Featured Releases: April 27, 2023
3D & the Holograms: S/T 12” (Roach Leg Records) This debut 12” from 3D & the Holograms is a real meeting of worlds. The band is a trans-Pacific lockdown project borne of emailing riffs and beats back and forth, its membership features egg punk royalty (members of Research Reactor Corp and Tee Vee Repairman), it’s on Roach Leg Records, and it got a review in Pitchfork. Wild! It’s not wrong to say 3D & the Holograms represents a melding of Roach Leg’s shit-fi aesthetic with egg punk (which is lo-fi in its own right), but 3D & the Holograms is so much more than two things smashed together. For a short record, it covers a lot of ground and the songs do a lot of different things. Some songs are purely harsh and abrasive, but 3D & the Holograms doesn’t shy away from melody, particularly for catchy guitar leads. Some of these melodies are even pretty; my favorite track is the instrumental “3D Theme,” which reminds me of “Talk to Me Summer,” the instrumental track on Screeching Weasel’s Anthem for a New Tomorrow. At the same time, though, I get the impression that 3D & the Holograms appreciates the wild and raw sounds of early Italian hardcore bands like Wretched, Indigesti, and Negazione. For me, their music is at its strongest when those two sides of the band push against each other, like on the aforementioned “3D Theme” and the similarly melodic “MS-DOS.” For Sorry State / North Carolina punk heads, 3D & the Holograms also reminds me of Menthol, the pre-Public Acid and Mutant Strain group whose Plastic Garden cassette we put out back in 2015. I’m not sure how many people share my taste for both melodic punk and nasty, abrasive hardcore, but if you do, I think you’ll agree this is a special record.
The Vacant Lot: Living Underground 7” (Iron Lung Records) Iron Lung reissues this obscure 1981 single by the Vacant Lot, who were from the Australian capital city of Canberra. The date and location might be misleading, though, because to me this sounds like it could have come from the UK circa 1978, just as the original post-punk bands splintered off from the first wave of punk. As with the early recordings by Wire and Joy Division, the Vacant Lot seems to sense two paths leading away from punk’s inspiration: one leading toward an even more stripped-down, aggressive sound and another moving in a direction that’s more complex and eclectic. The two tracks that bookend Living Underground are in the former vein, reminding me of tracks like Joy Division’s “Warsaw” and Wire’s “12XU,” ramping up punk’s energy not so much because they’re more pissed off, but as an exercise in minimalism. On the other two tracks I can hear some of the reggae and funk influences that ultimately shaped the post-punk scene, particularly on the very Public Image Ltd-esque “She’s Really Dead.” “Multinationals” is the strongest track, though, a more aggressive song that recalls the Murder Punk classics, but with a squelch of synth for the weirdos. It’s very cool that Iron Lung Records rescued this one from obscurity.
SLOI: S/T 12” (Iron Lung Records) Iron Lung Records brings us this hardcore banger from Trento in northern Italy. That’s the same part of the country as Sorry State’s own Golpe, and I hear some musical similarities between the two bands. Specifically, SLOI shares Golpe’s predilection for playing d-beat hardcore that hovers between mid-paced and three-quarters paced, never too brisk with the tempos but crushingly heavy when the BPMs drop. Also like Golpe, SLOI’s riffs are rock solid, not dazzling you with too many notes, but marching forward with the steady power of a massive army of foot soldiers. SLOI takes their name from a lead factory that poisoned its surrounding area in the Italian alps for four decades, and the name seems appropriate since there’s a palpable sense of desperation in SLOI’s music; in contrast to hardcore that sounds defiant or just plain pissed, SLOI’s music sounds pained, wounded even. That comes out in the hoarse vocals and the haunting, dissonant guitar leads that pop up throughout the record. With only seven tracks, this 45rpm 12” is over before you know it, but it’s lean and mean as hell.
Paprika: Smoked cassette (Chaos and Chill) Paprika’s first cassette came out on Iron Lung, but this new tape is the first release on a new label called Chaos and Chill, released for Paprika’s recent tour. I was a big fan of Paprika’s first tape, and Smoked rips too. While Paprika sounds like a hardcore band of the 2020s, the elements of their sound come together in a way that doesn’t sound like anyone else. Their riffs are nimble and catchy, but the guitar tone is a biting and mid-range-y, more like a death metal tone than a typical hardcore punk sound. The vocalist has a snotty bark that commands the room, but I think Paprika’s secret weapon is how they arrange their songs. They’re full of catchy stops and starts and dynamic accents that keep the energy level sky-high. After three originals, they finish up with a cover of the Buzzcocks’ “You Tear Me Up,” known to nerds the world over as the first d-beat song. Excellent stuff.