Featured Releases: April 20, 2023

Body Maintenance: Beside You 12” (Drunken Sailor Records) We wrote about this Melbourne, Australia band’s debut EP back in 2021, and now they’re back with their debut full-length on the UK label Drunken Sailor. In case you missed that first EP, Body Maintenance’s sound is grounded in the cold, tense post-punk sound of late 1970s England. While bands trying to be the new Joy Division are a dime a dozen, Body Maintenance is a cut above thanks to their sophisticated pop sensibilities and their lush sound. In fact, rather than the standard comparisons to bands like Joy Division and Bauhaus, I’m more inclined to liken Body Maintenance to groups like the Teardrop Explodes, Echo & the Bunnymen, and Modern English, all of whom added liberal doses of psychedelia and pop to the post-punk formula. Chameleons fans will also find a lot to love here, particularly on upbeat tracks like “Silver Yarns” and “The Spiral.” While the upbeat pop numbers front-load the album, the latter half slows down the tempos and gets more sullen, with tracks like “Beside You” reminding me more of the Cure circa Faith and 17 Seconds. If you enjoyed that recent A Culture of Killing LP on Drunken Sailor, Beside You is well worth checking out, as it’s similar in both sound and the high quality of the songwriting and production.

Ordinance: demo cassette (Dynastic Yellow Star) The Florida hardcore label Dynastic Yellow Star brings us the demo cassette from this new band out of Richmond, Virginia. Ordinance’s music is grounded in the noisiest and most brutal d-beat classics (I hear a lot of Shitlickers and Disarm), but they don’t sound like one of those bands who reverse-engineers old records… instead, Ordinance takes the basic building blocks of a relentless rhythm section and guitars and vocals drenched in noise and uses it to build their own thing. The vocals, rather than the gutteral bark those Swedish bands preferred, are more of a youthful howl drenched and reverb and delay, incomprehensible to where it threatens to unspool into pure noise. The guitars, on the other hand, have completed this unspooling process, with a fried tone that pulls against the more straightforward bass playing, creating an almost psychedelic tension. Something about the desperation I hear in Ordinance’s music also makes me think of 90s Gravity bands like Angel Hair and Heroin. In other words, this is DIY hardcore, as raw and as real as it gets.

Punter: S/T 12” (Drunken Sailor Records) This debut 12” from Melbourne, Australia’s Punter is one of those records that I went into with no expectations and got fully knocked on my ass. While I wouldn’t describe Punter as a hardcore band, they play a lot harder and faster than many bands who consider themselves hardcore. However, there’s too much of Australia’s long, rich tradition of ass-kicking rock and roll in Punter’s sound for hardcore to define them. On the track “Retirement Simulator” (my favorite on the record), Punter brings to mind Plastic Surgery Disasters-era Dead Kennedys, trading in the same kinds of blistering rhythms and snotty, sarcastic vocals, but once again doused in pints of Radio Birdman and AC/DC and Cosmic Psychos. The epic last track, “A Year’s Silence,” makes me think of the Damned’s Machine Gun Etiquette, similarly rippingly, psychedelically grandiose and over the top. With only six tracks (one of which is more of an intro than a song), Punter leaves me wanting more, and I often play it a few times in a row, which only makes these songs’ subtle hooks dig themselves even further into my brain. This might not be your cup of tea if Punter’s brazen criss-crossing of genres rubs you the wrong way, but if all you want from life is a great melody delivered with the energy level of a frightened chihuahua, then you need to check this record out.

Litovsk: S/T 12” (Symphony of Destruction Records) Even though we’ve carried several of their records over the past few years, I’m pretty sure this new 5-song 12” EP is the first time I’ve given them a close listen. They do not sound like what I expected! Has anyone coined the term skingaze yet? As in a combination of skinhead / oi! music and shoegaze? I think the word accurately describes Litovsk’s sound. The singer belts out broad, anthemic melodies like Gary Bushell is in the audience tonight, but the guitars are lush, layered, and bathed in effects. It’s halfway between Blitz’s Second Empire Justice and Modern English’s After the Snow, and like those records (both of which I love, by the way), the songwriting is excellent. While that’s what Litovsk brings to mind for me, it’s also not too far away from stuff that labels like Jade Tree were putting out in the late 90s. A similar mix of lush arrangements, melodic songwriting, and a dash of punk energy powered bands like the Promise Ring, Braid, and Texas Is the Reason. Maybe that broad range of comparisons means there’s a timeless quality to Litovsk’s music. Any way you slice it, though, this is a beautiful and powerful EP.

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