Featured Release Roundup: March 25 2021
Sarcasm: Creeping Life 12” (Static Shock Records) London’s Sarcasm follow up their debut 7” from four years ago, Malarial Bog, with this 6-track EP. Sarcasm is arty as fuck, drawing on the tradition of bands like Wire, Magazine, and Gang of Four who saw punk rock through the prism of intellectual and art culture. I hate when music comes off as pretentious, but Sarcasm just sound like what they are: smart people who like smart punk rock. The lyrics wouldn’t be out of place in a graduate-level poetry workshop. There’s a consistent, well-developed voice and themes that carry across several songs (as well as the album’s artwork), most obviously imagery related to wetlands, particularly peat bogs. Why bogs? I don’t know… I don’t think it’s as simple as a metaphor or an allegory, more an enigmatic symbol. As for the music, it’s minimal, restrained, and as subtly evocative as the words, not unlike the best music from the bands I mentioned above. I could see someone who just wants to rock hating this, but I can hang with Sarcasm’s vibe.
In Battle: Live MMXIX cassette (self-released) Richmond’s In Battle has been gigging around Virginia for several years without recording anything in the studio. I guess that, since the pandemic wasn’t making that situation any easier, they put out this live soundboard recording. I’m glad they did, because this thing smokes. In Battle features a couple of folks from Destruct, Firing Squad, and the vocalist for Sorry State’s own Blackball, but playing a style akin to UK metallic crust bands like Sacrilege and Axegrinder. The riffs are killer—In Battle has a particular way with metallic, mid-paced stuff—and the long, very musical guitar leads have a strong Chelsea vibe. Every once in a while the vocals drop by to deliver some extra brutality. Don’t let the “live” aspect scare you either… the recording is thick and powerful and the band’s performance is great. Hopefully one day In Battle makes a studio recording that renders this obsolete, but in the meantime this tape hardly feels like a compromise.
Infandus: Lithium-6 cassette (self-released) I remember when I got Pollen’s Fear of Another War 7” in 2017 it didn’t list the speed on the center label and I couldn’t figure out which speed was the correct one. At 45rpm it was ripping, locked-in d-beat, but at 33rpm it was the most crushing old school death metal I’d heard in years. It turns out 45rpm was the correct speed for Pollen, but I mention this story because Infandus is basically what the Pollen 7” sounded like at 33rpm. The crustiness isn’t surprising given this old school death metal band from New York features two members from After, who put out one of the most ferocious d-beat records of 2020. The crustiness comes through most on tracks like “Ribbons of Skin” and “Echoes in the Fog,” while the others sound like an outstanding underground death metal demo from 1984. I like everything about this.
Defanged: Positivity Corner cassette (Rat Disco) 5-track cassette from this hardcore band out of Dallas, Texas. Defanged’s style is raw, fast, and offers a heaping helping of snot, particularly in the vocals. They remind me of Sorry State’s own Gimmick, though snotty and fast 80s bands like Sick Pleasure, early Government Issue, and Anti serve as solid reference points as well. The sound is raw, blown-out, and kind of thin, like the 4-track hardcore released on labels like Lumpy Records, though clearer than some stuff their fellow Texan rippers Nosferatu have put into the world. If you like your hardcore raw, passionate, and youthful, this is one to check out.
Grimly Forming: S/T 7” (Kiss Kiss Records) Debut 7” from this hardcore punk band out of Los Angeles. If Grimly Forming isn’t friends with the East 7th Punks crew in LA, then someone should make a formal introduction, because they are on some similar shit. If you like Blazing Eye, Cruelty Bomb, and Hate Preachers, this is something you will want to hear. Like those bands, you get throat-shredding vocals, wide-open oompah beats, and mid-paced punk riffs that are gratuitously catchy. It’s music designed to whip people into a frenzy, and it’s hard not to picture half-full cans of beer flying when I listen to Grimly Forming. The production is strong but not polished, and these 6 tracks rip from start to finish.
The Partisans: Anarchy In Alkatraz / No Future Demos 1980 - 1982 12” (Sealed Records) Punk reissue label Sealed Records’ latest release is this compilation of demo material from No Future Records legends the Partisans. I am a huge fan of the Partisans (my band Scarecrow even covers “Police Story”) and I’m coming at this release from that perspective. Everyone should have the two singles and LP the Partisans released on No Future Records, and I like the LP and single that followed as well. However, this LP offers a deeper dive. The big treasure here is a 1980 recording session—to my knowledge, never released in any format—that captures an early version of the band knocking out a set featuring mostly covers of punk bands like the UK Subs, the Buzzcocks, the Sex Pistols, and Stiff Little Fingers (who also started out as a punk cover band) plus two original compositions. I imagine there are some of you who won’t have any interest in hearing the Partisans cover a bunch of classic punk bands, but I think this session is killer. The recording quality is exceptional (gritty yet clear and powerful) and the session reveals the Partisans’ power as players. While I wouldn’t say they bring anything new to the songs, they sound fiery and passionate, and it’s clear that cutting their teeth on these covers helped them build the skills necessary to deliver their original material with conviction. You get to hear that on the b-side of this LP, which compiles two studio sessions that have appeared on previous Partisans CD reissues. The first 6-song session was so good that No Future Records released two tracks from it as the Partisans’ first single, while the second session finds them running through earlier versions of the 3 tracks from their second single. The music is great, and Sealed Records knows how to put together a compelling package with top-notch sound, a well-designed sleeve, and a thick booklet featuring a treasure trove of ephemera: photos, fanzine interviews, ads and flyers, and a new interview with the band about the tracks on this release. If you’re a fan of the Partisans (who isn’t?), this is a no-brainer.
Broken Vessels: Do You See My Smile? 7” flexi (Kiss Kiss Records) Do You See My Smile? is a 3-track flexi from this Los Angeles group featuring members of Rolex and Grimly Forming. Like those bands, Broken Vessels’ foundation is in 80s hardcore, but their vibe is different. While Rolex is all about irreverence and Grimly Forming trades in menace, Broken Vessels reminds me of 80s midwest hardcore bands who played fast but still had some pop / 77 punk melody and song structure. Everything Falls Apart-era Husker Du is a solid reference point. Like Husker Du (at least on that record), the tempos are fast, the playing is passionate yet precise, and the guitars steal the show with a sound that’s dense, moody, and melodic. The label’s description also mentions Paganicons-era Saccharine Trust, and I can hear that too, particularly on the title track. Those of you weaned on the intense but ambitious early SST catalog have a new band to check out!