Featured Release Roundup: December 2 2021
Antibodies: LP 2021 7” (Sewercide Records) Don’t let the title fool you. The latest release from Canadian hardcore rippers Antibodies may contain 10 songs, but they are all tightly squeezed onto a bite-sized platter. The recording is super blown out, with the gritty guitars mixed red hot. And except for the mid-paced final track, this 7” is packed to the gills with a series of one-minute-flat bursts of energy. Against the primitive relentlessness of the music, the vocals don’t sound like meat-headed grunting by any means. The singer actually sounds rather quirky. Maybe not as far left of center as, say Crucifucks or Saccharine Trust, but the singer definitely has an unusual sensibility. The vocals have this reckless, almost desperate quality about them, and the singer sounding like they’re flying off the handle only adds to the band’s rawness. Even though the record is 10 songs worth of material, the experience of listening to this record is like a vortex. So much happens in a short amount of time, and it whips past you so quickly. Antibodies’ new “full-length” definitely warrants repeated listens, and you will feel bludgeoned each time.
The Clean: Tally Ho! b/w Platypus 7” (Merge Records) Merge Records has just released 40th-anniversary editions of two of the earliest records by New Zealand’s the Clean. First up is the Clean’s debut single, 1981’s Tally Ho, presented in a lovely reproduction of the (extremely collectible) original packaging. The packaging that is the draw here, because these tracks have been issued many times on various anthology releases, and they are cornerstones of the band’s catalog. “Tally Ho” is one of the most joyous pieces of music I’ve ever heard, a song that brims with enough energy and positivity to uncross the arms of even the most dedicated curmudgeon. While the melody is a little twee, it’s impossible not to fall for that broken down organ, whose sound provides the perfect counterbalance to the melody’s sticky sweetness. The vocals are infectious too (who doesn’t want to yell “tally ho tally HO!” at the top of their lungs?), and if you are a fan of ramshackle pop music like the Television Personalities, Swell Maps, Pavement, or anything in that universe, you probably consider this an all-time classic. The b-side, “Platypus,” is a solid song, but while “Tally Ho” is buoyed by the rough production, “Platypus” suffers a little from the murk, especially if you imagine the track with Boodle Boodle Boodle’s crisp sound. I’ve bought “Tally Ho” several times in my life already, but I’m keeping this one around for the pretty packaging and the frequent occasions when I need a two-and-a-half-minute injection of pure pop adrenaline.
The Clean: Boodle Boodle Boodle 12” (Merge Records) Second in Merge’s 40th Anniversary reissue series is Boodle Boodle Boodle, a 5-song 12” EP from 1981. While “Tally Ho” was a triumph, the Clean didn’t rest on their laurels here, totally changing their sound yet arriving at something just as exciting. It’s apparent that you’re in for something different from the beginning of the first track, “Billy 2,” with its chiming, crisply recorded acoustic guitars. While the sheen here is different to “Tally Ho,” it’s also apparent that the Clean were no one-hit wonders, as the a-side of Boodle Boodle Boodle is a 3-punch combo of upbeat pop with driving, punky rhythms and infectious choruses. If “Tally Ho” sounds of a piece with the ramshackle UKDIY scene, Boodle Boodle Boodle presages American indie rock, and it’s hard to imagine Guided by Voices, Pavement, and Jay Reatard didn’t pick up a few tricks from it. After the triple feature on side A, side B starts with a slow jammer and the record ends with “Point That Thing Somewhere Else,” one of the Clean’s many longer tracks, this one sounding like the offspring of The Velvet Underground & Nico and Neu!. As with the “Tally Ho” single, I’ve heard these tracks before, but I’m pleased to have the awesome original cover art restored here, and Merge’s edition also comes with a booklet / zine packed with comics and collage art that only came with the record’s rare first pressing. Since this came out I’ve been listening to Boodle Boodle Boodle constantly, so much that I’d worry my partner was getting sick of it (if it were possible to get sick of a record so great). The Clean also released a 7” and a 12” EP in 1982… here’s hoping Merge brings us 40th anniversary editions of those next year.
Sedición: En Las Calles 12” (Esos Malditos Punks) Last year Esos Malditos Punks reissued Sedición’s 1991 album Verdaderas Historias De Horror. Now they’re back with a reissue of the Mexican punk band’s previous album, 1990’s En Las Calles. While Verdaderas Historias De Horror was only a year later, En Las Calles sounds like a different band, possessing none of the death rock flourishes of that record. Instead, what I hear is a thuggish, brutal hardcore punk sound with oi! elements, in the same universe as S.O.A. or Negative Approach, but sloppier and nastier… perhaps there’s more of the simple and brutal oi! music of bands like L’Infanterie Sauvage or RAS in Sedición’s DNA? Despite the sloppiness, the music has a lot of variety and character. Songs have different lengths, structures, and rhythms, which keeps En Las Calles exciting all the way through. I’m a sucker for this early 80s fuzzy guitar sound (it’s a lot like the first Minor Threat EP), and the nasty tones complement the gruff and confrontational nature of the music. While this came out in 1990, En Las Calles is a must for early 80s international hardcore heads, as it possesses a similar fury to records like Anti-Cimex’s Anarkist Attack, Olho Seco’s self-titled EP, or Ratos De Porão’s Crucificados Pelo Sistema.
Autarkia: Punks Al Slam 12” (Maldito Ruido) The first release from the new label Maldito Ruido is a reissue of Punks Al Slam by Autarkia. Originally released only on cassette in 1994, Autarkia is another great example of hardcore from Mexico during the flood of activity in the late 80s and early 90s. Musically, Autarkia isn’t too far off from their peers Massacre 68. The band’s songs are mostly based around a pounding umpa-umpa pogo beat on the drums, falling somewhere between the disorderly framework of Confuse and the anthemic songwriting of classic oi! and UK82. Apparently, this reissue has been remixed, but it is clear the original recording is RAW. The fuzzy texture of the guitar tone is so thin and noisy that it almost doesn’t resemble a guitar anymore. But underneath the sonic quality of the recording, the production adds to the charm because the band’s nastiness and gruff attitude really shine through. The singer sounds vicious, delivering hooky sloganeering choruses that the punks can readily chant along with. The photos of the band on the front cover say it all. With liberty spike mohawks standing at attention, Autarkia ‘s crude but tuneful take on hardcore hints at an early version of street punk. Punks Al Slam reads like a style-defining classic in the history of Mexican punk. Check it out.
Low Life: From Squats to Lots: The Agony and XTC of Low Life 12” (Goner Records) From Squats to Lots is the 3rd album from this group from Sydney, Australia. Their previous record, Downer Edn, really clicked with me back in 2019. I approached that record with no expectations, and while it would have been easy to dismiss it as yet another good contemporary post-punk record from Australia, I returned to Downer Edn repeatedly, entranced by something I couldn’t put my finger on. Oddly enough, even though I was looking forward to From Squats to Lots, my experience with it has been similar. The first listen or two had me thinking it sounded more or less like Downer Edn, but again I find myself reaching for this record all the time. I guess Low Life is a grower, not a shower? Part of that might be that most of the songs on From Squats to Lots rumble along at a similar tempo, rarely deploying dynamic shifts in volume, tone, or texture. (An exception is the hardcore-ish “Cza,” which will help you believe Low Life shares a member with Oily Boys.) While it might strike you as a little same-y sounding on the first listen, From Squats to Lots is full of nooks and crannies hiding countless hooks. The sound reminds me of the Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead or Echo & the Bunnymen’s Porcupine. Like those records, From Squats to Lots has a subtle but strong rhythm section that contrasts with a feather-light touch on the higher frequencies. Again, my brain reaches for comparisons to the most 60s-influenced UK post-punk bands who took the layered, melodic psych of Sgt Pepper’s, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, and S.F. Sorrow and grafted it onto Joy Division’s brooding aesthetic. And as with their countrymen in Total Control, while it’s easy to reach into the past for points of reference, Low Life sounds fresh, like music made for today. And while I’m here, note that we also just got in a repress of Low Life’s hard to find first album, 2014’s Dogging, so look forward to my thoughts on that in a future newsletter.