Featured Release Roundup: May 28, 2020
Sin Ritmo: Sonidos Barbajanes 7” (Planeta Destrozado) Debut 7” from this band whose members are split between Mexico City and California, and who also serve in Fuga and Cadenaxo, among others. Sin Ritmo’s sound isn’t tethered to any particular punk subgenre, incorporating elements of d-beat, UK82 punk, USHC, and even garage rock (they love that Ramones-style ultra fast closed hi-hat thing). Rather than sounding unfocused, on Sonidos Barbajanes, Sin Ritmo sounds agile and flexible, packing these songs with dramatic shifts in rhythm and tight technical flourishes. The recording sounds great, and they strike a unique balance between catchiness and anger. I can’t think of another record that sounds quite like Sonidos Barbajanes, and that’s a very high compliment in punk circa 2020.
Various: Pinch and Ouch 12” (Fan Club) Fan Club reissue of this 1985 Japanese punk / hardcore compilation with great sound and questionable graphic design, as is the way these days. While we’re all into Japanese hardcore here at Sorry State, none of us claimed to be too familiar with Pinch and Ouch. While I might have mp3s sitting on a hard drive somewhere, it’s not a compilation I’ve spent much time with. It does feature three bands I like—Gai, Kuro, and Aggressive Dogs—and three others I don’t know, and none of them are un-punk outliers you sometimes get on old compilations. All of the bands recorded their tracks for Pinch and Ouch in the same studio, so there’s a consistent sound and high fidelity throughout. While the production is cleaner than on Gai and Kuro’s other records (and, consequently, not quite as powerful), it’s interesting to hear them so clearly. It’s disorienting but fascinating, like finding a high-resolution photograph of a historical figure you’d only seen in paintings. I wouldn’t say any of the bands I already knew deliver their best material here (Gai’s songs are a little silly, including a cover of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” and Kuro’s are powerfully played but too clean), but it’s all worth hearing. The three bands I didn’t know—No-Cut, Gedon, and Gess—aren’t undiscovered gems, but are interesting, all of them having a UK punk and oi! influence. The punkiness of Pinch and Ouch sets it apart from most Japanese punk compilations. While I wouldn’t start my journey into Japanese hardcore with Pinch and Ouch, it’s a solid comp that is a little more noteworthy because of its great recording quality.
Launcher: Bone Saw 12” (Wanda Records) Bone Saw is the debut LP from this Los Angeles punk band, and it’s a unique and interesting record. The core of Launcher’s sound is fast punk that’s either “punk at hardcore tempos” or “hardcore with catchy punk elements.” In other words, it’s in the same pocket as bands like Career Suicide, injected with the grimy vibe of Total Punk Records and a snotty vocalist who is, at times, a dead ringer for Lumpy. It’s clear Launcher isn’t just doing a genre run-through, though, because their songs are so quirky. While there are a handful of punk smashers here, many tracks are built around melancholy chord progressions and that, when combined with quirky flourishes like the upstroke guitar in “Fingers Crossed” or the lead guitar runs in “Shrunken Head,” makes me think of Naked Raygun. Like Naked Raygun, Launcher sounds like they could write great punk anthems, but they can’t help weirding their songs up. While it might make the music less immediate, those of us who value originality in our punk appreciate the move. Bone Saw is too quirky to get sucked into the hype machine, but if you’re a fan of weird records that are really good in spite of the fact—or maybe because—they fall in the spaces between genres, give this a try.
Program: Dehumanized Progress 12” (Mutant Sounds) Dehumanized Progress is the debut LP from this Japanese hardcore-inspired band from Texas, not to be confused with the Australian band Program whose records we also carry. Program isn’t just a weak imitation of their influences, either. The recording sounds huge, the songs are built around powerful, driving rhythms, and they’re full of catchy vocal lines and explosive lead guitar breaks. In particular, Dehumanized Progress reminds me of Forward’s last few records, streamlined attacks from a band confident enough to do what they’re great at and leave it at that. Recommended for fans of Destruct, Selfish, and other Western bands who do the Japanese hardcore tradition proud.
Executioner: Hellbound 12” (Puke N Vomit) We first stocked Hellbound a few weeks ago, but I wasn’t able to grab a copy before it sold out. However, it’s back in stock now, so it’s not too late for me to point your attention toward this rager. Executioner was from San Jose, California, and played their first show in 1982. The flyers in the insert booklet show them playing numerous gigs with Northern California punk luminaries, but in particular it seems like Crucifix and Social Unrest rubbed off on Executioner’s sound. Like Crucifix, Executioner was explosive when they were in full-on hardcore mode, but like Social Unrest their songs were shot through with the melodic sensibility of Southern California bands like (early) Social Distortion and the Adolescents. I love all those sounds, and the fact Executioner could nail them so perfectly makes Hellbound a slam dunk for me. Most of the a-side is devoted to a 1983 recording session with a clear and powerful sound, while the rest of the record is filled out with recordings that are rougher but still powerful and legible. I’m confident any early 80s punk fanatic will love all 23 tracks. Hellbound also has great packaging, so if this is your thing, there’s no reason not to pull the trigger.
Cool Hiss #10: The Guitar Tab Issue!! zine Just like it says on the cover, this latest issue of the Richmond, Virginia zine Cool Hiss is devoted to guitar and bass tabs from your favorite current and recent hardcore and punk bands. Hopefully I can find the time to learn a couple of these (I’m particularly stoked to get into the Public Acid track), but for now the most interesting thing about this zine is how each band has chosen to present their tabs. It looks like each band designed their own page, so each band has their own graphic style, but the tabs themselves are also presented very differently. Dark Thoughts just gives you a chord chart, which Jeff pointed out is a very songwriter-ly move. Some bands’ pages are dense with tablature, while others try to make their music as simple and approachable as they can. Quarantine dumbs it down the most, showing you how to play four power chords and instructing you to “repeat twice, third time strum out more!” If you’re a punk who owns a guitar, this is a very cool thing to have lying around.