Featured Release Roundup: February 13, 2020
Sirkka: Kuluttava Kone cassette (self-released) Four-track demo cassette from this band out of New York, but with lyrics in Finnish. The music also has the frantic yet sophisticated vibe of a lot of classic Finnish hardcore, but not in a way that cops any particular band’s style. “Onkalo,” the opening track (and the longest on the tape) reminds me of Rattus circa their LP for Ratcage Records, while “Lopeta Illman Myrkytys” seems inspired by Discharge’s classic mid-paced tracks by way of Riistetyt’s Valtion Vankina album. Sirkka isn’t one of those bands that just reminds me of other bands I like, though; these four tracks have a timeless, classic quality. I hope Sirkka isn’t one of those flash in the pan bands that drops a great demo and disappears, because I could use a lot more of this in my life.
Cometbus #59: Post-Mortem zine (self-published) Since Cometbus is a long-running punk institution and I’ve never written about it before, it’s probably appropriate to mention my personal history with the zine. In a word, I have none. While, at some point, I purchased Despite Everything, which compiles material from their first twenty years, this issue, #59, is the only one I’ve ever read cover to cover. While those early issues look cool, the tiny, hand-written lettering never agreed with my eyes. I suppose I also associate Cometbus with corners of the punk scene that I’ve never felt at home in; I’ve never squatted, never hopped a train, and Crimpshrine’s music never grabbed me. However, I couldn’t tear myself away from Post-Mortem, devouring its 130-ish pages in less than 24 hours. This issue's title is Post-Mortem because Cometbus is attempting what he calls a post-mortem of the underground. What that means is that he looks at a bunch of different punk institutions—a mix of record labels, squats, magazines and publishers, leftist / anarchist bookstores, DIY venues, and even one vegan donut shop—interviewing their founders and the people who keep them running and reflecting on how those institutions got to where they are today. Calling this issue a post-mortem seems to imply that these institutions (or perhaps even the underground as a whole) have died, but most of them are still alive and well. Some of them have gotten bigger and some haven’t, but all of them have gone through difficult periods. While I wouldn’t be so bold as to rank Sorry State alongside Cometbus’s subjects, I feel a kinship with many of them, so the subject hits close to home. And while it doesn’t have the intellectual rigor of a scientific study (as evidenced by my fuzziness on exactly what this issue’s project is), Cometbus is a thoughtful person and a capable writer, making this a joy to read. So, while I can’t predict how this issue might play with the Cometbus superfans, you don’t have to be one to enjoy it.
Razorblades and Aspirin #8 zine We’ve carried previous issues of the Richmond-based zine Razorblades and Aspirin, but #8 is a near-total reboot, shifting from a photo-zine to a more traditional mix of content, including interviews and record reviews alongside the eye candy. It’s also been scaled-up to full-size rather than half-size, and the beautiful photography (much of it full-color) that has always been the zine’s trademark looks even better. The writing is also excellent. While the reviews aren’t critical (sounding more like the descriptions I write for Sorry State than opinions or analyses), they are informative, and the interviews are very strong. They speak to a few photographers (which makes sense given the zine’s focus) as well as Radio Raheem Records, Dropdead, Integrity, Mark from Youth Attack, and several more. The questions and the answers are both thoughtful and interesting, a cut well above your typical DIY punk zine. I just got an email notification that their next issue is already in the works with a plan to publish quarterly, so I look forward to devouring a new one of these every few months.
Liquid Assets: SNC Lava Lamp 7” (Schizophrenic)This debut 7” from Ottawa’s Liquid Assets has a different vibe than their demo from last year. Like the demo, SNC Lava Lamp dances back and forth over the line between hardcore and ripping fast garage-punk, but these tracks are more unhinged. The two short tracks on the A-side both sound like Angry Samoans’ snot-punk filtered through the sensibility of later-era Gauze, with unexpected changes that keep you on your heels, struggling to stay upright. The longer b-side track, “Never Enough,” also defies expectations, starting off as another ripper but transitioning into a breakdown about four times as long as the fast part of the song. The big riffs and occasional lead guitar flourishes might be tongue in cheek, but maybe they’re just fun, immediate, and not over thought. At any rate, this is a wild little ripper with more than enough weirdness to make it stand out from the pack.
F.U.P.: Noise and Chaos 12” (Bitter Lake) Bitter Lake Records offers us another slice of obscure Japanese hardcore, this time from F.U.P., who were active in the late 80s and early 90s in Sapporo, on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. I wasn’t familiar with F.U.P. before this release; they only released cassettes and two tracks on the Sapporo City Hardcore flexi on MCR Records while they were around. The insert is a little confusing about which of these tracks come from which sessions / releases, but assuming that the tracks on the LP are in chronological order, F.U.P.’s earlier material had a strong 80s Japanese hardcore influence, with the Discharge-inspired rhythms and gruff vocals reminding me of many classic 80s Japanese hardcore releases. While many of those bands suffered from primitive and/or idiosyncratic recordings, all the tracks on this LP sound fantastic, revealing a band who executed their stark compositions with power and precision, much like S.O.A. was doing in America a decade earlier. While F.U.P.’s early stuff is strong (and recommended listening if you enjoyed the Secretors flexi we wrote about last week), for me the real treat is the later tracks. On the latter part of the LP, F.U.P. is a three-piece with drummer Oichin taking over vocals, and his percussive style reminds me of Fugu from Gauze. As with Bitter Lake's last release from Kyosanto, fans of classic Japanese hardcore won’t want to miss this one.
No Blues: A Collection of Love Songs 12” (Schizohrenic) A Collection of Love Songs is a discography release from this Canadian band, bringing together their cassette on Blow Blood Records together with their two 7”s and five new tracks. If you didn’t catch any of those releases the first time around, No Blues plays raw, poppy punk with big hooks. The “underwater” vocal sound will remind you of their fellow Canadians Booji Boys, but No Blues’s big riffs and sunny melodies sound like they’re culled straight from MTV’s 90s Buzz Bin. Many of these tracks sound like they could have evolved into Weezer or Nada Surf songs, if only they were four times as long and recorded with something higher than kvlt black metal fidelity. The overall vibe is similar to Tony Molina, but again, much noisier and more primitive. If you like your melodic punk with a layer of grime to balance out the sugary sweetness, you’ll be all over this. Better act quick, though, because only 100 copies exist.
Detractors: S/T cassette (Desolate) Before I heard Minneapolis’s Detractors I saw them described as an “American Paintbox,” which had me intrigued. It’s hard not to see the resemblance, as Detractors also marry a classic Japanese hardcore style with elements of melodic, west coast-style hardcore, edging almost uncomfortably close to the more ripping and shredding end of the Fat Wreck spectrum. Aside from the weird vocal thing that introduces “Crickets,” you won’t find any of Paintbox’s zaniness, though; consequently, the overall vibe of these six tracks reminds me more of Forward’s catchiest material (like, say, the Fucked Up album) with a big helping of Chelsea-style shredding added in for good measure. While it’s unfair to evaluate this tape based on how much it sounds or does not sound like Paintbox, there isn’t much else out there with a similar combination of heaviness and melody. As with Paintbox when they were around, that combination might alienate less open-minded listeners, but I’m loving the big production, adventurous songwriting, and powerful, almost virtuosic playing.