Featured Release Roundup: March 19, 2020
Eric Nervous & the Beta Blockers: S/T 12” (Drunken Sailor) We’ve seen several releases from Erik Nervous over the past few years—including a compilation called Assorted Anxieties on Drunken Sailor and Neck Chop and a killer EP of obscure Devo covers—but this is his first release with backing band the Beta Blockers. This incarnation finds Erik Nervous leveling up with a clearer sound while retaining the big hooks of his earlier work. You’ll still hear plenty of Devo influence, with tracks like “Blasted Heath” reminding me of Freedom of Choice, that band’s pop peak, while “Want to Not Wanna” relies on quirkier drum machine rhythms more akin to their earlier, home-recorded material. The album also incorporates post-punk influences, with the angular lead guitar and fast post-punk rhythms on “Gravure” making it a standout that fans of Shopping or early Priests will love. The album ends with the climactic “Worry,” whose intertwining guitar lines remind me of the Buzzcocks’ most transcendent instrumental moments. Sometimes I’m sad to see an artist adopt a more polished sound, but the move suits Erik Nervous well, making this LP his best work yet.
Man-Eaters: Gentle Ballads for the Simple Soul 12” (Feel It) In case you didn’t catch their self-titled cassette from last year, let me get you up to speed: Man-Eaters is a new Chicago band featuring folks who brought you Cülo and Tarantüla. The aesthetic resembles those bands, i.e. sleazy-sounding hardcore punk, but this time around they add an element of Annihilation Time-style 70s rock riffing to round out the sound. Their combination of rock chops and nihilistic hardcore punk energy reminds me of RKL’s Keep Laughing LP, and if you’re a fan of that record’s combination of hooks, energy, and musical prowess, check this out. The slower, brooding “Baptized in Spit” and “Man-Eaters” also incorporate some of Hank Wood’s vibe by locking into dense, James Brown-like grooves. Check that killer Drügface cover artwork too!
Hank Wood & the Hammerheads: Use Me 7” (Toxic State) Hank Wood & the Hammerheads are back with a new 4-song single on Toxic State. If you had told me in 2012, just after I heard their inescapable debut LP, that in 2020 Hank Wood & the Hammerheads would have three full-lengths and a healthy stack of EPs in their discography, I never would have believed you. However, Hank Wood & the Hammerheads have not only persevered for a decade, but grown and evolved. When those early records came out, the auxiliary percussion and the organ set them apart from what most other bands were doing at the time, but on Use Me the emphasis is on the core band’s songwriting and playing. The vocals are a little more buried than they were on the last LP, but the sound is clearer and cleaner, even incorporating piano and melodic, feminine-sounding backing vocals on the title track. While that song has a 90s alt-rock grandeur that I haven’t heard from Hank Wood before, “Strangers” sounds wistful, like Replacements songs such as “Here Comes a Regular.” I’m sure there are plenty of you who only ride for the band’s early material, but it’s hard for me to imagine Use Me being a let-down to anyone.
Genogeist: S/T 12” (Black Water) Back in 2018, we carried the demo tape from Portland’s Genogeist, and with their vinyl debut they’ve made the logical move to their home town’s punk institution, Black Water Records. Genogeist blend metal and crust into a sound that’s sprightly and even catchy. When I hear something described as “metallic crust” I worry it will be a bunch of boring riffs dressed up with palm muting, but Genogeist’s music is interesting and complex, reminding me of Sacrilege’s underrated second LP Within the Prophecy or the meaner end of thrash metal (stuff like Sodom or Onslaught) more than, say, early Axegrinder or Amebix. It’s an obscure reference for most people, but Genogeist also make me think of the late 00s Richmond band Parasytic, who had a similar knack for blending the catchy riffing and thoughtful songwriting of thrash metal with the griminess of crust.
Hondartzako Hondakinak: Bruiarta 12” (Solar Funeral) As a native English speaker with only the most rudimentary grasp of other tongues, I’m intimidated by band names not composed of English words, particularly if I have to pronounce them. However, I love saying Hondartzako Hondakinak. Just try sounding it out, then repeating it faster and faster until you can say it at a good clip… it’s a satisfying collection of syllables. Anyway, this French band released a killer EP back in 2016 and this 12” is the follow-up. I’d describe Hondartzako Hondakinak’s style as fast, intricate, and impassioned. They remind me of early Husker Du and the bands they influenced (Articles of Faith, early Funeral Oration, Norway’s So Much Hate, etc.) in that the music is fast and cathartic, but you can hear melody bubbling just under the surface. Just check out the track “Borondatezko Morrontza” from this LP if you want to hear what I mean. If you’re a fan of their earlier EP, Bruiarta has a cleaner sound and it's sprinkled with a handful of broad, mosh-able, mid-paced riffs (like the lengthy intro that starts the record), but if you are a fan of that record there’s still plenty of the wicked fast stuff here.
Shrinkwrap Killer: Stolen Electronics to Shove Up Your Ass 7” (Iron Lung) Debut vinyl from this mysterious project helmed by Greg Wilkinson of Brainoil, Deathgrave, and Earhammer Studios. I didn't know what to expect when I dropped the needle on this single, but it RULES. The obvious point of comparison is the Spits given that it’s catchy, synth-infused garage punk and the vocals sound similar, but it’s not a mere homage. While the Spits’ songs are stripped-down and Ramones-based, these two tracks are more complex and in the pocket without losing any of the catchiness. It’s very short, but that’s OK because this is one of those records you’ll play three times in a row every time it gets near your turntable. Note also that it’s limited to only 200 copies, so don’t expect it to stick around for very long.
Girls in Synthesis: Pressure 7” (Own It Music) “Pressure” was originally a self-released, tour-only single from this UK band, but they did a small repress and Sorry State was lucky enough to grab a few copies. If you haven’t heard them, Girls in Synthesis is from the UK and plays an intense hybrid of hardcore, post-punk, and noise music. This single tilts toward the hardcore end of things with its brisk tempos and menacing demeanor, but the intricate textures and sustained tension that come from electronic music are a welcome bit of extra spice. The a-side, “Pressure,” will appear on their upcoming LP on Harbinger Sound, while the two live tracks on the b-side are exclusive to this release. While the live recording sacrifices a little of that texture, the energy of the band’s performance more than makes up for it. This is a style I love, and if you’re a fan of Bad Breeding, Broken Prayer, and Droid’s Blood, I’m sure you’ll agree that Girls in Synthesis does it well.
Internal Rot: Grieving Birth 12” (Iron Lung) Even though Iron Lung is a power violence / grind band, Iron Lung Records releases relatively few bands from that genre. Obviously the Iron Lung folks know this genre of music pretty well, so when they place their stamp of approval on a band who plays in this style, it’s worth paying attention. Internal Rot is a grind band, and Grieving Birth is a punishing whirlwind of a record. There are hundreds of killer riffs spread across its 20-ish minutes. Thank god records have two sides, because I’m not sure if I could take the whole thing in one interrupted burst… not because it’s same-y sounding or boring, but because it’s so relentlessly punishing that I feel like I’m having an anxiety attack. If that’s your idea of a fun time, pick up this ripper.