Featured Release Roundup: December 12, 2019
ABC Gum: New Arcade 12” (Let’s Pretend) Debut vinyl from this band out of Bloomington, Indiana. As I was listening I thought the vintage, 60s-style production and songwriting chops reminded me of the Cowboys, and indeed the Cowboys share members with ABC Gum. The vibe here is a little different, combining the naive-sounding lyrics and vocals of Television Personalities with hooky American power-pop like the Nerves, the Speedies, or the Shoes. Like the Cowboys, ABC Gum tread a lot of ground across this LP, ranging from angrier tracks like “On Your Side” and “My Wild Life” to poppier tracks like “Lovey Quicksand” and “Lack of Sleep,” ending with the quirky, organ-driven “New Arcade.” The production is spot-on and the hooks are plentiful, so if you’re into quality, retro-sounding power-pop I’d grab this along with that new Whiffs LP.
Nukkehammer: A Distant Hissing in Your Ear 7” (Solar Funeral) Latest EP from this band out of Columbus, Ohio, coming a mere eight years (!!!) after their debut. I was a fan of Nukkehammer back then, and after spinning A Distant Hissing in Your Ear I’m even more of a fan now. While the record doesn’t sound out of step with the times, it also doesn’t feel constrained by the current scene’s trends and styles, as you might expect from a band that has been around for so long. The standout track for me is the opening “Kills by Nuclear,” which captures the manic style of peak-era Gauze (albeit through a grainy filter), but the wild-sounding “Skeletal Hand of Reagan” and brutal, Corrosion of Conformity-esque “Chainsaw of Storms” are also totally ripping. There’s a lot to digest on this EP, but if you’re the type who demands more from your hardcore than just a competent take on an established style I recommend picking this up.
Mobs: Kill ‘em All 12” (Fan Club) Compilation release from this 80s Japanese hardcore band, bringing together their first two 7”s with a handful of rare demo tracks. I don’t remember hearing anyone talking about Mobs ten years ago, but they’ve surged in popularity over the past few years thanks to YouTube and Discogs making it easier to hear them. Their first EP, Diabolism, is a solid slice of early Japanese hardcore. Like a lot of Japanese hardcore from this period, it’s indebted to Discharge (particularly the first track, “Dead People Having Sex”), but the murky production and uniquely Japanese vocal phrasing mean it sounds very different from the Discharge-inspired bands from, say, Sweden or Finland. The two demo tracks on the a-side are cool if you’re a fan of Diabolism, as they’re along the same lines, only with a rougher sound and more UK punk influence. While Diabolism is cool, for my money Mobs got a lot better with their second EP, Projection of Astral Body. With much-improved production and more complex and engaging songwriting, it finds Mobs establishing their own style. While it’s not as raging as something like Gauze or G.I.S.M., if you’re into the quirkier end of Japanese hardcore this EP is an essential listen.
Putzfrau: Demo 2019 cassette (Edger) Demo cassette from this new band out of Portland featuring members of Suck Lords. If you’re a fan of Suck Lords, you’ll want to check this out, as these folks know how to put together a great-sounding hardcore recording. Putzfrau has a very different vibe than Suck Lords, though, putting the emphasis on speed rather than anger. These tracks are blazing, too, lightning-fast and packed with thetight little rhythmic tics that make Koro so great. Only one song breaks the one-minute mark, and while it’s ostensibly the mid-paced song, it’s still faster than at least 90% of hardcore that I hear. Totally ripping!
Doldrey: Invocation of Doom 12” (Iron Lung) Five tracks of brutal, grimy death metal-infused hardcore (or is it the other way around?) from this band out of Singapore. Particularly during their churning mid-paced parts, Doldrey reminds me of Innumerable Forms; I guess it makes sense that Doldrey would catch Jensen from Iron Lung’s ear, since he plays guitar in Innumerable Forms. While Doldrey has all the heaviness that you want from a death metal band, their mosh-able rhythms and economical compositions (only two tracks break the 3-minute mark) are tailor made for an attention span shaped by hardcore. Like everything on Iron Lung, Invocation of Doom is worth hearing, but I’d be sure to check it out if you’re a fan of classic death metal.
The Whiffs: Another Whiff 12” (Dig! Records) Second record from this power-pop group out of Kansas City, and it’s one of the most accomplished examples of the genre I’ve heard in some time. The downfall of many a modern power-pop band is a weak vocalist, but the Whiffs have not one but three capable singers. Not only that, but they’re able to nail incredible three-part harmonies that will send chills up your spine. While the Whiffs are accomplished players, Another Whiff has a dirty, home-recorded quality that keeps their songs sounding fresh and organic. They’re also adept at balancing out the sweeter moments in their music. For every gentle moment like the country-tinged “Please Be True” or the beautiful pop song “She,” there’s something like the Velvets-y guitar solo on “My Vision of Love” or the high-energy rock-and-roll of “Now I Know.” In fact, for something that fits comfortably in the “power-pop” subgenre, there’s a huge amount of variety on Another Whiff. Rather than rewriting the same song over and over, the Whiffs have crafted a lengthy album (fourteen tracks!) that doesn’t overstay its welcome. While Another Whiff isn’t as punk as, say, the Exploding Hearts, if you’re a fan of the heyday of American power-pop—bands like the Flamin’ Groovies, Big Star, and the DBs—you should check out Another Whiff.
Gino & the Goons: Do the Get Around 12” (Drunken Sailor) Latest full-length from this long-running Florida punk/garage band with a bulging discography. While I checked out their singles on Total Punk, I’m not familiar with Gino & the Goons’ long history, so I won’t be able to tell you how Do the Get Around stacks up against their previous records. I can tell you is this is a raw and primal slice of rock-and-roll. Gino & the Goons sounds like a seasoned band, able to pull off a broad range of garage rock styles, from the Chuck Berry-esque “Take It Off” to the more melodic, Ramones-y “Pills in My Pocket” to the swampy “Better Believe.” The recording is loose and grimy, but it adds to the feeling that you’re in a room fragrant with the smell of spilled bear and sweat. Gino is also a great vocalist, with a library of unique tics and inflections that give each song that little something special it needs to stand out.