Featured Releases: April 22 2021
Codigo Neurotico: S/T 7” (Discos Enfermos) First ever vinyl reissue for this killer Spanish punk record from 1983. I put this EP on my want list years ago but haven’t found a copy, so it was a treat to get this reissue and spend some time with it. Codigo Neurotico started in Barcelona in 1982, released this EP in 1983, and (according to some quick research) put the band on pause so the members could complete their compulsory military service then restarted the group and released a string of albums beginning with 1987’s La Maqueta Roja. Many 80s Spanish punk bands had more UK ’77 in their sound than the worldwide scenes that more fully embraced hardcore, and Codigo Neurotico fit that mold. Tracks like “Totus Tous” and “Las Malvinas” sound a bit like 70s European punk bands Ivy Green, the Kids, or Lost Kids, while tracks like “Pega a Tu Mama” pick up the tempo to hardcore speeds without losing the catchiness. The production is great, the energy level is high, the songs are awesome… this is just an all-around great punk EP and I’m very stoked it’s available again. Even better, Discos Enfermos did a bang-up job with the reissue, featuring great sound and a great looking reproduction of the original sleeve.
Woodstock ’99: S/T 7” (self-released) Here’s the story on Woodstock ’99 as I understand it. The Richmond, Virginia band Cement Shoes underwent a lineup change before their Australian tour in the Fall of 2019; this is the lineup that recorded (in my opinion) their best record, A Love Story of Drugs & Rock & Roll & Drugs, which came out on Drunken Sailor Records in 2020. After the tour the band dissolved and 3 of the 4 members started the incredibly named project Woodstock ’99, with all three members planning to uproot and relocate to Cleveland. Cleveland always seemed like Cement Shoes’ spiritual homeland, anyway. Though the band was based in Richmond, Cement Shoes took a lot of inspiration from the irreverent, nihilistic punk that was and is a hallmark of the rust belt. I think the lockdown hit the week they were moving, but they went anyway, recording a demo and tracks for this EP with Richmond’s Bob Quirk (who has done great stuff like the most recent Destruct and Enforced LPs, among many others) before they left town. A year later we have this criminally limited (100 copies!) EP. It fucking smokes, too! While Cement Shoes’ irreverence is still very much there, aside from some over the top rhythmic stops and starts, Woodstock ’99 keeps the music straightforwardly hardcore, letting their love of Poison Idea (all eras) show through. This is hardcore that’s heavy, groovy, powerful, and well constructed, and it’s nice to hear a band that has some personality and takes risks rather than sticking closely to some unwritten punk/hardcore playbook. Great EP. Get one if you can lay your hands on a copy.
Artcore #40 zine w/ N.O.T.A.: Moscow 7” (Artcore) This came out a few months ago, but y’all snapped up our copies in just a couple of days and I wasn’t able to write about it. Fortunately Artcore made some more copies, because this package is well worth your time. First up, you get the latest issue of the long-running UK zine Artcore. Welly notes in his intro that it’s the 35th anniversary of Artcore, which is incredible. If you’ve seen Artcore before, this issue sticks to their standard format, which focuses on very detailed band interviews (Strike Anywhere, the Chisel, Septic Death, Jawbreaker, and more) with another healthy chunk devoted to the Vaultage section, which features historical / archaeological pieces like this issue’s lengthy article on 80s Swedish hardcore. A few review round things out. The last few issues of Artcore have come with a bonus 7” EP, and this time it’s a reissue of Oklahoma hardcore band N.O.T.A.’s 1984 7” Moscow. For me, Moscow is a top-shelf 80s USHC banger. It’s loud and fast all the way through, and each of its four tracks has something unique to offer, whether it’s the anthemic “Take Away Your Rights” or the title track’s second wave UK punk groove, which sounds like something Toxic Reasons might have done in their early days. The reissue says it’s remixed and remastered, but I A/B’d it with my original pressing and it doesn’t sound too different, which is a good thing because the original is already a great record. The EP’s jacket is expanded to a booklet that reproduces the original artwork, but adds a heap of photos, flyers, and a detailed band history. A top-notch music zine and a classic record? What’s not to love?
Farmaco: Descolonizar 7” (Discos Enfermos) Last year we carried a flexi reissue of the demo tape by this band from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and now they’re back with their proper vinyl debut on the Spanish label Discos Enfermos. When I first listened to Descolonizar I thought to myself, “wow, this sounds a lot like early 80s Japanese punk,” and then I open up the record and the singer is wearing a Typhus shirt in the insert photo… so high five to me for recognizing that, I guess. It’s appropriate that Farmaco’s debut arrives the same week as a Zouo reissue, because Farmaco cops a lot of moves from Zouo’s The Final Agony EP, including the unique rhythms (kinda Motorhead-y, not really fast, but not slow either), raw production, metallic guitar leads, and sinister, death rock-ish overtones. It’s easy for something like his to sound like a pastiche, but Farmaco fucking nails it… the raw, analog production is perfect, and like the cult Japanese punk records they (presumably) take inspiration from, Descolonizar drips with vibe. Highly recommended.
Ojo Por Ojo: Paroxismo 7” flexi (Exabrupto Records) Mexico City’s Ojo Por Ojo follows up their 2018 debut LP on La Vida Es Un Mus with this two-track flexi. When I first heard about this release, the thing that caught my eye was that Ojo Por Ojo recorded these tracks with Steve Albini. Yeah, the guy who recorded fucking In Utero! It’s not unheard of for Albini to record DIY punk bands (I remember he did a Vitamin X record a few years ago), but it seems like an unexpected choice for Ojo Por Ojo. While their first LP wasn’t particularly raw in terms of fidelity, it was extremely raw in other senses. Like singer / guitarist Yecatl Peña’s previous band, Inservibles, a sense of desperation pervades Ojo Por Ojo’s music. It’s like the hardcore equivalent of a Goya painting: stark, gritty, and deeply emotional, with Peña’s tortured scream evoking similar feelings as Goya’s famous painting of Saturn devouring his son. The worry would be that a famous producer would somehow smooth out these rough edges, but Albini turns out to be a perfect choice because he doesn’t smooth out rough edges… he sharpens them. Rather than Goya’s blurred, painterly canvases, here Ojo Por Ojo renders the nightmare with the clinical clarity of a high-resolution digital photograph. I wish it were more than two songs, but on the other hand, something this intense might be best in small doses.
Lumpen: Desesperación 7” (Discos Enfermos) Desesperación is the debut EP from this Barcelona band featuring members who grew up in Colombia. The things you hear right away when you drop the needle on Desesperación are energy and power… it’s one of those records that pops out of your speakers, that make it difficult to sit still. It has a great sound (particularly the drums), and the band plays powerfully and authoritatively, the bouncy energy reminding me of Blazing Eye their associates. When you listen, though, you hear there’s a lot going on with Lumpen. The label’s description notes the band doesn’t want to recreate a particular style, and bits of Desesperación remind me of a lot of different things… the bouncy pogo parts remind me of Chaos UK, the often dissonant, chorus-tinged guitars are like Vittna’s, the noisiness makes me think of Geld, and the vocals are their own thing… forceful, but anthemic and snotty. Desesperación is a unique, powerful EP with great sound and beautiful packaging, and it’s a highlight amongst the strong batch of new Discos Enfermos releases.
Kagami: demo cassette (Society Bleeds Records) I’m fond of Japanese punk bands that draw inspiration from classic US hardcore. Milk took the US by storm last year, but back in 2007 Sorry State released a cool EP of early Dischord-influenced hardcore from Sapporo’s Bored to Death, and before that was Total Fury, whose 13 Songs LP might be the single best piece of “Dischord worship” ever recorded. If you’re a fan of the aforementioned (or other Dischord-inspired bands like Amde Petersen’s Arme), check out this demo from Tokyo’s Kagami. The style is dead on… fast, simple rhythms, guitars that spit out furious riffs with minimal distortion, and a singer from the “all I wanted was a Pepsi” School of Punk Rock Vocal Arts. I’ve loved music like this since I was a teenager, and I’ll probably be listening to it in a nursing home one day. Hardcore rules, OK?
Zouo: Agony憎悪Remains 12” (Relapse Records) Both Rich and Usman are writing about Zouo for their staff picks this week and I encourage you to read both, but I thought I’d also chime in with my take in case anyone misses the staff picks. Zouo was a seminal 80s Japanese hardcore band, often mentioned in the same breath as G.I.S.M. because of their raw, gritty sound and catchy, metallic guitar leads. Zouo’s 1984 7” EP The Final Agony is one of the most collectible records in the history of Japanese punk. If you like old Japanese punk, it’s a record you should be familiar with and have in your collection in some form (warning: you’d be lucky to pay less than $500 for an original pressing). The A-side of Agony憎悪Remains is a discography of Zouo’s studio recordings, including the aforementioned The Final Agony EP and Zouo’s contributions to the Hardcore Unlawful Assembly compilation LP (which is important because the track “Frustration” only appears there and is one Zouo’s best songs). The b-side contains a mix of live recordings from three different shows, focusing on songs that didn’t appear on the official studio recordings, and the digital version offers several additional tracks from each of the three gigs. I love Zouo, I bought a copy of this record for myself, and I am stoked there is a licensed domestic US release of this music. However, I have a lot of nit-picking to do. First, there is virtually no information on this release. Yeah, there are some (blurry) pictures of Japanese punks with cool haircuts, but it doesn’t say anywhere on the packaging where these tracks come from. The origins are pretty obvious for The Final Agony and Hardcore Unlawful Assembly tracks, but what about the live tracks? Is the 1984 set that appears here different than the one Crust War released in 2011 as the A Roar Agitating Violent Age album? I don’t think so, but I’m not positive. There’s also no info about Zouo or the scene from which they came, nor are there reproductions of Zouo’s (fucking awesome) original artwork. The layout is also covered in this fake Photoshop distressed texture, making it look like Integrity’s recent albums. None of these things are crimes against humanity or anything and they’re not even deal-breakers (like I said, I still bought a copy), but I think these choices obscure some of Zouo’s mystique, which is such a big part of their appeal. So, in summary, get this, but know there are levels beyond this that are even cooler.