Featured Release Roundup: September 29, 2022
Aunt Sally: 1979 12” (Mesh Key Records) Mesh Key Records brings us a beautifully done reissue of this stone-cold classic Japanese post-punk LP. I wrote about the lone LP by Aunt Sally as my staff pick earlier this year, so consult that if you want more detail. The capsule version, though, is that Aunt Sally’s vocalist was so entranced by the Sex Pistols that she flew from Japan to London in 1977 to see them live. She returned to her home country inspired but, like so many of the first-generation post-punk bands in the UK, she didn’t want to imitate what the Pistols had done but make something of her own. Interestingly, 1979 resembles what a lot of early UK post-punk bands were doing. As with groups like Joy Division, Gang of Four, the Slits, and the Fall, bass is at the center of Aunt Sally’s sound. However, besides the powerful rhythm section (which sounds huge thanks to this record’s warm and clear production), I hear traditional Japanese music’s delicacy in Aunt Sally’s sound, particularly the feather-light guitar lines and the odd but deliberate approach to the vocals. This is, simply, a stunning album, and I’m sure that anyone with a taste for the best post-punk and/or Japanese punk and underground music will flip for it. I couldn’t be more excited about having this in stock and to being able to introduce people to it.
Systema: Muerte 7” (Symphony of Destruction Records) It seems like nary a week goes by without me writing about a killer Colombian punk record for the newsletter, and fortunately this week is no different! We last heard from Bogota’s Systema in the summer of 2021, when Symphony of Destruction released their killer first 12”, Ultima Guerra. Muerte picks up right where that one left off, with an intense and snarling sound centered on breakneck rhythms and nimble riffing. As I noted when I wrote about Ultima Guerra, Systema’s style reminds me of classic Finnish hardcore, particularly Kaaos. Perhaps it’s the way Systema channels Discharge’s brutality in their overall approach, but still find plenty of space in their songs for memorable, well-crafted musical moments. The track “Muerte 2021” is a perfect example, and I’ve hummed its catchy main riff (which sounds a bit like Genetic Control to me) ever since I heard it. 5 songs packed with the trademark intensity that’s caused so many of us to fill our collections with records from Colombia over the past few years. Oh yeah, and sick artwork on this one, too.
Zanjeer: Parcham Buland Ast 7” (Symphony of Destruction Records) Symphony of Destruction brings us the debut record from Zanjeer, a band based in Bremen, Germany, but featuring members from Colombia, Pakistan, England, and Germany singing lyrics in Urdu, Punjabi and Farsi. There’s been a lot of (long overdue) interest in the punk scene in hearing from marginalized voices, and Zanjeer seeks to provide, as the label’s description notes, “a necessary window into the lives of people from the global south.” I’ll let you read the lyrics yourself so you can hear what the band has to say about that rather than this white person’s summary, so I’ll keep my focus on the music, which rips! Zanjeer’s sound is pure hardcore without sounding like it’s too grounded in any specific sound… as with the members’ backgrounds, there’s a melting pot approach. “Nakhair” is built around a crushing mid-paced part that wouldn’t be out of place on a Warthog record, but moments like the off-time punches in “Ijtimayi Bemaari” or the lunging beat in “Na Un Moghe, Na Hala” sound unique and distinctive to me. It’s tough to make a record in this day and age that sounds fresh without compromising on the intensity and rippingness, but Zanjeer has done it. And its eye-catching screen printed packaging ensures you’ll want to pull it out and play it every time you flip past it.
R.M.F.C.: Access 7” (Anti Fade Records) Australia’s R.M.F.C. has been kicking around for several years now, putting out tapes and singles on cool underground punk labels. They started out as a dyed-in-the-wool egg punk band, but they’ve matured into something… well, something more mature. Their last single, Reader (also on Anti Fade Records), caught my attention, but Access is even better, a stunning record with two great sides that differ totally from one another. “Access” is built around some hooky guitar work… the main two riffs are the kind of thing you want to hear over and over, and I would have sworn the song was barely a minute long (it’s two minutes and twelve seconds) because every time it ends, I think to myself that it’s way too short and I need to hear it again. The b-side, “Air Conditioning,” is a cover of an obscure tune from 1981 by a UK band called the Lillettes (I haven’t heard the original), and while “Access” is all about the guitar hooks, “Air Conditioning” proves that R.M.F.C. can build a song around the vocals just as successfully. A real standout single.
The Uglies: Planet Uglies 12” (UGL Media) We carried the first full-length from Australia’s the Uglies way back in 2017, and now they’re back with their follow-up, Planet Uglies. If you’ve forgotten what the Uglies sound like (I forgive you… it’s been a long time!), their music lies somewhere in the nether regions between early 80s snotty and sarcastic punk (think Adrenalin OD, Dayglo Abortions, maybe even early Screeching Weasel) and Australia’s long tradition of beefy, high-energy rock and roll. The latter comes out in the excellent guitar work, which is as hyperactive as you want it to be without losing the Malcom Young lurking way in the background… imagine Cosmic Psychos jacked up on speed and a battered copy of Jealous Again. The production is big and bright without being slick, bringing in high-minded accoutrements like background vocals, but using that resource mainly to sound bigger and meaner than they might have otherwise. The lyrics are irreverent as hell, with titles like “Make Me Dumb” and “Big Turd International” giving you a good idea of where the Uglies are coming from. While the Uglies sound a little more pro than a band like Personal Damage, they’d happily blow their nose into the same snot-soaked rag.
Forget: Once the Nightmare Started cassette (Disarmy Records) Forget is one of those international collaborative projects, this one spanning Germany and Sweden, and it comes to us from Disarmy Records, a new label from Krow of the Minneapolis band Hellish View. If any of those names I just threw out ring any bells, it won’t surprise you to find out that Forget sounds a lot like Disclose. Like a lot. Their buzzsaw assault is based on the template Disclose set up on their 90s records (the pre-Disbones stuff), but (as usual with these kinds of records) there are interesting wrinkles for those of us who listen more closely. In particular, I like Forget’s rhythm section, who give these tracks a battering ram-style heft and intensity. It’s not groove metal or anything, but it’s the kind of thing you notice when you ask yourself, “what separates Forget from the legions of other Disclose worshippers?” If you like appreciating the subtleties of unsubtle music, then you’ll like Once the Nightmare Started too, but if you just want something loud and crazy blaring in your ears while you slam beers and hate the world, it works pretty well for that purpose too.