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Featured Release Roundup: May 24, 2018

Against: Welcome to the Aftermath 12” (Radio Raheem) The latest release from Radio Raheem Records, the absolute gold standard for punk / hardcore archival releases, is this collection from Venice Beach d-beaters Against. Generally, d-beat is a word that I associate with the past fifteen years or so of DIY hardcore (I still vividly remember the first time I heard the word, which was around the year 2000), but the history of American d-beat actually reaches back quite far. There’s Detroit’s Heresy, the Iconoclast, Crucifix, Diatribe, Final Conflict… I’m sure there are plenty more as well, not to mention legions of bands (D.C. Youth Brigade, SS Decontrol, Siege, etc.) who were clearly very, very influenced by Discharge but don’t quite qualify as full-on Discharge worship / d-beat. However, Venice’s Against certainly do qualify as such, to the point where they almost sound more like a modern d-beat band than a group from 1983. In the photos on the fold-out poster insert (in case you aren’t aware, information-packed inserts are pretty much de rigueur for all Radio Raheem releases) you can see that the band also appropriated aspects of Discharge’s look, with spiky hair and leather jackets, but their cut-off t-shirts and faded jeans betray the fact that they haven’t totally lived down their Southern California roots. As for the music, it totally rages. The LP collects a demo recording from 1983 and an aborted EP from 1984, and while I like the ’83 recording on the a-side a little bit better they’re both killer 80s hardcore punk recordings with that warm and clear analog sound that no ProTools filter will ever truly replicate. And the music, of course, is pure Discharge worship with furious d-beating the entire time and quite a few of the riffs and leads pretty much cribbed directly from the masters themselves. In other words, if you were stoked when the Heresy and Diatribe reissues came out you should be very stoked about this, as it’s very much along the same lines and of a similar level of quality. If you just want another ripping d-beat record in your collection this will definitely hit your sweet spot, but if you fancy yourself a scholar of the genre’s history then this reissue is 100% essential.

Can't seem to find a streaming link for this one, sorry!

Heresy: Face Up to It: 30th Anniversary Edition 2x12” (Boss Tuneage) Heresy’s Face Up to It is a legendarily poorly recorded record, and the deal with this expanded reissue is that they took the original multi-track tapes, restored them, and completely remixed the album to correct the problems that plagued the original release. Actually, it sounds like there was a fair bit more involved with the restoration project than that. Since the original album was recorded with triggered kick and snare drums, it sounds like they had to completely reconstruct the drum tracks using modern, more natural-sounding samples. So, how good of a job did they do? Well, the first thing that I did was pull my original copy of the album off the shelf (actually it’s the original Dutch pressing on Konkurrel, but I can’t imagine it sounds that much different than the UK version) and give it a listen. I have to say it doesn’t sound nearly as bad as I remember. Certainly the whole thing is very muggy sounding and the tracks are overly compressed, making it sound like you’re hearing the band rehearsing in the next room, but you can hear the drums well enough that tracks like the ripping opener “Consume” still have quite a lot of impact. I mean, despite all of the problems with the record, it’s still pretty legendary and I’ve kept a copy for myself all these years so it’s not like it’s total crap. However, throwing on the reissue you immediately hear a vast improvement. The whole thing sounds clearer and brighter, and the mix is more even; on the original the guitar is way too loud and the bass is essentially inaudible. The drums in particular are a huge improvement… in particular, the snare doesn’t dominate the drum mix in the way that it does on the original. Interestingly, the improved sound makes for a radically different and much improved overall listening experience. I’ve always enjoyed the standout tracks on Face Up to It like “Consume,” the title track, “Network of Friends,” and “Trapped in a Scene,” but the lesser tracks always struck me as very forgettable, even on my most recent listen to the original pressing. Of course the standout tracks still sound great on the reissue, but tracks like “Too Close to Home,” “Against the Grain,” or “Into the Grey,” which never made much of an impression on me before, now stand out as absolute scorchers that approach (and perhaps even meet) the sheer blinding speed and ferocity of From Enslavement to Obliteration-era Napalm Death. It’s something of a cliche to say that listening to an updated reissue is like hearing a record for the first time, but the cliche holds true for this particular reissue, and if you are a fan of this album I can’t see any reason why you would ever listen to the original version again after hearing this, which is something I can’t recall saying about very many hardcore punk reissues in the past, especially ones that seek to “improve” fundamentally flawed records. I should also mention that in addition to the vastly improved original album, you also get an additional 1-sided 12” that includes what I believe are outtakes from the recording sessions, including a bunch of covers of bands like DYS and Siege, rerecorded old tracks like “Never Healed,” and a few other bits and bobs from the cutting room floor. And then there’s the liner notes and repackaging, which are tastefully done even if they aren’t quite as on-the-nose authentic as, say, the reissues on Radio Raheem. Basically, if you like Heresy, the late 80s UK hardcore/thrash/grindcore scene, or the late 80s proto-grind/power violence scene of bands like Larm, Ripcord, and Infest this is a highly recommended purchase.

Thieving Bastards: Complete Musical Disasters 7” (SPHC) Debut 7” from this long-running UK band, and it’s a real treat for you scholars of ineptitude out there. The label’s description mentions a number of different milestones in the history of ineptly played and recorded punk records, but Thieving Bastards strike me as a little bit different than most of them. When you talk about something like Wretched, Ohlo Seco, or Larm, I get the impression that those bands were trying their best to be raging hardcore bands, but they fell well short of the standards of fidelity and musical ability that most listeners would have had at the time (or now, for that matter). However, it doesn’t seem like those bands were unaware of or deliberately ignoring those standards… they just didn’t meet them. It’s only in retrospect that people appreciated the political dimension of choosing to play what you want to play (or can play?) regardless of technical ability or your degree of ambition as a musician. (By the way, I should note here that I don’t actually know what I’m talking about… I was born in 1979 so I certainly didn’t hear or appreciate this stuff the first time around.) Thieving Bastards, to me at least, seem to be doing something a little bit different. Basically, it seems like they’re not really trying at all. They’re not trying to write good songs, they’re not trying to play them well, and they’re not trying to be a cool band that all of the cool, well-connected people with good taste will like. Basically, they seem to me to be a giant middle finger to all of that. It’s almost like a realignment of punk’s values and priorities, and a more or less explicit challenge to the listener. “You think that you like raw music? You think that you don’t care about pop melodies or mainstream (over-) production values? Well, try listening to this!” It is, in a word, shit. Listening to it and trying to approach it on it’s own terms, I’m forced to ask myself, “how do I feel about shit?” Do I like it? If so, then why? If not, then why not? To me, it’s very much the same challenge that Cecil Taylor issued to the world of jazz, just in a different format. Perhaps this is an overly intellectual reaction to this music and what I’m really supposed to do is allow this primitive pounding access to my caveman brain, which would presumably respond with something like “LOUD! GOOD!,” but hey, we are who we are, and I’m a middle-class intellectual approaching middle age. If you are of a similar station in life and you like music that questions your values at the deepest level then this might be something you’d be interested in, but if that’s not the case I have a feeling that you’re really, really going to hate it.

No Blues: S/T 7” (SPHC) Debut single from this new band out of Hamliton, ON, a city which also gave us Teenage Head, one of the greatest punk/power-pop bands of all time. No Blues can definitely be described as power-pop, but they don’t really sound anything like Teenage Head… I guess that I was just showing off my knowledge of punk rock trivia there. Anyway, No Blues DO sound a lot like Tenement’s early singles and first LP, and they also remind me of more recent bands like Booji Boys and Liquids as well. Like those three bands, No Blues sound like a band who perhaps came out of the hardcore scene, but are now allowing themselves to do things like sing melodically and write songs in major keys, but maybe they’re also a little embarrassed to be expanding their horizons, so they drench their very bare-bones, 4-track-y production in a bunch of reverb and distortion. This isn’t a bad thing at all, and if you’re into what Booji Boys and Liquids are doing you’ll like the way that No Blues go about things. While I definitely hear those bands’ production styles in these three tracks, the melodic sensibility is much more like Tenement, in that instead of pop-punk type influences I hear a slight undercurrent of 90s alternative rock, particularly in the vocal melodies and the big, hooky guitar riffs. At any rate, this 7” is pretty much the perfect balance of pop and punk, and if you like any of the aforementioned bands you should probably go ahead and check it out.

Marée Noire: demo 7” (Offside) Demo-on-vinyl from this French band, though if you didn’t know what language they were speaking in you’d probably be willing to bet a large amount of money that this was some lesser-known release on the Partners in Crime label. Marée Noire remind me a lot of the more straightforward hardcore bands from that whole crew, namely Deathreat, Talk Is Poison, and Balance of Terror. While it’s by no means their defining attribute, they also have a little bit of the melodic sensibility of Tragedy and From Ashes Rise, but the songs here are pretty much uniformly fast and very hardcore (i.e. zero stadium crust vibes). Even the band’s logo and the typefaces remind me of the Partners in Crime aesthetic. It’s not every day that you hear a new band playing this style of hardcore, so if you’re into this type of thing I’d definitely recommend giving them a listen.

Parquet Courts: Wide Awake! 12” (Rough Trade) I’m not really sure what other punks out there think about Parquet Courts… they’re obviously a big and popular indie band (they even recently played on Ellen!), but I’ve always thought they were 100% legit. Every year or so there seems to be another new album, and it’s always great. It’s kind of like what I imagine it must have been like to follow the Fall in their early 80s heyday. Not only do you know you’re going to get a bunch of great music (and like the Fall, Parquet Courts are kind of “always different, always the same,” to paraphrase John Peel), but also I’m always particularly interested to hear the lyrics, as Parquet Courts are one of the few bands that I listen to who address contemporary topics in a way that I find intellectually stimulating. In fact, Parquet Courts strikes me as serious and interesting in a way that very, very few bands today are. They constantly push forward without being pretentious about it, and they seem to be comfortable enough in their own skin that they can pursue new ideas with a seasoned confidence that few rock bands in this day and age possess. So, what’s my take on the new album? Well, first I should say that I think that their last one, Human Performance, was a real high-water mark in their discography. That record seemed to open up new vistas in their sound and level them up as a band, both musically and lyrically. It hit me hard when it came out, and I’ve continued to revisit that record every few weeks since, with it growing to become one of my favorite records of the past several years. Where does a band go from there? Well, my initial impression is that on Wide Awake! Parquet Courts have decided to get weird. Sure, there’s plenty of the band’s sprightly post-punk here still, but they seem newly emboldened to incorporate new elements into their sound. They revisit the quasi-rap cadences that we heard a little of on Human Performance (and cop a little bit of vintage 90s Dr. Dre production vibes on “Violence”), do a total Tom Tom Club-style white funk freakout on the title track, and even inject some Warren Zevon-esque jaunty piano into the closing track, “Tenderness.” It’s a staggeringly eclectic album, and all the more impressive given that the band is so strong at playing all of this rather different music. And as is usual with Parquet Courts, the topical lyrics remain a highlight, particularly tracks like “Violence” (speaking of unexpected influences, I hear a lot of Gil-Scott Heron on that one) and the title track. Like all great art, regardless of medium, Parquet Courts tackle complicated subjects in a way that honors their complexity without reducing them to slogans or pithy witticisms, and they actually push me to see the world around me in a way that’s a little different than how I saw it before. So, like I said at the beginning, I have no idea if the punks are listening, but this is another fantastic Parquet Courts album. Here’s hoping that this band eventually has a discography that is as lengthy and as interesting as the Fall themselves.

Patois Counselors: Proper Release (Ever/Never) Debut album from this group from Charlotte, North Carolina; they had an earlier 7” on Negative Jazz, but this album finds a more appropriate home (in my opinion, at least) on Ever/Never Records. I think that the first thing I heard about Patois Counselors is that they covered “Couldn’t Get Ahead” by the Fall, and you can still hear a lot of the Fall’s golden era (basically, everything between Perverted by Language and The Frenz Experiment) in their sound, as well as synth-infused modern bands inspired by said records (I think they share a lot of their sonic pallette with Whatever Brains, but there are probably more nationally-known acts that would be a better frame of reference for someone not from North Carolina). It’s funny, though, because for all of the sonic similarities to the Fall in particular, Patois Counselors don’t really sound like the Fall to me. Their music communicates very different feelings than what I get from any of the Fall records that I’ve spent time with. The Fall have this way of wandering around a song like they could honestly not give a fuck whether they ever find the hook or not (though they almost always do), but Proper Release feels meticulously, almost relentlessly composed. Not only do Patois Conselors want to find the hook, they want to find all of the hooks, and they want to get them all in the song. I have no idea how it was actually put together, but it doesn’t sound to me like the songs came out of a band playing in a room, but rather a composer sitting with a ream of staff paper or a producer with a laptop, a hacked copy of ProTools, and a 3-day weekend at their full disposal. In other words, every moment of every track is jam-packed with stuff, stuff that seems labored over, considered and reconsidered, moved around, then moved back again with the manic, introverted energy of an obsessive compulsive person rearranging their furniture. Even the lyrics are like that… songs like “So Many Digits” seem like they might have started out as pop songs, but the moment of clarity that provides the emotional apex of a pop song has been deliberately obscured, worked and reworked into something more cryptic, even sinister. Maybe it’s because I just finished Gilles Deleuze’s book on Francis Bacon, but the songs remind me of one of Bacon’s canvases, which seem to start out as fairly conventional portraits, but are interrogated so meticulously and so compulsively that, as Deleuze says of Bacon’s portraits, the head becomes meat. Now that I’ve lost 99% of my readers, I’ll say that if you enjoy the density of ideas on records by artists like King Crimson, Kate Bush, Voivod, Enslaved, or Charles Mingus (is this the first time those artists have all been mentioned in the same breath?), but you also like loud and distorted guitars and synthesizers then let me introduce you to one of the most unique and exciting records you’re likely to hear for some time.

Looks like this one isn't streaming anywhere yet. Sorry!

All New Arrivals

Against: Welcome to the Aftermath 12" (Radio Raheem)
Sodom: Requiem 12" (Fan Club)
Gen Pop: II 7" (Feel It)
Maree Noire: Demo 7" (Offside)
Stun Event: S/T 12" (Antitodo)
Parquet Courts: Wide Awake! deluxe edition 12" (Rough Trade)
Parquet Courts: Wide Awake! 12" (Rough Trade)
The Breeders: Pod 12" (4AD)
The Breeders: Title TK 12" (4AD)
The Breeders: Last Splash 12" (4AD)
Johnny Greenwood: Bodysong. 12" (XL Recordings)
Big Bite: S/T 12" (Pop Wig)
Various: No Puberty (pre-teen punk comp 1978-1982) 12" (Rush One)
Ron Eliran: S/T 12" (Black Gold)
Erkin Koray: Illa Ki 12" (Emre)
Death in June: Nada 12" (June)
Chrome: Alien Soundtracks 12" (Cleopatra)
Amon Duul II: Yeti 12" (Purple Pyramid)
Patois Counselors: Proper Release 12" (Ever / Never)
Hellish View: Visions of Raw cassette (Desolate)
Michael Jackson: Thriller 12" (Epic)
King Diamond: Abigail 12" (Roadrunner)
Talib Kweli: Radio Silence 12" (Javotti Media)
Various: Black Panther OST 12" (Interscope)
No Blues: S/T 7" (SPHC)
Thieving Bastards: Complete Musical Disasters 7" (SPHC)
Industrial Holocaust / Lotus Fucker: Split 7" (SPHC)
Final Exit / Sedem Minut Strachu: Split 7" (SPHC)
Courtney Barnett: Tell Me How You Really Feel 12" (Mom + Pop)
Bad Times: Streets of Iron 12" (Goner)
Franco Battiato: Clic 12" (Superior Viaduct)
Melvins: Bullhead 12" (Boner)
Melvins: Ozma 12" (Boner)
Real Kids: Live at the Rat, January 22, 1978 12" (Crypt)
Christ on Parade: A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste 12" (Neurot Recordings)
Peach Kelli Pop: Gentle Leader 12" (Mint)

Restocks

Turnstile: Non-Stop Feeling 12" (Roadrunner)
Misfits: 12 Hits from Hell 12" (euro import)
The Boys Next Door: Door, Door 12" (euro import)
White Pigs: Hardcore Years 1983-1985 12" (Vomitopunk)
Upset Noise: Disperazione Nevrotica 7" (No Plan)
Negazione: Tutti Pazzi 7" (No Plan)
Kilslug: Answer the Call 12" (Taang!)
DYS: Brotherhood 12" (Taang!)
Slaughter & the Dogs: Do It Dog Style 12" (Taang!)
Chrome: Half Machine Lip Moves 12" (Cleopatra)
Upright Citizens: Make the Future Mine and Yours 12" (Colturschock)
Atoxxxico: Tu Tienes La Razon 12" (Fan Club)
Raw Power: You Are the Victim / God's Course 12" (FOAD)
Systematic Death: Systema Ten 12" (FOAD)
GISM: Detestation 12" (euro import)
Aburadadko: S/T 7" (Crowmaniax)
Bad Brains / Mind Power: The Lost Tracks 12" (Fan Club)
Big Black: Songs About Fucking 12" (Touch & Go)
Die Kreuzen: S/T 12" (Touch & Go)
Bad Religion: Generator 12" (Epitaph)
The Cure: Greatest Hits 12" (Elektra)
The War on Drugs: Lost in the Dream 12" (Secretly Canadian)
Terrorizer: World Downfall 12" (Earache)
Gang of Four: Entertainment 12" (Rhino)
The Cure: Seventeen Seconds 12" (Rhino)
The Cure: Pornography 12" (Rhino)
The Cure: Three Imaginary Boys 12" (Rhino)
Celtic Frost: To Mega Therion 12" (Noise)
Celtic Frost: Morbid Tales 12" (Noise)
Metallica: Ride the Lightning 12" (Blackened)
Chet Baker: Sings 12" (Wax Love)
Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables 12" (Manifesto)
Beastie Boys: Licensed to Ill 12" (Def Jam)
Pearl Jam: Ten 12" (Sony)
Rob Zombie: Hellbilly Deluxe 12" (Geffen)
Childish Gambino: Camp 12" (Glassnote)
Childish Gambino: Awaken My Love 12" (Glassnote)
John Coltrane: A Love Supreme 12" (Impulse)
Sylvan Esso: What Now 12" (Loma Vista)
Alice in Chains: Dirt 12" (Music On Vinyl)
The Strokes: Is This It 12" (RCA)
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue 12" (Columbia Legacy)
Nick Drake: Pink Moon 12" (Island)
Madvillain: Madvillainy 12" (Stones Throw)
Boards of Canada: Tomorrow's Harvest 12" (Warp)
Alice Coltrane: World Spirituality Classics 12" (Luaka Bop)
Jaylib: Champion Sound 12" (Stones Throw)
Death Cab for Cutie: Transatlanticism 12" (Barsuk)
Death Cab for Cutie: The Photo Album 12" (Barsuk)
Bat Fangs: S/T 12" (Don Giovanni)
Elliott Smith: An Introduction to Elliott Smith 12" (Kill Rock Stars)
Elliott Smith: Either/Or 12" (Kill Rock Stars)
Elliott Smith: From a Basement on a Hill 12" (Kill Rock Stars)
Elliott Smith: S/T 12" (Kill Rock Stars)
Dicks: Kill from the Heart 12" (Alternative Tentacles)
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard: Paper Mache Dream 12" (ATO)
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard: Sketches of Brunswick East 12" (ATO)
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard: Flying Microtonal Banana 12" (Flightless)
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard: I'm in Your Mind Fuzz 12" (Castleface)
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard: Polygondwanaland 12" (Blood Music)
NOFX: The Decline 12" (Epitaph)
Iggy Pop: The Idiot 12" (4 Men with Beards)
Propagandhi: Less Talk, More Rock 12" (Fat Wreck Chords)
Bathory: The Return of Darkness 12" (Black Mark)
The Black Keys: Rubber Factory 12" (Fat Possum)
Brand New: 3 Demos, Reworked 12" (PMTRAITORS)
Brand New: I Am a Nightmare 12" (PMTRAITORS)
Brand New: The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me 12" (Interscope)
Mayhem: Live in Leipzig 12" (Peaceville)
Modest Mouse: The Lonesome Crowded West 12" (Glacial Place)
Power Trip: Nightmare Logic 12" (Southern Lord)
Jay Reatard: Blood Visions 12" (Fat Possum)
Taake: Kong Vinter 12" (Karisma)

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