Featured Release Roundup: April 30, 2020
The Pathetx: 1981 12" (Third Man) Third Man Records has done DIY punk and hardcore junkies a solid by reissuing (or, rather, issuing, since the Pathetx never had a release back in the day) this 1981 Detroit ripper. While, according to their bio, the Pathetx played the same Detroit venues as the more well-documented bands that emerged from the area like the Necros and Negative Approach (and even shared bills with them), I can’t recall hearing about them before. If they were in Tony Rettman’s excellent Why Be Something That You’re Not book, then I didn’t bother to store that information in my memory banks. That’s all water under the bridge, though, because I’m stoked to hear this now. With a sound inspired by the first wave of west coast hardcore bands (in particular the Germs), the Pathetx fall on that perfect line between late 70s punk and first-generation hardcore. While they’re starting to incorporate the faster tempos and dramatic chord changes of hardcore (particularly the Fix’s rough but tuneful sound), they’re still writing songs rooted in the rock-and-roll tradition of the ’77-era bands, particularly from the UK. The recording here is also similar to the Fix’s singles, stark but rich and powerful. This record could have worked just as well on the Radio Raheem label, but Third Man’s quality control and attention to detail are just as strong. 1981 is a top recommendation for early 80s punk junkies.
Maggot Brain #2 zine I thought the first issue of Maggot Brain was exciting, but I’m enjoying this second issue even more. In case you haven’t heard about Maggot Brain, it’s a full-size, full-color magazine put out by Third Man Records, and while music is a big part of the magazine, it’s not all of it by any stretch of the imagination. There are articles about film, visual art, books, sports, lots of comics, fine art photography, and other interesting stuff. The magazine doesn’t have a traditional format or clear sections, so every time you turn the page it’s a surprise, but what you find is always good. Both the writing and the graphic design are of the highest quality, sort of like The Atlantic or The New Yorker for people into cool music. Reading Maggot Brain makes me realize how the handful of music magazines still left (Rolling Stone and British monthlies like Mojo) write about boring music and/or insult their readers’ intelligence. Maggot Brain does neither. While there isn’t much about punk in this latest issue, Sorry State’s more adventurous readers will love it. And while it’s expensive, it’s worth it and Sorry State is selling it for 25% off the cover price.
Bootlicker: Live in the Swamp cassette (Neon Taste) Live in the Swamp is a brand new live cassette from Canada’s Bootlicker, recorded on their 2019 East Coast tour in my old stomping grounds of Norfolk, Virginia. While I think of Bootlicker as being a tough, USHC-inspired band with a touch of oi!, they begin their set here with an Anti Cimex cover and close with a Discharge cover, making their d-beat bona fides clear. While this sounds like a room recording, the sound is solid with every instrument and the vocals coming through and the band’s performance is ripping. I know punks shy away from live stuff, but if you’re a fan of live punk recordings and/or Bootlicker, you’ll love this. The packaging is also very fetching, with a 2-color j-card, a little obi strip, and tapes splattered with red paint, and the professional dub quality sounds great. I doubt anyone would argue Live in the Swamp makes Bootlicker’s studio recordings obsolete, but it’s a welcome addition to their discography.
Razorblades & Aspirin #9 zine The latest issue of Razorblades & Aspirin continues transitioning from photozine to a music zine with a broader range of content, while keeping the focus on punk’s photography, design, and visual aesthetic at the forefront. Besides some incredible photos (including a great shot of Raleigh’s own Vittna destroying at the last show I attended before the world ended), you get a ton of interviews (I found the conversations with Alex Heir and Sial particularly interesting, and photography nerds will love the focus on punk photographers), a detailed retrospective on Anti Cimex’s Absolute Country of Sweden LP, an interview with the designer behind the recent Scream with Me book about the Misfits, and a heap of record and zine reviews. The presentation can be jarringly slick for those of us who grew up ink-stained fingers, but it’s nice to see a zine that doesn’t feel retro. I wish R&A had more careful copy editing that matched the high quality of the visuals, but that’s the English teacher in me nitpicking. There are a lot of half assed zines out there, but Razorblades & Aspirin isn’t one of ‘em.
Exec / N0V3L: split 7” (L1BR4RY) This split 7” matches Australians Exec (whom you may remember from their LP on Anti-Fade) with Canadian’s N0V3L, and it’s an inspired pairing. While both bands can fall under the post-punk umbrella (which is so broad as to be meaningless), they share deeper similarities like a non-retro sensibility and a tendency toward experimentation. Both bands feel like part of a long tradition of bands who bring together the avant-garde and pop worlds, such as Gang of Four, This Heat, and Wire. If you follow the more adventurous and experimental end of the DIY punk underground—i.e. if label names like Digital Regress and Ever/Never ring a bell—this two-songer is a solid grip.
La Milagrosa: EP cassette (Redro Deskabezado Records) 7-song cassette EP from this new punk band out of New York. La Milagrosa has a straightforward punk sound that has existed since the genre’s very beginning… 1-2-1-2 beats, straightforward and catchy riffs, and vocals that yell about what’s important to the singer with all the force they can muster. They sound kind of like the Exploited to me, but that seems beside the point. What’s more important is the feeling, and this feels punk as fuck.