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Featured Release Round Up: January 21st 2021

Paranoias: Napalm Springs 7” (Helta Skelta Records) Debut 7” from this killer Australian band. Like several of the bands in the Helta Skelta Records circle, Paranoias has a fast and catchy sound that sits in the middle of the Venn diagram where 70s punk, 80s hardcore, and 90s garage-punk meet. The production is raw and biting, which dirties up a batch of 5 songs that, in different hands, could sound almost bubblegummy. Fortunately, Paranoias bury that catchiness in heaps of distortion, bringing to mind the Angry Samoans, Career Suicide’s catchiest moments, or a surf-inflected version of the Registrators or Teengenerate. In other words, it’s super fast, but you can tap your toe and sing along. I’ve played this about a dozen times already and I still want more.

Courtroom Sketches: demo cassette (Voice from Inside) Demo cassette from this 2-person quarantine recording project featuring Tomek of Koszmar and Mike from Extended Hell. While those bands are more in the d-beat realm, Courtroom Sketches has a pure USHC sound with barreling rhythms, classic-sounding shouted vocals, and the occasional Pig Champion-esque lead guitar part for an extra bit of oomph. Interestingly, the vocals are higher in the mix than a lot of records I hear these days, and that, along with the clear enunciation, makes this great for yelling along if you’re able to keep up with Mike’s lightning-fast delivery. 6 songs including a cover of “Police Brutality” by Urban Waste that fits in perfectly with the blistering originals.

Cage Kicker: Parasitic Future cassette (self-released) 2nd cassette EP from this hardcore band out of Berlin. Y’all gobbled up all our copies of the first tape before we had time to write about it, so we’ve got a bigger stack this time. Which is a good thing, because Parasitic Future is even better! Cage Kicker has a rough USHC sound with burly (but not slick) production, snarling vocals, and complex riffs that are dense, but with a strong sense of catchiness. I’m all for a dumb riff and a caveman rhythm, but Cage Kicker’s songs feel well-written—even elegantly constructed—without sounding sterile or overworked. Parasitic Future is an explosive release all around, and I can picture people going off to this the same way they did the last time I saw Warthog live. I miss gigs, but tapes this ripping are a good consolation prize.

Prospexx: S/T 12” (Symphony of Destruction) Debut 12” from this two-person darkwave project from Singapore. When I was first checking out this record, I was bopping along, thinking to myself, “this is some pretty good darkwave.” It’s a lot like Riki, taking the songwriting approach of 80s synth-pop (particularly the emphasis on vocal melody) and giving the dance beats an added sense of heft and toughness. Then the next track started, and I was like “hey, I know this song,” and realized it was a cover of “Secret Police” by the Danish band No Hope for the Kids, done in Prospexx’s darkwave / synth-pop style. I must have played “Secret Police” hundreds of times when the single came out in 2003… it’s one of the best songs of the 00s, even if the lyrics are a little goofy. I hate to make too much of a cover song, but Prospexx got me with that one, and it shows not only their great taste but also their hardcore punk bona fides. The other three tracks are great too, and I’m sure I’d be raving about them even without the cover song. If you’ve been listening to groups like Riki and Fatamorgana, Prospexx hits those same buttons.

Red Red Krovvy: Managing 12” (Helta Skelta Records) Managing is the second full-length from this Australian band that has been kicking around for well over a decade now. They’ve obviously honed their craft because Managing is a striking record. One thing that interests me about Red Red Krovvy’s sound on this record is that, while they play in this Eddy Current Suppression Ring kind of way where the sound seems wide-open and full of space, when you listen to the actual riffs and songwriting, you realize Red Red Krovvy is basically a hardcore band. It’s easy to imagine any of these songs with double-time drums and double-tracked, distorted guitars. They’d be just as good, but I’m loving the unique vibe they capture on Managing. If you’re looking for a place to start, “Despise the Rich” is a track where everything seems to come together. It starts with a huge riff I could picture Warthog using to clear a dance floor, then the chorus hits and the lyric, “this is why I despise the rich!” gets belted out with all the venom you want from punk. And if that wasn’t enough, a saxophone slides into the mix with a dissonant harmony that gives the song a sense of contrast that I can only describe by making a chef’s kiss gesture. Another favorite is “I Just Got a Dog,” a faster track with lyrics like “he shits in my room” and the brilliantly dumb chorus, “he goes woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof.” Highly recommended for fans of Cold Meat, Sniffany & the Nits, and CB Radio Gorgeous, but I think fans of fast and irreverent punk of all eras would love this. Brilliant record.

Vaxine: S/T 7” (self-released) Debut vinyl from this New York City punk band featuring a couple of transplants who played in the great Portland band PMS84 along with some New York natives with similarly impressive resumes. Vaxine meets in the middle between PMS84’s street punk / UK82 sound and the more hardcore-sounding stuff out of New York (like, for instance, guitarist Mike’s other band Extended Hell). The songs are almost all super fast (only slowing things down a hair for the anthemic “In Decline”), but with a UK82-informed sense of catchiness, particularly in the vocals and occasionally melodic bass playing. It’s clear Vaxine isn’t trying to do anything but deliver a batch of killer punk songs, but they do so with a sense of creativity and style that belies the fact they’ve been around the block a time or two. Take, for instance, their creative use of delay on the vocals, which gives the track “Leeches” one of the most memorable choruses I’ve heard in a while. An all-around killer EP.

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