Featured Release Roundup: May 17, 2017
Marbled Eye: S/T 7” (Melters) Debut 7” from this Bay Area, California band whose demo cassette we raved about a while back, and now that they’re on vinyl we still love them. To me, Marbled Eye sound like the perfect mix of Total Control and Parquet Courts. Like both of those bands, Marbled Eye have a way of combining a Krautrock-style groove with angular, Wire-esque post-punk style riffing and wrapping the whole thing up in great pop songwriting. While their hooks aren’t quite as big as the most memorable moments of the bands I just compared them to, I feel like that’s by design. Even though this is a 7”, it’s so grooved out that it feels like a record you put on and get lost in the atmosphere of rather than putting on to pump your fist and sing along. This band is absolutely killer, and I feel like it’s only a matter of time before they’re as big as the two bands I just compared them to, so grab this 7” and get in on the ground floor.
White Hell: Lucifer 7” (Unseen Forces) Reissue of the 1985 7” EP by this proto-black metal band from Japan, though the band did feature two American expats. This definitely has the Satanic lyrics that qualify it as black metal, but aside from that White Hell almost sound a bit more like a hardcore band than a metal band to my ears. It doesn’t have the rawness of early records by Venom, Sodom, Sarcofago, and the like, but what it lacks in nastiness it makes up for in speed and precision. I’m reminded of some 80s crossover-type bands—Attitude Adjustment, maybe even Crossover-era DRI—particularly when it comes to the vocals, but the music spices up the crossover with a pronounced Motorhead influence in both the rhythms and the riffing. This is a cool little obscurity that is an interesting little piece of history for both metalheads and hardcore folks alike.
Mozart: Nasty 7” (Iron Lung) Debut 7” from one of my favorite current bands. Mozart’s demo tape blew me away, and this debut EP is even better. It’s funny, there are a lot of bands out there who talk about “noise not music,” but often those bands tend to be very rigid and formulaic in the way that they put together and perform their songs. It takes real thought and know-how in order to make music that sounds truly wild and free, and Mozart clearly have that. This 7” is just the sound of pure freedom… it sounds like hardcore that’s a pure expression of energy, unrestrained by expectations or conventions. It sounds a bit like Wretched or Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers trying to play free jazz with a woman channeling Doc Dart on vocals. I can’t think of a single record that sounds like this, and only a very small handful that are its equal in terms of energy, wildness, and freedom. This is a shoe-in for my best of 2017 list, and cements Mozart’s place as possibly the most exciting band in hardcore right now. If your definition of hardcore is anything like mine, you need this record in your life. Badly.
Anxiety: Wildlife 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Anxiety’s 12” from last year knocked a lot of us out, so this new EP comes with much anticipation. It’s hardly a rehash of the 12”, though… to me, it seems like Anxiety has dialed back some of the more blatant anarcho leanings on the 12”, moving toward more of an “abstract hardcore” type of sound than a retro anarcho one… in other words, less Subhumans / Crass, more Iron Lung Records-type stuff, or maybe the more out-there bands on LVEUM like Barcelona or Una Bestia Incontrolable (or Paco’s own band The Lowest Form). While I’m sure some people out there will miss the catchiness of the LP, the songs on this EP are still very much in my wheelhouse, and I think that fans of the aforementioned labels / bands will be pretty darn pleased as well. Highly recommended, particularly if you like your hardcore a bit on the arty side.
Erik Nervous: Ice Cream 7” (Total Punk) Latest single from this Northwest Indiana punk phenom. These tracks have actually been on his bandcamp for months now, so I feel like I’ve already heard “Ice Cream” a zillion times. However, it’s one of those songs that can feel like you’ve heard a zillion times even if you’ve only listened to it a few times, because it has such a broad, almost obnoxiously catchy melody (which actually sounds like a song that would come out of an ice cream truck). It’s definitely a love it or hate it thing… if you like that kind of broad, children’s music-style melody you’ll flip out for this track, but if that’s not your thing I’m pretty sure you will absolutely hate this song. As for the b-side, the awesomely-titled “Children Stabbing Things,” it’s more of a straightforward punk song with a super catchy (but not obnoxiously catchy) bass line and furious downstroke guitar that kind of reminds me of another great solo project, Rikk Agnew’s All by Myself LP. While these two tracks are quite different from one another, I think they definitely add up to the best Erik Nervous material so far.
Perverts Again: My Accident 7” (Total Punk) Latest 7” from these Cleveland miscreants, and if you loved their debut LP (and a lot of you did!) you’ll be fully on board for this single as well. While Perverts Again features members of Cruelster, they’re less grounded in northern Ohio’s tradition of wild, nihilistic hardcore and more in its tradition of weird, off-kilter art-rock. You definitely hear threads of early Devo and Electric Eels here, but even more than that I think that Perverts Again sound of a piece with Darvocets’ nervous, quirky punk. The rhythms make you feel like insects are crawling all over your skin, and the lyrics consist primarily of cryptic phrases (like “underneath your clothes you’re not naked”) which sound like poorly-translated dispatches from some far-off cosmic colonial overlord. Perverts Again, without a doubt, have one of the most distinctive voices in modern underground punk, and if you’re on board with what they’re doing this single is another essential listen.
Mutual Jerk: S/T 7” (State Laughter) Debut 7” from this Atlanta punk band featuring Bobby from Brain F≠, Double Negative and Wymyns Prysyn playing guitar instead of his usual drums. Mutual Jerk don’t really sound anything like any of those bands, though. On the one hand there’s a real Atlanta vibe here… there’s certainly something of the dark, ominous melodies favored by bands like Nag and the Frantic. But on the other hand it takes such a different approach than most punk bands that it has its own really distinctive voice. There are very few full-on loud and aggressive moments. Rather than bashing out big power chords, the guitar noodles around the solid bass lines while the vocalist rants over top of it. All three of the tracks almost sound like extended intros because the tension builds and builds, Mutual Jerk continually delaying the big payoff moment where everything gets loud and intense. However, the songs don’t sound incomplete and unfinished, they just focus on a very different chunk of the emotional spectrum than a lot of punk music. It’s quite a striking EP, and if neither broad pop melodies nor hardcore aggression is a requirement for your punk music, this could well be a much-appreciated counter-balance to the countless bands who over-use and abuse those tropes.
Long Knife: Sewers of Babylon 7” (Beach Impediment) Brand new 5-songer from this Portland hardcore band, and their first since changing drummers. The new guy is Keith from Hellshock, and while the band’s overall approach hasn’t changed much (if at all), the drumming does seem a little more in the pocket, giving the band an even more anthemic edge than they had before. Anyway, the first thing that anyone ever comments on with Long Knife is how much they sound like Poison Idea, but I think that the ubiquity of that comparison really does the band a disservice… it’s not like they’re just collaging together parts of old PI tracks into new songs, and that’s particularly apparent on this EP. There are a lot of little twists and turns that push the band’s sound in different directions, whether it’s the double-bass drums on “Citadel,” the noisy guitar solo at the end of “Bastards of Bedlam,” or the combo of the surf-y main riff and killer 60s-style organ solo on my favorite track, “The Tower.” I mean, if you do like Long Knife because they sound so much like Poison Idea (particularly in the vocal department) then there’s no way that you’ll be disappointed with Sewers of Babylon, but if you expect and want a little more than that I think you’ll be even more pleased with this ripper of an EP.
Modern Warfare: Complete Recordings 12” (Rerun) Comprehensive retrospective from this early 80s California punk band, which fills out the picture you got from reissues of their two EPs with additional tracks from compilations and related bands. Now, just about everyone who got into punk before the dawn of the internet era probably has a story about a compilation that got them hooked on the genre and introduced them to the next level of bands beyond the obvious Sex Pistols, Clash, Dead Kennedys et al. For me, that compilation was American Youth Report; I remember ordering the comp from Epitaph’s mail-order (which was then called Anti-, which would lend its name to the adult contemporary rock label that Epitaph still runs) because it had the Adolescents on it and I had read an interview with Bad Religion where they cited the Adolescents as the primary influence on their sound. Not only does the Adolescents track on that compilation rip (“Losing Battle”), but it also introduced me to so many great bands… Redd Kross, Legal Weapon, the Flesh Eaters, Rhino 39, the Descendents (I’m pretty sure this is the first time I heard them!), T.S.O.L., the Minutemen, and many more. Looking back on that compilation it’s kind of uncanny how much it has shaped my tastes, and the whole thing kicks off with Modern Warfare’s great “One for All.” In a lot of ways that track is the perfect summation of why I like Modern Warfare so much… they stand right on the border between punk and hardcore, when punk rock reached its maximum level of intensity but the rigid formal codification of the genre that happened with the advent of hardcore hadn’t yet occurred. I guess that’s a fancy way of saying that Modern Warfare sound, alternately, like a hardcore band with great melodies and more ambitious songwriting and arrangements, or a punk band that plays with the intensity and aggression of a hardcore band. They’re really one of the great unsung bands of the era in my opinion, and it’s great to have all of their material in one place. Speaking of which, I can’t imagine how this LP could have been executed any better. First of all, it’s a comprehensive collection of tracks, bringing together the band’s two 7”s and the four exclusive tracks they contributed to compilations. The complete Modern Warfare discography comprises the A-side of this release, but on the b-side you also get the three studio tracks recorded by pre-Modern Warfare band The Moderns (these tracks were also released as a 7” on Feral Kid / Ut Records in 2014, and they’re killer… like Modern Warfare but slightly more power-pop/’77 punk… it reminds me of the Pointed Sticks’ best material) and three tracks recorded by MW singer/guitarist Jimmy Bemis in 2005 (I’m not really clear on why these were included… they’re fine songs but they lack both the powerful ensemble playing and the vintage production of the other material on the LP). The packaging here is also perfect, bringing together cool cover art (a striking mash-up the covers of the band’s two EPs) and a huge insert that is chock-full of information, including reproductions of all of the artwork for the records, discographical information, and a ton of amazing-looking vintage flyers and photos. Basically, this is the Modern Warfare record that I have always wanted in my collection, and if you’re deep into early 80s SoCal punk you absolutely need this as well.
Various: Typical Girls Volume 2 12” (Emotional Response) Second volume of this series of LP compilations, and it’s at least as good as the first one. In case you aren’t familiar, Typical Girlscollects tracks by contemporary bands with women in prominent roles… I might be forgetting someone, but I believe that all of the singers on these tracks are women and/or people who do not identify as male. Far from restricting the quality of this compilation, focusing on women and non-males clearly illustrates that the most exciting music in the punk scene is being made by people who aren’t your typical rock/punk dudes. If you’re a follower of Sorry State you’ll recognize quite a few bands that we’ve recommended before: Midnite Snaxxx, Juanita Y Los Feos, Patsy, Neighborhood Brats, Flesh World, Black Abba, etc. However, this volume also introduced me to a bunch of killer bands I hadn’t heard before, like Bent and Suss Cunts, though I must say that there is not a single track on this LP that I don’t really, really like. At the end of the day, I think the strength of both Typical Girls comps isn’t so much that it gives a voice to an under-represented group (though that’s important too!), but that it brings together two scenes that overlap a little but exist largely in separate spheres… specifically, the world of hardcore-informed DIY punk and whatever you would call the scene comprised of bands like the World, Downtown Boys, Priests, Shopping, etc. These scenes share both a common musical heritage and a philosophical commitment to DIY, and to me if you listen to bands like Juanita Y Los Feos and Flesh World (who are on hardcore-oriented labels like Iron Lung and La Vida Es Un Mus), there’s no reason that you shouldn’t love bands like Naked Lights or The World as well. Here’s to more erosion of the boundaries between these scenes, not to mention the elimination of traditional gender roles and all of the bullshit that comes with them. Typical Girls is doing real work toward those goals, and it’s also a thrilling listen. I can’t wait for the next volume!
All New Arrivals
Girlpool: Powerplant 12" (Anti-)
Strul: Lennart Och Asen 12" (Ken Rock)
Punk Ekman: S/T 7" (Ken Rock)
Diabblese Grupp 6: 3 Track 7" (Reken)
Various: Domestic Sampler UMYU 12" (Discos Trangenero)
Various: Effenaar 7" (Discos Trangenero)
Killswitch Engage: Alive or Just Breathing 12" (Roadrunner)
Perverts Again: My Accident 7" (Total Punk)
Erik Nervous: Ice Cream 7" (Total Punk)
ISS: Endless Pussyfooting cassette (State Laughter)
Modern Warfare: Complete Recordings and More 12" (Rerun)
No Faith: Forced Subservience 12" (Iron Lung)
DAUÐYFLIN: Ofbeldi 12" (Iron Lung)
All Hell: The Grave Alchemist 12" (Prosthetic)
Cloven Hoof: S/T 12" (Wax Maniax)
Venom: Skeletons in the Closet 12" (Wax Maniax)
Dream Probe: demo cassette (self-released)
Redd Kross: Hot Issue 12" (Bang!)
Alice Coltrane: World Spirituality Classics 12" (Luaka Bop)
Oranssi Pazuzu: Muukalainen Puhuu 12" (20 Buck Spin)
Oranssi Pazuzu: Kosmonument 12" (20 Buck Spin)
Sylvan Esso: What Now 12" (Loma Vista)
Various: Guardians of the Galaxy OST 12" (Marvel)
Danny Brown: Atrocity Exhibition 12" (Warp)
Mordbuben Ag: S/T 7" (Bachelor)
Black Panties: Prophet of Hate 7" (Prophet of Hate)
Iron Lung: White Glove Test 12" (Iron Lung)
Rakta: III 12" (Iron Lung)
Total Control: Typical System 12" (Iron Lung)
Dr. Dre: The Chronic 12" (Death Row)
Foxygen: And Star Power 12" (Jagjaguwar)
Get Up Kids: Red Letter Day 12" (Doghouse)
Herbie Hancock: Headhunters 12" (Columbia Legacy)
Rage Against the Machine: Evil Empire 12" (Epic)
Soundgarden: Badmotorfinger 12" (A&M)
Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced? 12" (Legacy)
Albert Ayler: Hilversum Sessions 12" (Modern Silence)
Beach Boys: Pet Sounds 12" (Capitol)
Damned: Damned Damned Damned 12" (Drastic Plastic)
Drive Like Jehu: S/T 12" (Cargo)
Jimi Hendrix: Axis: Bold as Love 12" (Legacy)
Misfits: Collection 12" (Caroline)
Misfits: Legacy of Brutality 12" (Caroline)
Misfits: Static Age 12" (Caroline)