Featured Release Roundup: November 8, 2018

Neighborhood Brats: Claw Marks 12” (Dirt Cult) Latest full-length (their second, though they also have a ton of 7”s and a singles collection LP) from this California band. Having grown up on 90s melodic / pop-punk and gotten into 80s-style hardcore through that style and the ’77 classics, I’m always impressed with bands who can toe the line between those styles, and Neighborhood Brats are one of the best. While most of their songs feature catchy vocal parts, they never sound like a weak pop punk band. Their songs are uniformly upbeat and/or aggressive, and they never sound like a one-dimensional hardcore band. Further, while Neighborhood Brats are one of those bands whose sound you can recognize in seconds, the space between these different micro-genres proves fertile, allowing them room to write songs that sound remarkably different from one another. Tracks like “Night Shift” and “One Way Friends” edge toward the jittery, punked-up power pop of Midnite Snaxxx (one of my personal favorites), while “Misery Parade” and “Nina’s Ghost” sound like the more hardcore end of late 80s / early 90s skate punk (either would have been a solid track on a mid-period Bad Religion LP). Tracks like the big closer, “Touching the Void,” bring reverbed-out surf guitar into the mix a la Night Birds. Claw Marks is an ambitious album, but one that still gives you everything you expect from a DIY punk LP. If you’re a fan of Night Birds and No Love you should also add a big stack of Neighborhood Brats records to you “N” section.

Pig DNA: Strong Throat 7” (Square One Again) Final recordings from this Bay Area noise-punk band. We’ve followed them closely here at Sorry State, and I still think their Mob Shity 12” is one of the most underrated releases on the La Vida Es Un Mus label. This limited (200 copies!) final 7” finds the band going out on a high note, pushing their sound to its outer limits. The a-side track is a wash of bashing hi-hats, reverbed-to-hell vocals, and other, feedback-drenched noises I assume are coming from a guitar, but I can’t be sure. Like the best bands in this style, Pig DNA have a noise artist’s ear for dynamics, and what makes the song come alive is how instruments careen off and past one another, the different noise textures bouncing around like popcorn kernels dropped into hot oil. The b-side, though, is where things get really exciting. Structurally, it’s your typical noise punk song with a bass that carries the melody, squealing guitars that remind me of Confuse’s Indignation tape, and Disorder-type caustic vocals. The catch is there’s no drum track. Your ear keeps waiting for the drums to kick in, but they never do. It’s a simple move, but it gives the song a different character, making space for different noise frequencies and textures to take center stage. While the facts that the record is so short, more expensive than your typical 7”, and more progressive / avant garde than average will mean it’ll have a limited audience, that just makes it more enticing for those of you who love exploring the outer reaches of noise punk.

No streaming link for this one, sorry!

The Floor Above: Assault on Still Live cassette (Not Normal Records) Not Normal Records continues its long-running association with this obscure Nashville hardcore band on this latest cassette, containing 21 of the loosest, rawest slices of hardcore you’re likely to hear. The reference points are obvious—Void, Negazione, Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers, newer bands like Mozart or Neon… that kind of thing—but if you like this style of music you don’t care about the reference points so much as the unhinged freedom that these bands evoke in the listener, and the Floor Above do it better than just about anyone. It seems like they spontaneously create riffs then forget them as they're recording these tracks. Guitars go way out of tune. There are plenty of short outbursts of pure hardcore thrash, but there’s a surprising amount of melody here too. “Roadside Abyss” is a highlight, sounding like it was spliced in from a drunken Plastic Surgery Disasters-era Dead Kennedys bootleg. “Diminished Players” has a comically dumb riff, but the way that riff phases in and out of existence due the looseness of the playing elevates it to the level of genius. Can you even call this “loose” anymore? It’s something else to me, the undiluted sound of “I don’t give a fuck.” My only gripe is with the vocals, which sit way back in the mix and serve as window dressing rather than an essential part of the sound. This is niche stuff, but it’s a niche I can’t get enough of when it’s done just right.

Ripcord: Harvest Hardcore 7” (YOFC) First official reissue of the first Ripcord 7” (The Damage Is Done was a flexi, ya dingus!) from 1988. Whenever you see the word “Ripcord” referring to the late 80s UK hardcore band you can bet that the word “Heresy” won't be more than 20 words away, and I’m here to maintain cosmic order. Truthfully, I was always more partial to Heresy. I’m a smidge too young to have gotten into these groups when they were around, and whether it was that Heresy’s material was more available or that they maintained their back catalog in a more attractive way (I suspect both), I’ve always reached for the H section rather than R when I’m looking for something faster than fast. Today, though, Harvest Hardcore is hitting me right. Ripcord really were a twin-headed beast with Heresy, with both bands sharing blistering fast, dunka-dunka hardcore beats, big breakdowns, and a curated list of cover tunes that still speaks to 21st century tastes (Siege and SS Decontrol on here). The production is solid and the playing tight and locked in, never degenerating into the semi-incoherent blur of, say, Napalm Death. It feels like this era / style of hardcore isn’t the most fashionable at the moment, but then again we sold quite a few copies of that recent reissue of Heresy’s Face Up To It, so maybe I’m wrong. What I can tell you is that Harvest Hardcore is one of the better records to emerge from that scene, particularly if your tastes lean toward straightforward hardcore rather than grind and power violence.

Uncontrollable Urge: S/T 12” (Schizophrenic) Debut LP from this Canadian band that plays dense, catchy, and occasionally swampy punk rock. While the label’s description mentions Liliput, Wire, and Gang of Four, for me those references don’t feel spot-on because those bands are, to some degree at least, minimalists, while Uncontrollable Urge’s sound is more maximalist. The recording is dense and lush, seeming to take up the entire sonic spectrum and leaving your ears to the weighty task of pulling individual elements from the din. Fortunately, there’s a lot to be interested in here. Tracks like the opener “Go Alone” and “Push Back” have a spunky, upbeat punk sound that reminds me of Bratmobile at their best, while “Your Way Out” and “Faked It” have a swampy, lurching sound like Flipper or even the Scientists. My favorite tracks on the record, though, are ones like “Dark Days” and “The Fear,” that have an imposing, apocalyptic quality to them. There’s something of the Birthday Party or Laughing Hyenas’ sense of grandiosity in these tracks, which makes “The Fear” an effective closer. As I said, these tracks are so dense with ideas it may take you a listen or two to make sense of it, but it’s worth the effort.

Natterers: Head in Threatening Attitude 12” (Boss Tuneage) After an excellent 7” last year, the UK’s Natterers lay their debut full length on us. I’m not sure why bands like this tend to have names that start with the letter “N,” but if you're a fan of Night Birds, No Love, or Neighborhood Brats, Natterers’ debut LP is one you need to hear. Like those bands’ records, Head in Threatening Attitude falls in that fertile space between the worlds of hardcore and more straightforward punk, combining the blistering tempos and dynamic, million-changes-a-minute songwriting style of dense, DIY hardcore with a more tuneful, song-oriented approach. Rather than watering each other down, these qualities reinforce one another, giving the LP a three-dimensionality that less ambitious bands don’t have. You’ve got tracks like the slow & brooding “Dead Men Can’t Catcall,” faster melodic hardcore tracks like “Defiant (Again),” punkier songs with more melodic vocals like “Not Long Left Now,” and herky-jerky, rhythmically complex songs like “Germs and Creeps” and “So Much More” that remind me of Group Sex era Circle Jerks or Plastic Surgery Disasters era Dead Kennedys. And there’s even an album-closing surf instrumental! Whether you’re coming at this album because you want a shot of pure punk adrenaline or you want to hear a shit-hot band light their fretboards, drum skins, and vocal chords on fire, Head in Threatening Attitude will do it for you. A real scorcher.

Diastereomer: Ignition Advancer 12” (Bitter Lake) Bitter Lake’s latest reissue from the 80s Japanese new wave scene is this compilation from Diastereomer. As I’ve mentioned before, the new / no wave scene that Bitter Lake has documented so far had more overlap with new age and ambient music than comparable US and UK scenes, and Diastereomer follow that pattern. While moments will scratch your itch for early Human League and “The Diastereomer” has an early industrial, proto-Wax Trax sound, Diastereomer are less rhythmic and more atmospheric. Most tracks are deliberate and meditative, unfolding over several minutes. My favorite track on the record, “Ignition,” features a spooky, John Carpenter-esque synth line and vocals that have the eerie quality of monks chanting in unison. If the other releases on Bitter Lake have interested you, this warrants a listen, but know going in that, sonically, it might be the least rock or punk-adjacent release on the label so far.

Plomo:  Sombras de Manana 7” (Verdugo Discos) After a popular demo, here’s the debut 7” from Chicago’s Plomo, which features ex-members of Gas Rag. While Plomo has a gritty vibe with their nasty, early Dischord-type guitar sound and a gravel-throated vocalist, a closer listen reveals a surprising range on these five tracks. There are catchy, Angry Samoans-type riffs on “Espejo,” while “Malas” is a take-no-prisoners hardcore ripper with catchy stops and starts on the chorus. “Al Día” finishes things off with a dark and melodic riff that reminds me of early Articles of Faith. While the songs and performances are great, my only gripe with the record is that it doesn’t sound as explosive as it should. The tones of the individual instruments sound great, but pushing the whole mix into the red might have given this a savage quality that would have served the band well. The record still smokes, but you might have to turn it up to ear-splitting volume to get the full impact. You would probably do that anyway, though, right? 

Mind Dweller: Kick Out the Amps Motherfucker cassette (self-released) Limited 3-song cassette pressed up for Mind Dweller’s recent mini-tour with Richmond’s Sinister Purpose. In case you don’t remember Mind Dweller’s earlier tape on Sorry State, the quick description is that they’re an Annihilation Time-style rocked-out punk band (or punked-out rock band), but there’s so much diversity in their sound I don’t think that does the band justice. That’s true even on this brief, 3-track cassette. The opener, “Dos Exx,” is as close to a prototypical Mind Dweller track as you’ll find with its big main riff and more agile, Thin Lizzy-style runs on the chorus. “Involuntary Trap” is a standout for being the rare pure hardcore track in Mind Dweller’s catalog. It reminds me of Government Warning, not just in its speed and precision, but also in how the band uses their songwriting and arranging chops to elevate what might otherwise be a straightforward track into something special. The third and final track, “Greed Mania,” gives us more blistering hardcore, but the song’s highlight is the early Iron Maiden-style twin lead guitar in the middle section. Let’s hope this tape is the precursor to more Mind Dweller material hitting the streets soon, because this one is straight fire.

No streaming link for this one, sorry!

Jellicoe & Woodbury: Doubt b/w Fear 7” (Quality Control HQ) A pretty dang killer Japanese hardcore homage here with the requisite Sugi artwork on the sleeve (and it’s one of the better pieces I’ve seen from him lately). Rather than going for the obvious and trying to grab that Death Side or G.I.S.M. fairy dust, Jellicoe & Woodbury remind me of Insane Youth, a less celebrated but underrated Japanese hardcore band that featured future Forward guitarist Soichi. While Burning Spirits-style hardcore is necessarily bombastic, Insane Youth were understated and unpretentious in their approach, and Jellicoe & Woodbury follow that path. These songs aren’t flashy or over the top, just exciting, well-executed hardcore songs with great drumming, meaty riffs, and top-notch production. I’ve listened to both half a dozen times and I still really like them. The other wrinkle to this single is that the band is comprised (at least partly, maybe wholly) of members of Fucked Up, and record serves as an oblique marketing tie-in to that band’s new LP. How does a limited-release 7” on a small UK label paying tribute to a genre that only a few thousand people in the world even know about (much less like) help to edge someone further toward the decision to pick up a copy of Dose Your Dreams? I don't know, but like Fucked Up’s “fake compilation” David’s Town, this warrants a place in your collection even if you have zero interest in Fucked Up’s higher-profile output.

Ultra Razzia: S/T 12” (Foreign Legion) Chicago’s Foreign Legion Records have become one of the world’s foremost purveyors of legit oi! over the past few years, with the Fuerza Bruta LP they released last year turning heads that had only recently returned to a resting position after being blown back by Rixe’s recorded output. If you’re into the sounds that Rixe and comparable, hardcore-affiliated bands like Crown Court are making, then you should know what Foreign Legion is up to. Their latest is the debut LP from Quebec’s Ultra Razzia, who play primarily mid-paced, stomping stuff that reminds me of early Blitz crossed with tougher-sounding old French oi!. With 13 tracks (most of them hovering in the 2 1/2 to 3 minute range), the LP seems like a lot to digest at first, but after a listen or two highlights emerge. I’m a big fan of the track “Razzia.” While it’s the longest track on the record, the extra space makes room for killer, Criminal Damage-esque melodic lead guitar. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also the first part of a one-two punch with “Dans La Guele Du Loup,” the record’s fastest track... its “Never Surrender,” if you will. No one would accuse Ultra Razzia of redefining the oi! template, but the songwriting, production, and performance here are all top notch. If you’re partial to Criminal Damage or Rixe, this LP would be a great soundtrack for a night in with a 6-pack and a few of your mates.

All New Arrivals

Pig DNA: Strong Throat 7" (Square One Again)
Inferno: Hibakusha 12" (Power It Up)
Emils: Fight Together for the... 12" + 7" (Power It Up)
Tragedy: Fury 12" (self-released)
Natterers: Head in Threatening Attitude 12" (Boss Tuneage)
Allvaret: Skam Och Skuld 12" (Dirt Cult)
Neighborhood Brats: Claw Marks 12" (Dirt Cult)
Your Pest Band: Automatic Aspiration 12" (Dirt Cult)
Plomo: Sombras de Manana 7" (Verdugo Discos)
M.S.I.: 9 Out of 10 Doctors Recommend More... 12" (Schizophrenic)
Uncontrollable Urge: S/T 12" (Schizophrenic)
Verbal Assault: Trial 12" (Atomic Action)
Thou: Inconsolable 12" (Not Specified)
Uniform Choice: 10 Song Demo 12" (Mankind)
Vice Squad: No Cause for Concern 12" (No Futuro)
Faustcoven: In the Shadow of Doom 12" (Nuclear War Now!)
Sex Messiah: Eastern Cult of Sodomy 12" (Nuclear War Now!)
His Hero Is Gone: Fifteen Counts of Arson 12" (Prank)
His Hero Is Gone: Monuments to Thieves 12" (Prank)
The Business: Suburban Rebels 12" (Radiation)
The Kids: S/T 12" (Radiation)
The Kids: Naughty Kids 12" (Radiation)
Sore Points: S/T 12" (Deranged)
Dead Hunt: S/T 12" (Black Water)
Destripados: Gutless 12" (Black Water)
Bastard Noise / Actuary: Split 12" (Deep Six)
A Certain Ratio: The Graveyard and the Ballroom 12" (Mute)
Unwound: Leaves Turn Inside You 12" (Numero Group)
Opeth: Garden of Titans 12" (Nuclear Blast)
Touche Amore: 10 Years / 1000 Shows 12" (Epitaph)
Metallica: ...And Justice for All 12" (Blackened)
Filter: Short Bus 12" (Craft Recordings)
Fleetwood Mac: Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac 12" (Music On Vinyl)
Tom Morello: Atlas Underground 12" (Mom + Pop)
System of a Down: Toxicity 12" (American)
Leviathan: Tentacles of Whorror 12" (Moribund)
Ar-Kaics: In This Time 12" (Dap-Tone)
Tyrant: Legions of the Dead 12" (Shadow Kingdom)
Arcade Fire: Arcade Fire EP 12" (Legacy)


Grief: Depression 12" (Fuck Yoga)
Grief: Dismal 12" (Fuck Yoga)
Tragedy: Nerve Damage 12" (self-released)
Agnostic Front: No One Rules 12" (Radio Raheem)
Cock Sparrer: Shock Troops 12" (Pirate’s Press)
Mob: Let the Tribe Increase 12" (Overground)
Zounds: Curse of Zounds 12" (Overground)
Mercyful Fate: The Beginning 12" (Metal Blade)
King Crimson: Red 12" (Inner Knot)
Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables 12" (Manifesto)
Black Flag: Six Pack 7" (SST)
Black Flag: TV Party 7" (SST)
Black Flag: My War 12" (SST)
Black Flag: Slip It In 12" (SST)
Husker Du: New Day Rising 12" (SST)
Bad Brains: I Against I 12" (SST)
Stimulators: Loud Fast Rules 7" (Frontier)
Brand New: Your Favorite Weapon 12" (Triple Crown)
Death Grips: Bottomless Pit 12" (Third Worlds)
Guns N Roses: Appetite for Destruction 12" (Geffen)
Jay Reatard: Blood Visions 12" (Fat Possum)
John Coltrane: Both Directions at Once 12" (Impulse)
Khalid: American Teen 12" (RCA)
Korn: Follow the Leader 12" (Immortal)
Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 12" (Columbia)
Lord Huron: Lonesome Dreams 12" (I Am Sound)
Magic Sam: West Side Soul 12" (Delmark)
Mobb Deep: Juvenile Hell 12" (Island)
Offspring: S/T 12" (Craft Recordings)
Panic! at the Disco: Pray for the Wicked 12" (Fueled By Ramen)
Twenty One Pilots: Blurryface 12" (Fueled By Ramen)
Pharrell: In My Mind 12" (Interscope)
Black Panther OST 12" (Interscope)
Pink Floyd: Meddle 12" (Parlophone)
Rage Against the Machine: Evil Empire 12" (Epic)
Slayer: Seasons in the Abyss 12" (American)
Siouxsie & the Banshees: The Scream 12" (Polydor)
U2: Zooropa 12" (Island)
Windhand: Eternal Return 12" (Relapse)
SZA: CTRL 12" (Top Dawg Entertainment)
Arcade Fire: Funeral 12" (Sony Legacy)

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