Featured Release Roundup: August 2, 2018
Arse: Primitive Species 12” (Erste Theke Tontraeger) Debut vinyl from this Australian band. Discogs says the band originally released this as a limited edition cassette, but Erste Theke did the right thing by getting this on vinyl because it’s a killer release. I like bands that fall on the dividing line between noise rock and hardcore, and Arse are right in that pocket, using pogo beats, wild and noisy guitar solos, and a nihilistic vocal bark that will appeal to fans of Geld, Gay Kiss, Walls, and other bands that trace their lineage back to Black Flag’s My War. Far from just a copycat band, though, Arse strike me as more artsy and ambitious than any of the aforementioned groups. I hear this in the guitar solos (which are particularly unhinged, like Ginn and Hendrix on a bunch of bad drugs), but even more on the two songs that end each side of the record. These aren’t so much songs as abstract noise / electronic pieces that flesh out the world hinted at in those guitar leads into a full-on post-apocalyptic soundscape. Far beyond your typical “dude stringing together a bunch of guitar pedals and hitting them at random,” these intricately composed pieces scratch the same itch as Klaus Schulze or Tangerine Dream. That this recording began its public life as a limited edition of 40 cassettes makes me hope that Arse get even more ambitious once they realize the world is listening. In the meantime, though, this album is fascinating.
Dark Web: Clone Age 12” (Erste Theke Tontraeger) Debut vinyl from this Philadelphia group. The label describes them as “goth-tinged post-punk,” but I don’t really hear that. It’s dark, but instead of post-punk I hear the dark garage-punk sound of Jay Reatard or the Adverts, cut with the irreverence and the sing-song quality of Citric Dummies (who are on the same label, so it makes sense why this caught Erste Theke’s ear). With twelve tracks (it’s amazing how few punk 12”s these days have that many songs) Clone Age goes a lot of different places, which makes for a record that will stick around your turntable longer than more one-dimensional releases. My favorite track is “Life of Crime,” which is one of the most Jay Reatard-esque songs on the record. The interplay between the bass and guitar is great here, with the bass player working a simple, two-note riff while the guitar player circles around it, switching nimbly between more melodic and more dissonant harmonies. If the aforementioned references pique your interest, you’ll no doubt find a lot to love on Clone Age.
Crazy Bull: The Past Is Today 12” (self-released) I can’t think of a more apt title for the debut full-length from this Philadelphia band. As you can tell by their logo, artwork, and their music if you give them a listen, they’re going whole hog on the retro 70s rock thing, though you can still hear punk in the band’s fast tempos and high energy level. Aside from the obvious points of comparison like Annihilation Time and North Carolina’s own Mind Dweller, the band that keeps coming to mind when I listen to Crazy Bull is Sir Lord Baltimore. Their Kingdom Come LP is one of my favorites, and just like that album The Past Is Today is a non-stop barrage of heavy, blues-inflected rock riffage. If you aren’t familiar with Sir Lord Baltimore, Crazy Bull also have a ton of Black Sabbath in their DNA, but they don’t have any parts I’d describe as doomy. If Sabbath had an entire LP that was nothing but fast and frantic songs like “War Pigs” and “Hole in the Sky” it might sound like The Past Is Today. While some might dislike how hard Crazy Bull leans into the retro rock aesthetic if you love classic rock riffs I can’t imagine you wouldn’t love this album.
C. Memi & Neo Matisse: No Chocolate 7” (Bitter Lake) Bitter Lake continues their project of reissuing cult Japanese music with this 1980 7”. You may recognize C. Memi’s name from Bitter Lake’s previous release, a reissue of her Heavenly Peace EP, but this earlier recording finds her working in a more punk / rock milieu with her previous band. Listening to this single, you’d think Japan was at the exact mid-point between New York and Germany (maybe it is if you take the long way around?), as this sounds like the early CBGB scene smashed together with the more experimental tendencies of the original Krautrock bands. On the a-side the former influences take center stage, and if you’re a fan of Television or the Talking Heads (“No Chocolate” even sounds like “Psycho Killer” in places) it’ll get your toe tapping with its big, angular art-rock riff. Over the course of the song, though, the band’s experimental side comes to the surface as they add a vocoder effect on the vocals and a wild, Alice Coltrane-esque piano solo takes over toward the end of the track. It’s a strange ride, but an exhilarating one. The b-side is more meditative and more Krautrock-sounding with its minimal yet propulsive beat and cosmic-sounding tape manipulations. I would love to hear a full album (or even a recording of a live show) as it feels like this single only scratches the surface of what this group was capable of, but the wealth of ideas on display here will keep this single from getting filed away any time soon.
Inmates: Government Crimes 7” (Ultra Sonido) I’m surprised it’s taken someone this long to reissue Government Crimes, as it’s right up there with the H100s’ Dismantle EP as one of the most infamous records from an infamous scene. While bands like the Inmates, H100s, 9 Shocks Terror, and Gordon Solie Motherfuckers didn’t reinvent the wheel when it came to making hardcore music, what they did (and do!) better than just about anyone else is embody a spirit of undiluted nihilism. Government Crimes is hardcore as a shamanistic ritual wherein you summon the combined spirit of Darby, Sid, Jerry A and Sakevi, surrender your body to them and hope you wake up with all of your limbs intact. Trying to intellectualize this record is useless, as listening to it is like standing in the middle of a wild bar fight when you’re too drunk to understand what’s going on around you, let alone escape or defend yourself. If that’s your vibe and you don’t already own an original of this, you know what to do…
The Germs: GI 12" (Slash)
The Promise Ring: Very Emergency 12" (Jade Tree)
Thou: Rhea Sylvia 12" (Death Wish)
The Scientists: Weird Love 12" (Numero Group)
Compressions: Demo cassette (Residue)
Crazy Bull: The Past Is Today 12" (self-released)
Septic Death: Theme from Ozobozo 12" (Harto De Todo)
Misfits: Beware 12" (Fan Club)
Jietai: Demo 1979-1980 12" (Fan Club)
Gudon: 1984 12" (Fan Club)
Ghoul: Night Out 12" (Ghoul)
Anti-Septic / Clay: Split 12" (Fan Club)
Human Gas: S/T 12" (Fan Club)