Featured Release Roundup: March 5, 2020
Death Ridge Boys: Don’t Let Them Divide Us 7” (Black Water) I’m surprised Portland’s Death Ridge Boys hasn’t received more hype. They released a full length tape a few years ago (since repressed on vinyl and in stock at Sorry State) and have followed that up with two 7”s in the past year, of which Don’t Let Them Divide Us is the latest. Their earlier material was straight up, catchy oi!-punk with leftist, pro-PC lyrics, but these two tracks find the band dallying with different sub-styles of oi! / skinhead music. “Don’t Let Them Divide Us” kicks off with a melodic, Blitz-style guitar riff, which quickly joins a complimentary riff from the second guitarist in more of a rock-and-roll / bootboy glam style. I’m a sucker for two-guitar bands, and throughout this track the two guitarists’ complimentary styles keep things peppy. Add in anthemic vocals and you have exactly the single a-side I imagine Death Ridge Boys was aiming for. The b-side, “Working” (not a Cock Sparrer cover) is faster, tougher, and shorter, but just as accomplished from a songwriting standpoint. Fans of contemporary oi! and other retro forms of skinhead rock-and-roll should check this out as it’s just as good as the members’ impressive pedigrees suggest.
Vanity: Anticlimax 7” (Feel It) Anticlimax is the brand new two-song single from this New York band. While Vanity has covered a lot of stylistic ground (they started as an oi! band and made forays into Britpop and 70s Stones-inspired rock), Anticlimax feels like a band settling into their own sound. My favorite part of these two tracks is the intricate, Byrds-y guitar lines that run through both. The two guitarists both play complex lines that are both psychedelic and melodic, and I love listening to them wriggle around one another while a big, glam-inspired vocal hook also competes for my attention. There are elements here of everything Vanity has done so far—the energy of the punk stuff, the baroque textures and big melodies of their Britpop-style record, and the swagger of their Stones-inspired previous album—so if you’ve enjoyed anything they’ve done over the past few years I’d give this a listen.
Dadar: To Take Out or Eat In cassette (Lo-Fi Life) I don’t know much of anything about Italy’s Dadar, but I sure love this cassette. These ten tracks cover a lot of ground, but I like all of it, from the melodic garage-punk of “Brain” to the more angular synth-punk of “Calendarize” to the jittery, hardcore-ish “Digital Degenerate” and “Sick of Pasta.” Dadar walk so many fine lines, being fun without being goofy, melodic without being saccharine, and high-energy without being tough or unduly aggressive. When I look for band comparisons, I reach for names like the Dickies, the Shitty Limits, and the faster Screeching Weasel songs, but comparisons don’t tell the whole story. I’m surprised a bigger label like Drunken Sailor or Erste Theke Tonträger didn’t step up to press this on vinyl, because a release this exciting and well crafted deserves attention from more than just collectors of limited-run cassettes.
The Cowboy: Wifi On the Prairie 12” (Feel It) Following up their recent single on Drunken Sailor, here’s the latest full-length from Cleveland’s the Cowboy. I compared that single to Wire’s breeziest moments, and most of the songs on Wifi on the Prairie follow a similar pattern, matching motorik rhythms with catchy bass lines and noisy (but catchy) guitar lines. Even more than Wire, Wifi on the Prairie reminds me of Texas’s Spray Paint; like that band, the Cowboy marries punk aggression with trance-like rhythms, making you feel like you’re wandering through a raging house show after taking a big swig of cough syrup. Occasionally they back off the throttle and do something looser that reminds me of early Pavement (see the long intro for “New Moon Tune” or “Trippy Movies”), but mostly this is all go, no slow. If you are a fan of the Slump LP that Feel It released a few months ago, odds are you’ll enjoy Wifi on the Prairie too.
Sex Pill: Anarchy and LSD 7” (self-released) This debut 7” from Houston’s Sex Pill is, without a doubt, one of the most fucked up-sounding punk records I’ve ever heard. While some bands’ way of going about “noise not music” is to run everything through a bunch of effects (every available knob turned to 10, naturally) until you have a bland soup of static, Sex Pill’s production choices are more idiosyncratic. The first thing you’ll notice is the siren sound that runs throughout the entire record (not just between the songs, but right over top of them), speeding up and slowing down and placing a woozy, druggy haze over the whole thing. The non-siren parts of the music remind me of Japan’s Kuro, but the vocals (which are quite powerful) are way louder than the other instruments, which are often all but inaudible because of the vocals and the siren. Plenty of people will dismiss this as complete garbage, but I recommend it if you enjoy staring quizzically at your speakers while you try to figure out what, precisely, the hell is going on.
Headcheese: demo cassette (Slow Death) The demo tape from this Canadian band grafts the grainy production style of bands like Armor and Protocol onto Circle Jerks-level songwriting, and I, for one, was won over instantly. If you love the Circle Jerks, you’ll also fall for Headcheese the minute you hear the 36-second track “Incel,” which is jam-packed with the intricate yet catchy arrangements that make Group Sex a peerless record. Headcheese’s guitar riffs are straightforward, but the dynamic shifts in rhythm make this tape a non-stop thrill ride. I bet you could listen to the isolated drum tracks for this recording and they would not only sound interesting, but memorable. The drummer isn’t Headcheese’s only asset, though, as the vocalist also has a ton of charisma, their snotty growl leagues beyond most hardcore shouters. If you’re a fan of snotty hardcore like School Jerks and Career Suicide, you need to check this out ASAP.
Blood Ties: demo cassette (Slow Death) This Canadian group delivers three minutes of top-shelf hardcore on this frustratingly short demo. Blood Ties owes a big debt to early Agnostic Front, particularly the way they disregard conventional hardcore song structures. See, for instance, the 22-second “Lemmings,” which starts with a dramatic four-bar intro, goes into a ripping fast hardcore part for four more bars, then plays one bar of the intro again and stops. Then there’s the longer “Poser” (47 seconds), which has a breakdown that’s longer than the “main” part of the song. The epic closer (one minute, twenty-nine seconds) “Where Am I?” is more of a fist-pumper a la AF’s “Power,” but Blood Ties still makes time for a gnarly breakdown. Just like United Blood or Victim Pain, this is the musical equivalent of being jumped into a gang. Leave your library card at home, because this is for the cavemen, neanderthals, and other primitive human species.