Featured Release Roundup: August 22, 2019
Civic: Selling Sucking 7” (Total Punk) These Aussies show you how to do a Total Punk single on their latest! The a-side is a total ripper, basically a hardcore tune with a little rock-and-roll lead guitar that pops up here and there and nasty vocals recorded way in the red. Fans of peak-era New Bomb Turks will love this, but it’s even meaner and more ripping. Civic slow things down one wispy hair on the b-side, just enough for them to dig deeper into the pocket and add more heft. Like the best Total Punk singles it’s over before you know what hit you, but they don't waste a second. If you’re a fan of what Total Punk does, pick this up… I’d place it in their top tier of releases.
Benny and the Roids: S/T 7” (Discos MMM) Demo-on-vinyl from this Los Angeles group. This came out in 2015 as a demo and I don’t believe they’ve released anything since, so this one has been percolating for quite a while. This is some raw and nasty punk rock that sounds straight out of the UK circa 1979. While the gang vocals on the choruses are a clear nod to classic oi!, the riffs have a traditional punk rock sound and there’s more than a sprinkling of Heartbreakers / Dead Boys-style R’n’R swagger to spice things up. If you go to underground shows in Los Angeles, these songs are already anthems to you, but I’m glad they gave those of us who don’t live in perpetual sunshine a chance to catch on.
Frenzy: S/T 12” (Distort Reality) It’s been several years since we’ve heard from Portland’s Frenzy, but they’re back with their debut LP. As before, their aesthetic is silly and over the top (my favorite part is the track listing on the back cover, where they cover every letter in meticulously drawn studs, chains, and zippers), but the music is original and hardly a joke. Yes, they use pogo beats, but more often than not they’re played at blazing tempos that can sound more like Scum-era Napalm Death than Asta Kask or the Swankys. Further, their vocalist doesn’t grunt, scream, or squeal, but has a hardcore-style bark that reminds me of Pat Dubar from Uniform Choice. Or maybe if you can imagine a jam session featuring members of Straight Ahead (in particular the drummer) and Gai it might sound like this. I doubt Uniform Choice or Straight Ahead are influences, but getting at why Frenzy sounds so different from your typical noise-punk band requires a bit of creativity with your analogies. Beyond the sound, these songs build and release tension in the way only a talented veteran band like this can. Sure, there is a lot of mediocre noise-punk out there, but there are also plenty of records like this that are innovative, exciting, and a blast to listen to.
Powerplant: People in the Sun 12” (Erste Theke Tonträger) Second album (and the first to appear on vinyl) from this London group, and the only bad thing I can say about it is that every time I see the cover I get the song “People of the Sun” by Rage Against the Machine stuck in my head. Fortunately, the vinyl is always at the ready to purge that tune from my head. Erste Theke’s description of People in the Sun calls it a synth-punk record, but I think it’s a lot more than that. Sure, there’s a synthesizer on every track here, but these twelve songs run a wide gamut. “Hey Mr. Dogman!” and “In White” might deserve the synth-punk tag (and fans of Lost Sounds, Ausmuteants, or Nots will love them), but the sunny guitar riff in “True Love” reminds me of DLIMC, “Take My Money!” is like a lost Tubeway Army track, and the title track brings in some Ian Curtis-esque crooning baritone vocals. While I’m sure fans will have their favorites, the whole record is uniform in quality, which is particularly impressive given its stylistic breadth. With twelve tracks, this also feels more like an album than just a 12” EP, which is refreshing when records seem to get shorter and shorter as the years go by. Highly recommended if you like gritty underground pop music.
Future Shock: In Three Dimensional Space cassette (self-released) Demo cassette from this Chicago-area band that plays catchy, mean hardcore with a whirring synth bulking up the sound. The riffs are catchy, burly, and mean, reminding me of bands like Glue or C.H.E.W. in how they maximize intensity without sacrificing an ounce of catchiness. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention their fellow Chicagoans Droid’s Blood, as Future Shock sound quite a lot like Broken Prayer / Droid’s Blood’s most vicious moments (though Future Shock don’t have any of the darkwave / post-punk trappings). The recording is loud and powerful (it causes everything on my coffee table to rattle around even at a moderate volume) and may well inspire you to break something. If that sounds like a good thing to you, I recommend picking this up.
Maladia: demo cassette (Cold Comfort) Demo cassette from this UK band that splits their time between pogo-fueled hardcore and brooding death rock. After a short intro, “Gelded Eyes” draws you in with its seasick guitar and Rozz Williams-esque vocals, but as soon as you’re comfortable Maladia drops into hardcore gear for the next two tracks, whose catchy riffs and wide-open pogo beats remind me of the almighty S.H.I.T. Maladia is a talented hardcore band, but they’re even better when they brood, which they do brilliantly on the last two tracks. The indisputable climax is the closing track, “All Your Dead,” whose lumbering, later Black Flag rhythm gets broken up with seemingly random bursts of chaotic semi-blast beats while the lead guitarist weaves through like Greg Ginn on a strong hit of acid. The way Maladia combines catchiness with a strong avant-garde sensibility on this track reminds me of one of my all-time favorite songs, “A Human Certainty,” the closing track on Saccharine Trust’s Paganicons. If you’re a fan of older death rock like Christian Death or UK Decay or gloomy newer bands like Subdued, Maladia is well worth a listen.