Featured Release Roundup: May 7, 2020
Cosmic Sand Dollars: Requiem for King Dick 12” (Cold Vomit) We carried a previous LP from the Cosmic Sand Dollars a few years ago, but either I didn’t listen to it enough or I wasn’t in the right headspace for it. However, Requiem for King Dick is hitting me in the sweet spot. Cosmic Sand Dollars doesn’t sound like any music I’ve heard before. As befitting their name, they combine noise music and power electronics with traditional surf songs, and when you first hear them it sounds like a silly novelty, like someone putting ketchup on a toaster strudel and thinking they’re clever even though eating it would be gross. However, as you orient yourself, you realize the combination works great, especially since Cosmic Sand Dollars isn’t a one-trick pony. They devote very little of the LP to the obvious combination of surf songs with bleeps, bloops, and squeals on top. Instead, the genres are in a deeper dialog. Sometimes it’s contentious, like when they take a straightforward surf instrumental and subject it to violent tape manipulation. Sometimes the synths and noise boxes will borrow part of a melody from the surf guitar (these moments can have a Klaus Schulze kind of vibe), and sometimes the surf and electronic elements dance around one another like a complex insect mating ritual. Throughout the LP, Cosmic Sand Dollars push forward, never repeating or belaboring ideas. So, this isn’t ketchup and toaster strudel… it’s more like peanut butter and banana on a burger… it sounds weird at first, but once you’ve tried it, you’re convinced.
Irradiator: Northern Quebec Speedcore Attack 12” (I Owe You Nothing) Northern Quebec Speedcore Attack compiles two demos (the first from 1988, the second from a year later) from this obscure Quebecois group. The lengthy 1988 demo takes up most of the vinyl space here, and it's a primitive, unrelenting assault of raw noise with emphasis on the “raw.” Sane people would classify the fidelity as “nigh unlistenable,” with the drums reduced to a wash of cymbal hiss and little else audible save some vocal grunts and intermittent bursts of wild lead guitar. If you squint your ears, you might convince yourself some parts sound like a crappy Siege bootleg, but it’s more primitive and monochromatic. There are no concessions to melody, rhythm, or anything musical, just a primitive spasm of underground metal id. As for the much shorter 1989 demo, it has a more legible recording style, uses a primitive and goofy sounding drum machine rather than live drums, and the songs have a punkier style, but other than that it’s in the same vein. The second recording has more charm, mostly because you can hear it, but also because the songs themselves are catchier and more memorable. This is way too niche to recommend to a casual listener, but if I mentioned any keywords related to your particular obsessions, consider investigating further.
Video Prick: Demo 7” (Forever Never Ends) Demo on wax from this hardcore band from Seattle, and like their label mates Fentanyl, I’d recommend this for connoisseurs of the Youth Attack aesthetic. The recording is harsh and blown out in a quasi-black metal way, the vocalist has a snotty, punky scream, and you’ll also hear some skronky, noisy lead guitar breaks. One strength of this of band is they draw from a wide range of hardcore influences, unlike more retro-minded bands who follow a narrower aesthetic template. Video Prick has catchy pogo-hardcore parts, big breakdowns, fist-pumping fast parts, and even a little GISM-esque metallic soloing, but it’s wrapped in an arty and progressive package . Recommended for fans of Hoax and Suburbanite.
Opus: Procedures / The Atrocity 7” (Meat House Productions) Meat House Productions brings us another LA-area KBD punk rarity, this time from Opus. I don’t recall hearing of Opus before they announced this reissue; I suppose that’s easy to believe when there were 200 copies of this single in the original pressing and most of those were destroyed by a band member’s angry roommates. Because of its rarity, there are some eye-popping previous sale prices for this one on the internet, including one ebay auction from 2011 where it went for $4,800 USD. Wow! As for the actual music, the a-side is a loud/quiet/loud number that reminds me of the Pixies in how it moves from a jittery, new wave-y verse into a boisterous chorus. It’s a good track, and the b-side is even better, an upbeat punk track that wouldn’t have been out of place if it had come out on Dangerhouse. If I had 5 grand, I’d try to find a Koro EP and a Sex Drive, but for 10 bucks this is worth a few spins.
The Wuffy Dogs: S/T 7” (Meat House Productions) Meat House gives us another rare punk reissue, this time from funny punks the Wuffy Dogs. While this one doesn’t fetch the same prices as the Opus single MHP re-released, I like the music better. Two of the tracks are upbeat, new wave-y punk with keyboards, like the Plugz’ first single if it were a little lighter weight or the punkier end of the UKDIY spectrum. The other two tracks stick out for their silly lyrics: the Dead Milkmen premonition “Things Dogs Do” and “I Must Be Lou Reed,” which is a cover of “Hey Joe” with an incredible guitar solo that I won’t ruin for you… just listen to the record. Anyone with an ear for 70s punk will dig this, but it’s recommended if you have a taste for the sillier and more sarcastic end of that sound.
Fentanyl: demo cassette (Forever Never Ends) Remember how people used to call Youth Attack Records bands “mysterious guy hardcore?” Fentanyl is updating that concept by refusing to post this demo anywhere online. However, if you’re reading this, you’re likely a keeper of the flame for physical formats. The label described Fentanyl to me as a Youth Attack-style band, and I can see what they mean… like their label mates in Video Prick, they have an artsy sound that pulls from different substyles of hardcore. The Youth Attack band Fentanyl reminds me of the most is Raw Nerve, who had a similarly compressed and explosive sound. These tracks are full of tight changes with sudden bursts of intensity, and while no single part is complex, the songs have the manic, schizo quality of Scum b-side-era Napalm Death (though the vibe here is very different). Comparisons aside, the energy and urgency comes through on this tape.
Behavior: Spirits & Embellishments 12” (Post Present Medium) Spirits & Embellishments is the latest record from Behavior, whom you may remember from their 2017 album Bitter Bitter on Iron Lung. Not that there is a typical Iron Lung Records band, but Behavior is well outside the label’s primary focus on underground hardcore and metal, with a song-focused style built on spare arrangements, emphasizing the excellent lyrics. The slight twang to Behavior’s sound and the timbre of the singer’s voice make me think of Pavement circa Wowee Zowee, but without the surrealistic bent and with a post rock-y sense of artistic gravitas. It’s not pop; it’s dense, intellectual music, much like the P22 that also came out on Post Present Medium, albeit without the overt punk influence. If you’re looking for something to work your brain muscles under quarantine, this would do the trick.