Featured Release Roundup: June 11, 2020
Sniffany & the Nits: The Greatest Nits 7” (Thrilling Living) Sniffany & the Nits are from Brighton / London and they play a high-energy combination of straightforward punk and anarcho that fits well on the Thrilling Living label. Like CB Radio Gorgeous, Judy and the Jerks, and Good Throb, Sniffany & the Nits bang out big, catchy punk riffs with a thin and scratchy guitar sound, occasionally speeding up to hardcore tempos, but the ranting, Eve Libertine-esque vocals serve as Sniffany & the Nits’ calling card. It’s hard to say what separates spectacular vocals from mediocre ones, but whatever it is, Sniffany has it. When I was listening to this EP in the living room, my partner poked her head in from the kitchen and said, “what is this? It RULES!” and immediately dialed up their Bandcamp site. The lyrics are also great, each song building an extended metaphor rich with detail. “Spider Husband” is the record’s climax, casting an obedient wife as “a silly little fly” whose titular husband devours and digests her. If you love Good Throb and Cold Meat, you shouldn’t be without this EP, but it deserves way more than just a simple “for fans of…” recommendation.
Primo!: Sogni 12" (Anti-Fade) Australia’s Primo! returns with a second album and it’s excellent. I’ve listened to Sogni several times, and the word I keep coming back to is “gentle.” Primo! reminds me of the Shifters in that they sound a bit like the Fall, but unlike most bands who share their loose playing style and emphasis on rhythm, Primo!’s approach is feather-light and delicate. The songs on Sogni are all melodic, but they don’t use the stark contrasts I associate with pop music. The melodies are too blurred and hazy, lulling you into a tranquil, dreamlike state rather than prompting you to stand up and raise your fist. Sogni remains interesting throughout, though, proving that pleasant does not necessarily equal bland. I’d recommend checking out Sogni if you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard of contemporary Australian indie and punk, particularly if the Shifters and/or Parsnip are among your favorites.
Carnivorous Bells: The Upturned Stone 12” (Human Headstone) The Upturned Stone is the debut vinyl from this Philadelphia band. I recognized two of the band members’ names: Matthew Adis from Salvation and David Vassalotti from Merchandise, Cult Ritual, solo recordings, and many other projects. Salvation’s fans will be happy to hear Adis’s distinctive voice and strong lyrics carry over to Carnivorous Bells, but Carnivorous Bells’ overall sound departs from hardcore. To my ears, at least, they’re a prog band. Their songs are full of unconventional time signatures, virtuosic instrumental flourishes, and spaced-out, sometimes jazzy interludes. While there’s a heaviness and intensity that makes sense given the members’ backgrounds in hardcore, punk, and noise rock, The Upturned Stone doesn’t foreground its heaviness. Many moments remind me of King Crimson’s Red album, and fans of that record should make it a point to check out The Upturned Stone, though the complexity and virtuosity will also impress anyone who loves Slint, Tortoise, and related strains of math and/or post-rock. It’s a heady, demanding album, but Carnivorous Bells rewards listeners up for the challenge.
Scheme: demo cassette (Slow Death) If you’re in the market for some ripping d-beat, look no further than this 10-song smasher out of Vancouver, BC. Scheme’s big sound and tight playing might drift toward pro d-beat in the wrong hands, but their lean and catchy songwriting style leaves no room for pomp or pretense. While there are clear nods to Discharge, I also hear elements of driving USHC and anthemic oi! in Scheme’s sound. Like Social Unrest or Upright Citizens, Scheme’s songs feel sleek and aerodynamic, with no discernible drag on their relentless forward momentum. Fans of Iconoclast should also take note as Scheme has a similar vibe. This one will get you out of your chair faster than a quadruple espresso.
Battlefields: 4 Track Demo cassette (self-released) Four tracks of blown out rippage from this all star project band. This tape reminds me of the Shitlickers 7” in its relentlessness and the way it’s blown out and raw, yet also sounds huge and powerful. A couple of members of Blood Pressure appear here, and while Battlefields’ tape is harsher and more blown out than any of Blood Pressure’s stuff, there’s a similarly inexorable approach here, with riff after riff raining down without letting up for even a second. Don’t come to this tape looking for breakdowns, melodies, or anything but unfiltered hardcore intensity.
Cement Shoes: A Love Story of Drugs & Rock & Roll & Drugs 7” (Drunken Sailor) After recording their recent LP, Too, Cement Shoes shifted their lineup and their drummer Trevor took over the mic. While Cement Shoes’ recordings until that point felt like they were mocking the punk scene, Trevor led the band into full-on antagonism, an attitude that reaches full flower on this EP, recorded during the band’s recent Australian tour. Trevor’s vocals sound manic, swinging unexpectedly from gruff hardcore shouting to Jello-esque mocking to drugged-out babbling, often shifting drastically in tone over the course of a song (or even a single part). The music does the same, moving from crunchy punk to ripping hardcore to goofy mockery in a way that feels intuitive and stream of consciousness rather than schizophrenic. More than any other recent record that I can think of, A Love Story of Drugs & Rock & Roll & Drugs captures the feeling of being drunk and speeding and getting knocked around the mosh pit in a sweaty basement, not sure whether you’re immersed in the moment or on another planet. If you’re even slightly uptight you should steer clear, but for everyone else, this is an extraordinary record.
Skitklass: Sekaino Byoudou Sayonara 7” (Distort Reality) Japan’s Skitklass has been bumping around for a few years now, releasing a steady stream of cassettes and vinyl that somehow fell just off the edge of my radar. A few months ago I listened to their debut full-length, Primitiv Känsala, and it blew me away. After listening to that record a bunch and spending some time with this latest 5-song EP on Distort Reality, I can sense them charging toward the top of my list of favorite current punk bands. Skitklass sounds like a straightforward and raging Cimex / Shitlickers-style d-beat band, but with one important difference: rather than using a guitar sound that is beefy and metallic or noisy and blown out, their guitarist has a sound that’s scratchy and minimally distorted, more in line with garage-punk bands like the early Hives stuff or Henry Fiat’s Open Sore. It’s amazing how much this subtle difference changes the vibe. While there is, perhaps, a hint more punk catchiness in some of their riffs that you might expect from your typical d-beat band (which comes out a little on the third track, “Specimen,” here), most of the riffs, vocals, and songwriting style are pure Discharge worship. However, as modern d-beat as a genre grows a little stale and formulaic, Skitklass sounds urgent and explosive. Maybe it’s just that they’re a great band and their unique guitar sound is just a hook to make them stand out from the d-beat crowd. Whatever the reason, this band rules and this EP is a certified ripper.