Featured Release Roundup: August 1, 2019
Various: Complete Death Live 12” (Euro Import) Another month goes by and we get another Japanese hardcore bootleg from some obscure corner of the world. This one is interesting as it goes a little further than the typical “press the officially reissued CD to vinyl” theme. Complete Death was a VHS release featuring live sets by several legendary Japanese hardcore bands at one of the most exciting times for the scene. No doubt you’ve seen the amazing Death Side footage, which I believe comes from this show. The video stuff is amazing—pro-shot with good lighting and multiple cameras—but the audio sounds great too. This LP collects the audio from Sqwad, Outo, S.O.B., and Poison Arts. While it’s not a studio recording, the audio quality is top-notch and well worth hearing if you’re a fan. The only one I wasn’t familiar with was Sqwad. They were a band featuring ex-members of Ghoul, whose song “Oi!” they do here, and their two originals also sound like a Burning Spirits-ified Ghoul. Outo, S.O.B., and Poison Arts are all at the top of their game, and Outo in particular delivers a ripping set of tracks. This is well worth your time if you’re a Japanese hardcore head, and here’s hoping we see a second volume with the Tetsu Arrey, Death Side, Final Bombs, and Systematic Death tracks also on the original video.
The Natural Man Band: Living in a Chemical World 12” (Lumpy) After a tape and a 7” on Neck Chop (billed as “Natural Man and the Flamin’ Hot Band” on both), we get the debut 12” from this Kansas City group featuring Ian Teeple from Warm Bodies on vocals and synth. Living in a Chemical World reminds me of bands like the B-52’s and the Suburban Lawns (and contemporary bands like the World) in that they sound joyous and alive, partaking in the amped-up energy levels of punk rock with none of the heaviness or macho posturing of hardcore. While it’s super melodic, there’s so much going on in the music that it never sounds poppy… the vocals are way down in the mix and catchy melodic lines often cross-cross and buzz past one another faster than you can process them. While the band makes a big sound, the saxophone is often the focal point, and I like when the other instruments harmonize with the saxophone lines, which happens often. The Natural Man Band is doing their own thing, and if you like your punk out there, original, and high energy, this is a solid grip. Great artwork, too!
Cement Shoes: Too 12” (Feel It!) Debut 12” from this Richmond band featuring members of Fried Egg, Brown Sugar, and heaps of others. I could be brief and say that Cement Shoes sound like a band influenced equally by 80s hardcore and hard rocking US proto-punk, but that isn’t the full picture. There’s some intangible quality of Cement Shoes’ music that I can’t seem to put my finger on… a slithery, seedy weirdness that sounds like no other band. The riff-tastic, anthemic “Mine Mine Mine” is the record’s highlight for me, but even when Cement Shoes are laying into some straightforward 80s hardcore bashing they sound totally singular. I don’t think I can do any better than the label’s description of their sound: “a sonic rendezvous where the ’83 LA cast of punkers from “Suburbia”, “Funhouse” era Stooges, Alice Cooper Band, Totalitär, and Cider are all invited.” Too also has a warm sound befitting its 70s rock influences (they recorded it at the same place as the Fried Egg LP, live to analog tape) and artwork that’s as head-scratching as the music. Cement Shoes are a band that’s too weird for this world, but if you live on the fringe, this might be your soundtrack.
Rat Nip: demo cassette (self-released) It’s been a gnarly month for Pittsburgh hardcore releases, but I hope you haven’t reached your listening limit because Rat Nip are just as much worth your time as Loose Nukes, Drug Lust, or Detainees. While all of those bands clearly take a lot of influence from 80s US punk and hardcore, they each have their own take on the sound. Rat Nip is a little heavier and slightly metallic, and when you combine that with the gritty recording on this demo you have something that reminds me a lot of early material by New York hardcore bands like the Abused, the Mob, and Agnostic Front (though other heavier, meaner hardcore bands like SS Decontrol or DC’s Youth Brigade could also serve as references). Five songs, six minutes, and a complete absence of bullshit. Highly recommended if you like hardcore.
Grauzone: Eisbaer 12” (WRWTFWW) Perfectly-executed reissue of the 1981 debut EP by this German post-punk / minimal synth band. “Eisbaer” is a minimal synth masterpiece, and if you like records like the Normal’s “Warm Leatherette,” Solid Space’s Space Museum, or Visage’s “Fade to Grey,” you need this song in your collection. Like Visage’s “Fade to Grey,” it’s a glossy take on the sound, with loud, thumping drums that will dominate any dance floor. And over that pounding beat you’ll hear synth lines as straightforward and as memorable as any foundational rock and roll riff. While the two tracks on the b-side don’t quite reach the heights of “Eisbaer,” they’re well worth your time. Like I said, this is an all-time classic, so if you have a minimal synth collection, this needs to be in it as much as the Sex Pistols or the Bad Brains need to be in your punk collection.