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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Blow Hammer - "Mantis Lover/Shorter Circuits" EP(Patient
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
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.
Cheap Cassettes - "See Her in Action " EP (Rum
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
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
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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?"
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.
Defects - Defective Breakdown (Puke ‘N’ Vomit
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
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.
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.
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
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.
- 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,
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
Were Promised Jetpacks – "Out of Interest"
EP (Big Scary Monsters)
I first heard the name We Were Promised Jetpacks back when
their 2009 debut "These Four Walls" dropped on Fat
Cat Records, so it's somewhat strange that I've never found
the time or interest to give the band a listen. Odd considering
the Edinburg, Scotland band have one of the catchiest handles
ever known to indie rock.
The bands' second release on Big Scary Monster Records features
five big, atmospheric songs that I couldn't wait to free myself
from. The EP's title "Out of Interest" is eerily
telling, as nothing featured here captured any of mine. While
I'm sure there's an audience for orchestrations such as these,
I found no kinship in listening to this.
They say that in music and just about everything else, that
there's something for everyone. It's a fundamental truth.
For me, this was a complete and total bore. Think, the Smiths
on horse tranquilizers. If heroin had a sound, WWPJ would
most likely lead the way.
Wow, this brought me back in so many ways. You see, back in
the early to mid-Nineties, I dated a beautiful woman I had
known since my teens—a girl who loved music just as
much, if not more than myself. With different yet often compatible
tastes and a love of different genres, we did our best to
influence one another through mixtapes and record exchanges.
One particular band that she wasn't able to sell me on (most
likely due to my own unrefined, narrow acceptance) was the
Wedding Present. That is, until I begrudgingly agreed to accompany
her to a small venue in Tribeca. That night, I decided to
open my mind, heart, and ears to new experiences and sounds.
To quote the late great John Peel, "The boy Gedge has
written some of the best love songs of the Rock' n' Roll Era.
You may dispute this, but I'm right, and you're wrong!"
With recognizable influences ranging from the Buzzcocks to
the Fall and a gift for clever songwriting, one would be foolish
to overlook a band like the Wedding Present.
Though singer/songwriter/musician David Gedge would be
the group's only mainstay, his leadership and focus would
leave an everlasting and impressive mark on the Wedding
Present. As one who's never been a fan of re-recording old
material, I might have otherwise passed up the opportunity
to pick this up. However, there is a noticeable improvement
in the sound, as the original had a somewhat tinny sound
throughout. There's also a bit of added muscle to the most
evident songs in the guitar sound. Getting the chance to
hear the band for the first time in more than twenty years
via an improved recording left me with a joyous impact.
Featuring twelve songs, Tommy 30 is borderline
genius, a perfect reminder and document of its time. Luckily
and not so surprisingly, the songs have aged very well and
are even more enjoyable thanks to these re-recordings. I'd
feel remiss in recommending this album without urging everyone
to look into their back catalog. Think early Cure meets
the Smiths without all the weirdness and anti-social mannerisms.
Post-punks M is We teams up with Night Battles to create
one of the most exciting couplings in recent memory, taking
different paths toward a similarly dark destination. Musically,
both M is We and Night Battles offer satisfying and compelling
tracks. With “What You Carry,” Carrboro NC's
post-punk M is We bring to mind long gone acts such as Joy
Divison, Tubeway Army, and early-day Cure, with a touch
of Factory Records weirdness. The synth-heavy style gives
their sound a definitive dark wave nuance.
As for Raleigh's Night Battles, a band I've previously reviewed,
“Flat On My back” is a slow-burning entry that
carries a dark, sinister vocal approach, moving rhythms,
and genre-shifting guitar riffs to make for a post-punk
track that warrants praise and comparison to "Slip"-era
Quicksand. Though the record only features two songs (one
from each contributor,) listening drew me to long for more
from each act. Once again, proving that big things often
come in small packages.
Tribute to The Hellacopters: South America to the max! (Devil’s
Thanks to Devil’s Beat Records for coming up with
the idea and releasing this incredible tribute to the Hellacopters,
South America to the max. Formed in 1994, Sweden
garage rockers the Hellacopters brought with them influences
ranging from The MC5, the Stooges, and early punk to even
heavier bands such as Motorhead and Venom. Much like the
Hellacopters, the South American artists featured on this
tribute deliver cutthroat and concise eulogies that both
honor the Hellacopters and elicit plenty of interest in
what they're doing otherwise. Favorite tracks include "Ghoul
School" by Uraguay's Motosierra, "Toys of Flavor"
by Argentina's Cobra Sarli, "Sometimes I Don't Know"
by the ska flavored Brazilian act Cianide Summer, and "Venus
In Force" by Argentina's Bad Magick. Though no booklet
or liner notes detail the history of The Hellacopters or
tells the story of the bands involved in the tribute, the
album’s cover highlights each group, their personnel,
and country of origin.
Considering that most tributes tend to fall short of accomplishing
their mission, I found these covers to be an excellent tribute
to the Hellacopters while shining a light on some noteworthy
acts that you might want to look into. The vinyl version
is limited to only one hundred copies. So, if you want one,
you best do it quick.
– Protest and Survive: The Anthology (BMG)
At a time when people worldwide are risking their safety to
take to the streets and protest police brutality and demand
equal rights, we need to speak out about music that cried
out and sometimes screamed for change... a time to write about
the mighty Discharge.
Formed in 1977 during the first wave of punk, England's Discharge
would go on to arguably, become the most politically charged
band in the history of punk rock. Their 1981 EP "Never
Again" and their 1982 full length Hear Nothing, See
Nothing, Say Nothing are considered to be landmark recordings
that have stood the test of time.
While I had seen the name embroidered on the backs of countless
punk rockers' dungaree and leather jackets throughout my
teens, getting an earful of Discharge would have to wait.
It wasn't until a friend gave me a mixed tape that featured
"Hear Nothing..." that I heard the error of my
ways. While it's easy to compare and speak of the similarities
between Discharge and the band CRASS, Discharge's output
and influence on many punk, metal, and thrash acts to come
can never be questioned.
This two-disc collection features 55 songs in all, six
of which are unreleased gems. Disc One features 29 tracks
taken from their many releases. Disc 2 is a goldmine of
remixes, alternate takes, extended versions, and demo tracks.
Also included is a booklet that features band photos and
the history of Discharge, written by the legendary music
historian Ian Glasper.
No matter where you sit, Protest and Survive:
serves as a great addition or introduction to Discharge,
their music, and their message; whether as a collection
for diehards or a musical Cliff Notes to newcomers, Discharge's
Anthology is an absolute must.
Featuring Philadelphia's Soul/Ska Catbite and the East Bay's
Ska/Punk newcomers Omnigone, the two acts team up on a split
7 inch for independent record label Bad Time Records. Each
band offers a Clash cover as well as an original. Philly's
Catbite took a few listens to grow on me and never left any
lasting impression. Their style brings the L.A. ska band the
Interrupters to mind with more of 90's third-wave ska vibe.
Catbite's decision to cover the Clash classic "White
Riot" was, at the very least, unfortunate. Their take
on the song sucks out all the intended anger and outrage of
the original, giving it a cartoonish Saturday morning breakfast
cereal vibe. I like the energy and angst Omnigone put forth
on their two songs. Their ska/punk sound feels both authentic
and appealing. Their music evokes punk and metal elements,
which give their version of ska a cool yet demented angle.
Their slightly updated "Nothing New." provides the
song with somewhat of a breath of fresh air. Overall, I found
this split to be enjoyable, yet not all that sustainable.
Altthough Seattle's The Unfit has been kicking the tires of
rock & roll since 2012, this 10-song self-titled LP stands
as their debut. When an album introduces itself with a title
like "Caged Rats and Hamster Wheels," you know damn
well what you're getting yourself into. Whether or not there's
a reason behind the bands' sloth-like approach to releasing
music, they've more than made up for what might otherwise
seem like lost time.
The Unfit mix things up seamlessly, as the raucous foursome
feature songs that are fast and unflinching at times and
slow and deliberate at others. Knuth's vocals have a confident
snarl that matches up with bombast created by bandmates
Johnson, Lee, and Johnson. Think Rock & Roll with a
Punk attitude. Imagine members of Black Flag and Rocket
from the Crypt forming a band with a heavy AC/DC influence.
Let's hope the Unfit don't leave us waiting too long for
a dose of new songs. In the meantime, I'm sure these will
keep me occupied.
On Rosenstock's fifth solo album to date, the pop-punk veteran
and once frontman of The Arrogant Sons of Bitches and beloved
Bomb the Music Industry follows similar themes present in
much of his solo output, emotional and frustrating themes
such as alienation and disenchantment with an added level
of emotional derailment that might come from enduring a speedball
of issues politically, socially, and environmentally. These
topics can be easily relatable. However, in listening to these
pop-punk meets power pop songs, one can quickly conclude that
Rosenstock sounds like a man growing more and more emotionally
The quick-paced and loose nature of these songs reminded
me somewhat of the sound and approach of the music coming
out of Lookout Records in their early days. Thirteen songs
that, while not bad, took numerous listens to absorb fully.
To wrap up this review, I'd feel remiss without reiterating
that Dreams isn't a bad album in any way, j ust
one that didn't appeal to me.
Is it possible that this is the same Bristol indie-pop act
that briefly appeared on the Eastern sea border's horizon
during the late '80s? Why, yes, it is. On their first album
in thirty-four years. The Flatmates, featuring both original
members and newcomers return with thirteen songs of pop-flavored
Sadly, there wasn't much here to warrant more than one casual
l and, for the most part, a painstaking listen. Which, unfortunately,
can almost entirely fall on the band's chosen vocalist Lisa
Bouvier. In enduring this record, it quickly becomes evident
that the choice to have her carry these otherwise likable
songs was a bad one.
Maybe it comes with getting older, but at some point in life,
you realize that it's the little things that bring us the
most joy. For me, the less complicated, the better. Perhaps
that is why I gravitated so much toward Jersey City singer,
songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Tom Barrett's latest
offering. "051480" is a collection of solo acoustic
songs recorded at home during the recent Coronavirus pandemic,
an entire album of songs he dedicated to his wife, Stacy.
Songs that resonate with the listener on multiple levels,
serving as calm in the storm. The level of warmth, intimacy,
and soothing on these tracks could easily find origins in
the simplicity of the recording, lack of overproduction, and
Favorites such as "...Kitties...", "I haven't
kept up with you.", " (other) Birds", "Together,
together, together...", "halfway there, you guys.",
and "Pink moon II" help create a sketch of a songwriter
in his stripped-down and raw best. While it isn't yet clear
if and how these songs will be released or distributed beyond
Tom's Bandcamp page, I couldn't help but feel drawn and
captivated by these arrangements.
Fuzzed out and devilish garage rock from Woodstock, New York
that’s frenetic, feral, and totally twisted. Skin
Suit features 13 songs that are part rock show, part
demonic possession. Intended or not, the band's knack for
creating a somewhat raunchy sound while not surrendering any
territory in production value is worth noting (and it probably
helps that Jon Spencer produced.) The Bobby Lees' penchant
for creating fuzzed-out garage rock leaves very little room
for improvement, warranting - no, insisting - on the listeners'
attention. While it's hard to make comparisons when something
this fresh sounding and honest comes along, imagine the White
Stripes and Dead Moon joined the devil himself for bluesy
mud bath. Choosing a favorite song here would be like choosing
one way to enjoy chocolate.
Brooklyn-based badass band How Tragic make quite an entrance
with their 4-song EP "Past Lives." It's quite rare
when something immediately grabs your attention and has you
gravitating to its core. As someone who witnessed a fair share
of street fights as a youth, that's what I thought of when
hearing the opening seconds of the opening track "Deathwish."
"That voice! That voice!" Could there be a better
vehicle than Paige Campbells' voice for these four songs?
Absolutely fucking not!
"Deathwish," "Spare Me," "Let
Me Down," and "Done" are equally grandiose.
With the bowel-shaking shrills overload the senses, parts
confident strength and swagger, part vulnerable innocence.
These songs feel honest and lived in, adding strokes of
emotive brilliance that play with elements of punk, pop-punk,
and power pop without settling in long enough to be generalized
or put on a shelf.
How Tragic live somewhere between L7, The Donnas and The
Distillers. In my humble opinion, even better. This small
sample hints at greatness.
Wow! Is it possible that punk legend Alice Bag, the same woman
who fronted the seminal L.A. punk band The Bags, is back with
this album? The Bag, who released one essential E.P. and appeared
in the incredibly influential documentary "Decline of
Western Civilization?" Yes, it's that Alice Bag, and
I find myself scratching my head as to how 2020's "Sister
Dynamite" is only her third solo album to date.
Sister Dynamite features 12 songs that immediately
resonate with the listener, with enough hooks to leave the
kind of marks you'll not only remember, but recall in conversation.
"Oh, those? I got them while listening to Alice Bag's
Music and vocals combine with uptempo, fast-paced, and
compelling elements. The strength and conviction conveyed
in Bag's voice are remarkable. Edgy guitar leads and pounding
rhythms accompany each note acting as a knockout combination.
Choosing a couple or even a handful of favorites from the
album would be quite a task, one I'm not sure I can handle.
Instead, I'll report that each of the album's twelve entries
had my eyes and ears at attention.
When you find yourself in a slump when it comes to new and
exciting music, a band like Dinosaur Eyelids comes along and
drops an album like Sticker Famous in your lap and
screams in your ear "You're not too old for this!"
Thanks to New Brunswick's Dinosaur Eyelids and their latest
offering, that slump came to a screeching halt.
The album features 11 songs that capture both the raw, cathartic
energy of both a hard-hitting local indie band and the technical
chops of a more established one. Whereas 2017's Left Turn
On Right put some serious hooks in me, somehow, 2020's
Sticker Famous actually might be a step up for the
band. Featuring a hard rock and garage edge and appeal that
completely knocks the listener on their ass, the album showcases
a heavy guitar sound, rhythmic twists, and varied vocal range.
Though Dinosaur Eyelids are cooking up their very own snake
oil, comparing or likening them to greats such as Fu Manchu,
Hot Snakes, and New Jersey's own Rye Coalition seem accurate.
As I finish my review and try to nail down the recording's
'absolute halcyon moments, whether I’m being reminded
of the Foo Fighters best days on “Shake” or “Never
Leaving Here,” the fiery guitars featured within “Never
Gonna be your Woman” or on songs such as, “Nogward
Spiral” and “Shot to Shit” Owhere the vocal
range seems to be channeling that of Chris Cornell,) I found
Sticker Famous to be an incredible rock album. One
that delivers on all cylinders.
Dodies – It’s One Hell of a Ride (Vampire Poodle
Israeli garage rock duo the Dodies make quite an impression
on their thirteen-song debut LP, combining bombastic guitar
work and percussion with vocals that show off a wide range
of emotions and styles. Yoni Avittan fronts the band as lead
vocalist and guitarist, as Ran Aronson sings backing vocals
while simultaneously playing bass lines on keyboard with one
hand and playing the entire drum kit with the other.
"Boiling Point" brashly opens the affair, instantly
distinguishing itself as a personal favorite with its confident
swagger. "Sell Out" and "Alien" follow
suit with similar output before "Suleyman" slows
things a bit, allowing the listener to take a long enough
breath to notice the Dodies ability to change gears with
just enough and maybe more knack for creating a music palette
that features many colors and shapes. While it's a tough
call, choosing favorites from such an excellent and well-balanced
recording would include the aforementioned "Boiling
Point" and the subdued "Buffoon," which stayed
with me the longest. In the end, The Dodies deliver so many
different elements to these songs that strictly referring
to them as "Garage Rock" only tells part of the
65's - Never Say Never (Pyrrhic Victory Records)
As I've come to embark on a project that involves reviewing
decades of photos I've taken at shows, practice spaces, and
beyond, I can't help but wonder where many of the bands and
musicians are today. Being that it's been forever since I
last heard New Jersey's blue-collar rock band The 65's, I
had no idea what to expect from "Never Say Never."
Though the band's personnel might have seen some personnel
changes over the years, (name one that hasn't ) The 65's continue
to capture the gritty emotions of lives fully lived. "Never
Say Never"'s three songs make a lasting impression, thanks
to Joe Pugsley's gravely vocals and jagged guitar leads and
the rhythms of Steele, Strucke, and Roessler. The three songs
featured here combine elements of punk, bar room grit, and
blue-collar rock, reminding me somewhat of early Social Distortion.
While I'm sure mentioning one's past musical endeavors and
achievements is very important when writing a bio, it's essential
in gauging the attention of a prospective listener. It can
also elicit a certain amount of enthusiasm that otherwise
might not be present. Such was the case with the Sinclairs
and the ten surf-rock tunes on Sparkle. Formed by
founding Damned drummer Rat Scabies and Billy Shinbone, the
duo set its sites on creating a surf-noir sound that might
remind listeners of those classic Spaghetti Westerns of the
Though featuring a collection of well performed and produced
songs that pay homage to what very well might be a lost
and often under-appreciated subgenre of rock, The Sinclairs
never seem to pass as anything more than a tribute to the
surf rock sound. Though not a bad album, per se, Sparkle
quickly had my interest drifting away. By the third song,
"Recover," I couldn't help but think I was navigating
one long, 2:00 am Viagra infomercial. Though I love revisiting
a good surf tune by acts such as The Ventures or the late,
great Dick Dale, The Sinclairs failed to interest this listener.
The album will be available May 8.
Me and This Fuckin' Guy - Garden Variety Fuckers
While mentioning that John S. Hall both formed and fronted
the avant-garde masters King Missile might seem like a lazy
man's attempt to gain one's interest, it's nearly impossible
not to notice both his presence and the uncanny likeness
You, Me & This Fucking Guy share with the aforementioned
act. Add Azalia Snail and Dan West (Lovey Dove) to the fold
and you have a trio with a very memorable name on what,
by all means, sounds like a concept album. The expletive
heavy narrative that is Garden… gets old quickly and
seems to drag on forever. I would have enjoyed this a lot
more as a two-song single as opposed to an entire album.
Unfortunately, I got a lot more than needed; the album’s
12 songs would have come across much better if shaved down
to just a few. Overall, this lacked the substance and depth
to be enjoyed as anything more than a campy single.
In all likelihood, when thinking of Local H, you probably
think of the ominous, yet catchy single "Bound for
the Floor" from their charting 1996 album As Good
as Dead. Understandable, considering it was their first
taste of worldwide airplay and the song's accompanying video
received heavy rotation on MTV. However, Chicago's Local
H had been actively playing in small clubs since the late
'80s, having released albums and singles before Good
as Dead as well as contributing to compilations and
soundtracks under a more indie cloak. Maybe that's why being
given a new Local H full length in 2020 was somewhat unexpected—perhaps
allowing me to go into listening to Lifers with
little to no expectations. Before, that is, having my mind
more or less blown.
The aptly titled Lifers offers 11 eclectic songs
that feature dense. dark, ominous, and engaging elements.
While sounding like a fresh breath of sinister aggression,
one can't help but find remnants of the '90s with moments
that reminded me of the likes of Monster Magnet, White Zombie,
and notably Nirvana on "High and Stupid." There's
calm within the storm as the acoustic charms of "Sunday
Best" show that Local H is more than capable of providing
some reflective moments. Overall, it's a whirlwind of feral
energy. It's quite rare when a band creates its best work
this late in its career. However, Lifers might
be their best work to date—a record worth exploring
with focus, attention, and determined intention.
I still fondly recall my first trips to the Anthrax club in
Connecticut. I was sixteen, maybe seventeen, but damn did
those shows shape me and my love of straight edge bands and
what was called posi-core. Perhaps that's why I still keep
a lookout for young groups who come up from that area and
continue to fly the flag of clean living. Last Straw's demo
features four songs, with one being an instrumental intro.
It wasn't easy to get a thorough feel for the band, though
they certainly aren't breaking much new ground by sounding
like an 80's posi-core act and addressing issues like peer
pressure and drinking. But hey, I'm sure today's kids are
dealing with a lot of the same things we did back when dinosaurs
still walked the earth. I have to admit to liking what I hear.
The riffs, breakdowns, and vocals each sound great. If you’re
into bands like Youth of Today, BOLD or Wide Awake, you’d
most likely want to check this out.
If the legendary Black Flag and Santa Cruz weirdos BL'AST
were ever to join forces to start a side project, it would,
without a doubt, sound like Cold Feet, reminding me of all
the great and eccentric bands that came out of the west coast
during the first and second waves of American Hardcore.
This EP delivers 8 tracks of fast, frantic punk that sound
and feel deeply-rooted in American Hardcore’s fabric,
yet original in that it all feels honest, free of any sense
of being a nostalgia act.
For all of you locals and old school Punks, this would
please any fans of New Jersey's Adrenaline OD or New York's
Stisism, "Punk Entity" is available as a digital
download and limited color vinyl. For more information,
check out the link below.
Whenever rock or mockumentaries depict the first wave of British
invasion acts of the early Sixties, I can't help but recall
a band named the Dave Clark Five. When it comes to ensembles
with a saccharine sound and matching suits, The Dave Clark
Five almost instantly come to mind. While often credited with
the Beatles as the first rock and roll act to cross the Atlantic
Ocean, the DC5 would never come close to what the Beatles,
the Rolling Stones, or Kinks would accomplish in the following
Although hit singles, million-selling records, and their
private DC-3 monikered plane might look nice on Dave Clark
Five's resume, their music hasn't survived the changing
times. Songs such as "Bits and Pieces," "Glad
All Over," and pretty much, everything in between has
not aged well, sounding like safe, ttoned-down versions
of what rock & roll offered. This two-disc, sixteen
song collection never once captured my attention or admiration.
Also featured is a thirty-two-page booklet telling the band's
history through stories and images. Do yourself a favor
and stick with what you've got.
& Bark – Nowhere Near Ohio (Reissue - Snappy Little
Though labeled as a reissue, this EP marked both my introduction
to the band name and their music. I felt somewhat compelled
to listen and hear what I might have missed the first time
around. Unfortunately, I found myself drawn into a slow-paced
and somewhat dreary soundscape, music that just never grabbed
hold of my attention or piqued any of my interest. Although
some cool instrumental exchanges lurk within, the vocal delivery
on these five songs is mind-numbingly awful, making these
five songs more of a grind then a grove. There are other Pitch
& Bark releases available through Snappy Little Numbers.
However, judging from what I heard on “Nowhere Near
Ohio,” I took a pass on any further investigation.
Wow, the production on here is terrible, almost as bad as
the vocals. I'm not sure if the feedback from the amps is
intentional, given the overwhelming amount of it. One can
easily assume it is. Featuring six songs, the only notable
one is the sixty-one-second instrumental "Intro Bashing,"
the only remotely decent offering. Only time will tell if
C-4 blows up within the realm of hardcore. Judging from this
demo, I wouldn't recommend holding your breath.
– Might-Ay White-Ay Reissue (Jump Up Records)
Since its creation more than fifty years ago, ska music has
gone through many changes, both musically and stylistically.
As a lifetime fan of all eras, waves, and approaches to the
music, Mephiskapheles may have been the only band that merged
ska's jazz-influenced horns and funky beats with heavy metal
‘s incendiary guitar sound.
Formed in NYC back in 1991 during the third wave of ska,
Mephiskapheles not only invigorated an already impressive
scene, they challenged the accepted norm of what elements
of sound were expected and accepted within the sub-genre.
If there were ever a least likely mash-up of different styles,
then the Jamaican inspired rhythms and dancehall beats with
heavy metal guitars and streetwise lyrics would probably
be the least likely to be tested. Mephiskapheles' mix of
ska beats, rhythms and funky horns with strokes of metallic
genius and devilish vocals set them apart from their contemporaries
The metallic and somewhat guitar funk-tinged riffs had Mephiskapheles
sounding as much as early Faith No More as Two-Tone Legends
In listening to Might-Ay White-Ay for the first
time in years, I not only gained a love and appreciation
for the band Mephiskapheles. I was reminded of how important
ska was on the streets and in the New York City underground
during the late 80’s and throughout much of the 90’s.
This reissue contains fourteen remastered scorchers and
is featured on white vinyl.
Drawn in by the super creepy cover image, I somehow knew that
listening to this EP would make me a believer. Featuring three
songs of hypnotic and relentless synth punk, one can't help
but almost instantly fall under its spell. It's music that
sounds ahead of its time yet brings to mind pioneering electronic
music such as Kraftwerk, Tubeway Army, and New Order. Upon
listening to these songs, you'd probably want to venture over
to their Bandcamp page, where you'll find many other previous
releases. Beam me up and take me to your leader.
Shack Shakers – Live from Sun Studios (Chicken Ranch
When I think about the roots of rock and the lesser documented
rock steady, I often note the simplicity and absence of overproduction
as crucial ingredients that made the music so identifiable
and significant, basic applications that stripped the music
to its core, revealing its true beauty and appeal. That's
what immediately comes to mind when I sit down and listen
Though JD Wilkes and Kentucky's Legendary Shack Shakers have
been releasing music since 1998, "Live' was only the
second album I've come to be lucky enough to own. "Live
from Sun Studios" sounds like the perfect setting for
the Legendary Shack Shakers. The simplicity and authenticity
of the bands' sound and approach are untouchable and, for
the most part, long forgotten. The Shakers merge elements
of the bluegrass, blues, classic country, rockabilly, and
vaudeville. Imagine, if you will, a melting pot of Tom Waits,
Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams III performing at a carnival
of misfits and outcasts.
The live recording adds an element of laid back intimacy
and inclusion. Each of the eight songs warrants individual
praise. However, to get a full appreciation of what the
band brings. I highly recommend listening to this in its
No – Kyanite (positiveno.bandcamp.com)
They say that all good things must come to an end, and while
listening to the last words of a loved one or beloved band
can be bittersweet, one has to be grateful for being able
to have experienced the creative spark their music created.
Richmond, Virginia’s Positive No had a way of channeling
everything great regarding indie pop and alternative rock
since its existence, while sounding fresh and unique. While
often compared to Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna and Sonic
Youth's Kim Gordon, or even Bjork, Tracy Wilson's voice
deserves a category all its own, conveying a wide range
of emotions via breathy whispers and chaotic shrieks. Instrumentally,
the band delivers inventive and complex leads and rhythms
that show up consistently and prominently in each song.
Each of the nine songs on Kyanite leave a lasting,
indelible footprint. While songs like “Escalator Up”,
and “Exit Strategy” are worthy of mention and
praise, I found about six songs, including “Hot Air”
and “Why do you sing in the middle of the night?”
literally stood on the shoulders of giants. While calling
it a day while releasing the best material to date is somewhat
unimaginable to me, it can't go without noting that Tracey,
Kenny, Colden, and Keith left us with a catalog of songs
and releases worth high praise and countless listens. While
it's a bit early in the year, I'd be willing to bet the
farm that Kyanite turns out to be my favorite album
of 2020. Kyanite was recorded and mixed at Magpie
Cage by the legendary J. Robbins.
Bags - Only the Dead Die Good (Spaghettytown Records)
There's an immediate draw to this Richmond, Virginia rock
outfit. The cleverly titled, six-song EP "Only the Dead
Die Good" fires on all cylinders, featuring cutting riffs,
jagged rhythms, and a vocal assault that can bring to mind
the Distillers' Brodie Dahl and the Donnas' Brett Anderson.
The E.P. opens with the title track, introducing Medina's
dominant vocal style and Kirk's incendiary guitar riffs and
leads. The fourth song, "Livin' with Nothing," features
rhythms that have enough kick to be featured in a Kung Fu
flick. Considering I had no prior knowledge or expectations
regarding Sick Bags before hearing this, I have to admit that
this knocked me on my ass. Don't sleep on this.
If you were ever a fan of early 90's Amphetamine Reptile
Records or late '70s, early 80's No Wave, then I'd recommend
checking out Richmond VA's Teenage Cenobite. They're noisy,
experimental, a bit psychotic, and a whole lot of off-center
synth noise with a psychedelic vibe.
While exciting and unique, I never felt as if this was something
worth more than one or two listens. Not bad but not overwhelmingly
good. Perhaps if I hadn't fully absorbed the music that
inspired Teenage Cenobite, I might think differently. 'Live'
features six songs, will be available on cassette, and made
available on Feel it Records.
Terror - Anatomy of Terror (Triple B Records)
Excuse me as I dip my toe in the extreme metal end of the
pond. Having become quite fond of heavy metal over the last
ten or so years, I decided to take a listen to some of the
recent releases found in my mailbox to get a closer look
at a sub-genre I've spent avoiding for most of my life.
This brings me to the ten-song "Anatomy of Terror"
by Boston's Saigan Terror.
Featuring ten songs of metal core that was, as its very
best, formulaic and unimaginative, "Anatomy of Terror"
was an extremely hard listen. Though the recording features
some impressive musicianship, riffs, breaks, and breakdowns,
the vocals, which consist of a combination of gut-wrenching
growls and groans, evoke pure misery.
Okay, this was a lot better. Big Takeover (a band name most
likely inspired by the song of the same name, by the legendary
Bad Brains) play a more urban, perhaps hip hop inspired, metallic
hardcore. On their five-song debut, thery put forth a rather
impressive EP featuring some fierce riffs, breaks, and breakdowns.
Featuring five songs, each of which carries a certain bounce
and soulful rhythm, one can't help but feel the marriage of
different influences and sounds help benefit the band while
making "Madhouse" stand out. The one thing that
had me figuratively scratching my head was why a five-song
EP is being pressed and priced as an LP?
All End All - Better You Than Me / Famous Last Words (Triple
While it's hard to judge or adequately describe a band after
sampling two songs, it's pretty safe to say this was mind-numbingly
terrible. After listening to this twice, I came away with
no different opinion whatsoever. To describe the bands' sound,
I'll refer to their Bandcamp page, "Too Hardcore for
Smartphone punks." "Too punk for clap mosh losers."
A band in touch with the times and its changing technology.
Order - The World is Too Much (Triple B Records)
Hardcore punk comes in many different shapes, sizes, and
of course, sounds. Being that I was an Eighties kid drawn
to hardcore by bands that played something more akin to
punk than metal, I tend to lean towards bands of that ilk.
Which brings me to "This World Is Too Much." Though
it's been a while since I picked up a copy of Restraining
Order's self-titled debut ep, the lasting impression it
left almost immediately gravitated me towards the Massachusetts
hardcore band's debut full length.
Drawn in by the cover shot of lead singer Pat Cozens launching
into the air while wearing a Double-O band tee to the gatefold
that opens up to the song lyrics, this reminds me of falling
in love with hardcore as a maladjusted teen in the mid-Eighties.
With a sound that finds influence in first wave hardcore icons
SSD and Negative FX, Restraining Order’s approach is
a bit more stripped down, yet impressive and easily relatable,
with raw yet melodic vocals that deliver purposeful lyrics,
stabbing riffs and barreling rhythms.
"This World is too Much" opens with the fast-paced
and anthem inspiring "Never."
The title track, one of my personal favorites on the album,
takes a more slowed down and deliberate route. There are so
many standout efforts on this album. If I had to narrow it
down to just a short list, I’d note that “What
Will You Do?” and “Be Like Me” are more
than deserving of praise.
Hamburg, Germany's Barrels impress from the first note to
the last. Applying an intense mix of hard and alternative
rock, Barrels manage to coalesce excellent musicianship with
intelligent lyrics and songwriting. These five songs teem
with an urgent authenticity that's become quite rare these
days, instantly making their mark while making the listener
cry out for more. With each of the five entries providing
such an integral appeal, I found it hard to designate one
specific song as a favorite. However, with the EP's opener
"Wrong Wings," providing such instant gratification,
I'd feel safe mentioning it. For fans of The Afghan Whigs,
Drive Like Jehu, Rocket From the Crypt, and music bombastic
enough to make the hairs on your neck stand up.
Youth of Today – "One Night Stand" / "Anarchy in
what a total and complete waste of time and money. Shame on
me for even considering adding this to my recent cart. What
Revelation Records marketed as a two-song EP featuring a live
performance of the Sex Pistols "Anarchy in the UK"
titled "Anarchy in Vienna." and a studio-recorded
cover of Paul Anka's "One Night Stand." turned out
to be a one-song clunker. What I got was a poorly recorded
live performance where Ray Cappo lazily half sings "Anarchy
in the UK." As for "One Night Stand," the song
doesn't seem to appear on the record. In its place, however,
are some spoken word crap about positivity and outtakes from
what seems like an afterschool special. And I thought subliminal
messages only appeared on metal records people found time
to play backward.
When contacting the label, I was told: " If you put the
needle down in the same place twice, you can get two different
things." Once I figured that part out, I got what I was
hoping to here. However, by then, I didn't care as much. If
you're still a fan of Youth of Today some thirty years since
they put out a record, more power to you.
While Wire's 1977 debut "Pink Flag" still stands
as one of the best punk albums ever released, its timing,
and the fact that it was labeled "post-punk" while
the original punk scene was still in full swing, only add
to the art punks' legend. Though a bit more obscure than some
of the big four of the first wave of '77 punk, Wire is still
surviving and thriving with the help of somewhat cult following,
releasing albums that sound as diverse as there memorable.
2020's "Mind Hive" follows Wire's 2017 release "Silver/Lead,"
and will be released on the bands' label "Pink Flag"
in January 2020.
Dark and deep textures fill each song giving them somewhat
of a John Carpenter horror theme and feel. While "Mind
Hive" might not gain the landmark status of say, "White
Flag," (entries created decades after their debut rarely
do,) I found it to be both inspiring and challenging, an album
worth mentioning amongst the some of the best in indie rock
and beyond. Favorite songs include the album's opening track,
"Be Like Them," the lead single "Cactused,"
the dreamy "Unrepentant," and "Hunger"
really put the hooks in me. Overall, "Mind Hive"
features nine songs of often dark and sinister post-punk that
should satisfy long-time fans of the band and novices alike.
Fast, furious, and unbridled, not to mention compelling, Reclaim
walk a thin line between straight-up punk and traditional
hardcore, while featuring enough break downs and mosh parts
to put any mosh pit on notice, Reclaim manage to do so with
a certain amount of musicality and style that sets them apart
from the average, every day HC band. When describing Reclaim's
borderline punk sound, I mean to give them a bit of distance
from the more metal and thrash acts that have dominated hardcore
over the years. When listening, I feel it gives them a more
distinct sound. One that quickly and authoritatively sets
them apart from the pack.
Wow, to say this was unexpected would be the understatement
of this still, very early 2020. Call me an old so and so,
but when a young band immediately reminds me of influential
acts such as the Savages, Killing Joke, Gang of Four, and
the criminally underrated The Sound, I can't help but rejoice
at the moment. Complete with inspired leads, dark rhythms
and powerful, yet haunting vocals of Kierston Olsen, Vacancy's
debut six song 7-inch combines both an instant and lasting
Drawn in by what I thought might be a tribute to the late,
great New Jersey hardcore band Turning Point, I found myself
combing the Mojave Desert for evidence of any existence of
hardcore, punk or indie music on this album sampler compilation.
What I found were six exciting bands that show enough diversity
and originality to jumpstart and sustain a scene of their
very own. Released in the summer of 2019 and featuring the
bands Reclaim, Noble Bones, Marron, County Fair, and Cel Damage,
each group contributes one song with styles that range from
punk to hardcore to scream to indie rock.
On "Zebulon," the band's 2019 four-song cassette
EP, Cel Damage live up to their namesake, blending hardcore,
metal, power violence, screamo, and other elements of extreme
music for skin-crawling results. Featuring four songs, the
only adjective one could muster: torturous. While there are
some compelling riffs, rhythms, and chord changes within,
I struggled to find any positive traits to come away with.
Fans of extreme metal might think otherwise.
Featuring an all-star cast of bands that helped to define
hardcore music and culture from the late Eighties to the challenging
and sometimes confusing Aughts, Constant Elevation sound just
as focused and goal-oriented as their namesake. With players
who contributed and even fronted bands such as Side By Side,
Youth of Today, Judge, Rival Schools, Chain of Strength, The
Movielife, I am the Avalanche, World Be Free, and more, it's
safe to say, expectations were high. Though containing only
three songs, "Fuck Runnin'," "Mouth In Motion,"
and "Fletch," this EP not only displays a sense
of chemistry within its members but a collective sense of
how a good hardcore song should feel and sound. Only time
will tell if Constant Evolution sticks around long enough
to write more songs and inevitably record a full length. Getting
a sample of what Constant Evolution has to offer makes one
wish for such.
It's never a good thing going into a record review knowing
full well that at the very least, you'll having nothing new
to say about a band that hasn't left much or any impression
on you since their first full length that was released 35-plus
years ago. Considering the impact of "Victim in Pain"
and my appreciation of the recently aired rockumentary "Godfathers
of Hardcore., I find myself sitting here writing about Agnostic
Front's latest studio album, "Get Loud." Featuring
fourteen songs, "Get Loud" is every bit of what
you'd expect from the band's conception in the early Eighties.
And in all honesty, that isn't a whole lot. If you're reading
this to get a description of what "Get Loud" offers,
stop reading this and listen to anything the band has released
since "Victim in Pain." Whether that's an encouragement
or deterrent is entirely up to you.
All due respect to AF, but its storied history and nostalgic
call to the past hasn't produced anything minutely exciting
or different that would distinguish one album from the next.
And as much as they deserve the credit they get as architects
of New York Hardcore, while one can give credit for the band's
personal lyrics and dedication to the fast, loud, and hard
as fuck mindset, the tag and the constant reminder of such
only reinforces their status as a nostalgia act. Overall,
it seems that Agnostic Front would greatly benefit from playing
shows and touring, with a promise to stay out of the studio.
Alone – Rather Be Alone (Indecision Records)
There comes a time in every genre and sub-genre when everything
starts to sound the same. It could be the style or how the
listener's taste in music evolves. In my case, it could be
a combination of both. As someone who spent a good part of
his life both participating, supporting, and celebrating hardcore
music, it feels as if the majority of the hardcore bands today
aren't producing anything I haven't heard for close to thirty
years. Take into consideration Power Alone's "Rather
Be Alone." Though California's Power Alone doesn't suffer
from any musical or technical issues, their mix of metalcore
meets screamo sounds tired and overdone, ultimately making
these 11 songs rather tough to get through. Not terrible for
what it is, but nothing I haven't been hearing and disliking
for too, too long.
The Radio Buzzkills / The Hypnic Jerks – Hi-Sci Fidelity
Split (Milksop Records)
On this space-themed split, I got to hear two bands who were
otherwise strangers to my ears.
St. Louis, Missouri’s The Radio Buzzkills combine nerdy
pop-punk vocals with upbeat punk riffs and rhythms that come
together to create something that feels honest, yet edgy.
“Without a Trace” and “Mulder Suicide”
both have a Lookout Records vibes that had me harkening back
to younger days when I could muster enough energy to pogo
with the best of them. The B side, which features Chicago’s
The Hypnic Jerks’ let loose on ‘Planet Zero’
and ‘Inanimate Lifeform.’
Sound outer-worldly with a Ramones edged version of pop-punk.
Short, fast bursts of fun, melodic jams that had me craving
for more. You can visit the site to learn more about the vinyl
pressing, ordering the record, or downloading options.
Buzzkills / Black Russians – Mutually Assured Destruction
Split (Outloud Records)
Another theme-driven split, this one including Radio Buzzkills
and Black Russians, featuring cover art of what very much
resembles a 70's Marvel Comics battlefield. The fact that
I had just heard St. Louis's pop-punk ambassadors Radio Buzzkills,
I was eager to drop the needle on this cold war-themed split.
Featuring RB's 'You're my Chernobyl' and 'Can't Stop the Western
Block,' the quartet is somewhat of an eye-opener, one that
should elicit further digging.
As for Side B's Black Russians, this was my first taste of
them. I don't know where they're from or what kind of mischief
they're up to. Still, this band knocked me on my ass with
some high-octane shit — reminding me of the 'Fast, Loud,
Rules' ethos of earlier punk bands such as The Stimulators
with a Teenage Bottlerocket influence and a sound that resembles
New York's The Wyldlife. The songs 'We'd have a Riot doing
Krokodil,' 'Communist Party,' and 'Ain't Putin up with You,'
the Black Russians are a band I hope to be hearing more of
Don't you love when an opening chord assures you that the
record you just dropped the needle on was well worth the hunt?
Well, that's what happened when Dead Furies "Stay Gold"
entered my ears, laying ground as more proof that true rock
& roll is a living, breathing entity, one that features
fiery riffs, edgy rhythms, and bluesy swagger. Formed in Estonia,
yes, Estonia in 2016, releasing new music on a somewhat frantic
pace. "Stay Gold" marks the Dead Furies' fifth release
and first for Spaghetty Town Records. The fourteen-song album
features elements of punk, garage rock, rock & roll, the
blues, and due to the piano keys, I hear, boogie. Overall
their sound can be compared to the likes of The Stooges, The
NY Dolls, Motorhead, and Rocket from the Crypt. Considering
this album is so consistently good throughout. I find it somewhat
of a task to mention individual songs. I can safely reference
it. Whether you buy it on vinyl or download it on Bandcamp.
A heavy dose of Dead Furies high octane rock is just what
– Descarga Adrenergica (Spaghetty Town Records)
Judging from the cover image, one might think this was either
70’s church music or an audio how-to on adventurous
masturbation techniques. Either way, it’s going to be
the peak of listening pleasure. Add a band name and album
title that, correct me if I’m wrong, are Spanish variations
of the word shit, and you’ve got one hot mess on your
Formed some twenty years ago in Brazil, and embracing different
elements of punk, including power violence. “Descarga
Adrenergica” surprisingly marks the band’s first
U.S. release. Musically, Merda sound quite reminiscent of
the hardcore bands I was listening to in the late ’80s
to mid-’90s. Loud, quick and urgent, but difficult to
pigeonhole. While digesting twenty-two songs sung in Brazilian
might seem intimidating to some. As a listener, I could not
feel more engaged.
Generation – Prisoner of Love (Spaghetty Town Records)
United Kingdom's Suicide delivers fast, explosive guitar rock
from across the pond. The lead single 'Prisoner of Love' as
well as the B' sides' Shitty in the City' and 'Rotten Mind,'
carry the kind of bombastic swagger you'll never get from
a major label or FM radio. Suicide Generation is the equivalent
of the dirty porn magazine you hid within your copy of Field
and Stream. If you dig dirty, balls-out rock n' roll as I
do. Then I highly recommend picking this up and playing it
Vigilantes – Que Descaro / Tus LLegan (Spaghetty Town
My stepfather’s family was from and remained scattered
across the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. After hearing Los
Vigilantes, I thought of giving them a call or sending them
a link to check out local sons Los Vigilantes. While a lot
more laid back and pop-leaning than anything I’ve heard
on Spaghetty Town records. I can honestly say I both enjoyed
this and the fact that the label’s music has a global
appeal. Los Vigilantes reminds me a lot of the kind of music
that would be played at those family gatherings while we indulged
in mofongo, pasteles, plantanos, and empanadillas.
Queens – City of Class (Spaghetty Town Records)
In keeping with my international thread and politically incorrect
nature, I give you Bitch Queens. If Australia's Hard-Ons and
Sweden's Hellacopters ever decided to have a love child, chances
are the results would sound a lot like Switzerland's Bitch
Queens. The eleven songs on “City of Class” exhibit
all the traits of a pure hard rock classic. Complete with
plenty of high energy, high octane, testosterone-fueled riffs,
rhythms, vocals, and maniacal bombast. While viewing the albums
cover art, I felt quite confident regarding what lay waiting
inside. However, I could never have imagined I'd become sucked
in so quickly. In closing, I feel lucky to be heading into
the new year on such a high note.
Women – New Age Record (Sorry State Records)
In what is easily the most exciting and oddball release in
recent years, Fitness Women’s experimental sound is
as unique as it is innovative. The four-piece North Carolina
act plays a style of post-punk that might be beat heard than
described, mixing bass, guitar, drums, and synthesizer. Fitness
Woman’s style and delivery are about as strangely addictive
and original as I’ve heard. While the 11 songs featured
on ‘New Age Record’ may vary in length, there
is no limitation regarding their experimentation and recognizable
attention to creating free form art. The only similarities
or comparisons I can make lead me back acts such as Germany’s
Kraftwerk and New York’s late Seventies, early Eighties
No Wave scene. I honestly haven’t been this impressed
or surprised this much in a long, long time. Released by the
great Sorry State Records label and limited to only three
hundred vinyl copies that include a lyric sheet.
Bios have a way of overstating a band or artist’s ability
and, though often with the best intentions in mind, it often
equates to an infomercial where a host blows smoke up your
ass in order to sell you something you really don’t
want. In the case of the band Jack and Sally and their five-song
debut for Engineer Records, I might have enjoyed listening
to this trio of Londoners more intently if I had not read
the two-page synopsis that accompanied their CD.
Comparisons aside and somewhat ignoring the fact that this
was conceived as a concept record about a character named
“Macy”, I did my very best to listen with educated
ears and an open mind. Though the five songs on the EP feature
some good moments with melodies, harmonies and emotional
twists, I struggled to find anything that set it apart from
the horde of pop rock, pop punk and saccharine emo bands
I’ve been hearing for over twenty years. Though not
bad, it’s definitely not very memorable or worth more
than a casual listen.
Featuring four songs, one being a cover of The Who’s
“The Kids are Alright,” the “Love What Is”
EP elicited little to no reaction from this listener. Complete
with programmed drums, each song shares the feel of a record
recorded at home on a Casio cassette recorder. While I really
wouldn’t go as far as saying the four songs are bad,
I really struggled to find anything here worth celebrating
or writing about. Personally, I found Jean Caffeine’s
bio to be a lot more interesting than the music presented
Away – Never the Same Place (Engineer Records)
Awesome melodic punk from Scarborough, North Berkshire. Four
punkish songs that bring to mind acts such as New York’s
Iron Chic and Pennsylvania’s The Menzingers deliver
both an instant and lasting appeal, complete with vocals,
riffs and rhythms that sound well produced, yet raw and infectious.
There’s a marked sense of honesty in these songs I found
to be quite captivating. Complete with an edgy bombast, these
four high adrenaline anthems carry a sense of urgency that
made me want to jump from my chair to the speakers they were
blasting from. Though the EP’s title “Never the
Same Place” might indicate otherwise, I can’t
help but feel a certain sense of cohesion in these songs.
Though most likely not intended there seems to be a common
thread that connects each song. Overall, the each of the four
songs on “Never the Same Place” connect and resonate
with this listener, serving as a perfect tonic for those looking
for new bands and music to latch on to.
With a name like “Sleave” and the working title
“Don’t Expect Anything”, one can’t
help but think they’re getting left off the hook while
being waved forward as to say, “Move along. There’s
nothing worth seeing here.” Only you'd be ambushed by
something so good, you’d find yourself debating whether
to keep it secret, or shouting its virtues from the nearest
rooftop for all to hear. In my case, it was just more evidence
that there has always been something about Richmond, Virginia
that has it churning out so many amazing bands. Featuring
twelve songs of Sleave’s emotional, yet powerful brand
of pop punk meets melodic hardcore, "Don't Expect Anything"
is insanely good.
You might find it a little strange when your introduction
to a band or artist is through a collection of singles or
previously released tracks. It ranks up there with going straight
to the Cliff Notes without ever bothering to read the book,
or purchasing a greatest hits collection without ever bothering
to get acquainted with the artist’s discography. Still,
I ‘ve always considered it a good way to get to know
a band before deciding whether or not to look any deeper.
In the case of State Drugs and the collection of songs
on Takings and Leaving, I got a genuine and distinct
feel of a band deeply rooted in the aesthetics of indie
rock. I found it interesting how connected and cohesive
these songs sound considering that this is a collection
of various songs from their years together. In listening,
I became interested in digging into State Drugs past and
felt as if I’ve found a new friend in the label that
Most notably featuring Alec MacKaye (Faith, Ignition, The
Warmers) and Mary Timony (Autoclave, Helium, Ex-Hex) as well
as Chris Wilson and Mark Cisneros, Hammered Hull's debut EP
had me scrambling to hit the pre-order option on Dischord
Records' website faster than a gunslinger pulling his colt
.45 out of its holster in a spaghetti western.
Having grown up on a steady diet of Dischord Records releases,
one can only feel a sense of creative nourishment that has
leaves an indelible mark on one’s socio-political conscience,
s omething that grants each and every release on the label
a certain level of importance and intimacy.
The fast paced urgency that Hammered Hulls bring is undeniable.
Three songs that manage to strike a cognizant chord with
this listener in a very short time. Something that doesn’t
often happen with such a small sample size. The 7-inch ep
features the songs “Written Word” (not a Government
Issue cover), “Self-Inflicted,” and “Looking
After You”. The EP was recorded and mixed at the legendary
Inner Ear Studios by Don Zientara and Ian MacKaye.
It only took me a few seconds, but in less than a minute’s
listen of the opening track on Armchair Martian’s reissued
demo I felt the influence if not close resemblance to punk
rock's legendary Husker Du. Though the band's attention to
speed and upbeat intensity are instant draws to these songs,
one can’t dismiss their knack for melody and warm harmonies.
Call it pop punk, call it power pop, call it whatever you
want. The five songs on this reissued demo are worth checking
out. I’ll leave digging up the background and history
of the band up to you.
It happens all the time. You go out to see one of your favorite
bands and find yourself discovering a new one to latch on
to and absorb every song they release, filling your ears and
subconscious while crying out for more. For me, it would be
hard to think of a band that’s come to represent that
sentiment more than Chicago’s All Eyes West.
Formed in 2010, the Chicago trio of Justin Miller (vocals/bass)
Jeff Dean (guitar) and Ronnie DiCola (drums) has been steadily
touring and recording since then. Their brand of raw yet
melodic punk has, at least for me, mixed elements of New
Brunswick, New Jersey’s Lifetime's hardcore bombast
with the melodies and song structure of Berkley, California’s
Like Lightning marks the band’s first full
length since 2015’s Doomer, and features
11 songs of guitar driven punk that hits the listener like
a bottle of Jack, full of incendiary hooks, rhythms and
vocals that are forceful, yet not forced. Upon closer investigation,
comparisons to Vic Bondi (Articles of Faith, Alloy, Dead
Ending) can be applied. The abundancy of songs here that
really stand out only reinforce how important and essential
All Eyes West have been to me throughout the decade. In
the end, I feel that the band will never release enough
music to quench my thirst. No matter how much output AEW
deliver, I’ll always crave more. File under essential.
Stacks – The Coming Collapse (Snappy Little Numbers)
Featuring Bill Barbot (Jawbox, Burning Airlines,) Jim Spellman
(Velocity Girl, High Black Chairs,) Brian Baker (Minor Threat,
Dag Nasty, The Meatmen, Bad Religion,) and Peter Moffett,
(Government Issue, Burning Airlines,) Foxhall Stacks' personnel
reads like a punk rock Cosa Nostra. Considering the musicians
that make up Foxhall Stacks, I had some pretty high expectations
for “The Coming Collapse”. Having missed their
initial cassette release, I was eager to here the band's full
Featuring ten songs of warm guitar rock and power pop excellence,
the grand hooks, harmonies and melodies throughout give the
entire record an uplifting and laid back feel, honest and
somewhat intimate. The appeal of “The Coming Collapse”
is both instant and lasting, arguably matching, if not overshadowing,
some of the members’ iconic past endeavors.
While I was expecting this to be good. I seem to have found
a record that makes my pulse race and my blood pump with youthful
exuberance and optimism. The album's leading single “Turntable
Exiles”, might register as the best song ever. Other
absolute favorites include “The Old me”, “Take
Control”, “Top of the Pops” and “Rough
Undoubtedly, a great record from start to finish. One that
would fit comfortably in any era. There really isn’t
a wasted note within. Get it, love it. live it.
and the Bunnymen – The John Peel Sessions (1979 -1983)
As kids digging through record store bins searching for anything
that even resembled punk or new wave, there was one rule that
trumped every other rule that might have applied. If it had
the words, “John Peel Sessions” on it, grab it.
Whether you knew the band or not, if Jon Peel recorded it,
you were almost guaranteed that it would be something special.
And while the bins weren’t exactly bursting with John
Peel Sessions, you just knew that if you found one, it was
something unique and special.
This two LP, twenty-one song release comes on color vinyl
(the red color I have is was limited to five hundred copies)
and features each of the live tracks recorded with Peel
for his Studio 1 BBC show. The mastering is fantastic, making
the sound rich and clean.
I really enjoyed getting an early peak at a band I would
come to love as teen and still do today. Hearing rougher
versions of favorite songs such as “Heaven Up Here”,
“The Killing Moon” and “Ocean Rain”
turned out to be quite a treat. It’s also worth mentioning
that I eventually learned more about John Peel. His obsession
with music and record collecting, and his passion for giving
new and exciting acts the exposure they needed, should be
both celebrated and used as a template for the present and
future. Whether you cherish John Peel's work, Echo &
the Bunnymen, or getting the chance to hear a band before
they broke big, this is for you. As for someone who still
fondly recalls seeing them perform live at New York’s
Jones Beach as a teen, I could not have possibly enjoyed
Garden Variety - The Complete Discography 1991-1996 –
Deluxe 3xLP Box Set (Arctic Rodeo Recordings)
Before I go any further, I want to make it crystal clear
that the following is an observation, description and reaction,
as opposed to a standard record review. Having long considered
Garden Variety and what the band helped to create in 1990’s
New York City and beyond as absolutely essential, I've accumulated
any recorded material like pieces of some sort of holy grail
or lost ark. The mere knowledge of or search for the band's
recorded output can be considered as somewhat of a gateway
drug to countless unsung and lesser known independent acts
of that time.
As someone who likes to refer to himself as somewhat of
a storyteller, as opposed to a mumbling idiot, I often refer
to my first time seeing Garden Variety perform at downtown
New York’s Brownies as a turning point in my music
listening and all around appreciation. Where one door was
quickly closing, their music opened another, much more interesting
Featuring Anthony Roman. (Bass, Vocals,) Anthony Rizzo.
(Guitar,) and Joe Gorelick.(Drums, vocals) Long Island’s’
Garden Variety would remain active from 1991-1996, releasing
two full length LP’s, a number of splits, a 7 inch,
and various compilation tracks. Though the band’s
sound was often described as post-hardcore, anyone who ever
listened to their music or saw them live would tell you
they were so much more.
This box setincludes three albums in all, each colored
vinyl that really stands out and jumps off the turntable.
They include the band's two LP’s: their self -titled
debut full length as well as the follow up, Knocking
the Skill Level. The third record, Teamsters,
(the one I savored the most) features music from those 7
inches and compilations I mentioned, as well an interview
and performance they did with none other than Janeane Garafalo.
To seal the deal, Arctic Rodeo Recording housed this collection
in an actual wooden box. (You know, the kind you find your
better wines in.)
The sticker, button, poster and booklet included just made
preordering this all the more special. And when I say special,
I really mean it. I think it’s important to both credit
and thank everyone involved in putting this together and
bring it to life. Overall, one couldn’t possibly ask
for more as Arctic Radio delivers a perfect balance of quantity
and quality. I strongly advise visiting the label for more
details and ordering yours while it’s still available.
When I was given the opportunity to review the latest installment
of Harley Flanagan’s Cro-mags, I admit to lacking any
interest whatsoever. Considering it’s been more than
thirty years since the landmark release of the Cro-mags one
and only great or even cohesive recording “Age of Quarrel,”
expecting anything even close would be foolhardy, to say the
When reviewing any new Cro-mags material, it should be
noted that, due to a 2018 court settlement, Harley Flanagan
has complete control and ownership of the name “Cro-mags.”
So anyone expecting any inclusion of John Joseph - or anyone
with a creative stake during the bands heyday - has been
omitted from present and future consideration. So, without
taking sides, let’s get to the music.
On the follow up to June 2019’s 3 song EP “Don’t
Give In,” on “From the Grave” we listen
as Flanagan exposes his inability to explore new musical
territory or even deliver anything remotely unique. The
three song EP opens with “From the Grave” and
follows with the similarly themed “PTSD,” both
of which find Flanagan’s vocals drowning in rhythms
that might be best served supporting or backing him. Considering
that one of the three songs is an instrumental, one might
assume that Harley’s vocals just weren’t up
for the task.
While these three songs are decent metal nods, I honestly
don’t hear anything worth celebrating or even revisiting.
It might be worth mentioning that former Motorhead guitarist
Phil Campbell is credited as the Mags' guitarist. I honestly
don’t know what his creative input on the EP is, but
it certainly adds to an otherwise pointless narrative. Though
the EP seems steeped in its own misery. I wouldn’t
go as far as deeming it terrible. I would, however, describe
it as painfully uninteresting.
Hatfield – Sings the Police (American Laundromat Records)
If you were into indie rock or wandered anywhere left of the
dial on FM radio during the 90’s, you probably know
Juliana Hetfield from her work with Evan Dando of the Lemonheads,
her involvement with the Blake Babies, or her solo efforts
such as “Spin the Bottle” (which appeared in the
defining Gen X film “Reality Bites”) or the catchy
chart topping single “My Sister” from her sophomore
album Become What You Are. Since then, Hatfield has
continued recording and performing at a respectable pace.
For me personally, her recent projects in which she’s
released tribute albums of the works of Olivia Newton John
and now, The Police, both of which both captured my attention
and increased my understanding and appreciation in doing so.
In the case of 2018’s “Juliana Hatfield sings
Olivia Newton John” Hatfield allowed me to revisit a
recording artist whose work may have been otherwise overlooked
due to my own avoidance of Newton’s somewhat easy listening
endeavors. However, with the Police being one of my long time
absolute favorites, I was more interested in Hatfield’s
approach, how her voice would work with the songs and what
liberties she might take in covering them.
What’s most notable is both the beauty and vulnerability
in Hatfield’s voice. It’s worth mentioning that
she sounds timeless, as if she’s still in the infancy
of the peak of her artistic career. What I found most impressive
is her interpretations of favorites such as “Next
to You”, “Da Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”, and
the more frenzied offerings on Side B.
Whereas most tribute and cover song projects often fail
to achieve their intended goal and often reflect a creative
drought in one’s career, I’ve found Hatfield’s
efforts to be more focused and on point. When it’s
time to call it a day, I’m happy to have given this
a spin. Sings the Police features twelve songs
which includes standards such as “Can’t Stand
Losing You”, “Roxanne” and “Every
Breath You Take” and came on Translucent Blue vinyl
and was accompanied with a digital download card.
Seattle, Washington’s The Cheap Cassettes return with
three more songs of gritty, guitar driven punk pub rock that
solidifies their ability to create relatable blue collar themes
“See Her in Action” opens the three-song ripper
with a raunchy edge and great lyrics like
“She’s got a necklace made from the teeth of all
the boys who called her cheap.” that just jump off the
page. “Only Lovers Left Alive” follows with some
distinct riffs, pounding rhythms and vocals that bring to
mind the swagger of Johnny Thunder and might draw some comparisons
to what I’ve been hearing in bands like New York’s
The Sweet Things and Chicago’s Criminal Kids “Lil’
Bit Everyday” brings the EP to a close with its bluesy,
yet upbeat raucous vibe. With this being the third time I
find myself reviewing an EP from The Cheap Cassettes. One
can only hope that an LP is just around the corner.
I have to admit to being caught off guard by New Jersey’s
Ankle Monitor, considering I haven’t listened to or
cared for much power violence, screamo or noise core. The
five tracks feature here represent that of the sub genres
I mentioned. No more, no less. Having never being a fan or
gaining any understanding of what attracts one to this form
of particular form of catharsis, I’ll leave any judgements
to those who can. Cool name, but nothing I’d welcome
into my ears.
Being that I hadn’t listened to Dead Blow Hammer in
quite some time, I really wasn’t expecting to hear anything
special from these hardcore veterans. Maybe that’s why
I was somewhat surprised by the effect their latest EP had
on me. Featuring former members of Cause for Alarm, Agnostic
Front and Against the Grain, it seems suiting that DBH's sound
and delivery seem steeped in hardcore punk’s early days.
Though the music is fast paced, and urgent, it never feels
rushed or as if it’s trying to catch up with itself.
In listening, one can’t help but get caught up in the
whirlwind of driving guitar riffs, pounding rhythms and unique
vocals that blend the emotional depth of Shawn Brown (Swiz/Dag
Nasty) and the all-out rage of Roger Miret (Agnostic Front)
Each of the five songs on "No Repercussions"
carry their own sense of individuality and personality,
a strength that gives Dead Blow Hammer their own unique
style and identity as opposed to a lot of more recent releases
in modern hardcore which are best judged as a whole. Not
to say that digesting a release as a whole is a bad thing.
It’s just that listening to DBH allowed me to address
each song individually.
The opening track "Caste System Skunks" and "Imperious"
quickly became favorites as I found myself giving them numerous
spins and countless listens. If you’re into “United
Blood” or “Victim in Pain” era Agnostic
Front, I highly recommend looking into Dead Blow Hammer.
"No Repercussions?" is available on color vinyl
and is limited to six hundred copies. There’s an additional
sixth song I failed to mention that is available as a digital
Music comes in many colors, shapes and sizes. Much like photography,
we paint with many brushes, adding contrast and shadows where
needed. If there ever was a band or musicians who fit that
description, it would be Brooklyn’s Avant Gard duo Cinema
While it might seem hard to believe, my first exposure to
Ev and Paul came in 2009 when tagging along with Jersey Beat’s
Jim Testa to a weekend-long music festival known as the Brick
City Sound Riot. It was there that I got my first taste of
a number of bands I would grow to become friends with. It
was there when I first saw Cinema Cinema put a rather laid
back crowd on notice.
Through four previous releases, the duo of guitarist Ev Gold
and drummer Paul Claro has delivered shades of post punk,
post hardcore, noise and experimental music while performing
and touring at a relentless pace, one that might test the
mental stability of weaker heads. There have also been a lot
of additional elements such as working with legendary producer
Don Zientera, the artful Martin Ribisi, and touring with iconic
hardcore punk act Black Flag.
Featuring seven songs, the biggest element present on ‘CCXMD
’is the music itself, as Cinema Cinema show that
creating new music should allow one to experiment with new
sounds while taking full advantage of the creative spirit
and its sometimes-boundless space. Most evident here is
the duo’s experimentation with what feels and sounds
like free jazz. Aside from the dizzying riffs, pounding
rhythms, experimental reverb and artful tuneage, the addition
of Matt Darriau on the horns give CC’s Swans meets
Big Black noisy experimentation a twist that will also appeal
to fans of say, Miles Davis and/or John Coltrane. And while
I loved each of the bands previous endeavors. I strongly
feel that this is their best work. Getting to witness a
band you love grow by leaps and bounds with each step is
quite rare. When it does happen, you take notice. Thanks,
Soulside – Washington, DC, 1986-1989 (Book)
If there was ever a band that impacted me the way The Clash
did when I first heard "London Calling" for the
first time, it was DC’s Soulside. Though my first taste
of Soulside came towards the tail end of their existence,
It’s pretty safe to say their music and lyrics had more
of an impact on my sociopolitical ethos than any band before
or after. Therefore, placing it in my cart when visiting my
favorite distro site came just seemed like a no brainer.
Featuring photos, flyers and anecdotes from their four
years as a band as well as their tours of the United States
and Europe, you would think there would be little to gripe
about, right? Well, as much as any fan of the band or any
photo related books celebrating the spirit of punk, hardcore,
indie or any unreported underground music, the rather small
6.5 X 6.5 book is filled with a lot of washed out photos
that look as if and most likely were taken with point and
shoot and disposable cameras. Images you might find collecting
dust in a box underneath the bed. There are some cool anecdotes,
show flyers and a visual discography of the bands output.
However, in the end, I found this collection to be overpriced
(Retails at $22.00 – $30.00) and underwhelming. If
you’re not familiar with Soulside, I highly recommend
going to Dischord records and grabbing whatever records
you can. As for this book, I’d take a pass on it.
Statues –Desolation (Snappy Little Numbers)
Colorado’s four-piece Weathered Statues really put the
hooks in me with their four song EP ‘Desolation’.
Originally formed in 2015 under the name Cloak of Organs,
Weathered Statues play what can be described as dark post
punk that brings to mind acts such as Siouxie and the Banshees,
Savages, Mission UK and the Jesus and Mary Chain. The band
mixes guitar, bass, drums and synthesizer with a haunting
vocal style that switches from dark and moody brooding to
banshee like screams seamlessly. Though I haven’t really
been exposed to much of what Weathered Statues are into in
recent decades, what I’m hearing on ‘Desolation’
is so good that it would be foolish to pass this up.
One – Demos and Comp (Puke N Vomit Records)
If someone ever talks to you about the good old days of hardcore,
stop them before shielding yourself from any nostalgic ooze
that might erupt. Ask them about the impact tape trading had
on them and how it opened their ears to countless bands and
scenes around the country and throughout the world. Many bands,
despite being very good and even popular among those that
attended the gigs they played, lived off of live recordings
and dubbed demos.
Circle One was one of those bands I latched onto through tape
trading. Formed in California during the early 80’s,
Circle One were inspired by and compared to the likes of Black
Flag, The Germs and countless others. As for myself, I would
always put them on mix tapes with such as bands as The Adolescents,
Agent Orange and J.F.A. Demos and Comp features just
what the title suggests, the ten songs on their 1980 demo
four songs from two 1981 demos and two from two different
Mystic Records compilations from that era. The LP I received
came on red vinyl and includes a show flyer sticker, a post
card featuring a picture of vocalist John Macias (R.I.P. 1962-1991,)
and a two-sided inset that features the bands on one side
and an essay on Circle One’s beginnings, end, and all
the in-betweens. Demos and Comp sounds very necessary.
A record worth having in your collection whether you remember
the band, are a hardcore/punk archeologist, or just want to
add another killer record to your growing collection.
Baltimore’s Glue Traps are back with an impressive twelve
song 7’ inch that shows the band basking in the glow
of Mystic Records style early American hardcore glory. Featuring
members of WarXGames, Syringe and my longtime favorite Deep
Sleep. Glue Traps' “Loud, Fast, Rules’ approach
leaves little room for guitar solos, metal riffs or breakdowns.
with traces of bands such as Negative Approach, Poison Idea
and bands you might find on the great indie record label Grave
Mistake Records. Songs such as ‘Radiate’ and “No
Utopia’ stood out as instant classics, but I’m
confident future spins will only give birth to more. Future
Shocks begs the question, “What would us hardcore
punk holdovers do if it were not for bands like Baltimore’s
Glue Traps?” Let’s hope we won’t need to
answer that question anytime soon.
Well, here’s one that sort of caught me off guard. When
you open yourself to listening to unreleased material, you
have to be pretty open minded, if not completely prepared
to be underwhelmed. So, when listening to Iconoclast’s
unreleased 1983 demo, I have to admit to having rather low
expectations. Judging from the band photo on the cover and
the fact they were from England, I was expecting some anarcho
punk that found inspiration in acts such as Discharge, Crass,
Conflict and Crucifix. I also had preconceptions on why the
demo went unreleased and forgotten for so long. Did they break
up? Was the material subpar? In listening to these four tracks,
I get the feeling that they were pretty damn good. And though
the band were from England and could have visually passed
as female versions of G.B.H., I sense more of an early L.A.
punk influence. In the end, I’m really glad I gave this
one a chance. If you’re into early 80’s punk acts
such as The Avengers or you’re an archeologist when
it comes to music. This just might be the thing you’re
Curiosity is a complex emotion, one that can reap many rewards
while digging up a treasure trove of truths. One that can
also leave you black eyed and bitten if you get too close.
Brooklyn, New York’s Sarcasm were one of the many unsung
heroes of the early New York Hardcore and Thrash scenes of
the early 1980’s.
War-Song features twelve tracks pulled from their
two original 1986 demos ‘Man of God?’ and ‘War-
Song’. Hearing these songs and this band for the first
time since it was recorded more than thirty years ago only
served as a reminder of why Sarcasm were considered so underrated
amongst their peers. Maybe they just weren’t that
Both the vocals are riffs on these songs, not to mention
the overall recording quality, are pretty bad compared to
many of their contemporaries at a time when thrash and crossover
were making a lot of noise amongst the extreme music community.
Whether you’re mining for thrash, crossover or hardcore,
you’d be much better served elsewhere. Respect to
Radio Raheem Records for bringing life to so many lost archives.
However, some things are best left uncovered.
Having heard The Psychos occasionally over the years, I admit
not expecting much beyond a little unearthed history. I have
to admit to enjoying some of these tracks, as they remind
me of some of the raw and tribal elements the first drew me
to the early recordings of New York Hardcore acts such as
Agnostic Front, The Mob and Urban Waste. Like many bands of
their time and since, the Psychos had a revolving cast of
characters that included, but were not limited to Roger Miret’
(Agnostic Front) Billy Milano (S.O.D., M.O.D.) Billy Psycho
and Tommy Rat (Trip 6, Rejuvenate)
Understandably, The Psychos appeal would never be felt
beyond the early New York Hardcore roots it took part in
creating. As far as the bands recorded legacy goes, time
and the many changes the sub-genre of punk would go through
have not been kind to these songs. Thus, rendering ‘One
Voice’ as more of a historical artifact than anything.
I these recordings serve any purpose, it would lie with
those who were there in those early days of New York’s
early days of hardcore. Included is a LP includes a 16-page,
12" x 12" booklet and is limited to 500 copies.
Who would have imagined that more than twenty years after
seeing them live at Coney Island High, that I’d be listening
to a new album from the same band? Time sure does fly and
somewhere during the decade’s past, the bands I used
to love to see back in the day have somehow managed to keep
it together while remaining relevant. Railer opens
up with “Stealing Light,” a song whose intro had
me reaching for the album cover to check if they were covering
Maiden’s “Number of the Beast” (which they
Each of the twelve entries on Railer are fast paced
and upbeat, with the exception of the slow burning intro "Suffering."
There are some great vocal harmonies, bass lines, guitar leads
and pounding rhythms. There’s even a speedy, upbeat
cover of Journey’s “Faithfully” However,
I can’t help but feel as if I’m locked into a
90’s Offspring themed beach party surrounded by beer
kegs and teens wearing backward caps while insecurely squeezing
colorful plastic cups. Not a bad album at all, but definitely
one that would be better received decades ago. While Railer
certainly displays all the elements that made skate punk and
pop punk so relatable. it also shows why the trend disappeared
or just died out.
Reviewing a record from a band you’ve never before heard
of can be both rewarding and confounding. When you don’t
like what you’re hearing, especially when it’s
a reissue, you might try looking back to when it was originally
released, what you were listening to at the time, and whether
or not you would have liked it back then. ‘Are You
Sleepy, the Gerbils' 1998 debut, gets the reissue vinyl
treatment after being out of print for, well, forever. To
properly address and authoritatively answer the question the
album title might ask, yes, I am quite sleepy. Sleepy and
somewhat sluggish after listening to this 90’s reissue.
While it might be worth praising the label Elephant 6 and
note their dedication to releasing and reissuing some really
noteworthy power pop, The Gerbils strike me as all pop with
little or no power. In listening to the eleven songs on Are
You Sleepy, I get a strong sense of jangle pop with some
sychedelia added to the mix. And while there are little moments
sprinkled throughout, the record's slow paced approach and
whispered, yet droning vocals never managed to grab a hold
on me. In the end, I found myself struggling to find even
the most remotely positive thing to come away with.
I once had a crush on a coworker who wore a cool pleather
jacket. Though it was a long time ago, seeing a 7-inch single
by a band named Pleather brought back memories of that bob
haired girl I spent many a lunch break with. On the band’s
two song vinyl debut, Hattiesburg, Mississippi’s Pleather
mix bouncy, upbeat and rhythmic pop punk with an edgy, relatable
sound. In judging the overall quality and impact of a single,
I tend to judge how many flips it gets on the turntable. Being
that I lost count of how many times I flipped my copy, I’d
say the impression was very good.
House Safe for Tigers – Space Between (Headless Actor
There are times when reviewing music that's so far from what
you’ve gotten used to and writing about that you find
yourself soul searching, leaning in closer to hear something
that you can identify with and scratching your head when you
can’t. Such was the case with Space Between
by A House Safe for Tigers. Formed in Buffalo, New York by
duo Mark Constintino and Brendon Delmont, who each have pasts
rich with hardcore-punk and synth-heavy rock, their collaboration
shows a more grown up approach to synth heavy material. There’s
an environmental esthetic that runs through the album, with
some great harmonies and melodies throughout. However, I never
felt as if I was hearing anything worth celebrating. And while
it’s clear A House Safe for Tigers are on their own
trip and doing their own thing, suffice to say it’s
not mine. Call it indie pop, baroque or chamber pop. The subdued
approach and overall results on Space Between just
never resonated with me. If this is your thing, then I’d
recommend checking it out. If not, well.
Fast Eddy, not to be confused with Fast Eddie Clark of Fastway
and Motorhead, is a four-piece rock & roll band from Denver,
Colorado. Formed in 2017, they’ve since cemented their
reputation as a rock act to be reckoned with. On “Toofer
One” Fast Eddy display their capacity to produce loud,
bombastic guitar driven rock & roll that is both appealing
and necessary. “Hurricane Alley” introduces the
record and for myself, the band with a sound that sounds just
as impactful as its namesake. Bombastic, high voltage guitar
rock with a fast, up beat sound that comes across as authentic
and captivating. “Milwaukee” and “Lost”
follow with a more bluesy, guitar driven swagger. Working
in cahoots to deliver an edgy and dynamic sound that’s
worth numerous spins on the turntable.
Texas hard rockers Killer Hearts kick it into high gear, playing
fast, yet tight punk influenced rock & roll. Relentless
riffs, pounding rhythms and screamed vocals join forces to
create a unholy alliance that has produced four of the most
scorching sonically tracks these ears have heard in some time.
Think Dead Boys meet The Stooges on the fiery road to hell.
”Do Your Thing”, “Midnight Lucifer”,
“Annihilation” and “Killed By Volume”
each live up to their titles with their pounding and relentless
attack. This is the kind of rock & roll that your parents
either warned you about or took out to dance around the fire
when summoning the demons. In giving numerous listens to Killer
Hearts, I found myself drawing comparisons to other great
acts such as Drive Like Jehu, Rocket from the Crypt and New
Jersey’s the Rye Coalition. If you dig greasy, dirty
rock & roll with punk authenticity, you’d be a fool
to pass this one.
I have to say I was pretty excited about this record. Something
about the name Skating Polly, the fact that the band featured
Louise Post and Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt, and the cover
photo and the artfully engraved B–side. However, “New
Trick” never woke from malaise of the opener “Louder
in Outer Space”. It might be worth noting that on the
band’s Facebook page, it states “Recording songs
that we would want to listen to and playing shows that we
would like to see. And taking over the world.” Which,
by all accounts can be respected regarding how much time they’ve
spent making music. That said, maybe I was expecting something
different considering the upbeat name and personnel involved.
Instead of feeling woke, I found myself sliding into my chair,
wishing for more caffeine in my muddy cup pf pick me up. Perhaps
if I went into listening to “New Trick” with lower
expectations or hoping to revisit outtakes from a Cowboy Junkies
session. I might have formed a different opinion. In the end,
I just didn’t find anything worth praising when it came
to these three songs. I also found it somewhat shitty how
they managed to put three songs on a one sided 12" LP
and charge upward of twenty dollars for it.
Funeral – Discography 2001 – 2004 (Hex Records)
Jeezus Weezus, what a ghastly name for a band. One that might
be best suited for an 80’s Goth act or a Swedish Death
Metal band. A band I might have skipped over wanting to avoid
the misery that would most likely come along with it. That
said, I’ve never been one to turn my back on a discography.
Featuring a staggering thirty songs, The Funeral’s Discography
collects everything the band recorded during their 2001-2004
existence, including two full lengths and several demos, Perhaps
due to the CD age, this will be the first time the songs will
be available on vinyl. All the material has been remastered
for this collection and comes on a double LP in a gatefold
jacket, complete with hundreds of pictures and flyers, as
well as a booklet detailing lyrics, shows, and an oral history
of the band, download card included. First 100 copies on colored
vinyl with the rest being issued on black. In listening to
Funeral one will immediately notice the metallic edge to their
sound, astyle and influence I came to accept over the years,
but never quite warmed up to. Funeral possessed many good
qualities such as razor sharp riffs, breakdowns and sing along
vocals, but again, it’s nothing I haven’t heard
countless times before and nothing I’d never voluntarily
listen to again. Though this would without a doubt, appeal
to many. I found Funeral’s discography to be as uninspiring
as the band’s name.
On their four-song debut for 13 O’Clock Records, Brooklyn’s
The Elevator Operators serve up some tasty 60’s era
jangle-pop, songs that perfectly encapsulate an era and sound
that - I hope, hope - seems to be slowly but surely resurfacing.
The EP quickly endears the listener with the laid back, yet
uplifting “On the Ground." “Freudian Knowledge”
follows with its old-school Country Music leanings. “It
Could do me Better”, arguably my favorite of the four
entries, sounds eerily familiar, as if it could have shown
up as a B side to The Monkees “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”
As I’ve found myself listening to a lot of the Anderson
Council’s “Worlds Collide” and The Gold
Needles “Through a Window” lately, I can’t
help but make comparisons as well as find common ground with
Exploring one’s earliest work and material can be chancy,
with both risks and rewards. If you’re used to listening
to the band’s best material, you might feel let down
by earlier versions of the songs you’ve come to love
as possibly better produced works. Often credited along with
Black Flag, the Bad Brains and Middle Class as the founders
of hardcore, a sub-genre of punk known for its faster, harder,
more aggressive approach
than the first wave it proceeded, Vancouver, B.C.’s
D.O.A. were one of my earliest springboards to American (or
in their case, North American) hardcore. To be honest, though,
I really didn’t expect to come away with much here.
Considering my history with lackluster Record Store Day releases
and a recent experience with the dreadful early Discharge
recordings. D.O.A.’s “1978” was a well calculated
risk that featured more than its share of rewards. A risk,
considering it wasn’t a record on my list when I visited
my favorite Tacoma, Washington record store. Rewarding in
that many of the titles such as “World War 3”,
“Disco Sucks’, “Fucked Up Ronnie”
and “Smash the State” were still familiar to me.
The sound and overall production helped in making a trip back
to humble punk rock beginnings so worthwhile. “1978”
comes on two LP’s and features twenty-one unreleased
early demos and singles recorded from 1978 – 1982. If
there’s any downside, whatsoever, it’s the lack
of any liner notes. I really feel the packaging would benefit
from early photos, anecdotes and lyrics thata I’m sure
fans would enjoy.
O.D. – The Wacky Hi-Jinks of Adrenalin O.D.
The 35-year anniversary reissue of New Jersey jokers A.O.D.’s
“Wacky Hi-Jinks” not only serves as a reminder
to those who were around at the time that we're pretty old,
but celebrates the fact that we were once young punks who
can now look back as the semi-cool kids who journeyed outside
of the realms of forcefed FM radio programming and MTV schlock,
those of us who wandered to explore and dig to find amazing
music that the majority of the music listening planet was
Wacky Hi-Jinks was originally released on the band's label
Buy Our Records in 1984. It should be noted that the label
would release like-minded classics from Bodies in Panic,
Bedlam, Social Decay and many more. The reissue features
all of the restored and remastered fifteen songs that appeared
on the original 1984 release, original album image and artwork.
The reissue also includes the original inlet and art, which
for old folks like myself, is just icing on the cake.
Though comparable to Los Angeles, California’s The
Dickies, New Jersey’s A.O.D.
(Adrenalin Overdose) always sounded like the champions of
satire, wit and all out silly hardcore punk. With elements
of punk, hardcore and thrash, Adrenalin O.D. took on Godzilla
with an Uncle Floyd sense of humor and saved the east coast,
if not the world, from any entities looking to suck the
humor and fun out of life.
“Wacky Hi-Jinks” was and still is a fun record,
one deserving being reissued, revisited and enjoyed. It’s
good to hear that some of the things I enjoyed as a young
teenager still hold up. An absolute must for old timers,
newcomers and everyone in between.
Formed in Seattle’s rainy season of 2017, but not released
until more than two years later, tLongward's first release
has surfaced. From the opening note of “A Visceral Assembly”
to the pounding drums and kliier riffs of “Spotting
Owls “, there’s a core that is bothidentifiable
and inspired. The mix of positive energy, hooks and melody
combine to form something emotive and gratifying. “A
Visceral Assembly”, “Lung Division”, “Parallels”,
“Same Page” and “Spotting Owls” all
serve as great introductions to what, by all means, seems
to be a special band. While closely comparable to such melodic-leaning
punk acts as Rise Against, Strike Anywhere and H2O, Longward
are definitely standing on their own legs. It doesn’t
happen every day, but hearing Longward makes me wish I had
a record label. In reaching out to the band, I learned that
they are working on new material for an EP set to be released
in the Spring of 2020. I for one can’t wait.
Hmm, the slow and ominous instrumental opening to “33
Shots” had me thinking I might be into something interesting.
However, when the vocals broke in and the tempo quickened,
I felt as if I had been lured into a turn of the decade Nu
Metal arrival. As one song led to another, I quickly lost
the will to go on. If there is a positive in all this, there
are actually some interesting chord changes sprinkled throughout,
not to mention some notable drum rolls. Overall, I felt as
if I was trapped in an awful script about Wizards attempting
to rescue a group of tweens from a dragon’s lair. Not
Drugs – Modern Medicine (Indecision Records)
If you’ve been reading my column you might recall my
review of the Jersey shore’s School Drugs' previous
EP “Relative Suffering” and how I began it by
describing School Drugs' sound as “pure mania at its
Apex.” Well, I just thought I’d drop in to report
that, though things haven’t changed a whole lot, “Modern
Medicine” might eclipse what was dealt on the aforementioned
EP. Flame- thrower riffs meet aggressive growls and pounding
rhythms to create an atmosphere of authentic urgency. Modern
Medicine feature ten songs of punk rock bombast that brings
to mind bands such as early Black Flag, Drive Like Jehu, Rocket
from the Crypt, The Dwarves and anything that just tests the
limits of testosterone-filled bombast. School Drugs burn bright
while flying the flag of the “Loud, Fast, Rules!”
ethos. Sure, the Twilight Zone-inspired album cover creeps
me out and the music frightens my wiener, but fuck, great
music is supposed to elicit a response.
Drawn in by the cool, yet primitive Raymond Pettibon (Black
Flag artist/brother of Black Flag founder Greg Ginn) inspired
cover art, I was eager to hear Seattle’s Having Issues.
I might have been expecting to hear some Rollins-era Black
Flag or early California Punk-leaning influences; instead,
I got what seems to be six or so live recordings whose sound
is so awful, it makes me think a cassette recorder was smuggled
into a show and left crammed up some bootlegger's ass during
the recording. There’s a healthy mix of 80’s post
punk, goth and industrial strung throughout these five songs,
but the recording itself is so especially bad that listening
to it in its entirety is painful at best. While I’m
sure Having Issues possess something worthwhile, it certainly
can’t be heard anywhere on this recording. How posting
it on social media is supposed to advance the band in any
way is beyond me.
Los Angeles, CA’s Risk step into the ring with a five-song
demo that might inspire some kick spins and blood on the dancefloor,
but lacks the elements that might inspire one to get to the
show in time to catch their set. The five-song demo opens
with “New Breed”, which begins with a sort of
skit that pretty much lets you know what you’re going
to get, 90’s influenced tough guy hardcore leanings
with a heavy Madball/Crown of Thorns influence. There are
some good solos and breakdowns throughout, but there’s
no avoiding the rather meathead approach throughout. With
song titles like “Moby’s Dick” and “Talk
shit. Get shit”, Risk won’t be winning any awards
for originality or intellect. Neither the band's nor Slam
Records' Bandcamp pages fail to provide even the most basic
background information regarding the band or release. Which
lead the listener to wonder, why even bother?
Anderson Council – Worlds Collide (Jem Records)
When it comes to tones of home (I called New Jersey my home
for more than fifteen years,)
The Anderson Council paint a picture that few come even close
to crafting, with melodic textures, harmonious tones and an
attention to songwriting that can easily be described as The
Beatles and XTC. Like a trip to Princeton Records, Asbury
Park or a show at New Brunswick’s Court Tavern, listening
to the Anderson Council almost guarantees returns. Worlds
Collide delivers on that guarantee with its warmth and
somewhat psychedelic twists. From the launch of the opener
"Collision" to the last breath of "Lads and
Lasses," I’m taken back to the days when I was
9 or 10 and would slip into another time and place laying
in front of couch with the headphones on and listening to
The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Though The Anderson Council’s sound and approach seem
steeped in Sixties Brit-pop brilliance, World’s
Collide sounds uniquely fresh, avoiding any retrospective
or revivalist trappings. Favorites include "Mrs. Kirby’s
Refrigerator" (featuring Peter Noone, formerly of Herman’s
Hermits.), "Amazing," "Grey Heavenly Way."
and "How Much How Long. "
Read James Damion's interview with Peter Horvath of Anderson
Following their 2016 debut EP "Hummannoyed," the
New Jersey-based Hardcore band return with five new songs.
The band mixes elements of metal and hardcore to come up with
some rather impressive results. The four minute "Oh Brother
" opens the EP and establishes itself like a tornado
descending on a small town. "Progress," my personal
favorite, follows with similar bombast and power. Although
the riffs, chord changes, progression and devilish bass lines
impress, there’s something especially wicked about how
the vocals and percussion match up. The three tracks that
follow, "Mudfllood," "God is a Woman,"
and "Essential Spoils" each produce worthy results,
making "Middle Middle Vocal Chord" an overwhelmingly
positive introduction to the band me, personally.
Overall, I found this to be quite impressive and musically
diverse, one of the best I’ve heard from the hardcore
in quite a while. Only time will tell if Comb the Desert’s
influences become comparisons. However, at least for now,
the band should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished
here. If I could give any advice to a young band, it would
be to credit bigger and in most cases, better bands as influences
before comparing yourself to them. It might be well intended,
but it doesn’t often come off sounding or reading
I have to admit to having hope for All American as
I marveled in the hand screened album cover and handwritten
lyric sheet that lied within. However, all hope quickly fade
the moment the needle hit the record,. marking the full-length
debut by the Spokane Washington quartet. While Buffet’s
sound is notably diverse and doesn’t pander to any gender
pacific classifications, as a listener I found making my way
through the entire album’s 14 songs to be tedious and
unrewarding. Overall, Buffet come off as a joke band with
no punchline. Just one reviewer’s opinion but, All
American is about as rudimentary as it gets.
Beastly, burly, chest pounding straightedge metalcore from
Sweden that in all honesty, doesn’t do a whole lot to
stand out from the pack. "Last One Standing," the
band's 2nd EP and fourth release overall, offers five songs
that feature loud and shouted vocals met with titanic riffs
to combine for an overall generic sound that I’ve gotten
used to hearing for more than twenty-five years. Though these
guys are definitely pissed off about something, what it might
be is beyond me. I found this EP to be so unsatisfying that
I found myself at a loss of words or need to describe it.
Refuse Records Bandcamp
Rightfully regarded as one of the best current acts dedicated
to writing, producing and performing hardcore music, Defeater
to the many are a band dedicated to maintaining and building
on hardcore punk's 40-year legacy and need little to no introduction.
Formed in Boston in the early to mid 2,000’s, the band
set its course playing melodic, yet dark and ambitious hardcore
that involved lyrical concepts that often displayed the bands
gift for storytelling. On their fifth album to date, Boston’s
Defeater break from their Bridge9 Records family to release
a vinyl version with Epitaph Records.
Musically, the record sounds good as a whole. However,
perhaps due to the band's history of basing their albums
on an overall concept, song wise, there isn’t really
an individual song that stands out amongst the others. It
can also be noted that Defeater’s sound or approach
hasn’t changed or evolved much from record to record.
It should be noted that a lot of great, noteworthy bands
begin to slip creatively after a few releases.
With Defeater now on their fifth album, it’s good
to know that fire is still burning. And while this album
didn’t exactly blow me away, only time will tell if
that initial reaction changes to something more positive.
The album feature eleven songs with the vinyl version appearing
on color vinyl.
Kreutzer Sonata – The Rosehill Gates (Don’t
Panic Records & Distro)
Don’t feel bad if the name The Kreutzer Sonata doesn’t
exactly roll of the tongue, being the Chicago band most likely
took it from the 1889 novella by Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy
or the Beethoven-penned sonata that came before it. How an
American band picked up on and ultimately decided to use it
as their band name is beyond me. So, let’s just get
to the music featured on The Rosehill Gates.
Wow, just wow! Don’t you just love it when something
completely and totally takes you out of your comfort zone
and knocks you right on your ass? You know, the kind of stuff
you listen to alone in the dark and keep stashed away like
a sticky porn mag when the folks stop by. The tunes you only
break out when certain deviants come over for a visit? Well,
that’s the impression I got from listening to these
hardcore delinquents. On their third album to date, Chicago
based Kreutzer Sonata unleash twelve scorching hardcore, street
punk anthems that mirror the authentic tough gritty nature
of the city they were crafted in.
The songs on The Rosehall Gates often reflect
on the past and the band's time together.
The music is loud and fast with screamed, over the top vocals
- down, dirty and thoroughly authoritative. With only two
songs making the four-minute mark, you get the feeling that
the band closely adhere to punk's Loud, Fast, Rules ethos.
Favorite songs include the fast and furious opening track
"Degenerate Theory" and the equally devious "Feasts
and Famines." Overall, The Kreutzer Sonata’s
The Rosehall Gates demonstrates the band's ability
to grab hold of and not let go of the listeners attention
I have to admit to being a bit taken aback by these Londoners.
With the band's penchant for creating a sound that harkens
back to the 60’s psych-pop era, who in their right
mind would question my wanting to board a time machine to
visit a golden age of rock and pop exploration and exploration?
That said, it should be noted that Simon, Dave and Mark
offer a lot more than incense and peppermints or nostalgia
peppered retrospect. The trippy ten song Through a Window
opens with "Do You Want What I Need," which almost
immediately transports you to a different time, sound and
approach to music. With each song that follows, the band
stays true to its roots, coupling excellent songwriting
with a strong sense song structure, even if the whole retro
approach is a bit much at times. (The Gold Needlles and
the entirety of Through a Window never step outside
of their 60’s time machine.) I couldn’t help
but feel the warmth and familiarity in these songs. Favorites
include, but are not limited to "Here She Goes Again,"
"Sunset Girl," and the clap happy sing along,
"Winning a Losing Game." Highest recommendations
to fans of acts such as The Byrds, CSN & Young, The
Zombies and The Box Tops.
Dickies – I Dig Go-Go Girls / The Dreaded Pigasaurus
7-inch (Slope Records)
Okay, so it’s been close to thirty years since I
saw The Dickies perform at Trenton’s infamous City
Garden’s and aside from that trip south of heaven,
I really haven’t spent much of any time listening
to the first wave Los Angeles joke punkers. In listening
to their cover of Cheap Trick’s "I Dig Go-Go
Girls" and their own "The Dreaded Pigasaurus,"
I really don’t feel any sense of loss in never giving
their back catalog much attention. Nor do I feel anything
was gained in hearing from them some thirty years later.
Whereas, I fully understand and accept The Dickies legacy
and influence on countless bands that followed, I’ll
sum up my review and overall reaction with, “Not for
There are times when having no prior knowledge or awareness
of a band or artist can be a positive in getting to know and
form your own opinion about their music and its presentation.
Such was the case with Buffalo, New York’s Alpha Hopper
and their self-titled eleven song album. The four-piece band
delivers fuzzed out, chaotic beauty that finds influences
in psyche, garage, hard rock and experimental rock. Whether
or not drugs or Satan were involved will be left to rumor
and/or speculation. Most interesting is how the vocals take
somewhat of a back seat to the heavy rhythms and fuzzed out
riffs, making for an interesting aesthetic. I found many of
the leads, changes and instrumentations presented here to
be quite impressive. However, the usage of a vocalist or lack
thereof made me wonder if their presence served any actual
purpose. Overall, Aloha Hopper’s frenetic energy appealed
to me in a Fu Manchu meets The White Stripes kind of way.
Good stuff to take along on the manic ride.
It’s been a while since we last heard from Kearny, New
Jersey’s TV Sound. However, with memories of “Amber
Glass High” and "Telecommando" still fresh
on my ears, there was a certain amount of excitement and eagerness
in hearing what Jim, Dave and Paul were up to. TV Sound plays
melodic garage rock that carries warm tones and a jangly vibe
that is simple, yet intimate, giving them a very band next
store feeling. This EP features four songs that make you want
to lean in and either clap or sing along. Though I felt drawn
in within seconds of the opener "When You Get There (It’s
Gone,)" I can’t help but feel that the fourth and
final entry, "Well Bred Gentleman." really put the
hooks in me. Overall, it’s just good to hear from a
band that not only survived the 90’s, but lived on to
strive in the Aughts (and whatever we're calling this decade.)
The first thing you’ll notice when visiting the Bandcamp
page for Perspective’s Lousy is that the background
they use is so dark that you might have to employ special
ops gear to read any information about the band without risking
losing your sight or permanently damaging your retinas. As
far as the music goes, the band's spacey jam pop didn’t
appeal to me in the least; so much so that curiosity was quickly
turned to annoyance and anger. (Imagine being trapped on an
elevator for ten hours with no food or water while you’re
gh the speakers over and over.) Making these twelve songs
a living hell to get through. In listening and reviewing one’s
art, finding something you can relate to or at least something
constructive to add work as essential tools to either praise
or perhaps helpfully critique. Here was case where a band’s
music and the vehicle used to promote it only warranted scorn.
of Contention – If Might Makes Right…Then Rod
is God (Indecision Records)
With a rather dumb looking cover and an idiotic title, San
Diego’s Rod of Contention doesn’t do much to lure
in the listener or convince anyone they’re about to
listen to anything beyond the outright generic. Happily, however,
the four song EP does have some strong points. On the follow
up to their seven-song debut "Lies," ROC tackle
elements of metal, thrash, hardcore and punk with varied results.
While there are some excellent riffs, chord changes and bass
lines to be found within, one never gets the sense that the
band is offering anything special or unique.
Oh, to be young, drunk and handsome again. Or to be skating
a half pipe or being find myself funneling a tasty wave. Okay,
maybe just drunk. I guess I’ll have to leave the rest
to Florida’s The Wastedist. Originally formed out of
the wastelands of the sunshine state back in 2008, the self-described
good looking trio applied their mutual love of surf, skate
and drinking to create a sound that’s fast fun and thoroughly
enjoyable. As I pulled the record out of its sleeve and marveled
at the glowing green vinyl and its psychedelic swirl, my beautiful
wife interjected just what I, myself, was already thinking.
“That’s a beautiful looking record. I kind of
doubt it’s going to sound half as good as it looks.”
Oh, how wrong could two people be. In listening to the nine-song
barrage that is “Surf and Turf,” we both got an
earful of fast, party-themed surf and skate punk that was
both enjoyable and kick ass. Though the members of The Wastedist
are still in their twenties, they mention bands such as The
Germs, Discharge and the Dayglo Abortions as influences, and
I couldn't help but hear elements of Agent Orange, The Adolescents,
The Vandals, D.I. and even Boston’s Jerry’s Kids
– Violent and Depressed (REACT! Records)
It’s been six long years since Baltimore Maryland’s
Warxgames released their one and only EP ““9 Trax
/ No Nightmare,” a lifetime to many independent bands
and underground scenes. Imagine my surprise when, in a recent
the band's front man Tony Pense said that not only is the
band still together but would be releasing their new record
in a matter of months.
The promised 7-inch features nine fast, loud and apocalyptic
assaults that forgo solos and perfectly timed breaks for complete
annihilation and chaos. With short, caustic bursts of chaotic
angst that rarely make the one minute mark, who has the time
or space to fit any? WarxGames' approach to Hardcore can be
compared to old school hardcore pioneers such as The Necros,
Void, Negative Approach and early Black Flag. Whether you’re
into old school hardcore or current leaders in the sub-genre
of Punk, I highly recommend checking WarxGames out.
Before we go any further, it might help to bring some much-needed,
angry old man shaking his fist at the clouds clarity to the
table. Melodic punk, pop punk and mall punk are three distinctly
different things with different characteristics. Often confused
with one another and even copped by numerous acts who, for
whatever reason, feel that adding the word “punk”
to their description gives them some sort of edgy cred. Perhaps
this explains my apprehension when finding Swill’s Fresh
Air in the pile of new releases I was asked to review.
Originally released back in April on Rat Town Records,
Fresh Air marks Swill's full length debut. Right
out of the gate I felt drawn to Jacksonville, Florida’s
melodic punk trio and their impressive, ten song, full length
debut. Fast, energetic, upbeat with melody and muscle. The
opener and title song "Fresh Air" draws you in
carving out some tasty riffs that spiral in a lot of interesting
directions, giving one the feeling of skating a pipe or
finding yourself funneling your way through a tasty wave.
The percussion has a speedy, rolling, heavy-on-the-toms
feel to it. Perk up the ears, close your eyes and you’ll
surely get a visual of the action unfolding. Cut to 1:46
of the opener and you’ll be treated to one of the
tastiest bass lines out there. Throughout these ten songs
you’ll hear plenty of uplifting riffs and chord changes.
The percussion is very front loaded, taking somewhat of
a leadership role throughout the album. Vocally, there is
a nice blend and balance that works well in the melodic
punk side of the pond, yet would find acceptance and kinship
amongst the hardcore crowd. Overall, I really felt drawn
to Swill’s sound, application and their overall musical
balance. I was often reminded of the bands that brought
me out of my shell as a teen finding inspiration in the
more emotionally and melodically connected hardcore punk
Presents – Still Having their Say (Bridge Nine Records)
As teens in love with 80’s Punk Rock and Hardcore, we
often looked to fanzines for information regarding our favorite
bands. It’s been said and often repeated that fanzines
were one of the few voices for underground music and the counter
culture that often fostered it. For myself and many others,
xXx fanzine was one of the very best publications of its time.
As fanzines of that time continue to resurface as books
to document the histories of such publications, 2017’s
all-encompassing book “xXx Fanzine (1983-1988)”
was, to say the very least, titanic. Long after purchasing
the book, I decided to enhance my experience by giving the
tribute album Still Having their Say a good go
The limited 12” (300 copies) color vinyl pressing
features 19 songs of current and quite varied hardcore and
hard rock luminaries paying tribute to many of the bands
who originally appeared within the pages of xXx fanzine.
Though good in most respects, like Walter Shreifel's acoustic
take on Agnostic Front’s “Society Sucker,”
Fu Manchu’s take on the Circle Jerks classic “When
the Shit Hits the Fan,” and a few others, the tribute
falters where most every other one does - in the simple
yet often unrealized truth that, at the end of the day,
we’d all prefer to hear the originals. And while there
are definitely some excellent moments to be had, having
heard most of, if not all these cover songs before (any
of the included on these bands' albums,) I can’t really
tell if any of the music included here was recorded for
this project. While not bad by any means, Still Having
Their Say” didn’t provide anything new
to these old ears.
Polluter – Cynical Scumbaggery / Piss Popular (Rattown
Fast punk rock out of Orange County, CA, Gross Polluter (formerly
known as Smogtown) step out with two songs that are parts
punk, part garage punk, and almost instantly forgettable.
Though “Cynical Scumbaggery” and the B side “Piss
Popular” briefly bring to mind classic bands such as
The Germs and Crimpshrine, there’s nothing here that
would warrant further listening or investigation regarding
the band. Though I fully understand their might be an audience
for Gross Polluter, I was not the least bit impressed.
On their 2019 debut Stay Cool, Rat Fancy unleash
ten songs of fuzzy and warm jangle pop that feature some nice
hooks, rhythmic jaunts and catchy melodies. However, after
reading the press kit and bio for both Rat Fancy and lead
singer Diane Barraza, I was quite surprised at how her voice
is the one and only consistent reason I found Stay Cool
to be so grating and unenjoyable. To each their own, and I
might find myself in the minority here, but her chirpy and
overwhelmingly bratty vocal approach made listening to these
songs a painful experience. And while the album has its share
of hooks, warm rhythms and fuzzed out remnants of jangle and
power pop, it’s hardly enough to cover for that one
rather large factor. The vinyl version comes with a download
card that I almost immediately designated for the circular
Here I am, weeks removed from the overwhelming crowds of Record
Store Day 2019, still in awe over coming home with the grand
prize that the Devo box set was, is, and will surely continue
to be. The exclusive Record Store Day release served as both
a time capsule and a vivid tour through the band's early recorded
Like many, I was only ten when introduced to the band through
the video for “Whip it.” By then, I was already
reaping the rewards on an allowance that included an album
of my choice every other week. After seeing the video and
hearing it at the local roller rink the following weekend,
I chose “Freedom of Choice” based entirely on
the single. What I didn’t expect but was jazzed to
learn was that the entire album was amazing. From the thunderbolt
charge of “Freedom of Choice” to the quickened
pulse of “Girl U Want,” I was transported to
this outer world of geek-strong “beam me up and take
me to your leader” nerdism.
The box set features the six albums released by Warner
Bros. between 1978 and 1984: . Q: Are We Not Men?,
We Are Devo! (1978), Duty Now for the Future
(1979), Freedom of Choice (1980), New Traditionalists
(1981), Oh, No! It's Devo (1982), and Shout
(1984.) Housed in a sturdy box, repressed on a different
color vinyl showing the original art work and covers, the
sound quality is outstanding and I can honestly say, I enjoyed
unwrapping and listening to each record as a whole. While
I’ve continued my appreciation of Devo over the years,
I’ve admittedly done so by listening to collections
of their work and an occasional spin of Freedom of Choice.
Listening to each of these records chronologically had
quite an endearing effect on me. The box itself is limited
to 3,000 copies. And while I fully understand both the monetary
cost (around $120) and time it might take to listen to each
album, I still hold it in the highest regard. Whether or
not you decide to seek out the box set, I highly recommend
looking into Devo’s recorded works.
While I can’t quite remember who first alerted me to
the term “Dad Rock”. I can authoritatively narrow
it down to either Jim Testa, (Jersey Beat) James Appio, (Cool
Dad Music) or Al Crisafulli (Dromedary Records.) Which brings
me to Essex County Dad Rockers Tri-State. Formed in 2010,
and featuring Jeff Zelevansky (guitar/vocals), Brady McNamara
(drums), Julian Brash (guitar/vocals), and Scott Stemmermann
(bass,) Tri-State’s music can be best described as a
laid-back pop rock affair. Hey Pal carries a warm,
lived in vibe highlighted by plenty of hooks, harmonies and
guitar driven melodies. The album features nine songs, with
the opener “Toasts and Boasts” and “First
Responder” being personal favorites. (RIYL The Hasbros,
Bastards of Melody and the Anderson Council.)
When I was first introduced to England’s The Heavy,
I couldn’t help but feel that soul music was on a brilliant
crash course with rock & roll. When first introduced through
the lead single “How You Like Me Now?” from their
2009 sophomore effort The House that Dirt Built,
I felt that I almost immediately was being treated to something
Fast forward ten years and I’m getting a similar
vibe from a somewhat old and familiar place. Sons
opens like a neutron bomb with “Heavy for You,”
its screaming guitars, pounding rhythms and Kelvin Swaby’s
soulful screams calling out “I got taste/ I got lust/
I got all those things that you want. “ From there,
it’s just one groove-heavy soulful trip that combines
classic R&B and eccentric rock that features a lot of
interesting twists and turns. (Including the electro-funk
inspired “Simple Things.”) If you’re a
fan of James Brown, Jimi Hendrix or Sly & the Family
Stone, you should feel right at home with Sons.
Though I found it hard to scale this album down to just
a couple of praise worthy offerings, I couldn’t end
this review without noting that “Heavy for You”,
“Better as One” and the album's closer “Burn
Bright” deserve serious accolades as well as countless
returns to the dancefloor. And while it’s rare that
a band that gave me instant gratification year agos still
feels vital and irreplaceable, this one does.
When you’re a kid, a common tactic of bullies is to
call another out as weird or weirdo. Though intended to be
hurtful, it ultimately means you don’t fit in with all
the squares who choose to walk a straight path or care to
fit in with the status quo. As you get older, that weirdness
takes you places while enabling you to thrive in creative
areas far beyond those of your peers.
Which brings me to Stockholm, Sweden’s Shit Kid aka
Åsa Söderqvis. In listening to Shit Kid for the
first time, I found myself swimming in the pool of weird
genius that was both simple and brilliant. Each song carries
the warm simplicity of a home recording, while still sounding
clean and tight in all the right places.
Söderqvis’ approach feels like a strange yet
compelling cross between a young Liz Phair and early Lilly
Allen. Åsa’s voice can be bratty and commanding
while vulnerable and innocent at others; at times off key,
yet completely on target.
“Detention” features eight songs that carry
a sense of intimacy and vulnerability, one that feels honest
and integrally quirky. In listening to “Detention”
on vinyl, I felt myself falling deep into a spell of the
songs featured on Side A, with the opening title track “Detention”,
“Romance”, “Last Mistake” and “Summer
Vacation” becoming instant favorites. Still, flipping
over to the B side quickly led me to “Home Wondering
(I don’t want to go to prom.)” and “Lost
In listening to “Detention” and reading up a
bit on Sweden’s Shit Kid. I got the feeling that I
was experiencing something different, unique and somewhat
special. Kind of like the first time I heard Bjork’s
voice with the Sugarcubes.
Sweet Things – Borrowed Shoes on Borrowed Time (Spaghetty
After two praise-worthy singles on Spaghetty Town Records,
The Sweet Things return to the turntable with more of the
rock n roll swagger that made them so appealing to those longing
for a return to rock's edgy, street wise depravity.
On their debut full length, New York’s Sweet Things
strike hard with ten songs that showcase their knack for creating
dirty, bluesy and totally infectious style rock & roll.
With elements, reminiscent of the Stones, the Stooges and
the New York Dolls, The Sweet Things seem hell bent on bringing
back a somewhat dangerous street wise edge to the genre. There’s
definitely a Jagger/ Richards kind of kinship between guitarists/
vocalists Tierney and Behrman, one that has me visualizing
them cozying up to one another to share the mic at shows.
There’s a lot of guitar swagger on tracks like “Liquor
Lightning” and “Fix to Kick”. However, on
songs like the title track, “Borrowed Shoes and Borrowed
Time” and the aptly titled “Drained” the
band show their ability to change pace and take it down a
notch. Aside from the songs I mentioned, you be hard pressed
to find a deuce in the deck. As for me, my personal favorite
was the fiery and raucous “Through the Cracks of the
City”. If you’re looking for a stand out guitar
rock band with a punk twist. Look no further.
– Look to the Artist: 1978-1981 (Beach Impediment
When you approach the highway of late 70’s/ early 80’s,
you’ll quickly notice the monuments built to bands like
Cheap Trick, The Knack, The Cars and many more, each and every
one of them worth both our praise and air guitar salutes.
For, if it were not for them, we might have dragged out vapid
versions of punk rock for a few more years or dived right
into a synth saturated world of emotionally void new wave.
But what about the many power pop acts that populated that
same highway, yet never received the same spotlight or praise
that say, Cheap Trick, The Knack or the Cars continue to
rightfully receive? What about the countless other bands
that cut their teeth honing their look at style at bars,
clubs and local halls? What about Richmond, Virginia’s
L’mour and the fourteen-song discography “Look
to the Artist”?
Compiling fourteen songs recorded between 1978-1981, “Look
to the Artist” documents L’mour’s recorded
history in its entirety. Most of what is featured here is
very basic, run of the mill, three chords and six pack rock
'n’ roll, material that might have been improved through
a better recording and a more hands on producer. If you
choose to read the bio while listening to the music, you’ll
have a hard time matching the two. Sure, there are some
good bass lines sprinkled here and there, but not nearly
enough to mask the terrible vocals, muffled guitars and
distant drums. Overall ‘Look to the Artist”
is a complete and total mess that took more than couple
of attempts to get all the way through. While it’s
usually an enjoyable adventure, tracking down lost recordings
or a band that might have, fpr whatever res]ason, slipped
through the cracks. Listening to L’mour only serves
a reminder that some things are best left unfound.
For more information about L’mour, or to
order, go Here.
There comes a time in any band or artist’s creative
life when the chemistry or ability to write songs of an impactful
nature begins to gray. Though the causes can vary, it’s
something that eventually happens to everyone. Unfortunately,
perhaps due to contractual obligations, ego, or whatever keeps
them from realizing that the magic they once wielded in long
gone, they keep going. Sadly enough, the once great Weezer
continue to ignore the overwhelming evidence brought up in
While there was a time when listening to a Weezer album
was rewarding. (Think “Pinkerton” or “The
Blue Album.”) Those days are decades past. Since then,
it’s felt as if the band has basically been phoning
it in while relying on indie cred and an occasional night
of drunken karaoke
Look no further than a collection of cover songs to prove
my point. Weezer’s attempt at
covering FM radio staples such as Toto’s “Africa”
Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” and The
Turtles “Happy Together” sound tired and void
of any injection of wit or sense of humor.
While I’ve never one to shy away from a cover or two,
“The Teel Album” and Weezer’s vapid attempts
at relevancy just serve up more proof that Cuomo & Co.
need to check their answering machine and check their inbox
featuring the countless messages to stop recording.
Penalty – 89’ Demo (Vinyl Reissue) (Reaper Records)
Maximum Penalty represent an important place and time in my
experience with New York Hard Core. At the time of its release,
I was waist deep in the second issue of my fanzine Unite,
sitting in on studio sessions and recordings and going to
just about every hardcore show I could sniff out. Though it
signaled the beginning of the end chapter of the second wave
of New York Hardcore, I myself, could not have possibly felt
more at home.
Though often finding themselves on a bill and being compared
to the likes of Breakdown and Raw Deal (a band that would
soon to become known as Killing Time,) Maximum Penalty seemed
a bit more soulful, maybe even spiritual, perhaps due to
their lyrics, Jimmy Williams' soulful growls and Millie’s
groove heavy bass lines. Musically, the band merged elements
of hardcore, metal and hip hop to create a sound that would
go one to become common place with countless other hardcore
acts of the 90’s.
Songs like “Acceptance”, “Hate”,
“Nowhere to Turn to” and “All Your Boyz”
have aged well since first appearing on the demo some thirty
years ago. Featuring the original nine songs that appeared
on the 1989 cassette tape as well as an isolated vocal recording
of “All your Boyz.”
Presented in a gatefold cover, including a 12’ X 24’
fold out poster featuring show flyers and images from back
in the day and a digital download. The first pressing is
limited to 600 copies and comes on blue vinyl.
My one complaint, and this is one that has nothing to do
with the music: Upon opening the poster, I noticed a photo
I had taken thirty years ago appears in the collage. I was
never approached, informed, credited or compensated for
Hailing from the Northeastern corner of England and featuring
members of Vorhees and Break it Up, Tied Down take a similar
approach to what they put forth in the past. When you name
your band after a Negative Approach song, chances are you’re
going to sound a lot like Negative Approach. And while there’s
nothing wrong from finding influence in one of the great architects
of the genre, it doesn’t necessarily give your band
a shot at longevity or credibility. That said, I have to admit
coming away with an overall positive opinion of what I heard
in these five songs. Though from England, Tied Down sound
as if their influences come from across the Atlantic in cities
like Boston, New York and other areas where Hardcore music
found its origins.
Wanna-Bes – Broken Record EP (Mom’s Basement
Don’t let the band’s name fool you. Longview,
Washington’s The Wanna-Bes are about as convincingly
authentic as a rock band can get. On their latest single and
follow up to their 2017 full length “Out Went the Lights,”
The Wanna-Bes mix elements of punk, power pop and hard rock
to create pulsating rock & roll with a big guitar sound,
driving rhythms and sneering vocals. “Broken Record”,
“Talk to You”, “I’m a Drag”
and “Hangin’ On” each teem with rock &
roll authenticity, exuding a confident swagger and confidence,
reminiscent of bands like The Rye Coalition, Rocket from the
Crypt and Drive Like Jehu. These four songs will make your
dick harden with an adrenalized shot of bombastic energy and
“Taking Back Space” is the 2nd EP from Berlin,
Germany’s queer, feminist hardcore act Eat My Fear.
The four-member band play a type of screamo punk core that
can best be compared to the Riot Grrl movement of the 90’s.
(Think Spitboy meets Bratmobile.) My first and lasting impressions
of this six song EP were not good ones, as I found the vocalist's
mix of dysphoria and ear piercing screams to be both scathing
and unlistenable, ultimately failing to succeed in delivering
any intended message. While somewhat comparable and inspired
by Olympia, Washington’s G.L.O.S.S. (Girls Living Outside
of Society’s Shit,) Eat My Fear fail to come close to
warranting praise or even the most casual listen.
Membranes – What Nature Gives… Nature Takes
Away (Cherry Red Records)
Old punks never die…. Or so I’ve been told. Which
is notable, considering England’s The Membranes joined
the punk circus way back in the late Seventies. Originally
formed out of Blackpool, Lancashire in 1977, The Membranes'
style of dark post punk was highly influential on bands such
as Sonic Youth and Big Black before eventually calling it
a day. Since resurrecting in 2009, The Membranes have kept
busy recording and touring the world and performing at festivals.
On their latest, the soon to be released “What Nature
Gives .. Nature Takes Away,” the Membranes whet the
source with its brand of dark and sinister post punk. There
are additional strokes of goth and psychedelic rock that deepen
the already murky romantic undertones of the songs. In listening
to this, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if
Glenn Danzig teamed up with the Stranglers with the sole intention
of writing love songs?”
Featuring sixteen songs, “What Nature Gives…”
is being promoted Cherry Red Records as a double LP. RIYL
bands like Joy Division, Mission UK or My Bloody Valentine.
Wow, talk about surprises! Due to the EP’s rudimentary
artwork and title, I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting
much. Yet, Frontside’s five song EP “Society’s
View” impressed me right out of the gate. The San Diego,
California five piece play a raw, no frills version of hardcore
that has a first wave appeal, with short bursts of fast, yet
even paced guitar driven anger and aggression, creepy crawl
rhythms and bass lines, and snarled yet easily comprehendible
vocals. Frontside have it all covered. Having been quite pleased
regarding what I’ve thus heard from Safe Inside Records.
I’d highly recommend looking into the label and the
bands that call it home. This looks to be a digital only release.
So be sure to check out their Bandcamp.
It’s been quite a while since an Autoclave EP spun on
my turntable. Considering I sold all my original records some
twenty years ago, I’m guessing 25. So when I saw that
Dischord was reissuing a remastered 12’ of their original
EP’s, I excitedly added it to my cart. Members of Autoclave
would go on to form and perform in notable acts such as Team
Dresh, Helium, Slant Six, Wild Flag and Ex-Hex, to name a
Like many of the Dischord bands that preceded them. Autoclave
challenged the perceptions of what punk, or in this case,
post punk should sound like, with a sound more akin to what
would come to be known as Math Rock, an approach that features
complex chord structures and start, stop progressions. Perhaps
inherent to their more complex approach or the fact that
they were an all-female band playing within what was essentially
a boy’s club, Autoclave stood out.
The record compiles eleven remastered songs from their
7-inch EP and two additional songs, each of which provides
an interesting yet complex trip through the past.
Okay, to start things off, let me first say that prior to
being sent this submission, I had never heard of or had any
previous knowledge of POW! With that said, I can approach
this review, or to better put it, observation, without any
personal preconceptions or prejudice. Weird and unconventional
in every sense of the world, POW! possesses so many interesting
and quirky elements that it would be senseless to attempt
to pin them down or fit them into some convenient compartment.
Think Kraftwerk meets Devo meets a cyber, horror punk version
of Gary Newman on the set of Stranger Things: Gloomy,
dark, haunting and as good as it gets. If space punk were
ever to become a thing, POW! Would surely be the band to man
the first shuttle. Though punk has tried the spacey electronic
approach with varied results over the years, POW! Seem to
pull it off effortlessly.
Sub and the Sound Dogs- The Bronx is Burning
I was having a conversation with my wife this morning about
my first trips to the Bronx and how the burnt-out buildings
and crack heads interested me so much more than the zoo we
were driving to. So it's ironic was given a submission featuring
a title that closely resembles that earlier conversation,
even when realizing that Charlie Sub and the Sound Dogs sound
nothing like anything that ever came out or went near the
The 4-song EP opens with a 38 second instrumental that
had me thinking I was being treated to something in the
realm of Charlie Parker or John Coltrane. (Which, by the
way, would be both inviting and satisfying.) While undoubtedly
soulful and bluesy, their overall sound feels way too polished
and corporate sounding for my taste, perhaps even outdated
by today’s standards. “The Bronx is Burning”
features some rich instrumentations, keyboards and horns.
However, it seems to lack any sense of character or grit,
important traits that often draw one to an artist or genre
of music. Charlie Sub and the Sound Dogs walk a tightrope
between orchestral rock and country music. You know, the
kind of stuff you Dad might put on in the car or mention
he got complimentary tickets to see when he booked his hotel
room in Atlantic City. Though parts of the Bronx may still
be burning. C.S.S.D. surely didn’t start it.
Reputation – Music from the original motion picture
Growing up, the walls of my bedroom were covered with Joan
Jett posters. I had a scrapbook featuring every Joan Jett
article and interview I came across. I even convinced my Mother
to take me to a Hell’s Angels benefit where she was
performing. To say I was a fan would be a major understatement.
Looking back, one of my greatest opportunities as a writer
and photographer came years later when I was given a photo
and backstage pass to an Irving Plaza show where Joan Jett
& the Blackhearts headlined a show that included the Eagles
of Death Metal and Valiant Thor. A co-founder of the Runaways
(the first all-girl hard rock act,) solo artist, long time
front woman for Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, producer,
actress, and vocal supporter of the LGBTQ community, Joan
Jett has more than earned her title as an icon as well as
a member of the Rock & Roll hall of fame. The upcoming
rock doc on Joan Jett’s life in music looks to be honest,
raw and unrelenting. Getting my hands on the soundtrack was
just the grease I needed to get my motor working. The perfect
appetizer for what is sure to inform as well as well as raise
more than a few nostalgic hairs.
“Fresh Start” opens the 18-song soundtrack
with the classic Joan Jett & the Blackhearts stomp-the-yard
bounce and pomp. The iconic and untouchable title track
“Bad Reputation” follows with an equally strong
presence. The early recording of “I Love Rock n’
Roll” with former Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul
Cook. (two musicians who contributed to her first solo record)
sounds hollow and tinny, yet it highlights the earliest
sessions that would bring Jett to the forefront. “Androgynous”
featuring Miley Cyrus & Jayne Joyce is by far, the worst
song on the album, sounding more like a drunken attempt
at karaoke than a well thought out collaboration.
There are so many great and instantly recognizable songs
to be had here, most of which we’ve been blasting
over our speakers since the early Eighties. “Bad Reputation,”“Do
You Want to Touch Me (Oh Yeah,)”“Victim of Circumstances”
and many, many more. Listening to the soundtrack brought
back a lot of great memories and made me look forward to
seeing the movie. Joan Jett is more than worthy of the icon
status put upon her. I’m really looking forward to
seeing and hearing her finally tell her own story. Until
Police – Every Move You Make (The Studio Recordings)
If you got into music in the early 80’s, chances are
The Police are your favorite band, or at least one of your
favorite acts to date. Record sales and chart topping singles
aside, Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland wrote and
recorded many of the era's best songs. Though known widely
for their pop rock wisdom, the trio would at times, venture
into jazzier territory, most evident on songs such as “Murder
by Numbers” and “Tea in the Sahara.”
Every Move You Make features each of the band’s
five studio albums - 1978 ’s debut Outlandos D’Amor,
1979’s Reggatta De Blanc, 1980’s Zenyatta
Mondtta, and 1981’s Ghost in the Machine.
And their swan song, Synchronicity. Each has been
half- speed remastered at Abbey Road Studios and pressed
on high quality 180-gram vinyl, making for noticeably superior
listening quality, one that truly enhances the overall experience.
(More about half-speed remastering here.)
Also included, and this was the clincher for me, is a bonus
LPm “Flexible Strategies,” which features the
B–sides of the many singles the band released. The
box itself is quite sturdy, and the snug fit makes expelling
the records from its shell somewhat of a task. However,
any audiophile would be grateful regarding the construction.
My only complaint, if it is one, regards the 12 X 12 book
that’s included. Though it’s pages are loaded
with many rare and often intimate images, there’s
no commentary, essays, or text to be found. Any fan of the
band, myself included, would love to read stories about
or by Sting, Andy and Stewart. Or perhaps, at the very least,
stories and observations from the many bands and artists
who found inspiration in their music. I found this to be
a major misstep in regards to the release and the only noticeable
one worth mention. The original price of $130 has skyrocketed
to about $200 on Amazon since its initial release. I’d
suggest nosing around both online and at your favorite record
store before plucking down the extra cash.
Whether you’re a fan, completest or audiophile junky,
you’d be remiss in not investing in this limited-edition
release. And while career spanning box sets can be hit or
miss due the often-heavy price tag and the sheer amount
of music, I found the packaging and mastering of the bands
recorded output to be overwhelmingly positive. Considering
this is a limited run, I’d advise seizing the moment
when the moment is here.
As one who doesn’t really follow music trends or pay
any attention to the charts or mainstream music, relying on
friends whose taste in music consistently provides inspiration,
as well as plain old ear to the underground habits. I’ve
managed to stay informed when it comes to music that might
appeal to me on one level or another. In the case of Italy’s
Giuda, I owe a great debt to longtime friend and Spaghettytown
Records kingpin, Ted Dougherty. For, if it were not for him,
I may have never been given the chance to get a taste of what
Italy’s Giuda were cooking up.
On their latest ten song LP, the band continues to quicken
the pulse, keep the toes tapping and the hands clapping along
with each note. Listening to any Giuda track is an exercise
in mirth. An act of celebratory indulgence that feels as natural
as it does necessary. Overall E.V.A. exudes with
confidence and good time swagger. Somehow, I feel as if Giuda
found a lot of influence in 70’s power pop, punk, disco
and glam. “What if the Bay City Rollers took on a more
glam punk role?” E.V.A. is outstanding throughout.
With all its bounce and pomp, with all its uplifting and upbeat
rhythms, I can’t help but equate Giuda’s sound
to punkish power pop meets roller derby’s energy and
Whenever I visit Olympia, I’m sure to make a pit stop
at 5th Avenue to pay a visit to Rainy Day Records. The selection,
staff and atmosphere each provide a special experience for
every visitor, whether they’re a local regular or, like
myself, an out of towner. What I’ve come to really look
forward to is their attention to promoting local artists.
And though I might find myself overlooking an artist with
the name Dyke Drama, the store’s detailed description
and mention that Dyke Drama was the post G.L.O.S.S. (Girls
Living Outside of Societies Shit) project/nand of singer Sadie
Switchblade caught my attention. New Hard Pills follows
2015’s Tender Resignation and 2016’s
Up Against the Bricks.
In listening to Dyke Drama and New Hard Pills
for the very first time. I couldn’t help but get swept
away by the fast paced and upbeat energy Sadie puts forth.
Songs song with a passionate aggression and urgency, though
presented on a 12" format. The 45 rpm record only features
four songs, each of which became instant favorites. Think
punk rock aesthetic and energy without the tired clichés
that often accompany punk music.
Cheap Cassettes – "Worse N’ Better"
/ "Hieroglyphics in Lipstick"
Seattle Washington’s The Cheap Cassettes return with
a new single that continues to boost the band's power pop
presence and overall ability to create edgy hooks and …
Simply said, The Cheap Cassettes have forged a path so formidable
that I can’t help but feel that an underground revival
of power pop, i’s hooks and resounding honesty, has
the nessasary chops to keep it relevant for years to come.
Naming your band Fried Egg could mean a number of things.
Either you suck and don’t plan on sticking around too
long; you’re really good, but didn’t put a lot
of time or thought in to naming your band; or you really don’t
give a fuck either way. In listening to Square One,
I was convinced that they just didn’t give a fuck.
Virginia’s Fried Egg combine the latter two to offer
something that will have you throwing yourself into the pit
and looking to share or steal the mic. D–Beat punk meets
an early American hardcore sound with an in your face, basement
show authenticity. In listening to the nine songs on Square
One, you can sense influences from early Black Flag,
as well as Detroit’s Negative Approach and Boston’s
SSD. Square One, the band’s first full length
to date ,features nine scorchers that warrant numerous listens
as well as an exploration of their earlier recordings. I highly
recommend checking out their bandcamp and booking them for
your next show.
Sussex County, NJ trio Colour TV step out with what looks
to be their first EP to date,
three songs of dull, uninspiring blues-rock that took me nowhere.
The slow-moving opener “Some People” features
the lyrics “Some people are slaves. Some people are
free.” “Some people are blind. Some people can
see.” The following entry “Don’t Feel Right”
ups the energy level but suffers in that the vocal energy
just isn’t there. “Nothing Is” stays flat
despite the promise that you’re free to go now. The
show is over. Overall, these songs just feel lazy and uninspired.
Though I tried to find some background information on the
band, my search came up empty. The only saving grace here
is… Wait, there was no saving grace.
Original members Terry Hall, Lynval Golding, and Horace Panter
return under the name in which they originally formed in 1977
to perhaps revive and test to see if any of those creative
juices were still flowing. My first, second and third reactions
when listening to Encore were very good. Yet somehow,
I couldn’t help but think these songs would be best
served under a moniker other than The Specials.
“B.L.M.,” with its infectious rhythms, will have
you feeling as if you’ve been invited to Kingston, Jamaica,
complete with a Studio One reggae and dub spirit throughout.
Side B’s “10 Commandments,” by far my favorite
cut on the album, had this pessimist believing in what I was
Like with most albums, Encore has its highlights
and lowlights. Yet, as far a reunion, comeback, and “first
record in longer than you can recall” albums go, Encore
was a true joy. As a lifelong fan of the Specials, this
album threw me a curve, in that it isn’t the second
wave ska I will always remember about their sound. The application
of reggae, dub and rock steady found on these twelve new
offerings (each important ingredients that inspired the
sounds of Two Tone Records and each wave of ska) are quite
good. And though the album definitely has it’d good
and not so good moments. Approaching it without any high
expectations allowed me to enjoy the album more than I would
have I been expecting to hear something likened to, say,
“Ghost Town” or their legendary 1979 self-titled
Music has a power to take you places, whether it’s geographically
or some journey through time, something I was immediately
reminded of upon getting my first taste of the band Cyclone
Static. The band's gritty guitar rock sound, sneering vocals
and the devious rhythms featured on From Scratch
had me longing for the dirty clubs and basements I frequented
back east. I can go on and on about James Salerno’s
imprint on the local scene or the fact that the ten songs
on From Scratch represent Cyclone Static’s
debut. However, bands and releases such as this one deserve
to be searched and routed out by potential listeners. Let’s
get right to it.
As noted earlier, Cyclone Static are crafted practitioners
of guitar rock that doesn’t refrain from occupying some
post punk, post core territory. Favorites include “Runaway”
(thankfully, not a cover of the Bon Jovi song of the same
name.) and “Sacred Island,” with it’s cool
rhythms and gritty vocals. Also worth noting are the opening
chords and bass lines that cut through “Company Man”
which bring to mind AC/DC’s “It’s A Long
Way To The Top.” From Scratch rocks throughout
these ten songs, further proof that guitar rock is not just
chic revival, but more like a sleeping dragon that has returned
nourished and prepared to breath new fire.
Not to be confused with the great Kentucky Post Core mathematicians
Rodan, Gainesville, Florida’s Radon were more known
for the melodic pop punk sound they brought to their community
and to the world, one that was influential on many but would
take years to be brought to the mainstream. For what it’s
worth, Radon was always a band I let someone cut me in line
so as to avoid seeing, hearing or investing time in. Regardless,
that was then and this is now. So, with new ears and an open
mind, I sat down and gave the Florida band a thorough listen.
Fast forward to 2019 and Radon sound a lot like they did to
me in the Nineties.
There’s some bounce to go with “More Of Their
Lies'” twists and turns. However, the highlights and
the energy usually found in the pop punk formula seems absent.
Instead, those elements get lightly sprinkled throughout and
hardly outweigh the ones where Radon just feel like they’re
phoning it in. Overall, this record did nothing to change
my feelings about the band, their music, or their legacy.
The bio for Poland’s Protein certainly gives them
a lot of credit for the band's hard work promoting hardcore
and straight edge ethics through their label Youth2Youth
Records. Yet who are we to argue with the written word or
the many good deeds the band has done for Europe’s
hardcore and straight edge community? Though from Poland,
Protein’s sound and approach is cut from the American
Hardcore text book. While influences ranging from Turning
Point and Floorpunch are predominant throughout the band’s
sound, Protein mention Belgium’s True Colors as a
major influence. I can’t help but think how they too
were products of American hardcore acts such as Youth of
Today. While these six songs sound rather impressive, a
debut worth noting, you’d be hard pressed trying to
convince yourself that you’re not listening to any
random 90’s straight edge hardcore act which was,
for the most part, a revival of the 80’s.
Club – Can’t Have Nice Things (Indecision Records)
Whoever said “Old dogs can’t learn new tricks”
never met the members of Shiners Club. Not to describe or
compare these hardcore scene veterans as old dogs, but somehow,
that old phrase best describes the lack of veracity in that
statement. Shiners Cub and their debut LP “Can’t
Have Nice Things” show that, despite their life long
connections to hardcore music, they are more than capable
of making music outside the confines of that sub-genre. The
music itself has a dark tone that might move in the direction
of hard rock and 90’s indie rock territory. (Think Laughing
Hyenas and Afghan Wigs.) Though “Can’t Have New
Things” offered a good listen, each of the twelve songs
seemed to be on the same the same wave length rather than
one song flowing or connecting to the other. I felt as if
I was listening to one long winded breath of air. Overall,
”Can’t Have Nice Things” took several go
throughs before garnering my appreciation, with “Touch
my Face” being the first to grab my attention.
Regardless, it seems as if Shiners Club saved the best for
last. As the final two songs, the devilish “Mia Culpa”
and the title track “Can’t Have Nice Things”
stood out and would arguably be the best on the album. Not
a bad effort by any stretch of the imagination. Still, one
that took some coaxing to properly appreciate. Looking back,
I find it important to note that many of the records I get
the most mileage out of stalled upon their initial go-round.
Somehow, I feel that Can’t Have Nice Things
will grow on and with me in time.
Back in the late 80’s when I had a zine called Unite,
I somehow managed to extend its reach outside of the U.S.
to Europe and parts of Asia. During that time, I managed to
procure a small yet rewarding collection of pen pals. One
of them that will remain unnamed introduced me to European
hardcore and in particular, his country of origin, Poland,
memorable exchanges that not only served as an eye opener
to the world outside my door, but influenced me to keep tabs
and seek out music outside of the places I’ve had the
pleasure to travel.
“Tu I Teraz” translated from Polish to English
means “Hear and Now.” A somewhat provoking title
that, along with the EP’s cover photo, makes for a
thought provoking call to hear what lies within. Regres
take an edgy, yet well rounded path that mixes elements
of 80’s emo, hardcore and screamo, aspects that might
draw comparisons to what might have come out of the Ebullition
Records camp in the early to mid-nineties. Each of the six
songs on the EP have a personal and introspective vibe that
come off feeling honest and sounding intelligent, altogether
working overtime to earn a spot amongst your record collection.
I have to admit to being a bit reluctant to give Wallbreaker’s
Democracy Dies a listen. Whether it was the band’s
name, the overtly politicalized title, the somewhat cliché
album art or all of the above, Democracy Dies just
didn’t look or feel like something I would be into.
Boy, was I wrong. So, after dialing back a bit, I found a
review I wrote of their 2017 demo. On Democracy Dies,
Wallbreaker deliver twelve hellraising tracks that pick up
where that demo left off. The album tackles that raw, angry
and vital hardcore that drew me to its core as a teen, displaying
many appealing characteristics that brought to mind “Victim
in Pain” era Agnostic Front and SSD’s “The
kids will have their say” and even Kraut’s “Adjustment
to Society”. Democracy Dies hits all the right
chords, making it a great listen from start to finish.
Though I’d never heard the term “Bubblegum Punk”
prior to reading about Montreal, Canada’s all- female
four piece Pale Lips, I can honestly report that I fully understood
and appreciated it the moment I heard them for the first time.
Originally formed in 2013, the four-piece rock outfit features
Jackie (Vocals), IIona (Guitar), Lynn (Drums) and Jamie (Bass.)
On their second album and follow up to 2016’s Wanna
Be Bad, Pale Lips venture forward with twelve new songs
that have the listener bouncing, bopping and pogoing until
you’ve worn holes in the carpet and worn down your record
player's needle. Pale Lips apply strokes of 70’s rock
and Roll, power pop and early new wave to perfect a sound
that bring to mind the Ramones and the Donnas, while perhaps
unintentionally adding a dash of Japan’s Shonen Knife.
Songs like “All My Baby Brought Back Was The Blues,”“The
Kids,” and “Johnny” carry the album's upbeat
and uplifting sense of celebratory energy really put the hooks
and bounce on display while completely reeling in the listener.
After Dark packs a lot of punch without ever showing
the Pale Lips as over serious or self important, thus providing
balance and a little something for every listener. Definitely
one of my favorite records from the early start of the year.
Spaghetty Town Records
Turn of the century Emo revivalists such as Thursday and Taking
Back Sunday introduced wearing your heart on your sleeve to
an entirely new generation of kids who often turned to MTV,
FM radio, and visits to the mall for their punk rock look
and form of homogenized punk rock. The kids who were around
when punk broke wide open in the early to mid-nineties with
bands like Nirvana, Green Day, The Offspring and countless
others were quickly approaching their thirties and were becoming
more and more focused on careers and raising families than
keeping tabs on bands they worshipped in their post teen years.
Though Long Island’s TBS came around at the advent
of what many refer to as Mall Punk, pretend punk, and the
marketing and rebranding of Emo, it would be criminal to
mention them in the same breath as bands such as Fall Out
Boy, My Chemical Romance or damn them all to hell, Good
Charlotte. Something about TBS and a small contingent of
bands cut from a similar cloth initially resonated with
me. This double LP, commemorating the band's 20th anniversary,
features songs taken from each of their seven studio albums.
Though I was only familiar with songs from their 2002 debut
Tell All Your Friends and their 2004 sophomore
effort Where You Want to Be, I felt that through
listening to 20 I was given a window into their
later recordings. 20 features 21 songs in all,
two of which - “All Ready to Go” and “Song
for Dan” - are brand new recordings. 20 is
available on numerous formats, mine being a beautiful gatefold
2 X LP bearing lyrics of each song on the sleeves. Overall,
a comprehensive look back at the band's 20-year history.
Translated to English, Motosierra means "chainsaw."
Pretty accurate when you listen to the Uruguayan powerhouse.
Originally formed in the city of Montevideo (Uruguay’s
largest city) in 1999, Motosierra's approach to hard rock
can be compared to a mix of Motorhead and Turbo Negro with
a bit of Thin Lizzy peppered in here and there. Fast, tight
and straight up vicious and sung in their native Spanish,
an aspect that I feel only seems to intensify while accentuating
each song. Simply put, I really love what I’m hearing
on this 12-song ripper. It’s forceful, vicious and dangerous.
No mater how you like your music, Motosierra stake their claim
for making rock and roll that sounds dangerous and flat out
evil. Despite the fact that Motosierra has been together for
more than twenty years now, the band has just few scant releases
to call their own. Somewhat puzzling considering how good
their recorded output sounds. One can only hope that they’ve
found a home or at least a launching pad for both publicity
and future recordings.
Morlocks – Bring on the Mesmeric Condition (Hound
Take two tablespoons of H.G. Wells inspired science fiction,
ateaspoon of comic book noir, and two heaping cups of garage
rock and you get a pretty good idea of what San Diego’s
The Morlocks are cooking up. Having been in and out of commission
since the Eighties, it would be acceptable if the band had
gone through somewhat of a Spinal Tap unevenness in their
sound and approach. Yet, through break ups, lengthy time periods
apart and a few member changes, the band has managed to authentically
stick to and hone the sound that originally inspired them,
one that these five garage rockers do very well.
Bring on the Mesmeric Condition features 10 impressive
songs deeply rooted in garage rock and psychedelia's simple,
raw energy and bombast. It's a record that builds from one
song to the next, complete with cool chord structures, a
healthy amount of distortion , and Koizumi’s snarled
and sneered vocals. “Bothering me” opens the
album with a sense of swagger that assures the listener
that, if they’re looking for dirty rock n’ roll,
they’ve come to the right place. “Heart of Darkness”
lives up to its namesake with a snakebit twang that might
find itself in the scene of a movie where a beaten and blood
soaked body gets dumped in the desert for the vultures to
feast on. That theme seems to reoccur with song titles such
as “One Foot in the Grave”, “High Tide
Killer” and my personal favorite, “Easy Action”.
Overall, a great album that’s all killer and no filler.
When visiting a record store, I’ve made it a practice
to bring a list of the records and titles I’m specifically
looking to acquire. It’s just a little habit I fell
into over the years, one that’s helped to control my
urges and keep me on somewhat of an even keel. Being that
over time, my list has dwindled and some of the titles within
it aren’t as readily available as I’d hoped, I
often find myself forgoing the list and letting my eyes point
me in other directions. This tactic often allows me to discover
lesser known gems that might be just as, if not more satisfying,
as what I came looking for.
Such was the case with The Mods Reactions. Considering
that when I brought it to the counter, the store’s owner
did a double take, remarking, “I haven’t had a
chance to listen to this yet, but by the look of it. It’s
bound to be great.”
Reaction revisits the music of late 70’s Toronto
band The Mods and their aborted, unreleased album. The Mods
mixed punk’s raw energy with power pop looks and hooks.
Heavily influenced by the Kinks along with contemporaries
like the Jam, the Buzzcocks and the Undertones. These recordings
had me wondering, “What if Sham 69 had had developed
a more pop friendly sound?”
Comparisons to lesser known (yet worthy of exploration) acts
such as Canada’s The Dogs and Ireland’s The Number
Ones can easily be made. While recorded 40 years ago, Reactions
features enough moments to elicit numerous spins on your turntable.
The album collects the bands 1978 45 single as well as the
tracks intended to be featured on their unreleased 1979 album.
In listening to The Mods, I can’t help but wonder what
direction they might have gone in musically. Judging from
what is presented here, the songs, images and liner notes
provide evidence that The Mods seemed to be heading in a direction
that reached beyond the limits of the Mod or Punk sound. As
I write this. Reaction features thirteen songs, liner
notes, band photos and a reprint of an old show flyer. I can’t
help but be thankful for my judgement when picking this complete
unknown off the shelf.
Pure mania at its apex! School Drugs sound like the soundtrack
to being locked in a room to fight your demons. Only in this
case, the demons wind up on the short end of the stick.
The six songs on “Relative Suffering” overcome
the listener like a tidal wave of sonic emotion that grows
in strength lie a tsunami as one song feeds into the next.
The dual vocals on songs on “Burn” and “Relentless”
sound as if they came straight out of a torturous battle with
schizophrenia. Considering how much territory School Drugs
cover on “Beyond Suffering,” it would be criminal
to handicap them with one or even two genre specific boundaries.
To put it simply, the best way to describe New Jersey’s
School Drugs is to listen to the music they’ve created.
For all of you vinyl enthusiasts out there, “Relative
Suffering” is available on orange vinyl.
Just as the second wave of hardcore was coming to a close,
we began to see the promise of a third wave, one that offered
a glimpse of hope that would soon fade with the rise of tough
guy metalcore. At the time, many promising bands would emerge
and leave a lasting footprint before fading to grey. Pushed
Aside fit into that pattern , having existed for a year or
less, appearing on the long out of print “The Iceman
Cometh” 7” live compilation, breaking up shortly
before they were able to record something of their very own.
What they left us with has been reissued and put to vinyl
for a limited window of time.
The five-song demo starts off with a slow-paced intro before
shifting into first gear for the sped up “Locked Down.”
Though the lyrics are well written and rise above the often
generic, cookie cutter topics straight edge bands seem to
cling to, the vocals and musicianship leave a lot to be desired.
Taken into consideration that this a thirty-year-old demo
reissued for vinyl enthusiasts and nostalgia geeks like myself,
I can’t say I expected much. Regardless, these songs
failed to illicit any emotion or jog any particular memory.
These five songs may have sparked a fire when they were originally
released. However, hearing them now didn’t have any
Indecision Records is offering two color versions of the 7”.
Green/Clear split 300 copies and Blue Splatter 700 copies.
Than A Thousand – Value Driven Vinyl Reissue (Youth
By the time Ray Cappos' post-Violent Children/ Reflex from
Pain/Youth of Today/Shelter band
Better Than a Thousand surfaced in in 1997, my interest in
his musical output and spiritual beliefs had reached a titanic
low. Considering the epically bad Shelter album Beyond
Planet Earth, even the most head strong fan had to be
hoping for a rewind or a do over. With twenty plus years to
look back on, perhaps Better than a Thousand was the rewind
needed to ever so slightly return to what endeared him and
his passion to so many others.
Right out of the gate, Better Than a Thousand sounds like
an extension of Cappo’s early efforts with Youth of
Today and early Shelter. A return to the well, so to stay.
Anyone familiar with Cappo’s work should note that
Better Than A Thousand were not going for a different sound
or message. If the vinyl reissue did anything for me, it’s
that it allowed me to revisit one of the more overlooked
and under listened to entries in his catalog.
The reissue features its original thirteen songs, an updated
cover and comes on color vinyl. Remastering was provided
by Shelter/Better than a Thousand alumnus Ken Olden and
produced by Dharmavit Das.
Chic / Toys that Kill – Split (Recess Records)
For as long as I can or want to remember, split records
were a great way to enjoy a band you loved while being introduced
to one you may or may not have even vaguely heard of. With
an EP box dedicated to 7" inch splits and countless
other split LP’s littered throughout my collection,
it’s pretty easy to assess my interest as more than
casual. Having been a big fan of Long Island, New York’s
Iron Chic since experiencing them at a Brooklyn show I attended
with Jim Testa, I was given more than a reason to look into
their split LP with California’s Toys that Kill. The
12” split offers nine songs: Four from Iron Chic and
five from Toys That Kill.
Iron Chic’s appearance shows the band's strengths
and gift for consistently providing anthemic melody laced
hardcore. “The Old Man of Crete,” “Kid
Icarus,” and “Amazing Fantasy” showcase
the band’s ability to write and put fourth songs that
appeal to every sub-genre of Punk and Hardcore.
And though my first taste and second go around with Toys
That Kill wasn’t all that favorable, the band's final
entry to the split, “I Can Hear It Stop,” kept
me from entirely writing them off. Just as with any record
and in particular, splits, you’re bound to hear a
lot of peaks and valleys. Thanks to the presence of Iron
Chic, there were enough peaks to warrant investigation.
Being that we live in a society where thin skinned individuals
who seem to find new and creative ways to be offended on an
hourly basis, it’s surprising that the term “Offended
by Everything” hasn’t become the rally call of
the times. All observations aside, let’s focus on the
band and their just-released EP. Offended by Everything are
a Dallas, Texas based emo, pop punk outfit representing a
wave of the sub, sub-genre that I’m not particularly
fond of. Think Thursday meets Taking Back Sunday at a New
Found Glory sponsored “Sensitivity Training” seminar.
While the five songs featured on “Evergreen” weren’t
bad in any way (note the riffs on the opening track, “Deadweight,”)
Offended by Everything aren’t producing anything I haven’t
heard countless other times for what seems to be forever.
If you’re into bands like Anberlin, Mayday Parade or
A Loss for Words but don’t want to color outside the
lines, then by all means go for it. Otherwise…
Though Philadelphia’s Struck Nerve are a relatively
new band, the five-member hardcore act has spent time in a
slew of notable hardcore acts such as Jesus Piece, Agitator,
Uzi Kids and Pain Strikes. And while titles like “Play
the fool”, “Life’s Too Short”, “All
Talk” and “Keepin’ It Real” might
find themselves vying for awards in the cliche department,
I found these four songs to be quite good. Struck Nerve play
fast-paced, high energy hardcore that is highlighted by a
sense of urgency and focus that reminds me of an older hardcore
style. The mpressive musicianship is fronted by double guitar
leads, chords and jagged riffs and well timed breaks. Also
worth mention are Anthony’s clean, decipherable vocals
and a sharp focused delivery, elements that only enhance the
overall delivery of the songs. Though I really didn’t
and still don’t know a whole lot about Struck Nerve,
this four song EP had me wanting to hear more. The vinyl version
is limited to four hundred copies. You can also visit their
Bandcamp and download it there.
Verdict – Hostis Humani Generis (Edgewood Records)
Having grown up on the East Coast, I always considered Richmond,
VA a hot bed for bands flying the flag of independence. Whether
it be punk, hardcore, power pop or indie rock, there always
seemed to be something interesting happening in the state's
capital. Perhaps that had something to do with my checking
in with The Verdict. The Richmond band/collective features,
count ‘em, twelve active members. So many that only
nine of them could fit on the cover. “Hostis Humani
Generis” (Latin for Enemy of Mankind) features six short
blasts of meat and potatoes hardcore that, even after a few
go -arounds, didn’t impress me or stand out in the least.
And as much as I’ve always claimed to love hardcore,
I realize that, for every band I’ve loved and admired,
there at least a hundred bands like The Verdict. They say
that it takes a village. However, we’re also warned
that too many cooks spoil the broth. In this case, the latter
seems to apply.
Tacoma, Washington’s Trapped By Lies enter the fray
with a five song demo. The four-piece hardcore act, who cite
the legendary Black Flag and New York City’s The Cro-mags
as influences, shows a band that has a long path ahead of
them. They need time to grow and improve, but that's not to
say that this is all bad. The musicianship and vocal approach
are not nearly as rudimentary as the recording and production
quality. Only time with tell if Trapped By Lies will find
a niche in the North West’s hardcore scene.
Tension – Dedicated to the Guilt that Should have
been Felt but Never Was (Forced Abandonment Records)
When a friend (in this case, Tohm) asks you to give his band’s
material a listen and a possible review, a certain feeling
of worry accompanies the sense of responsibility one might
feel. “What if I hate it?” “What if I think
it sucks?” Such was the case when the band’s singer,
a longtime friend, reached out to me asking that I not only
listen, but could I form enough opinion to review it.
Featuring former members of Four Fingers, Johnny-Cab Suicide
and numerous other New Jersey home wreckers, Permanent Tension
bring forth eight bursts of noisy aggression that hijacked
my attention and held on long enough to elicit an emotional
reaction and response.
On their third offering to date, Permanent Tension offers
an all-out thrash, screamo attack with surprising elements
of math rock peppered throughout. In listening to its eight
songs one can detect a strong kinship with 90’s power
violence acts such as Man is the Bastard, Neanderthal and
Spazz. Intended or not, comparisons to Rorschach can also
be made. And while the screamo vocal approach is clearly not
my thing, the slowed down instrumentals inspire thoughts of
doom metal gods Sleep. Noteworthy entries include “Newt”
and the following track “Pendulum,” with “If
the Accident Will” and “Hug the Dark” being
my favorites. Overall, “Dedicated…” is a
scorcher that took some time to fully appreciate, but in the
end had its fair share of redeeming qualities. Whether you’re
into thrash, scream, power violence or doom metal, Permanent
Tension should quench your thirst for such darkness.
Ratchets – First Light (Pirates Press Records)
Guitar punk is one of the coolest sounds to ever emerge from
the ashes of punk’s origins.
That blue-collar approach at writing and releasing the angst
via stripped down, raw bombast has been a common thread in
much of the best songs bands such as The Clash, Stiff Little
Fingers and Social Distortion have produced.
Having harnessed a curious taste regarding New Jersey’s
the Ratchets lately, I was excited to see their latest album
highlight a package Jersey Beat’s Jim Testa had sent
over to me.
The opportunity to hear and learn a little about them for
the very first time, I couldn’t help but feel a sense
of relatable and identifiable kinship with the band and their
The Garden State has quite a reputation for giving birth to
acts that mirror the areas tough, middle class values. First
Light, the band's eleven song return to the well, sees
the band navigating territory that mixes elements of folkish
street punk, Oi! and rock n roll, while honoring the guitar
punk ethos mentioned earlier. The Ratchets' authoritative
delivery has a sense of hands off realism that feels as honest
as it does heartfelt, loaded with hooks, great lyrics and
a socio-political edge that one can easily relate to. A nice
tonic for fans of bands like Gaslight Anthem who prefer a
less earnest (dare I say clichéd?) approach.
Not to be confused with the late 80’s band of the same
name that featured Steve Caballero and Ray Stevens of skate
punk greats The Faction, Olympia Washington’s Odd Man
Out were a straightedge hardcore band formed sometime in 2008
and featured members of Angel Dust and Gag. Considering my
admiration for the band Angel Dust, I was somewhat surprised
by how rudimentary and outright terrible this collection sounded.
Lackluster and downright lazy riffs, shift and breakdowns
that support gruff, growled vocals that bring back memories
of the “So easy, even a cave man can do it” commercial
spots. This release is their discography so far, containing
songs from both their 7-inches and tape, with four new tracks
exclusive to this release and three covers never officially
released. There are several covers here including Youth Brigade’s
“I Object” somewhere around the middle; unfortunately,
Odd Man Out don’t do any better when they venture outside
of their own material. Overall, 18 tracks of raw hardcore
I myself struggled to get through.
With the song “As One”, Raybeez and Warzone led
the charge for a new chapter in New York Hardcore’s
storied history. The track featured on 1987s Revelation Records
7-inch compilation titled “Together” ushered in
a new wave of bands and ideas that would dominate the sub-genre
for the rest of the decade and influence many others for decades
to come. Raymond “Raybeez” Barbieri, the former
Agnostic Front drummer and one of the architects of New York
Hardcore, would double as Warzone’s front man and spokesperson
for hardcore music, scene and family up until his untimely
death on September 11th, 1997.
With the recent parting of one time Warzone guitarist and
the twenty-year anniversary of the death of Ray, I’ve
found myself revisiting many of the memories and recordings
from that long-gone yet often celebrated era. The thirty-year
anniversary edition features each of the original ten song
recordings for the 1988 Caroline Records release and a 16
page, 12x12" booklet with many never before seen photos,
lyrics, and liner notes by author Tony Rettman. Also featured
is an interview conducted with Raybeez around the time of
the original release.
1988’s “Open Your Eyes”, Warzone’s
second LP, easily slides in between the bands best, 1987’s
“Don’t Forget the Struggle, Don’t Forget
the Streets” and its worst, 1989’s self-titled
Caroline Records release. Not bad but considering the impact
made by “Don’t Forget the Struggle…”
just a year prior, not great by any means. Though well intentioned,
opening the album’s title track with a speech by Nazi
leader Adolf Hitler was questionable at best. Though followed
by the sound of a bomb dropping and anti-racist, anti-discrimination
lyrics, I can recall the initial reaction being quite negative.
Highlights of the reissue include, but are not limited to
“Dance hard or die.”, “Always –
A Friend for Life” and the albums closer, “Striving
Higher – For A Better Life.” A must-have for
fans of American hardcore, NYC street punk, and of course,
for those who were there.
It’s been sixteen years since the passing of Joe Strummer,
taken down by a heart attack at the age of fifty. Without
exaggeration or overestimating the long shadow he cast as
both a member of The Clash and his post punk solo work, his
early departure was one that many, including myself, took
harder than that of the many eulogies we rush to post on social
media. It seems that not a day passes when I don’t recall
London Calling being the first record I bought with
my own money. Or how, at the age of eleven, I persuaded my
Mother to take me to see the Clash perform in concert at New
York City’s Bonds Disco.
This long-overdue limited box set, a 32 song retrospective,
features rare, seldom heard and unreleased songs that explore
Strummer's work outside of the legendary punk band, The
Clash, from his pre-Clash rock n’ roll outfit The
101’s to the Mescalero’s and everything in between,
including a 1986 collaboration with former Clash bandmate
Mick Jones. Strummers post-Clash endeavors reveal him as
a conscious explorer looking to experiment with a wide range
of sounds, tones and colors in order to create a canvas
uniquely his own. Though his love for stripped down rock
n’ roll cannot be overlooked, it isn’t until
Strummer focuses on folk, soul, country and Latin that he
really takes on a glimmering shine. While some of the work
presented here is admittedly oddball, there are some real
gems to be found throughout. Strummer’s work with
The Mescalero’s might be his most focused work outside
of The Clash. There’s no denying that “Coma
Girl” is one of the most beautiful songs ever written.
His performance with Johnny Cash on Bob Marley’s “Redemption
Song” and “Over the Border,” an inspiring
collaboration with reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, cannot go
without praise as they showcase his ability to branch out
and change gears. In the end, 001 goes on to prove
the important lesson that music still matters and Strummer’s
legacy is still being felt. “The future is unwritten.”
Rest in Peace, Joe.
You’d be in your right mind to ask why someone who grew
up on punk and hardcore is writing about someone whose name
is synonymous with country music on a site called Jersey Beat.
Truth be told, though seldom seen, during the site and fanzine's
long existence, Jim Testa and his many contributors have proven
that music, in its many colors and shapes, often finds a way
to erase borders and finds itself in unexpected places.
In my sometimes less than humble opinion, Glenn Campbell’s
legacy deserves a little closer examination. Considering
that long before Campbell was scoring hits like “Summer
Nights,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,”
and “Rhinestone Cowboy," the Country Music and
Musician Hall of Famer was a seasoned session musician with
quite an impressive resume - one that credited him on records
by the Mama’s and Papa’s, The Everly Brothers,
Frank Sinatra, The Ronettes, The Beach Boys, and even the
King himself, Elvis Presley.
On the previously unreleased and just recently found 1967
recording session “Sings for the King,” Campbell
demos 16 songs with the intention of presenting them to
Elvis Presley himself, as songs the King might consider
recording in the future. Now one might wonder why Mr. Presley
would choose Campbell to be his delivery boy when it came
to helping him in considering what to record somewhere down
the road. That answer might and can easily be found in Campbell’s
voice. In listening to these songs, one can easily close
their eyes and open their mind to realize how, intended
or not, Campbell’s voice mirrors that of Presley’s.
Without mocking or mimicking either artist, you could visualize
Elvis sliding into these songs like a comfortable pair of
slippers, part rock 'n’ roll and part country with
enough soulful interplay for a King. There are some real
praiseworthy moments to be had here. The opening track “We
Call On Him” is a soulful gospel achievement that
is both inspiring and beautiful. “All I Needed Was
the Rain” is quite possibly the best evidence needed
in tracking down why Campbell was chosen to work with Presley,
while “How Can You Lose What You Never Had”
and the session's closer “Restless” are worthy
or mention and high praise. If you’re looking for
something a little different to add to your collection,
I highly recommend wrapping your ears around this collection
of songs. While you’re at it, try putting some time
aside to watch the 2014 rockumentary “I’ll Be
If you grew up in the early to mid '80’s, you might
remember him as one of the early faces of the video revolution
and the poster boy for faux punk.
Billy Idol originally gained fame during a short stint in
the English punk band Chelsea, before leaving along with Tony
James to form Generation X, who achieved mainstream success
while releasing three albums. Upon the band's breakup, Idol
would move to New York, where he would soon meet guitarist
Steve Stevens and forge a new career as the snarling yet amiable
face of the newly launched “All Music, All the Time”
channel known as MTV. Singles such as “Dancing with
Myself”, “White Wedding” and “Rebel
Yell” established Idol as an early 80’s icon and
On Revitalized, Paul Okenfold, Moby, Crystal Method
and a cast of DJ’s that include Idol himself give
Billy Idol’s best known songs the remix treatment
and reinvent them as dancefloor mashups. From the opening
(Cray Remix) of “White Wedding,” you’re
reminded of how awful and unnecessary remixing and reimaging
any artist's work is. (Leave that shit on the dancefloor
or in your imagination.) While the majority of Idol’s
solo catalog has not gotten better with age, even his best
songs that still carry some nostalgic value feel hollowed
out and unimportant. Listening to these remixes only served
as a reminder of how heartless and droning techno sounds.
Overall, unless you’re a huge fan of Electric Dance
Music (EDM,) Revitalized doesn’t even warrant
a casual listen. To quote someone who recently shared his
horrible experience of seeing a widely beloved act from
the '60's:“I’d have to be on some serious drugs
to enjoy this kind of shit.”
Blood Pressure are a Pittsburg based Hardcore band featuring
a cast of many hardcore luminaries from the area. The hardcore
scene collective has been up, running and sharpening their
version of venomous hardcore since way back in 2009.
The bands bio, which can be found on their bandcamp page is
as entertaining as it is nonsensical. “Say there was
a Keystone State Wrestling Alliance of sorts that consisted
of a plethora of regional hardcore punk bands instead of a
gaggle of scantily clad lowbrow beefcakes in spandex... Pittsburgh's
own BLOOD PRESSURE would surely be the undisputed heavyweight
champions of this fictitious league that I envisioned whilst
rocking a slash in that alley across from the Rock Room.”
Musically speaking, Blood Pressure pack a lot of punch into
these ten songs. Playing fast paced, no holds barred and no
punches pulled hardcore with barked vocals that guide each
of its entries with a sense of relentless urgency. Though
each of these tracks pack all the aggression and power of
an oncoming train. None of what’s being presented hear
stands out or sets itself apart. With each entry sounding
like the one before or the one to follow. The overall impression
is that you’re simply the same ninety second song ten
times. Whether that was just part of the game plan or not,
is not known to me. Intended or not, “Surround”
failed to move me in any way.
Reversals – Stalactite (Ugly and Proud Records)
Detroit’s Great Reversals have been delivering tasty,
yet dirty rhythms and devilish metal breakdowns since their
first demo surfaced in November of 2009. As someone who’s
always been curiously enamored with just what makes Detroit
music so ballsy and real. I was eager to hear what this motor
city band had to offer.
On “Stalactite”, Great Reversals deliver complex
riffs, leads and breakdowns complimented by roared, impassioned
vocals that deliver intelligent, introspective lyrics. Each
song carries a sense of raw, honesty that solidifies their
impactful urgency, both individually and as a whole. I found
myself being drawn to the core of what this band has to
offer from the opening rhythms on “No Mind.”
Call it a possession, an obsession or whatever you want.
I felt hooked from the very start. Great Reversals pension
for creating dark, dense and intense songs really shine
on here. Think parts Integrity and parts Bane. Bands who
both displayed and benefitted from their metal influences.
Ugly and Proud records are currently accepting pre-orders
with a release scheduled for November. The EP is available
in Grey and Clear color options and featured on a one sided
12’ with a screen-printed B side. With the bands knack
for mixing the aggression and nihilism of hardcore with
the proficiency and power of Metal. Fans of both should
find common ground.
Ev Gold of the band Cinema Cinema once told me that a key
asset to listening to something outside of your normal comfort
zone is that you have to “surrender to the trip,”
wise words that can be applied to most any experience in life,
words that have come to mean a lot to me over the course of
time. It's one that I find myself applying to my daily life,
and words that came to mind when listening to the Brooklyn
band Primitive Weapons' third full length. For those who enjoyed
the experimental phase of many hardcore and post hardcore
outfits. it might be worth noting that Mind Over Matter guitarist,
Arty Shepherd shares membership with former On the Might of
Princes’ Chris Rodriguez here.
The aptly titled “Surrender Yourself” is,
without any doubt or hesitation, one of the most interesting
and unexpected submissions thrown my way since the inception
of this column. And while the vocal approach Primitive Weapons
unleashes is definitely not my thing, it is an approach
that challenged me as it swept me up in its vortex. One
that coupled with its musicality made me feel as if I’d
been unwilling absorbed into some sort of demonic possession.
Whether intended or not, I sometimes found it challenging
to distinguish the choruses from the instrumentations. “Surrender
Yourself” features eight tracks with six of them clocking
in at over four minutes a piece. Musically, Primitive Weapons\
sound melds Metal and Post-Hardcore experimentation, without
forming too close of an alliance with either. Though not
my usual bag of tricks, I found “Surrender Yourself”
to be quite rewarding.
Cheap Cassettes – "Kiss The Ass of My Heart"
Who in their right mind could abstain from checking out a
band with a name as cool and retroactive as “The Cheap
Cassettes?” Not me, that’s for sure. While my
own sanity might come into question every now and then, my
decision to check out what Seattle’s The Cheap Cassettes
had to offer was quite rewarding. Featuring four songs, “Kiss
The Ass of My Heart” is a cocktail of pub rock meets
punk with a nuts and bolts approach that gives these songs
a raw and honest appeal. As I listened, I could picture myself
experiencing them live in a dirty basement of bar room, leaning
in and singing along. Overall, The Cheap Cassettes’
sound aligns pretty well with their name - simple, easy and
instantly gratifying, bringing to mind the vibe you were trying
to convey with the bands and songs you carefully chose for
those mix tapes you sent out to your friends and the girl
you might have had a crush on at the time.
When a band name drops or even hints at being influenced by
the great Husker Du or the mighty Stiff Little Fingers, you’d
be best served to at least give them a listen or a long look
see. Though their 2017 demo is a year old, I felt a desire
to give these four songs a good listen to best gauge what
these “three nice boys playing fast pop punk”
had to offer. On their four song demo, The Subjectives take
a minimalist approach to fast punk, one that quickly reminded
me of early Bay Area punks Crimpshrine. Whether intended or
not, there’s hints of “Kerplunk”-era Green
Day and “Unfun”-period Jawbreaker on “Guinevere
in Ray Bans and Chucks” and “Headed East Again.”
Yet somehow, it all comes together on “Patriotic, But
Fucked Up.” While The Subjunctives might have one foot
firmly planted in East Bay’s pop, garage punk past,
it sounds as if they’re truly on their own path here
in Seattle. Here’s looking up your address.
Straight outta Vancouver, BC comes a relatively new act whose
simple yet direct approach to early 80’s American hardcore
has a touch of English street punk and Oi. Think New York’s
Urban Waste and D.O.A. meet England’s The Blitz. Sneering,
or better yet, growled vocals meet crashing rhythms and a
somewhat muffled, if not tuned down guitar sound. Overall,
Chain Whip’s sound is as frenetic as it is energetic.
While each of the five songs featured here resonated with
me, like the fearless “Let’s bomb East Van”
and the painfully earnest “Six day weekend,” it’s
the fifth and final cut “How many chances / These eyes”
that If had to choose (I mean, gun to my head.) would be my
favorite. In listening to Chain Whip, I hear enough elements
of the past and present to feel positive about Chain Whip’s
future. Give this one a few go arounds. You might think so
My mother used to talk about the summer her Mom removed her
from the stoop of their Brooklyn apartment and sent her to
spend a year in Milwaukee with her grandparents. As she described
the changes her daily life underwent, I imagined going from
cooling herself off in the borough's countless fire hydrants
to milking cows and curdling cheese. For better or worse,
that has been my image of Milwaukee since I was a kid. In
comes glam punk rockers Indonesian Junk to shake up and redraw
our presumptions of that land to the North.
The self-described glam punk trio got their start in 2014
with designs on mixing punks sleaziness with power pop riffs
and chords that paint a picture that mirror that of New
York’s bowery and lower east side during the 70’s
than any Milwaukee imagery you might come up with. “When
I Find You” has a laid back, yet sinister vibe to
it that reminds the listener. “Come On And Love Me”
carries a similar “Lay, stay or go away” nonchalant
vibe about it while featuring more than its share of hooks
and devious turns.
“I Could Die” has a slow and somewhat bluesy
narrative that teems with swagger and confidence. Raunchy
and devilish. Indonesian Junk really put the hooks in me.
With a NY Dolls, Dead Boy, Lords of the New Church meet
70’s era Rolling Stones vibe, how could anything possibly