Featured Release Roundup: November 12, 2020
The Mentally Ill: Gacy’s Place: Complete Starbeat Sessions 12” (Almost Ready Records) The Mentally Ill’s “Gacy’s Place” is one of the all-time great Killed by Death tracks, and by extension one of the all-time classic punk songs; in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if some people call it the ultimate KBD track. This LP expands the original 3-song EP to 8 tracks, bringing together all the tracks from the recording session. “Gacy’s Place” kicks things off, and it sounds as great as ever. It’s where everything that makes KBD punk comes together perfectly: anti-social lyrics (“they’re fucking your kids!”), primitive production, punk swagger, and a dash of Residents-esque esoteric weirdness. Wrap all that up in one of the greatest bass lines ever, and you have a song that everyone should know. Alternative Tentacles had already released the other tracks on this LP back in 2004 on a collection called Gacy’s Place: The Undiscovered Corpses (along with two other studio sessions), but I wasn’t very familiar with them. While there’s nothing as perfect as “Gacy’s Place,” those elements I mentioned above all feature in different mixtures on those other tracks, and I wouldn’t call any of them weak. While this isn’t necessary if you have the Alternative Tentacles release, it’s a great pickup for any KBD fan, from the dabbler to the full-on fanatic.
Geza X: Practicing Mice / Me No Wanna Be 7” (No Matrix) Those of you who have dug deep into LA punk should be familiar with Geza X. While, as a performer, he never achieved the fame of the Germs or the Dead Kennedys, he was a key player in the scene who played in a ton of the classic LA punk bands and produced a huge portion of that scene’s studio recordings. In fact, he produced early recordings by both of the aforementioned bands. I remember I picked up Geza X’s LP, You Goddamn Kids!, in the late 90s because it looked interesting and punk, but it confounded by teenage brain that was looking for more stuff that sounded like the Adolescents and the Circle Jerks. While Geza X’s music has a lot of punk’s energy (which is unsurprising given how talented he was at capturing that energy on tape), there are also elements of silliness and satire. The titles of the two tracks on this single, “Practicing Mice” and “Me No Wanna Be,” say quite a lot. While some people might not like the “wacky” elements like the lyrics and Geza’s high-pitched voice, if you’re a fan of the weirder, Zappa / Residents-informed end of the KBD spectrum, this will be right up your alley. The production is also interesting, with a very processed sound to the guitar. Geza X’s other production jobs are straightforward; I wonder if he felt more daring with this home-recorded material. Besides the music, you also get some interesting liner notes from Geza himself in which he recounts several wild and hilarious stories from the Masque days.
Speed Plans: Field of Vision cassette (Kill Enemy Records) Latest cassette from this Pittsburgh hardcore band, and to me it sounds like a throwback to the late 2000s and early 2010s when No Way Records ruled the scene. In particular, Speed Plans reminds me of bands like Cardiac Arrest, Wasted Time, Citizens Patrol, and Reprobates. Like those bands, Speed Plans foregrounds their early 80s USHC influences, but aren’t afraid to bring in catchy mid-paced parts or slightly melodic lead guitar licks. I would imagine they like the Adolescents just as much as they like the Negative Approach EP or Victim in Pain, even if the latter two influences are more prominent in their music. I think what makes this sound like “No Way era” hardcore to me is the lack of d-beat influence. The tradition of Discharge-inspired bands permeated the hardcore of the 2010s, but you won’t find any of it here. Thus, what was old is now new again, and it sounds as great as it always did.
Necro Heads: demo cassette (Kill Enemy Records) This debut tape from Pittsburgh’s Necro Heads came out alongside the latest Speed Plans tape, and the two of them together are quite the pair of rippers. Where Speed Plans bring in a little of that west coast catchiness to their USHC sound, Necro Heads is looser, more aggro, and more brutal. While it’s appropriate to cite the same USHC touchstones, the grittiness and ugliness pulls this more toward dark shit like Siege and Septic Death. You get six short and fast rippers, then the last track, “Opt Out,” descends into your classic hardcore dirge with noisy, feedback-drenched improvisational guitar wailing as the band dissolves into a writhing mess a la “Damaged I.” Good shit.