Featured Release Roundup: July 12, 2018
Trash Knife / Dumb Vision: Split 7” (Kitschy Spirit) Split 7” pairing Philadelphia’s Trash Knife with Madison, Wisconsin’s Dumb Vision. Trash Knife are a known quantity around Sorry State as I’ve loved all of their previous releases. If you haven’t heard them before, they play snotty, hardcore-y punk that reminds me of the Avengers, but with melodic, Buzzcocks-type leads peppered throughout the songs. That formula remains intact for their three songs (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!), but there are two key differences. First, with three songs crammed onto one side of a split 7”, these songs are shorter and more to the point than previous Trash Knife songs. Second, the production here is piss raw, super noisy and blown out. I would have been skeptical that such raw production would work for Trash Knife since there’s so much going on in their music, but the nastiness brings out the band’s acerbic side and makes for a thrilling listen. As for Dumb Vision, this is the first time I've heard them. They’re more of a pop-punk band than Trash Knife (who always struck me as hardcore-meets-77-punk) and remind me of early Lookout!-era Queers or the first Lillingtons LP. However, their recording has just as much noise and filth as Trash Knife’s side, and while I’m not a big pop-punk guy the spoonful of vinegar helps this medicine go down. This is just the kind of no-nonsense punk split you don’t hear much anymore.
Mint: Demo Two cassette (Slugsalt) Second tape from this Philadelphia band. We carried their first one, which reminded me of poppy anarcho punk like Crisis or Zounds, but they sound rather different here. My first impression is that the singer’s voice reminds me of Kathleen Hannah; like Hannah, their pipes sound huge and carry big, broad melodies that beg you to sing along. The guitar riffs also remind me of riffy Bikini Kill songs like “I Like Fucking” (or, alternately, riffy Bratmobile songs like “Not in Dog Years”), but despite those two similarities Mint doesn’t sound like a riot grrrl band at all. They sound like a punk band making music without worrying too much about what they sound like, but rather taking riffs and melodies and working them into fully realized songs that someone would want to listen to. By contrast, Mint make it clear how many other bands are way too beholden to their influences, which holds many of them back from developing their voice as effectively as Mint has across their two tapes.
Mujeres Podridas: Sobredosis cassette (Todo Destruido) Second tape from this ripping punk band out of Texas. Their first one was good enough to get a vinyl pressing on Symphony of Destruction, but this one is even better. You probably know their vocalist Dru from her other bands Criaturas and Kurraka, but she has a different style in Mujeres Podridas. Usually I think it’s a bad idea for a singer to be in more than one group because vocals are so individual and so central to a band’s sound, but Dru has such flexibility and inventiveness as a singer that she can make all three bands sound distinct from one another. She has this one move she does on the first track where she expels all the air from her lungs at once in a way that’s not quite a yell or a scream… it’s somewhere between a scream and a hiss, and the only vocalist I’ve heard do something similar is Chitose from the Comes. On this tape you get four tracks, two blistering hardcore rippers and two more mid-paced songs. The first mid-paced song, “Misterio Planeta,” leads with the bass and approaches the catchiness of Agent Orange circa Living in Darkness, while the last song, “Golpe Tras Golpe (Desechables)” is more anthemic a la the Avengers or Ultimo Resorte. I’m a huge fan of every band that this group of people starts, but with this release it seems like Mujeres Podridas has found their voice and established themselves as just as important and vital as the members’ other bands.
Syndrome 81: Béton Nostalgie 12” (Black Water) Discography-to-date collection from this French oi! band. When most Americans hear the phrase “French oi! band” their mind probably jumps to Rixe, but Syndrome 81 don’t sound much like Rixe at all, at least most of the time. Sure, there are similarities (particularly on their earlier tracks, originally released on cassette way back in 2013) as both bands are steeped in their native country’s long tradition of oi! music. However, while Rixe seem like perfectionists, whittling down each part of the song until it fits into the Rixe aesthetic, Syndrome 81 are more willing to go out on a limb with their songwriting. By the third track on this release, “Recouvrance,” the band is experimenting with criss-crossing melodic lines on the guitar and bass and more melancholic, minor-key chord progressions. While oi! has a reputation for being restrictive as a genre (one might even say dumb), Syndrome 81 incorporate a wide range of sounds, tones, and textures. It always still sounds like oi!, but oi! in wide screen. In this respect Syndrome 81 reminds me of the Beltones, another band who wasn’t afraid to expand the oi! formula to incorporate dark, melodic pop in the Leatherface vein.
Cremalleras: Mercado Negro 12” (Thrilling Living / Cintas Pepe) Second LP from this two-piece hardcore punk band out of Mexico, and while I don’t believe I heard their first record, the Thrilling Living seal of approval piques my interest. Dropping the needle on this I find raw, wild, and expressionistic hardcore that finds a perfect spiritual home on a label run by someone who plays in Mozart and Neon. Cremalleras aren’t as art-y as either of those two bands, but they share a visceral explosiveness. This is music that comes from the gut and the heart rather than the brain. It doesn’t sound like Cremalleras spent much time fussing over the details, but what they do well is let loose, and like Wretched, Negazione, or Void, their music seems to reach inside your body, grab you by the intestines, and force you not only to listen but more importantly to feel what they’re playing. I’m sure some people will nitpick details like the recording quality (which is very lo-fi), but if you open yourself to hearing this record, it’s difficult to deny its power.
Den: Deep Cell 12” (Paradise Daily) Perhaps the weirdest release of this update comes to us from Australia’s Den. I’ve been struggling to describe it to people, which is always a good sign for me. The pithy description I’ve come up with is “Total Control meets symphonic black metal,” but that only tells, at best, part of the story. The label’s description mentions Christian Death, and while I haven’t spent a ton of time with those later Christian Death records, I think there’s a similar vibe here. Den’s music is dark, but there’s a spirit of celebration… it’s the sonic equivalent of the new romantic fashion for painting your face like a corpse but dressing in frilly, ornate Victorian finery. Death is coming, so live for today. The label’s description also mentions Magazine, and I hear that too. Like Magazine, Den’s synth lines have a Wagnerian grandiosity, though they make me think of Dimmu Borgir just as much (hence the “symphonic black metal” tag in my description). I’m sure that many people will hate this, but I’m charmed by Den’s baroque boldness.
The Fits: Bored of Education 7” (Ugly Pop) Ugly Pop dips their bucket back into the well of 70s Canadian punk and comes up with this noteworthy single from Toronto’s the Fits. The real hit here is the title track (curiously, on the b-side), which is a blistering proto-hardcore burner that would have fit right in on the “Screaming Fist” single by fellow Torontonians the Viletones. While “Bored of Education” is the hit (and I’m surprised it hasn’t been comped more often), the other two tracks are solid too. While they don’t reach such blistering tempos, their grimy, nihilistic sound reminds me of a one-off single from that grey area between second-wave UK punk and UK82, music by people who weren’t so much jazzed on punk’s artistic potential, but rather its ability to articulate the grinding pointlessness of young adulthood. As is usual with Ugly Pop, you get liner notes that add historical context and top-notch reproduction of the original sound and artwork.
Preening: Nice Dice 7” (Fine Concepts) Latest in a spate of recent releases by this no-wave band from Oakland, California. As on their previous releases, the quirky rhythms and skronky saxophone abound. While Nice Dice is a brief single, Preening goes several different places in its 7-ish-minute run-time, from the mutant funk of “CPD” to the anti-rock “Effigy.” I’m sure I’ve said this in descriptions of their previous records, but I’m still struck by how free and alive Preening’s music sounds. Having grown up listening primarily to more straightforward hardcore and punk, I always thought making music is like following a recipe… you might tweak the mix of spices or add or subtract an ingredient or two to suit your individual taste, but the basic recipe is stable and familiar. However, Preening don’t sound like they’re following a recipe… they sound like they’ve taken the ingredients, thrown them into the air, then rolled around in the mess on the floor. That might sound like a backhanded compliment, but it’s not. Preening’s indulgence in this transgressive joy is what I need to (Calgon) take me away from a life filled with worry, anxiety, and frustration.
Rapid Dye: Nurture or Destroy 7” (Paradise Daily) Debut 7” from this Australian hardcore band… I thought I remembered reading that there were notable “members of,” but I’m not able to find that information. Or maybe I imagined it. Anyway, when I was listening to this record, I wrote a note to myself that it sounds like it could have come from Toronto, and then I look back at the label’s description and indeed they compare it to Urban Blight (who were definitely from Toronto) and Violent Minds (who I think were kinda-sorta from Toronto, at least for a time). The title track is the hit with its thick, meaty, oi!-infused main riff that could slide right onto a record by masters of mosh like Glue, Bib, or the aforementioned Urban Blight. They pick up the pace for the rest of the record, going for more of an early Agnostic Front / Abused type of vibe, but the riffing remains sprightly and interesting. Rapid Dye are a competent, even exceptional, hardcore band, but the most striking thing about this record might be the production, which swirls with as much noise and feedback as a Confuse record. Combining that production and the band’s songwriting makes listening to this record feel like fighting a swarm of bees with a burlap sack over your head. Oh, and it's limited to only 200, so this one won't stick around long enough for you to figure out whether the cool guys will like it.
Slumb Party: Happy Now 12” (Drunken Sailor) After an earlier 7” on Erste Theke Tonträger, here’s the debut LP from this UK band. It’s an ambitious record that resists classification, evidenced by both the all-over-the-place label description and the string of off-the-wall comparisons I’m about to throw at you. Since I can’t sum up Slumb Party’s music, I’ll list some of the things that I was reminded of while listening to Happy Now: Sauna Youth’s snappy punk; Downtown Boys’ ecstatic, sax-fueled punk; the skronk-punk and mutant funk of no wave groups like the Contortions; Andy Partridge from XTC’s plaintive, melodic vocals; Voodoo Glow Skulls’ jittery, manic ska-punk; Madness’s inventive and very British horn melodies and arrangements. Another listener may hear none of those things, but the point I’m trying to make is that Slumb Party’s music feels free of rules and boundaries. They aren’t a band who has honed their sound and focused all of their attention on doing one thing perfectly, but rather they’re an orgiastic musical free-for-all that darts around like a startled rabbit. I’ve listened to this record four or five times and I still don’t feel like I have a handle on it, but it keeps pulling me in. Obviously not everyone will have the patience to engage with a record that demands so much from you as a listener, but those of you willing to invest your attention will love this utterly singular record.
Cremalleras: Mercado Negro 12" (Thrilling Living)
Den: Deep Cell 12" (Paradise Daily)
Rapid Dye: Nurture or Destroy 7" (Paradise Daily)
NKDX: Rome cassette (Paradise Daily )
New Age Group: S/T 7" (Paradise Daily)
Johnny Marr: Call the Comet 12" (New Voodoo)
The B-52's: Wild Planet 12" (Warner Bros)
The B-52's: S/T 12" (Warner Bros)
Immortal: Northern Chaos Gods 12" (Nuclear Blast)
Watain: Casus Luciferi 12" (Season of Mist)
Preening: Nice Dice 7" (Fine Concepts)
The Cool Greenhouse: London 7" (Market Square)
Ovate: S/T 12" (Soulseller)
Mobb Deep: Juvenile Hell 12" (Island)
Guns N Roses: Appetite for Destruction (remastered) 12" (Geffen)
Florence + Machine: High As Hope 12" (Republic)
Nine Inch Nails: Bad Witch 12" (Null Corporation)
Howlin' Wolf: Rocking Chair 12" (Friday Music)
Son House: The Father of Folk Blues 12" (Analogue Productions)
Slayer: South of Heaven 12" (American Recordings)
Nas: Illmatic 12" (Columbia)
SZA: CTRL 12" (Top Dawg Entertainment)
Kendrick Lamar: Good Kid M.A.A.D. City 12" (Interscope)
Death Grips: The Money Store 12" (Epic)
Death Grips: Bottomless Pit 12" (Third Worlds)
Dead Kennedys: Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death 12" (Manifesto)
Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables 12" (Manifesto)
Dead Kennedys: Plastic Surgery Disasters 12" (Manifesto)
Mumford + Sons: Sigh No More 12" (Island)
Amy Winehouse: Back to Black 12" (Island)
Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot 12" (Nonesuch)
Bad Brains: ROIR 12" (ROIR)
Wu-Tang Clan: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) 12" (RCA)
Khalid: American Teen 12" (RCA)
Misfits: Legacy of Brutality 12" (Caroline)
Minutemen: Double Nickels on the Dime 12" (SST)
Black Flag: Jealous Again 12" (SST)
Black Flag: Loose Nut 12" (SST)
Black Flag: Six Pack 7" (SST)