Featured Release Roundup: November 14, 2019
Current Affairs: Object & Subject 12” (Tough Love) Object & Subject collects two earlier releases—a demo tape and a single—from this Scottish post-punk band featuring members of Anxiety, Shopping, and others. If you’re a die-hard Siouxsie & the Banshees fan (as I am), that will be the first comparison that leaps to mind as the singer sounds a lot like Siouxsie and the music—while hardly a Banshees rip-off—uses tropes like tom-heavy drumming and chorus on the guitar. Also like the Banshees, there’s a good balance here between pop elements and more brooding, atmospheric passages. To my ears, “Breeding Feeling” is the hit with its big chorus, but the spare “Cheap Cuts” and the more angular, punky “Eyes” are also great. My only complaint is that two of the songs appear here twice in versions that aren’t too different from one another, but it’s a complaint more in theory than in practice, as I’ve played the whole thing a bunch of times without skipping a track. If you’re a fan of recent records by Pleasure Leftists or Public Service, odds are you’ll get a lot of mileage out of Current Affairs.
Oblaka: Insight 7” flexi (Symphony of Destruction) Oblaka is a hardcore punk band from Yakoutsk in the Sakha Republic of northeastern Russia, known as “the coldest city in the world.” Looking at it on the map, it seems very far from anything we’d think of as a cosmopolitan urban center, but Oblaka's blackened crust sounds like it could have come from Japan or the UK or just about anywhere else in the world. The straightforward riffs and relentless d-beating reminds me of a grittier version of Doom, but the vocals are crazier, alternating between gutteral grunts and stranger, pained vocalizations that recall the creepiest, grimmest black metal. With a runtime of only three and a half minutes, Insight is over way too soon, but hopefully this flexi is a teaser for more to come.
Benzin: demo cassette (self-released) Demo cassette from this new band from Berlin who plays catchy, spazzy, hyper-fast hardcore exactly how I like it. Track lengths hover around the one minute mark, yet the tempos are so fast that each song still seems to feature more twists, turns, and changes than a whole season of your favorite soap opera. Despite the blistering speed, catchiness is a priority, with memorable riffs and vocal hooks that remind me of CCTV or classic tracks by the Bags. If your tastes lean toward the fuzzy area where fast garage-punk and 80s-inspired hardcore bleed together—AKA you like the aforementioned bands and/or anything from Henry Fiat’s Open Sore to the Circle Jerks to Acid Reflux—this is a recommended pickup.
Haiboku: Un Nuevo Poder 7” (Destrozado) Un Nuevo Poder is the second EP from this band out of Mexico City, and I’m bummed I missed the first one because this is killer! Haiboku worships at the altar of late 80s Japanese hardcore: their first EP’s artwork is an homage to the underrated Half Years 7”, their name is Japanese, and you can even find a sick Gudon cover on their BandCamp site. More than just referencing this style, though, Haiboku nails it with a sound ripped straight from the early Selfish Records catalog, particularly bands like Gudon, Lip Cream, and Outo. Where there are guitar leads on every track, the music doesn’t have the epic Death Side influences of most bands that rep this style of Japanese hardcore. Instead, Haiboku trade in sloppy, fast drumbeats, gnarled vocals, and gang choruses. It sounds exactly like music like this should sound. If Haiboku was from a large Western metropolis, people would have hyped them to death by now, but I’ve heard no chatter about them. I’m hoping that changes, because this band deserves all the attention we can throw at them.
Bato: Ravages of Time 7” (Not for the Weak) Debut vinyl from this hardcore band out of Virginia Beach, Virginia. I grew up in the Virginia Beach area so I’m always interested in hearing good new music from there, but traditionally that’s been in short supply. Bato’s brand of fast and angry 80s-style hardcore reminds me a lot of that region’s greatest export: the almighty Socialcide. Like Socialcide, they take the most inspiration than the faster-than-fast 80s greats (YDI, Deep Wound, Pick Your King) but also have a whiff of straight edge hardcore in their style (particularly more early 80s-sounding bands like Straight Ahead and early Youth of Today). The songs hover around the one minute mark, heavy on the rage and light on the tough guy posturing. If Bato was around in the mid-00s I’d expect to see them on the next volume of No Bullshit.
Confuse: People Are Nuclear Poisoning 12” (Fan Club) Fan club release compiling the early material by one of the all-time greats of worldwide hardcore, Japan’s Confuse. This 12” compiles their Indignation cassette, the Nuclear Addicts flexi, their tracks from the Jisatsu Omnibus compilation, and three live tracks (including one unreleased song). Every official release by Confuse is mandatory listening. Along with Disorder, Chaos UK, Shitlickers, and a handful of others, they pioneered taking Discharge’s stripped-down formula and removing any remaining bells and whistles, distilling hardcore punk down to a kind of abstract expressionist stab of rage. The band’s debut cassette-only album Indignation—presented in its entirety here—is my favorite Confuse release. The guitars are high in the mix on this session, and they are wild and unhinged, up there with Negazione’s Tutti Pazzi EP as some of the most crazed and inspired guitar noise of all time. The vocals are also downright feral, and the music is a chaotic swirl of noise, distortion, and feedback. It is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard in my life. Confuse’s later releases—including what’s compiled on the b-side of this LP—tend to highlight the drums, and while they're still great (up there, in fact, with Mob 47 as far as this style goes), they're a little more familiar and less magical. As I said, though, there is no bad Confuse material, so let’s hope they follow this collection with another volume featuring the balance of their discography.