Featured Releases - December 9 2021
Desenterradas: Danzando En El Caos 12” (Symphony of Destruction Records) Danzando En El Caos is the first vinyl from this Mallorcan group who released a well-regarded demo back in 2015. If you’re a fan of Madrid’s Rata Negra, Desenterradas will make you think of them immediately, since their singer’s voice has a similar tone and the band plays a similar style of brooding, melodic post-punk. Desenterradas sounds more post-punk than pop, though, with the vocals relying more on rhythmic staccato patterns rather than soaring melodies and the haunting keyboard melodies adding subtle textures to the punkier guitar riffs. With ten tracks averaging around 3 minutes each, Danzando En El Caos offers a lot of bang for your buck, but it might take a few listens to digest since most of the songs are in similar keys and tempos… it’s crazy that a 30-minute LP feels long in this day and age! The more music the merrier, though, especially if you’re a fan of these dark and catchy sounds.
Laughing Gear: Freak Lemons 12" (Heavy Machinery Records) Freak Lemons is the first vinyl release from this Australian synth-punk band. I’ve seen the term “synth-punk” used to describe a wide array of sounds, but Laughing Gear’s take is minimal, danceable, and dripping with venom. It’s in the same universe as late 70s / early 80s bands like the Screamers, Nervous Gender, the Normal, or maybe even Suicide, but just as all of those bands sound different from one another (despite being mean-sounding bands that rely heavily on synthesizers), Laughing Gear doesn’t sound like any of them or anyone else I’ve heard. While “mean” and “hard” are the adjectives I’d reach for first, you can hear subtle hooks lurking in the background, giving the music more staying power than your average collection of knob twiddlers. Songs like “Possession” and “Flake” have a kernel of pop somewhere at their center, barely discernible in the final product except from the fact that you can hum the songs to yourself after a couple of listens. Other tracks like “Fillet Station” lean more toward dance music, sounding like a misanthropic and negative version of New Order, and “Tread Count” ends the record on a spacious abstract note a la Nurse With Wound. I thought Freak Lemons sounded original and exciting on the first listen, but every subsequent spin reveals more richness and subtlety.
Sperma: S/T 12” (Static Age Musik) Originally released in 1979, German label Static Age Musik has faithfully reissued the self-titled 12” EP by Swiss punk band Sperma. Over the course of their brief existence, Sperma released a handful of singles before disbanding in 1980. This eponymous 12” EP features 3 tracks of jangly guitar-laden, melodic punk tunes informed by the UK punk from that era. From a musical standpoint, Sperma doesn’t sound too far off from a primitive version of Stiff Little Fingers. A song like “Radio” is more akin to the syrupy pop stylings of bands like Protex. My familiarity with the Swiss language limits my understanding, but the band’s lyrics appear to be a confrontational commentary on a bleak, grey period. I’m no expert on the state of living in late-70s Switzerland, but my brief research in attempting to translate the lyrics led me to envision the conjuring of a generation’s bitter perspective. The one song sung in English, “No More Love,” dismisses any relevance of the notion of “peace and love” from the lingering hippie generation. Lyrics in the other songs show contempt for the cultural assortment provided by mainstream radio or propose to eradicate the police state. The blending of all these elements makes for a charming snapshot of a young band who were perhaps underdeveloped as players, but were swept up by the energy and power of the burgeoning punk movement. The packaging on this Static Age reissue includes a 20-page booklet, which provides plenty of insight into the band’s history as well as many unseen photos and flyers.
The Electronic Circus: Direct Lines 7” (Iron Lung Records) As I wrote in my staff pick a few weeks ago, I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to the Bandsplain podcast. Host Yasi Salek does this thing when she plays a song she likes where, just after it ends, you hear her voice come in and she says something like “what a motherfucking god damn gorgeous song.” That’s how I feel about the a-side of this single. “Direct Lines” is a great new wave song with a strong, danceable electronic beat and an anthemic (yet slightly melancholic) chorus you can’t help but sing along with. The Electronic Circus was a project helmed by Chris Payne, who played synths on Gary Numan’s The Pleasure Principle and co-wrote the Visage track “Fade to Grey” (talk about a pedigree!), and while the Electronic Circus was meant to be his solo vehicle, they only released this lone single. While the b-side doesn’t do much for me (a pretty but insubstantial-sounding instrumental), the a-side is a full-on New Romantic banger. Much like the excellent Dorothy single just reissued on Sealed Records, I’m psyched to have this one-off pop nugget reissued in its original format as the lord intended.
Alien Nosejob: Paint It Clear 12” (Feel It Records) For his last several records under the Alien Nosejob moniker, Jake Roberts has been exploring his hardcore influences, which resulted in the three excellent records on Iron Lung. For this latest record, his first for Feel It, Roberts is back to a more familiar sound, though not without some new wrinkles. This time Mikey Young serves as producer, and while I’m not sure how much of the credit is due to him, Paint it Clear feels like a subtler, more varied and accomplished Alien Nosejob record. There’s still plenty of the poppy punk with bright synth melodies that fans of the band love on tracks like the opener “Artistic Vision” and “Jetlagging,” but other tracks feel like new territory. “Leather Gunn” is my favorite track with its memorable power pop guitar hook (which reminds me of something the Boys or Exploding Hearts might have done), but there’s also the disco-infused “Duplicated Satan,” the Stranglers-esque piano ballad (!!!) “The Butcher,” and the swirling, almost psychedelic “Phone Alone.” Rather than just a collection of belters, Paint It Clear feels like it has space to breathe, each song having its own distinct identity. It even has a strong finish, with the epic-sounding “Bite My Tongue.” This subtler, more ambitious version of Alien Nosejob feels like a perfect fit for Feel It Records, and fans of both the band and label will be pleased with Paint It Clear.
Socio La Defekta: Kreski 7” (Beach Impediment Records) Beach Impediment Records presents the debut record from this new Japanese hardcore band. Socio La Defekta features members of Malimpliki and Unarm, and their sound, while classifiable as crusty hardcore, is difficult to pigeonhole. Part of this is because Socio La Defekta are adept players, able to modulate between Framtid-style bashing, noisier interludes that might remind you of Confuse, and bigger, more metallic riffs (like “Maigranda Kago”) within the space of a single short, action-packed song. The highlight of Socio La Defekta’s sound, though, are the dual lead vocals. Both vocalists are strong in their own right, but the way they alternate and double one another’s lines adds an extra layer of dynamism to these six tracks. With 6 tracks on a 33rpm 7”, Kreski feels weightier than your average hardcore EP, yet it packs a dizzying amount of twists and turns into its 10 minute runtime.