Featured Release Roundup: February 27, 2020
Leper: Frail Life 12” (Kink) Frail Life is the debut vinyl from Leper, who are from the unlikely but perennial hardcore hotbed of Umeå, Sweden. When I first checked out Leper, the Choke-esque vocals and bruising sound made me think this would be full-on skinhead hardcore a la Violent Reaction or Boston Strangler, and while there’s plenty of that here, it’s more varied than you might expect. In particular, there are lots of little melodic rock and roll guitar flourishes (see “ICBM,” for instance) and the dissonant Greg Ginn chords of “P&D,” which is a welcome diversion from the rest of the album’s more straightforward vibe. Throw in some eye-catching artwork and you have a standout hardcore record.
Green Jag: demo cassette (Dream Home) Green Jag is a new project from Brendan from Hologram, Aesesinato, and a bunch of other bands. I make it a point to check out everything that Brendan plays on and he's yet to disappoint me. The conceit for Green Jag is nasty, snotty punk played at hardcore tempos a la the Necros’ Sex Drive EP. Like that record, the recording quality here is raw, with an idiosyncratic mix that makes the bass the most prominent instrument. While I think these tracks are ripping enough to deserve a better recording, the rawness has its charm and the songs and the attitude still shine through. I keep thinking to myself that if Brandon from No Way Records could hear this he would flip his shit. If you’re a fan of snotty punk like Career Suicide and you have a high tolerance for shit-fi recordings, you’d be smart to pick this up.
Note: The original version of our description contained an error; Brendan does not play in Green Jag, the cassette is just released on his label.
Der Moderne Man: Unmodern 12” (Rockers) Last week we covered the reissue of Der Moderne Man’s debut, and this week we have the German post-punk band’s follow-up, 1982’s Unmodern. I compared their debut, 80 Tage Auf See, to the pre-Joy Division band Warsaw, and like that band’s work, 80 Tage Auf See evoked a color palette of muted, dirty, industrial greys. Unmodern, however, is a Wizard of Oz moment that finds Der Moderne Man stepping into a world of full color. The production is clearer and brighter and the songwriting more varied and accomplished, infusing their take on classic post-punk with prog rock’s ambition and meticulous attention to detail. If you think that sounds like the formula the UK’s Magazine developed a few years earlier, you’re correct. Unmodern reminds me of Magazine’s first two albums, records that kept punk’s vitality while diving headlong into more ambitious waters. Unmodern is one of those records that will need a lot of play to reveal all of its secrets, but if (like me) you love a lush and ambitious post-punk album, that process will be a treat.
Chiller: 2nd 7” 7” (self-released) As the title indicates, this is the second 7” from Pittsburgh’s Chiller. If you picked up their previous record, you’ll be pleased to hear the sound is similar, blending various sub-strains of hardcore into a sound that feels fresh and authentic. There’s the hyper-fast “Remonstration,” the big breakdown of “Final Names,” and the Pick Your King-esque “Whistler.” It’s uncommon for hardcore bands these days to mix things up so much, but the warm production and catchy, oi!-tinged vocals (which still sound like Damian from Fucked Up) hold it all together. I also love how all of Chiller’s releases have a similar visual aesthetic, begging you to catch ‘em all.
Romero: Honey 7” (Cool Death) This single is the debut release from this new band out of Melbourne, Australia, and it has “next big thing” written all over it. The two bands Romero reminds me of most are Sheer Mag and Royal Headache. Just like when I checked out those bands, the first time I listened to this single I couldn’t tell if I liked it or hated it. On the second listen, though, I had to surrender and acknowledge that I love this. “Honey” is a monster track with huge guitar hooks building to even bigger vocal hooks. It has a soulful garage vibe that is, again, very similar to Royal Headache, but with added heft to the production and playing. The b-side, “Neapolitan,” is also great. The way the lead guitar snakes around the chorus’s vocal melody reminds me of the first Strokes album, which is a very good thing. If this band can put out an album anywhere near this good, they will be inescapable. And I will love it.
Sabre: S/T 7” (Erste Theke Tonträger) Debut record from this new band out of the Bay Area. The label sells it short by calling it a hybrid of UK82 and USHC; that’s not inaccurate, but these songs are more interesting than a simple throwback. The guitar player uses dissonant chords that remind me of Die Kreuzen or Articles of Faith, and the band has a quirky sense of rhythm that’s unique and interesting. The vocals sound like any number of gruff 80s hardcore frontmen, but the music is so left of center it defies my attempts to find comparisons. However, if you’re a fan of bands who are raging, progressive, and unique (think AoF, Mecht Mensch, or even the creepy anarcho-punk of Part 1), this is a recommended weirdo ripper.
Raspberry Bulbs: Before the Age of Mirrors 12” (Relapse) Before the Age of Mirrors is the Relapse debut from this long-running New York band. While I haven’t been diligent about picking up every single Raspberry Bulbs record, they’ve been on my radar for several years and their three previous albums are records I still spin often. If you haven’t heard them, they’re often described as “blackened punk,” but besides black metal and punk there are also significant strains of AmRep-style noise rock and avant-garde and experimental music in their sound. That’s true of Before the Age of Mirrors, which stays true to the band’s aesthetic but feels more ambitious and composed than their previous records. At any given moment, Raspberry Bulbs might sound like Darkthrone, Unsane, Alice Coltrane, or a primitive and noisy band from a Punk and Disorderly compilation. Sometimes they can hit several of those points in the same track (such as the first track here, “Spitting From on High,” which features a spooky black metal intro and outro (complete with tremolo picking), a middle part that sounds like blackened noise rock, and snotty, punk-y distorted vocals), while they reserve the more out-there moments for the album’s four interlude segments. These interludes are some of my favorite moments on the record, not only lending variety to the sonic palette but also serving as a respite from the onslaught of heaviness. Recommended fans of bands like Celtic Frost that find a delicate balance between the primitive and the progressive.
Set-Top Box: TV Guide Test 12” (Erste Theke Tonträger) TV Guide Test compiles two previous cassette releases by this mysterious band. While I know little about them (I don’t even know where they’re from, but I think one vocalist might have an Australian accent?), if you’re familiar with Erste Theke Tonträger’s discography you’ll have a good idea where they’re coming from. Devo and Mark Winter’s bands (Coneheads, but even more so D.L.I.M.C.) are a good reference point, but one thing I like about this scene (insofar as there is such a scene) is that it places a high value on originality. Thus, even though Set-Top Box might sound familiar in some respects, they’re not biting anyone’s style. Some moments have a pop element (like the D.L.I.M.C.-esque “Channel 69”) while others are experimental (“Infomercial”), but TV Guide Test balances those elements, tilting a little more toward the latter. I also love how many of the lyrics are TV-themed (sample lyric: “on the alien game show / show ‘em what you know!”), which combined with the album’s eclecticism makes it feel like you’re flipping through a series of little-watched channels way up on the dial.