Featured Release Roundup: October 3, 2019
Clang!: Whac-a-mole 12” (self-released) Debut release from this band out of Tampa, Florida whose sound lies somewhere at the intersection of post-punk, no wave, and noise rock. More than a stylistic hodgepodge though, Clang! reminds me of those styles because of their heavy emphasis on rhythm. While some bands write songs around melodic progressions, others write songs around riffs, and still others might write around tempo changes, textures, or any number of other characteristics, Clang!’s music centers on groove. Each of Whac-a-mole’s twelve tracks takes a particular rhythmic motif and explores it inside out, altering and augmenting it and scraping out its insides. About half of the tracks are only around a minute and a half long, but on others (most noticeably on the nine-minute closer, “Gomorrah”), they stretch out and go deeper. When you hear a band like this that is adept at inventing and embodying rhythms, it makes you realize how monotonous most bands’ grooves are. Recommended for fans of the Slits, the World, Preening, the Ruts, Public Image Limited, and other rhythmically inventive punk music.
The Middle Ages: S/T 12” (Ripe) Debut release from this punk band out of Seattle. The members have a heavy resume, but I wasn’t familiar with any of their previous projects, so I went in to the Middle Ages fresh. What I found was unpretentious punk rock that sounds like it walked straight out of the mid-70s. While it’s not self-consciously retro, it still captures the classic sound of first-generation, pre-hardcore punk. In particular I’m reminded of bands like the Saints, the Stranglers, X, Generation X, the Jam, and the Replacements. These are bands who only had a negligible attachment to punk as a subculture, but found a natural affinity with it thanks to their appreciation of the fast, the loud, and the raw. Further, these bands had top-notch pop songwriting chops, which made their best material feel like instant classics. The Middle Ages shares those characteristics. I can’t think of any other current bands that sound this direct and effortless. If you’re a fan of the aforementioned classic groups, this is well worth checking out.
Distort #54 zine Latest issue of this long-running Australian zine. Cleveland punk has always preoccupied Distort, and this issue goes whole-hog, with 116 dense pages devoted to the topic. There are lots of reproductions of Cleveland punk ephemera, a healthy number of reprints of Clevo-centric material from earlier issues of Distort, and a few new additions like a lengthy interview with Craig Bell of Mirrors and Rocket from the Tombs. Rather than being formatted like a conventional punk book or other straightforward archival project, the issue examines Cleveland through what feels like a cracked and distorted lens, placing a kind of translucent psychedelic curtain between the reader and the source material. Much of the original writingtakes the form of faux YouTube comments written from dozens of different perspectives, some of them insightful and many of them dumb (mostly in a funny way). It’s a heavy-handed choice, but I think it was a great one, and I enjoyed reading this far more than I would have another dry oral history or faux-academic analysis (like, say, the one you’re reading right now). Over the years Distort has transformed from a well-done, albeit conventional punk zine to something more like high art, and it seems like that vision has culminated here.
Populists AKA Yan Wagner: Belgian Trip 12” (Detriti) More top-notch European electro from the Detriti label. Like most of the other stuff on Detriti, this has a heavy dance floor groove with the boom bap right in the foreground to get you moving. The Populists’ angle, though, is simple and minimal with 80s-sounding drum machines and synths, reminding me of being a kid in the mid-80s, rolling around in a circle at the skating rink while early hip hop like Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash pumped in the background. Like pretty much everything I’ve heard from Detriti, this is excellent.
Liquid Assets: demo cassette (self-released) Demo cassette from this new band out of Ottawa, Canada. With a sound that brings together aspects of slime punk, hardcore, and catchier garage punk, Liquid Assets reminds me a lot of Menthol, one of my favorite bands of the past several years. These eight tracks are dripping with grit and grime, yet there’s a fun, sunny counterpoint there to give it balance. The riffs are straightforward, mid-paced, and in major keys, but they’re banged out with an "I don’t give a fuck" attitude that reminds me of the New Bomb Turks at their loosest and most punk. Sometimes when I hear a record like this, it feels like it’ll fall in the cracks between genres, but this seems like one that could bring sub-scenes together. It just rocks that hard. Bonus points for gorgeous artwork courtesy of Josh Feigert (Uniform ATL).
Chain Whip: 14 Lashes 12” (self-released) Latest release from these Canadian punks, and while I liked their 7”, this one blows it out of the water. While the word “hardcore” refers to a narrow band of heavy, metallic music these days, Chain Whip is a throwback to a time when hardcore meant playing snotty punk as fast as possible. Their approach reminds me of the FU’s in that Chain Whip isn’t afraid of melody, but a big melody or hook isn’t a requirement for every song. Thus, you get anthemic songs like “Amber Alert” and moody and melodic punkers like the Dead Kennedys-esque “Turner Street Ghost Motel,” but when Chain Whip wants to lay into a fast hardcore song, they don’t pull any punches, approaching these tracks with the ferocity of bands like Loose Nukes and Blood Pressure. Every once in a while there’s a record like the Zero Boys’ Vicious Circle, Career Suicide’s Attempted Suicide, or the Carbonas’ second album that seems to have everything that you want from both punk and hardcore. 14 Lashes is accomplished enough to stand alongside those monumental records.
Prolix Destruct: Shoreline 12” (self-released) Debut vinyl from this band out of Portland with a catchy, anthemic crust sound. Prolix Destruct has a member that played in the Minneapolis band Destroy, which is funny because when I checked out Shoreline I thought it had a very 90s vibe. I lived in Richmond, Virginia from the late 90s through the early 2000s, and Prolix Destruct sound like a band that could have played Richmond during that time. There were a handful of kids you’d see at, say, both an Avail show and a Tragedy show, and I could imagine those types of kids creating something like Shoreline. While it has all the forward momentum and heaviness of crust, the melodic lead guitar lines (which have a Chelsea vibe, but aren’t a million miles away from the classic Fat Wreck bands), dark chord progressions, and desperately shouted vocals also remind me of Strike Anywhere and bands of that ilk. Fans of Signal Lost and Burning Kitchen are also likely to enjoy Shoreline.
Adderall: Versus Big Pharma 7” (11PM) Debut 7” from this Asheville, North Carolina band with a big and catchy sound. While Adderall has the 1-2 beats and catchy, snaky bass lines that I associate with pogo-punk, they’re so much bigger, tougher, and meaner than most bands of that ilk that you aren’t likely to see anyone comparing them to Asta Kask or the Swankys. Instead, they have the heavy-handed crunch of modern bands like Blazing Eye or Warthog that trade in big, pit-clearing riffs. The vocals are also a standout, a Sakevi-inspired inhuman snarl. I know Asheville, North Carolina is not the most hyped scene, but don’t let that stop you from checking this out. This band and this record are explosive.
Ill Globo: Check the Odds 7” (Aarght) Another week, another killer record from Australia. When will the deluge stop? Melbourne’s Ill Globo play amped-up, hardcore-leaning punk rock that reminds me of the Angry Samoans or Sub Pop-era Dwarves. While they have all the big, dramatic punches and snappy snare fills you want from a hardcore band, between those climaxes they squeeze in a ton of furious, Ramones-inspired downstrokes. While a lot of bands of this ilk go for a tight and precise sound, Ill Globo is looser and meaner, with squeals of feedback frequently interrupting the charge. Fans of the more hardcore-leaning Total Punk bands like Foster Care, Beta Boys, and Patsy should take note. In fact, if Total Punk hasn’t already contacted this band and asked them to do a record, they’re fucking up.