go, Orange 9mm's four song self-titled debut EP was and is a post-core staple that deserves praise and company with such classics as Quicksand's Slip and Burn's self-titled debut. From the moment the needle hits the record, and vocalist Chaka Malik screams, "What's left for you when you can't find nothing special?," you know you're in for something fresh, unique, and quite impressive. Harnessing the powerful anger and energy of hardcore, the technicality of metal, and the bounce, rhythm, and flow that a classic hip hop, Orange 9mm served up a hybrid of infectious sounds long before the term became reserved for the Nu-Metal acts dominating the airwaves. Orange 9mm would release three albums with EastWest, Atlantic, and Ng records, but none would entirely light the fuse that their debut did. Featuring four songs, their debut, at least to my ears, is the band at its creative and sonic apex. Don't miss out.

RevHQ

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Pariiah - Swallowed By Fog

As I look out my window these days, I can't help but think how inspired director John Carpenter would be by the cloak of fog and smoke we West Coast residents have gotten used to experiencing. Well, folks, dark times call for dark, angry music, and as the overwhelming majority of people know, we're neck-deep in the dark ages.

With personnel that have played in and contributed to bands such as Devoid of Faith, Milhouse, Kill Your Idols, Snag, Mothman, The Nolan Gate, Das Oath and more, Pariiah gives you several individuals who have made notable contributions to hardcore, metal and extreme music.

The four-song set opens with "Message of Pain," a terrifying exorcism that nourishes the soul while completely devouring it. "Steady Flow of Blood" follows, leaving a palpable impression that can only be described by its namesake. "Red Hour" deserves praise and countless returns due to its dark yet hooky guitar riffs. The last and final entry, "Swallowed By Fog/Outro," stands as my personal favorite as its riffs, rhythms, and ominous vocals wrap and sum up how this completely took hold of my attention while having me wish for more.

Pariiah

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You and I – Complete (Repeater Records)

Though countless music trends have not aged well and are best forgotten and seldom revisited, the screamo scene of the mid to late '90s will always be deserving of finger-pointing and joyous mockery. Along with mall punk and people calling themselves "Emos.". Screamo represented something that many punk and hardcore alumni couldn't or wouldn't quite find common ground.

Which brings me to New Brunswick, New Jersey's You and I, and "Complete." A complete discography featuring twenty-five songs from the bands two albums, 1997's "Saturday's cab ride home." 1999's "The curtain falls." Their self-titled 7" and the "Within the frame." CD EP.

As much as I and many others might feel drawn to discographies of lesser-known acts, there has to be a common thread that solidifies the bond. As someone who never felt drawn to screamo hardcore bands. I had an incredibly hard time making my way through these songs. In comparison, I do find myself appreciating the almost mathematic technicalities of the music. I couldn't help but feel drowned by the cacophony of the vocals. If you're a fan of the screamo style and bands such Orchid, then go ahead, take a swim. I, on the other hand, wish never to hear this again.

Available Here

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The Successful Failures - Pack Up Your Shadows

While you might not have heard of these New Jersey indie rockers, The Successful Failures have been active since 2005. Long enough to fill a bio with more information than anyone would ever care to know or have the time to read.
The band's eighth album to date features songs that include influences such as the blues, a heavy dose of southern rock, and 70's style AOR dad rock with a heavy Country music influence. The further I got into their eighteen-song album, the more I became unable to relate to what sounded like a tired bar band taking the stage at a local dive or V.F.W. hall just minutes before the bartender announces "last call!"
In the end, TSF's "Pack up your shadows" didn't resonate with me, sounding like nothing more than a weathered old bar band. Not terrible, but nothing I'd consider taking home and throwing on the turntable.

Available Here

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Gunn-Truscinski Duo – Soundkeeper

On their fourth album to date, this one a double album, the duo of Gunn and Truscinski take us on a long and often torturous trip of sounds that can only be likened to a bad batch of acid. Featuring twelve songs that are both atmospheric and lofty in composition, the sounds on Soundkeeper seemed destined to be dismantled and used sporadically as samples for a cheesy sci-fi flick,
s ongs that never once held my attention or admiration and only served to remind me why I never gained an appreciation for prog-rock. How do talented and gifted musicians so often make boring or terrible music?

In laboring over these recordings, one can only wonder, is there an audience for this, or is it just twirling-the-knobs experimentation for its own sake? With songs like "Pyramid Merchandise." and "Soundkeeper" eclipsing the ten-minute mark, anyone with even the slightest attention disorder issues will be running for cover. Listening to Gunn-Truscinski's Soundkeeper reminds me that, while I always respected and understood the importance of science, I never felt the urge to apply it to music.

Available Here

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Fake Nature - Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Big Neck Records)

Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb delivers fast-paced, upbeat, and uptempo pop-punk that feels immediate yet sustainable. I can't help but admit to undervaluing the record due to the album cover photo and title, which I still find a bit goofy.
Musically, Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb has a relentless pace that reminds me of the Ramones. Fake Nature has an approach that is both bombastic, and relatable; imagine The Avengers mentoring the Distillers, or influences such as The Donnas, the Muffs. And perhaps, the Runaways.
While songs such as "Perverse Mortgage" and the final track, "Let Dog Sort 'em Out" became instant favorites, there are numerous excellent songs here, including the hooky and powerful "Treatment Bound" and the bratty, yet strength-exuding "The Walking Red," more than deserving of honorable mention. All in all, there's not a weak entry to be found on this album. Fake Nature bite the term "pop-punk" in the ass while quickening its pace and jump-starting its vitals.

Available Here

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Faith - Live At CBGB's (Outer Battery)

When I turned fourteen, I began a journey into what would feed my soul for decades to come— a world known to a minority of kids and young adults as hardcore. It was the early Eighties, and underground music wasn't nearly as accessible as it is today. You had to dig deeper, learn from word of mouth, and perhaps attach yourself to an older kid to show you the ropes. That's how I learned about Minor Threat, Bad Brains, 7 Seconds, and so many more. The D.C band known as Faith, however, was a different story. Born out of the early camp of Dischord bands and possessing a harsher, more discordant sound than most of the bands to be featured on the label, Faith's members would come from and eventually find themselves filling the ranks of numerous and highly influential bands, such as State of Alert, Ignition, The Warmers, Rain, Edsel, and Girls Against Boys.
Live at CBGB's' 'December 26th,1981 features twenty-five songs marked as "Set One" and "Set Two." Time may or may not have diminished the importance of hearing live material from a band that's been deceased for more than thirty-five years. But as someone who still appreciates the many acts that came before his participation or knowledge of such music, I was excited to hear this. Add the consistently excellent sound recorded off the board at CBGB's, and this became a must-have. Live comes with detailed liner notes from the band and is featured on color vinyl.

Outer Battery

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Science Man - Match Game (Swimming Faith Records)

One can't help but get a sense of schizophrenia while holding Science Man's 'Match Game' in their hands. As the gatekeeper for this review, I gave up on making heads or tails on the chicken scratch that adorns the back cover. The nine songs featured within would be best described as industrial with added mania, terror, horror, and short exhales of murderous intentions. With most songs coming in at under a minute and 'Changeling' being the only one to break the minute and a half mark, I felt grateful to escape unscathed. The record itself is limited to 250 copies. Not bad, but as someone who never got near falling under the spell of industrial music. Not my thing.

Swimming Faith Records

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The Midnight Vein - Till it Explodes (Swimming Faith Records)

" Till It Explodes" features two new songs from Buffalo New York’s The Midnight Vein. Formed in 2017, The Midnight Vein seems to be the brainchild of musician John Toohill. The single gathers influences such as shoegaze, dream pop, and psychedelic, styles that might find themselves thriving within England's M'90's Madchester music scene. The single itself has a lingering effect, however simplified by its low-fi recording. Such simplicity works well in showcasing the undeniable quality of these songs.

Swimming Faith

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Bitter Branches - This may hurt a bit (Atomic Action)

Fronted by Tim Singer of Deadguy, Kiss It Goodbye, and No Escape, Bitter Branches also features members of Walleye and Cavalry. I'll never get over my fondness of the band Kiss it Goodbye or forget the first time I heard No Escape's only demo or saw them play a set at Middlesex College, reasons that drew me to and made me feel connected to Bitter Branches. Self-described and perhaps best described as "Pure Mayhem," This may hurt a little bit is musically harsh, unyielding, and brutal. Singers' vocal style has always carried a certain cathartic yet vicious devilment level with spiraling guitar riffs and pounding rhythms. It's great to hear that time or age hasn't mellowed the cast's approach or technique. Though the 12" only features five songs, they pack more punch and make more impact than most of the full-lengths I've heard from the sub-genre in recent years. I'd wholeheartedly recommend Bitter Branches to any fans of hardcore punk and/or extreme music of any kind.

Atomic Action Records

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Constant Elevation - Freedom Beach (Revelation Records)

Seeing with how much I enjoyed CE's 2019's debut 7-inch for Revelation Records, I figured it a good bet to invest the time in listening to and possibly reviewing this new collection of songs. Constant Elevation started in 2018 as a project between singer-songwriter Vinnie Caruana of The Movielife, I Am the Avalanche, and Peace'd Out, and drummer Sammy Siegler of Youth Of Today, Rival Schools, and many more. In the time since their 2019 debut, Caruana and Siegler decided to expand their project into a band by recruiting bassist Jani Zubkovs of Caspian and guitarist Mike Ireland of Pass Away and I Am The Avalanche. "Freedom Beach" impresses from the first breath of "I love you and never want you to die." Teeming with excellent musicianship and intelligent songwriting, right out of the gate, the listener embraces a sound that teems with authenticity. The fourth song and title track "Freedom Beach" raises the stakes and stands out as the EP's best.

RevHQ

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Her Head's on Fire - Two song demo (Self Released)

Rather cleverly self-described as "REM having sex with Samiam, Oasis gets to watch," this New York quartet does a relatively good job of stirring the pot with their self -titled two-song demo. My initial reaction to hearing the first entry "Sugar Lips" was very positive, thinking, what if Dinosaur JR decided to revisit their more punk Deep Throat origins? Overall, this was a quick yet rewarding listen that had me looking forward to more.

Bandcamp

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Soulside - The Ship (Dischord)

Wow. Is it possible that Soulside hasn't released a record since 1989? Funny how I recall writing about it for the second issue of my fanzine, Unite, pecking away on my grandmother's Underwood typewriter as the musicianship and lyrics forever changed my conscience as I listened to the song "Bass." Looking back, except for the Clash and maybe the Bad Brains or Public Enemy, no one had more influence on my socio-political beliefs than Bobby Sullivan and Soulside. Decades later, the appearance of a new record featuring three new songs is, perhaps, the last thing one would expect.

"Ships" has a very tribal, dare I say, almost nautical, feel to it. Thankfully, Soulside's overall sense of rhythm and taste for socially poetic lyrics haven't changed over time as "rise people, rise" echoes in Sullivans' narrative. "Madeline Says" and "Survival" follow with equal strength and integrity. The recording itself sounds large, yet intimate, giving off the largeness of an orchestra performing in a small room. Listening to newly crafted Soulside songs, created and performed by the original cast of characters, for the first time in over thirty years was incredibly rewarding, further enhancing the importance of Soulside’s music and overall message.

Dischord Records

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Shades Apart – Eternal Echo (Hellminded Records)

With memories of seeing Shades Apart perform at CBGB's and the Pipeline still simmering in my sub-conscience, I can't help but think of the lasting impact of their self-titled debut. The band's coupling of melodic punk and hardcore with emotive lyrics likened them more to a Revolution Summer Dischord sound and ethos than that of heavier, perhaps more hardcore-aligned bands of the time.

On their first effort since 2001's somewhat overlooked Sonic Boom, Shades Apart prove that the time apart hasn't stripped the band of anything that made them unique in the past — featuring a barrage of fierce guitar leads, crashing rhythms and anthemic vocals that will have you singing along before you've learned the lyrics. Fiery, straight forward elements of Shades' classic emotive charge can be heard on tracks like the opener 'So What Now' meet more rock radio-friendly 'Dark Valley Lake.' Ten well written and well-executed rock songs that includes elements of heartfelt honesty and integrity. A nice, out of the blue, release from a band that's brought me so much joy over the years.

Hellminded Records

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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 fits the "featuring present and former members of" category, although in NJ we'd just call them a supergroup. On the band's self-titled, eight-song debut, Second Arrows put 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, it's a listening experience I would struggle to find a reason to revisit, let alone, repeat.

Hell Minded Records

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Fatal Figures - X Minus One (Big Neck Records)

If early Nineties ABC No Rio and Ebullition bands fused with Fu Manchu and the Hellacopters, it would probably spawn a noisy garage rock band like Buffalo, New York's Fatal Figures. Formed from the embers of the bands Blowtops and Towpath, Fatal Figures have quickly carved out a sound and style that stands out and stands above a crowded field of bands that prove that rock and roll is alive, well and replacing cars with power chords all over the planet. Fuzz, noise, and feral vocals come together to unleash a record whose bite might be more significant than its bark. Powerful and sonic, the music featured on 'X Minus One' keeps you under its spell from the first note to the last. As a super fan of the series 'Stranger Things," I couldn't help but think this would be the perfect soundtrack to the upside-down happenings, as the music has an unrelenting and unwound appeal that one can't ignore. With four box sets and several other Unwound LP's nearby, I'd feel remiss not mentioning Fatal Figures cover of "Beguiled." You’ve read my review, now go listen.

Big Neck Records

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Brain Bagz / Blood Bags Split 12-inch (Big Neck records)

With names like Brain Bagz and Blood Bags, you know what you're going to get. Both those names appear on this 12-inch split also lead one to believe they weren't looking to offer any diversity, which is, sadly, what I got . Featuring eleven songs of noisy, unhinged garage rock (five from Brain Bagz and six from Blood Bags,) the split lacks the elements and ingredients to set the bands apart or make them stand out. Though this wasn't terrible, its lack of depth and thin production leaves a lot to be desired. Overall, it fails to grab the attention or imagination of the listener.

Big Neck Records

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Suggested Friends – Turtle Taxi LP (Fika Recordings/HHBTM )

Founded in London in 2015, the proud and outspokenly 3/4 lesbian act Suggested Friends combines a sense of '90s DIY ethos with punk's idealism and a knack for songwriting that impresses on many levels. The band's second album is earmarked by warm melodies, as uplifting harmonies guide songs. Turtle Taxi pops and crackles with authenticity and an easily identifiable familiarity within, one that gives the album and its songs an anchor that balances the entire album.

It's been a few weeks since I first dropped the needle on Suggested Friends' "Turtle Taxi" and eventually download it to my hard drive. Time well spent, as each listen seems to reward me with a greater appreciation and understanding of what is, unquestionably, one of the years’ most nourishing releases. Call it pop-infused folk music or call it folk-infused pop music. It doesn't matter much when the album's songwriting and crafting are this good.



Sunshine State - The Mess

Sometimes, being ambushed can be a good thing, a feeling I got when first listening to Florida's four-piece unit Sunshine State. "The Mess" immediately makes its mark with an unhealthy amount of hammering guitar riffs, pulse-quickening rhythms, and snarled vocals, all of which help form a punk-infused rock & roll mash-up pleasing as might be, considering the band name and Gainesville, Florida origin.

Featuring a very even ten songs, "The Mess" is equally engaging and anthemic.
The album's opening track "Hard Life" sets the tone while establishing the identity of the hard-rocking Sunshine State. Favorites on the incredibly well balanced "The Mess" include but are in no way limited to the aforementioned "Hard Life," "Shake it off," "Keller Family Curse," "Passenger," and last, but certainly not least, the final cut, "Cash In Hand."

Bandcamp

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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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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.

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


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