Featured Release Roundup: February 11 2021
No Negative: The Darkening Hour 12” (self-released) No Negative’s previous LP, The Last Offices, was Sorry State’s Record of the Week back in May 2019, and this EP delivers more of the unclassifiable music that knocked me out then. No Negative is a tough band to describe because they don’t stick to a particular style or mood, so I’ll just go track by track. “Perverbial Grade” takes a two-note figure whose sunny-yet-warped vibe reminds me of Whatever Brains and splatters it with two loose and expressionistic lead guitars engaged in a death battle for your full attention… take the intensity and density of noise rock, but remove the downer vibes. “Upside Down World” sounds like it could have come out of just about any era of the Fall (and, consequently, reminds me of some modern Fall-influenced bands like Parquet Courts), but the wild guitars keep the track sounding like no one but No Negative. “Raw Deal” is a space-y instrumental that sounds like primitively recorded Ash Ra Tempel (no drums), while the last track, “Mon Obsession Personelle ft. Bernardino Femminielli,” is a kinda-sorta cover of “Louie Louie” with dramatic spoken word vocals in French. It’s a wild ride, but I’m glued to my seat every second. This will be a thrill for anyone who likes their guitar music to go way out.
Plastics: Plastic World 7” (Crew Cuts) Plastic World premiered online about a year ago, but when I hit up Brighton, England’s Plastics to get copies of the cassette for Sorry State, they let me know a 7” pressing was in the works. One global pandemic later, and here we are. It’s unsurprising that someone wanted to put Plastic World on wax because this is a standout piece of modern fast hardcore. While steeped in the 80s international classics, Plastics’ chorus-drenched guitar sound and willingness to dive head-first into catchy breakdowns makes me think of bands like Torso, C.H.E.W., and Vittna. Like those bands, Plastics’ songs are dense and well-crafted riff bonanzas that keep the energy level in the red. If you’re into any of the bands I mentioned above, this is not one to skip.
Death Ridge Boys: Boots on the Streets cassette (self-released) Boots on the Streets is a teaser cassette from this leftist oi! band out of Portland, featuring four new songs (presumably from that LP) and three exclusive cover songs. Anyone acquainted with oi! music knows it exists along a spectrum from very rough and primitive to polished and melodic. Death Ridge Boys lean in the latter direction, building their songs around the big choruses that make bands like Cock Sparrer and Criminal Damage punk classics. They keep the production rough, but the songwriting is so pop-oriented and the playing so tight that it can only sound so nasty. A track like “Hearts on Fire” is so poppy that it reminds me of Rancid, and while I think that’s cool, some people might need a little more grit. The four new songs are excellent, but I was excited to hear what Death Ridge Boys did with these cover songs. “We’re Not In It To Lose” by the Big Boys was already an anthem, so it fits into Death Ridge Boys’ catchy oi! aesthetic, and makes me hear something in the song that I didn’t get from the Big Boys’ original. It didn’t take much to pull the oi! influences out of “We’re Gonna Fight” by 7 Seconds, and Death Ridge Boys do a great job there too, but the real surprise is their cover of Wire’s “Mannequin.” Pink Flag is my favorite LP ever, and I gotta say they did a good job on this ambitious cover, even nailing the high notes in the backing vocals. Anthemic punk can be cheesy in the wrong hands, but that they chose and then nailed this cover confirms Death Ridge Boys’ appreciation for subtlety and style. Plus, not only is the music killer, with an 18-minute running time, Boots on the Street offers more bang for your buck than your typical promo / teaser release.
Collate: Medicine b/w Genesis Fatigue 7” (Domestic Departure) The last two records by Portland’s Collate got nods as Record of the Week at Sorry Sate, and this latest two-song single is just as powerful. Collate planned to record a new LP in March 2020, but like so many bands, COVID-19 threw a wrench in the gears. Since they had already recorded these two songs, Domestic Departure released them as a two-song single, and I’m glad they did. These tracks are KILLER. Stylistically, they’re in the same vein as previous releases from Collate. If you haven’t heard those, Collate seem to take a lot of inspiration from the early Rough Trade Records / UK post-punk sound—particularly bass-forward bands like Delta 5, Essential Logic, the Slits, and Gang of Four—but they playing is more aggressive and the production nastier and noisier, more like the DIY hardcore that we focus on at Sorry State rather than the more polished presentation of Lithics or Shopping. These two tracks only add up to about four minutes of music, but no one would call a second of this record filler. I hope that planned LP happens, because this single just blazes.
New Vogue: S/T (self-released) I flipped over New Vogue’s previous cassette when it came out back in 2018, and this follow-up reminds me why I love this band so much. New Vogue reminds me of bands like GG King, ISS, Predator, and Blood Visions-era Jay Reatard, all of whom bring to noisy punk a talent for writing dark pop songs. This self-titled tape (like their previous one), is just hit after hit. Take a track like “Safe on the Autobahn,” which starts with a brooding bass line and robotic-sounding verses, leads into a pre-chorus section that builds the tension and introduces a little melody, then—BAM!—explodes into an anthemic chorus. I can’t help but yell along, “I feel safe on the autobahn / I feel safe!” As I do this, my mind wanders to seeing Jay Reatard several times throughout 2007 and 2008 and doing the same thing along with “My Shadow” and “Nightmares.” And as I let the track play through, I’m reminded “Safe on the Autobahn” also has whole different middle eight and outro sections that are just as good as the other parts… and tracks like “Birdman” and “Reptile” are just as great. I can’t get over how awesome this tape is. Get this now, but someone needs to step up and give the world some New Vogue vinyl.
Silicone Prairie: My Life on the Silicone Prairie 12” (Feel It) I can paraphrase some key facts about Silicone Prairie, but I am under no illusion that I can describe what’s going on with this album… it’s so dense and so original that you have to experience it, and it’ll take far more listens than I’ve been able to give it to exhaust everything it offers. Returning to the aforementioned facts, Silicone Prairie is a project helmed by Ian Teeple, whom you may know from Warm Bodies (one of my favorite bands of the past decade) and Natural Man and the Flamin’ Hot Band. Ian always struck me as one of those musical genius types, and Silicone Prairie (even more so than the already ambitious Natural Man stuff) sounds like he’s cutting loose and letting that talent run wild. The 4-track production and jittery rhythms might tie this to post-Coneheads punk, but My Life on the Silicone Prairie has a wideness of scope and a sense of musical ambition that most bands who fit in that category lack. The pop grandiosity, genre agnosticism, and off-the-cuff presentation make me think of the golden era of Guided by Voices (Propeller, Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes), particularly when the 60s psych influences come to the fore, but that’s more a common approach than a sonic resemblance. It’s rare to hear a record as ambitious Alien Lanes, Meat Puppets II, or Double Nickels on the Dime, much less one that retains punk’s immediacy, energy level, and lack of pretension. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in experiencing, I suggest you carve out some time to give My Life on the Silicone Prairie an attentive listen. I’m sure you’ll come back for more.
Freak Genes: Power Station 12” (Feel It) Power Station is the fourth album from this duo, following previous releases on Alien Snatch and Drunken Sailor. Feel It Records is a fitting US home for Freak Genes, as they specialize in music that’s interesting, immediate, and difficult to classify, and that’s a perfect description for Power Station. While Freak Genes isn’t afraid to drop a melodic guitar lead every once in a while, they’re primarily a synth group, albeit one that doesn’t fit into a single sub-genre. A track like “Followed It Down” is dance-y, while “Something Else” has a herky-jerky, Devo-ish robotic rhythm, and “Ford Fairlane” is more pop… and that’s just the first three tracks! Throughout Power Station, Freak Genes walks fine lines between complex and immediate, rhythmic and melodic, art and pop. The only comparison that makes sense to me is New Order; while they don’t have Freak Genes’ occasional silly / surreal bent (this is, after all, still the band who wore duck masks on the cover of their second album), New Order is the only group I can think of who threads the above needles similarly to Freak Genes. There’s also something about Power Station that reminds me of Jay Reatard’s Blood Visions; like that record, Power Station makes great songwriting feel not like an end in itself, but a as a tool to use in service of creating a rich and immersive world.