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Featured Release Roundup: August 23, 2018

Erik Nervous: Nervoloid EP 7” (Digital Regress) Erik Nervous is back with a 5-song EP of Devo covers, but this isn’t a throwaway or stopgap release. Rather than just giving us his own spin on songs everyone already knows and loves, for Nervoloid Erik Nervous has dug up five Devo tracks that never received proper studio recordings and given them the fleshed-out recordings they deserve. I haven’t dug into Hardcore Devo as much as some people and I’m even less familiar with the dodgier bootlegs, so all five tracks are fresh for me. I remember Hardcore Devo being a tough listen in places with some very lo-fi recordings and artsy, out-there song structures, but in Erik Nervous’s hands all five tracks are bona fide hits. Maybe Devo didn’t change that much between their early years and their Freedom of Choice peak, aside from having clearer, more powerful production? These recordings help to make that case, and I think I’ve listened to this record nearly as many times as I listened to Freedom of Choice when I got my first copy. Whether you’re a fan of Erik Nervous, a Devo completist, or you want to hear five killer, synth-inflected punk tunes, this is mandatory listening. Highly recommended.

Stiff Love: Attitudes 7” (Feel It) Olympia’s Stiff Love are back with the follow-up to their debut on Neck Chop, and I remain smitten with them. As before, you have the total package here: great songs, killer artwork, and punk attitude to spare. The two tracks on this single are very much of a piece with the four on their Neck Chop debut, i.e. mid-paced, riff-centered garage-punk songs that somehow sound poppy even though neither the riffs nor the vocals are particularly melodic. I mentioned Nikki & the Corvettes when I wrote about their last record, and that comparison still feels apt given that few bands fall into the same space between garage and punk that Stiff Love occupy. The only bad thing I can say about it is that I wish there was more of it. In the meantime, I’ll just keep playing the two existing Stiff Love records into the ground.

Pious Faults: S/T 12” (Feel It) Debut vinyl from this Australian band doing the “hardcore as art” thing. The label’s description mentions Saccharine Trust and Spike in Vain, and while I don't doubt there’s plenty of wear on the members’ copies of Paganicons and Disease Is Relative, the comparison I can’t get around when I listen to this LP is Born Against. Pious Faults’ squirrelly, off-kilter rhythms, dissonant chords, ultra-compressed song structures, bright, clear, and powerful production, and defiant refusal to rock are all qualities I associate with Nine Patriotic Hymns for Children. I love hardcore, I love art, and I love artsy hardcore (the records I’ve mentioned so far in this description are among my all-time favorites), so I’m right in the target demographic for this record, and indeed I like it a lot. However, I also realize that it’s a different kind of listening than most hardcore records. This isn’t a record you throw on at a party and scream along with as you slam beers. Instead, it’s a record you put on alone, in the dark, letting its mutated rhythms crawl through your body like anxious parasites. It’s not an immediate record, and I would argue that, in order to appreciate it, you need to know a lot about hardcore so you have a clear idea of what this is not. Or, perhaps if you fell in love with prog’s jagged rhythms or free jazz's dissonant harmonies before you heard Minor Threat or Agnostic Front this will speak to you. At any rate, this is smart, weird music for smart, weird people.

L.O.T.I.O.N. / Scumputer: Campaign for Digital Destruction 12” (540) Split 12” between New York industrial punks L.O.T.I.O.N. and Scumputer, which is Gabba from Chaos UK’s noise project. First up: L.O.T.I.O.N. I think the public would describe 90% of the music I listen to as “ugly,” but these new tracks from L.O.T.I.O.N. bring new meaning to the word. Their particular strain of punk /industrial (which you might compare to anything from SPK to Ministry) is aggressive music, but in practice a lot of that music can have a semi-glossy, cyberpunk sheen. Not so with L.O.T.I.O.N. Their music is dingy, dirty, and claustrophobic. L.O.T.I.O.N.’s tracks here are so singular that I don’t want to compare them to other music acts at all, but instead to threads of dystopian science fiction. Like dystopian literature, L.O.T.I.O.N.’s music doesn’t venerate technology, but instead emphasizes how it alienates us from one another and the world. The drum machines here sound broken, more like aging Victorian steam technology than the precise snap of a software drum machine. The production is also as nasty as it gets, the aural equivalent of a decaying urban hellscape drenched in thick, yellow fog. This isn’t cool music for dancing at a club; it’s music for sitting alone at home fretting over what kind of world your grandchildren will live in. As for Scumputer, they build their music out of similar raw materials, but the vibe is very different. Where L.O.T.I.O.N. is singular and uniform, Scumputer is whimsically diverse. If L.O.T.I.O.N. are wandering around a post-apocalyptic landscape looking for shelter, Scumputer is salvaging beers from the rubble and trying to have as much fun as possible. Not falling into any niche of punk or industrial music I know of, Scumputer have a free associative quality that finds them sampling Run DMC, bringing in guest vocals by Jun Kato from Warhead, and combining Tangerine Dream-esque soundscapes with brutal industrial hardcore in the space of about half a minute. The only real through line is that loud and punchy electronic drums are the anchor point for much of the music. If you’re ultra-serious you probably won’t play their side much, but I’ve spun it a lot and I really enjoy it. Often split records either pair two bands that sound too much alike or they try to avoid that and end up with bands that have nothing to do with one another, but the two sides of this record compliment one another well, even if most listeners will have a clear favorite.

Petite: II 7” (Distort Reality) Second EP from this Portland punk band. The first thing that strikes me about this new Petite EP is the sense of melody. Petite tend to get described as UK82 or oi!, but they are on the very far melodic end of either style… think the Business’s most melodic songs like “National Insurance Blacklist” or “Out in the Cold,” or the underrated second Partisans LP when their songs got more well-rounded and melodic. Interestingly, though, it’s the guitars that carry the big melodies. The vocalist has a hardcore shout/bark, which keeps this from sounding like pop-punk, but the guitarists go for it with broad, major-key melodies worthy of Professionals-era Steve Jones or Nidge at his most refined. Stan Wright’s clear and powerful production obscures none of that melody, so if you’re not ready to raise your fist you’d best stay home. This might be too melodic for some, but this is so legit and so well-done that I imagine it’ll be one of the most melodic contemporary records in a lot of punks’ collections.

All New Arrivals

L.O.T.I.O.N. / Scumputer: Split 12" (540)
Morte Lenta: S/T 7" (No Patience)
Beta Boys: Late Nite Acts 12" (Feel It)
Stiff Love: Attitudes 7" (Feel It)
Cement Shoes: A Peace Product of the USA 7" (Feel It)
Pious Faults: Old Thread 12" (Feel It)
Collate: Liminal Concerns 12" (self-released)
Scorpions: Taken by Force 12" (BMG)
Scorpions: The Tokyo Tapes 12" (BMG)
Uniform: The Long Walk 12" (Sacred Bones)
Polish: Demo cassette (No Patience)
Exposure: Demo cassette (No Patience)
Obat Batuk: Songs About Tigers, Dragons, n' Sausages 12" (NGM)
Black Tusk: TCBT 12" (Season Of Mist)
Various: Para Cuando En Mi Te Mueras cassette (Comidillo)
Death Cab for Cutie: Thank You For Today 12" (Atlantic)
Heavens to Betsy: Calculated 12" (Kill Rock Stars)
Siouxsie & the Banshees: Join Hands 12" (Polydor)
Siouxsie & the Banshees: Juju 12" (Polydor)
Siouxsie & the Banshees: Tinderbox 12" (Polydor)
Siouxsie & the Banshees: Through the Looking Glass 12" (Polydor)
Mentira: Toda Tu Vida Es Una Mentira 7" (Thrilling Living)
Lithics: Photograph, You of 7" (Thrilling Living)


Big Boys: Fun Fun Fun 12" (540)
The Clean: Oddities 12" (540)
Breakdown: The '87 Demo 12" (540)
Morte Lenta: Demo cassette (No Patience)
Inmates: Creatures of the Night 7" (No Patience)
J Dilla: Ruff Draft 12" (Stones Throw)
Keiji Haino & Sumac: American Dollar Bill 12" (Thrill Jockey)
Boards of Canada: Music Has the Right to Children 12" (Warp)
Quasimoto: The Unseen 12" (Stones Throw)
Madvillain: Madvillainy 12" (Stones Throw)
Pere Ubu: Dub Housing 12" (Fire)
DAF: Die Kleinen Und Die Bosen 12" (Gronland)
Death Cab for Cutie: Transatlanticism 12" (Barsuk)
Death Cab for Cutie: The Photo Album 12" (Barsuk)
Lithics: Mating Surfaces 12" (Kill Rock Stars)
Bat Fangs: S/T 12" (Don Giovanni)
Elliott Smith: Either/Or 12" (Kill Rock Stars)
Arcade Fire: Funeral 12" (Sony)
Audioslave: S/T 12" (Interscope)
Strokes: Is This It? 12" (RCA)
Circle Jerks: Group Sex 12" (Frontier)
Adolescents: S/T 12" (Frontier)
Christian Death: Only Theatre of Pain 12" (Frontier)
Suicidal Tendencies: S/T 12" (Frontier)
Riña: Aquí No Eres Nadie 7" (Thrilling Living)

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