Featured Release Roundup: October 15, 2020
Clock of Time: Pestilent Planet 12” (Static Shock) Clock of Time is a new band out of Berlin, and while they may seem to have come out of nowhere (Pestilent Planet is their first release, a mere 8 months after playing their first gig), the speed at which they move is unsurprising given the musicians’ veteran status. Clock of Time features people from Diät, Vexx, and Useless Eaters, but it’s Diät fans in particular who should get excited, because Clock of Time draws most heavily on that band’s sound. That being said, while the vocals have the same gloomy, melodic quality as Diät and I could imagine “Companion” or “Rotten Master” appearing on one of their records, there are some differences. “Funny Farm” is a death rock dirge a la Part 1 whose grinding, mechanical rhythm builds tension past the point at which you feel you can’t take it anymore, approaching a kind of auditory S&M. That sense of gloom (which, admittedly, was a big part of Diät too) permeates Pestilent Planet, making it feel more like a death rock record rather than a dark pop record a la the Chameleons… a subtle difference for sure, but one worth noting. If you like Diät (I love them), this is essential and you’ll love it, but even if you never checked out that band, it’s a great time to get in on the ground floor with Clock of Time.
Cry Out: More Echoes of a Question Never Answered… Why? 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Cry Out is a solo project from Rosie Davis, a Canadian musician who passed away earlier this summer. More Echoes… was a work in progress when she passed, and from what I understand, La Vida Es Un Mus had already planned on releasing it, and helped coordinate the record’s completion so it could get an official release. It’s an outstanding record, and I’m happy to have it, though sad to know that we won’t get to hear more. Cry Out takes a lot of inspiration from classic anarcho punk (the cover art and the track “Fucked Silly” both reference Crass’s Penis Envy album, for instance), but its sound spans that genre’s eclectic breath, even traveling outside it a bit for “Garden Song,” which (as LVEUM’s description notes), recalls Sad Lovers and Giants’ gloomy and melodic post-punk. “Your Shame Not Mine” has all of Crass’s punk experimentalism, “War Aesthetic” is a catchier punk track in the Crisis / Zounds mode, and “Fucked Silly” is a jittery, upbeat song a la Crass’s early records. While these are reference points, More Echoes doesn’t feel like an imitation, but an attempt to summon the same muses, and the primitive recording and drum machines also give it a unique flair. There’s a lot packed into these 11 minutes.
Gen Pop: PPM66 12” (Post Present Medium) Gen Pop’s first EP appeared back in 2017, but we’ve had to wait until 2020 for their debut full-length. I’ve been wondering what a Gen Pop full-length would sound like ever since I first heard them. Their 7”s were eclectic, and the beautiful graphic design complimented their balance of tunefulness with an experimental / progressive flair. I’m glad Gen Pop took their time putting together a full-length, because PPM66 brings those elements together as brilliantly as I would have expected. Whenever I listen to PPM66 I think of Wire’s Pink Flag. While they’ve never made it explicit, I’ve always suspected early Wire was a big influence on Gen Pop, and on PPM66 they combine jittery punk like “Hanging Drum” and “Personal Fantasy” with great melodic pop like “Bright Light People” (which has a cool video) and “Concrete” and atmospheric tracks like “Jilted and Blitzed,” achieving a delicate balance very akin to Pink Flag. However, to be a Wire disciple, you can’t imitate Wire; that would miss one of the big takeaways of their aesthetic, that moments of transcendence come from pushing forward, experimenting, and exploring. I often cite Pink Flag as my favorite album of all time, and I value the idea that music should be both intellectually gratifying and viscerally exciting. If you share that belief, you’ll love PPM66 too.
Gag Still Laughing 12” (Iron Lung) Olympia’s Gag were the toast of the early 2010s; I remember watching them play an explosive set at the final Chaos in Tejas back in 2013, they released a series of killer EPs that led up to 2015’s America’s Greatest Hits LP, and that’s the last we heard from them. I’d assumed they’d dissolved, but a promo tape surfaced last year and now we have a new full-length. Thankfully, not much has changed in the intervening five years. One thing that set Gag apart from the beginning was their catchy, mid-paced riffing style. While a lot of hardcore bands have the ambition of playing as fast as possible and others play with dynamic tempo changes, Gag had this way of locking into a heavy, fist-pumping groove that made dance floors explode. That’s the m.o. for Still Laughing… mosh for weirdos, music made for you and your friends to crash into each other in a sweaty basement. Another thing that carries over from Gag’s earlier releases is a quirky, artsy aesthetic, which comes out in the band’s strange artwork (Still Laughing is a doozy), but also surfaces in their music, like on the minimal synth outro, “Scorpion Sequence.” Five years can be an eternity in hardcore, but Still Laughing proves that Gag’s approach hasn’t aged a bit.
Larzon: S/T 7” (Ken Rock) Sweden’s Ken Rock Records digs up this gem from Larzon, an early 80s Swedish punk band who never managed a release during their original lifespan. I’m not sure if these tracks circulated among tape traders or what, but to my ears it’s a real gem that deserves to be out in the world. While Larzon is from the 80s, their sound is rooted in 70s punk, particularly of the tougher variety. The songs with simple, major-key chord progressions remind me of UK oi!, but mostly this is grimy, overdriven rock-and-roll a la Brian James-era Damned, but maybe a little less manic. I feel certain the members of this band must have had Rude Kids records in their collection as well (and if you don’t know Rude Kids, dial up either of their first two singles or the great, underrated Safe Society LP). Lovers of obscure KBD and Europunk take note… this one is hyper obscure, but worth hearing.