Featured Release Roundup: July 9, 2020
T.S.O.L.: Beneath the Shadows 12” (Dink) Dink Records brings this American punk masterpiece, T.S.O.L.’s second album from 1982, back into print. Unconstrained by the lack of ambition that kept most American punk bands ghettoized in the underground, with Beneath the Shadows T.S.O.L. created a sound and a record that could stand alongside any of the bigger-budget, pop-chart-troubling records by bands like the Buzzcocks, the Stranglers, the Damned, or Siouxsie and the Banshees. Beneath the Shadows’ closest soundalike is the Damned circa The Black Album, when they reveled in Beatles-inspired pomposity without losing their ability to write a great hook (case in point: “Wait for the Blackout”). Similarly, Beneath the Shadows is a dense and lush record, with the guitars, keyboards, and vocals fighting for center stage. When all three players go for the gold—as they do on the brilliant title track—it’s orgiastic, melodies bombarding you from every direction. Really, though, there isn’t a dud on the entire record. If you’re a fan of the bands I mentioned, or if you’re a fan of T.S.O.L.’s earlier, equally brilliant records who never ventured on to album #2, get this in your ears right away. While this reissue is free from frills (only upgrading the jacket with foil stamping and embossing), it sounds great and it’s the quickest way to get this brilliant record on your turntable.
Poison Arts: Flexi + Comps 12” (DTK) Fan Club LP that compiles Poison Arts’ Hi-Energy 7" flexi as well as their appearances on the Attack of 4 Tribes compilation 12", Nobody's Fault Sulais Omnibus compilation 12", and Game of Death compilation 12". Poison Arts can be an intimidating to get into because they have a slew of releases, but this compilation gathers up several odds and ends from the band’s discography into a digestible chunk. The tracks from the flexi and Attack of the 4 Tribes compilation are from 1988, and while Japanese hardcore deep heads will love them, the band feels a little less focused at this earlier stage, combining elements of thrash, rock-and-roll, hair metal, and punk in a way that has plenty of charm, but doesn’t hang together into a consistent sound and vision. However, the b-side compilation tracks from only a year later are a major upgrade. While not as anthemic as Death Side (with whom Poison Arts shared their guitarist Chelsea), everything seems to click together on these 1989 tracks, showcasing a band that is locked in, channeling their undeniable musical virtuosity into a sound whose intensity matches its complexity. As with a lot of these recent Japanese fan club releases, the packaging is meager but the sound reproduction is very strong.
Cassie: Change My Image 7” (Reminder) Reminder Records reissues this 1982 obscurity from the Isle of Wight, and it is a full-on blinder. While, judging from the label’s description, Cassie couldn’t catch much of a break during their original run as a band, these two songs show that it wasn’t for lack of talent. Perhaps by 1982 they were just late, as these two slices of amped-up, punky power-pop make me think the pop gems bands like the Pointed Sticks, Nasty Facts, and the Go-Go’s were pumping out a few years earlier. Vocalist / songwriter Debbie Barker’s unpretentious lyrics and high-energy vocal style are the star of the show, but the band is explosive here, summoning 60s garage energy and filtering it through a new wave pop style. Another reason Cassie’s single might not have taken off is the production. Like the Protex album Sing Sing Records reissued in 2010, it has a grainy sound that isn’t up to major label production standards, but is just perfect for those of us who love discovering old punk singles like this. What a kick off for Reminder Records! I can’t wait to see what they bring us next.
Irreal: 2020 EP 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Oh man, what a ripper! We loved Irreal’s first 12” here at Sorry State, but this new 5-track EP might melt your turntable. The a-side is devoted to three short tracks with clipped, busy-sounding riffs. While a lot of bands who sound similar to Irreal let their riffs breathe and hang on a groove for a while, these three tracks sound anxious and compressed, reminding me early Riistetyt in how it take an early Discharge influence and applies it to the more tightly wound sound of US hardcore. The two tracks on the b-side breathe a little more, climaxing with the killer closer, “Inútil,” which adapts the main riff from Anti-Cimex’s “Pain” into a track that could cause serious mosh pit injuries. But then in the chorus the guitarist takes a total left turn with an airy, melodic guitar line that sounds right out of early Public Image, Ltd. or Magazine and it’s all over for me… I’m in love with this record. This record makes me so bummed out that shows aren’t happening right now because I would love to see Irreal live. Until then, I’ll be blasting this EP.
Loss Prevention: Shoot to Kill 7” (11pm) The whole recent drop from 11pm Records has been great, and while I love the Cadenaxo LP and Freon tape, this four song rager from Loss Prevention takes the title for me. Loss Prevention plays the kind of fast and grimy US hardcore that I love, taking cues from the early Dischord and Touch and Go catalog, but augmented with a big dollop of Black Flag’s hopelessness. While they’re not as fast as Suck Lords or Electric Chair, this appeals to the same nihilistic sensibility, and if you’re a fan of what those bands are doing, I recommend checking this out. All four tracks are ace, but the fast hammer-ons in “Devil’s Fools” brings a little early C.O.C. into the mix, making it this southern boy’s clear favorite. Lovers of pure USHC, don’t miss this!
Cheryl: Killer Kiss 7” (Reminder) More brilliant vintage power-pop from Reminder Records, who this time give us a reissue of the lone 1981 single from Cheryl. These two songs sound like they’re straight out of the Stiff Records catalog with their amped-up, Phil Spector meets Dr. Feelgood style, but for all of their pop classicism the energy level is as high as any second-wave punk single you can throw at it. Fans of the Pointed Sticks, Nasty Facts, and Protex’s Strange Obsessions should take note, as this has the same time of manic pop energy. Oh, and if you noticed that I used the same comparisons for the Cassie single that came out on Reminder at the same time, that’s because they’re very similar (and similarly awesome). If you love this style, you need both… trust me.