Featured Release Roundup: December 5, 2019
Merrygoround: 1983 7” (Bronze Fist) Vinyl reissue of the 1983 cassette by this band from Himeji, Japan. I was familiar with Merrygoround’s No War flexi (I own it but haven’t spun it in a few years), so I was excited to see this release, particularly since the packaging includes cool photos and a short but informative history of the band. Like the original cassette release, one side of this 7” is a live recording, while the other is a studio recording. The live recording has a rough sound with the bass up front. Since the bass seems to carry the melody for a lot of the songs, these tracks have a punkier feel that reminds me of Trash-era Stalin. The tracks on the b-side are listed as a studio session, but given that the recording quality is even rougher it might be a rehearsal room recording rather than multi-track. Regardless, the more even mix and aggressive approach reminds me of Fuckheads era Gauze or perhaps Kuro, whom the band lists as an inspiration in the liner notes. While Merrygoround is a deep cut, the packaging and presentation here is on point, making this a solid buy for anyone into raw Japanese hardcore.
Dark Thoughts: Do You Dream 7” (Peterwalkee) Brand new two-song single from every hardcore punk’s favorite melodic punk band, Dark Thoughts. I can see why “Do You Dream” gets the a-side as it might be the poppiest Dark Thoughts song yet. The approach is still the same, but whereas the vocal melodies used to have to fight the riffs and the blistering drumbeats for your attention, “Do You Dream” seems comfortable being a sing-along. The b-side, “It’s Too Late” (which is exclusive to this 7”), is more riff-driven and Ramones-y, and it’s just as good as any other Dark Thoughts track. This single is very short, but it does its job getting me salivating for the upcoming third full-length.
Future Terror: Plague 12” (Ryvvolte Records) Debut vinyl from this crust band from Richmond, Virginia. While the world has no shortage of d-beat bands at the moment, Future Terror stands out with a heavy, metallic sound that reminds me of Extreme Noise Terror or Doom. For me, the danger for metallic crust is that it gets too polished and antiseptic, but Future Terror is raw and nasty. While the recording is clear and heavy, the grimy guitar and bass sounds and throat-shredding vocals don’t sound anything like “stadium crust.” The raw, “yelling into a cave of despair” vocals could fit with Morbid Angel or Napalm Death as easily as any crust band, and if you loved Skemäta’s vocals I’m sure you’ll be on board. So much of crusty hardcore these days is about trying to be raw and primitive, so I’m stoked to see a band aim for something a little different and nail it.
Warp: Traffic Control 12” (Thrilling Living) Debut vinyl from this Bay Area punk band. Warp plays music that’s right in my sweet spot, with all the catchiness of a classic punk band, the energy of a great hardcore band, and the complexity of something you could label “post-” something or another. Maybe I’m flattering myself since I play guitar in the band, but Warp reminds me of Sorry State’s own No Love, particularly on tracks like “Sheet Cake” and “Makeup,” which are both catchy but tough-sounding rather than melodic. That being said, they throw some unexpected ingredients in to the mix like the staccato anarcho rhythms on the title track and the swirling, psychedelic double-tracked guitars on the climactic closer “Goat.” The lyrics are also brilliant, surreal yet thought-provoking. The lyrics to “Traffic Control,” “Cellophane,” and “Sheet Cake” are worth the price of admission alone. For instance, here’s the full lyric for “Cellophane:” “Stick of butter, butterball. Throw a brick of butter, butter on the wall. Broken bucket with a big ol hole. Don’t bet on a bucket that’ll never get full. Sorry, baby, he’s silver cellophane.” I used to teach a college-level introduction to poetry course, and I could have spent an entire class period on that one. I doubt you’re surprised Thrilling Living has put out another record I Love, but I’ll confirm this one’s a keeper.
Acrylics: Sinking In 12” (Iron Lung) Full-length debut from this California hardcore band with previous releases on Neck Chop and Iron Lung. Their first release came out way back in 2014, so it’s unsurprising that they’ve changed, but Sinking In is a stark leap forward. Acrylics always had an arty, off-kilter edge to their music, but on Sinking In, hardcore seems like just one of several influences rather than providing the over-arching framework for the entire aesthetic. Burners like “New Face” and “Awake” recall Bad Breeding’s richly textured anarcho-hardcore, while tracks like “Retreat” lean in to more of a noise rock influence. There are also two instrumental interludes (one spacey and ambient, the other mechanized and industrial) and they bookend LP with two psychedelic guitar freakouts that bring to mind Destruction Unit’s total sensory overload. Sinking In is more than just a mass of cool sounds or a heaping riff salad, it’s an ambitious, realized album with an ebb and flow that feels considered yet natural.
Slumb Party: Spending Money 12” (Drunken Sailor) Second album from this post-punk band out of Nottingham, UK. These days I’m skeptical of bands playing post-punk-influenced music. There’s been such a glut of that stuff over the past decade, so much of it mediocre and forgettable, that I’m reluctant to check out something unless it’s recommended from a trusted source. I’d seen some chatter about this new Slumb Party record and I’m glad I checked it out. Rather than the poppier or goth-y sound that a lot of bands that get described as post-punk go for, Slumb Party remind me of quirkier, artsier bands like early XTC, Essential Logic, and Suburban Lawns. Like those artists, Slumb Party’s music is interesting and memorable without being melodic as such. Rather than building songs around melodies, they coalesce around rhythms and textures, prompting you to move your body more than sing along. I also love the varied instrumentation. While bass, drums, and vocals are a constant, they’re accompanied, alternately, by guitar, organ, and saxophone. This gives Spending Money a lot of variety, not only from track to track but often from moment to moment. I’ve already spun Spending Money a few times, and its variety and complexity will keep me returning to it for a while.