Featured Releases: January 19, 2023
Total Armsvett: Anarki A Frihet 12" (Import) This Fan Club LP collects 20 tracks from the 80s Swedish hardcore band Total Armsvett. After releasing the handful of cassettes compiled here, Total Armsvett changed their name to Disarm and released two of the best, most punishing Swedish hardcore punk records ever… records that stand toe to toe with other classics from their time and place like Anti-Cimex, Crude SS, Mob 47, and Shitlickers. While you can hear some development over the course of Anarki A Frihet’s 20 tracks, it’s also clear that Total Armsvett knew what they wanted to do from the start: play raw, feral, Discharge-influenced hardcore with maximum noise, intensity, and brutality. By the end of this collection (which, if I understand the liner notes correctly, are songs recorded after they changed their name to Disarm, but were written during the Total Armsvett phase of the band) the production is more dialed-in and the playing a hair more adept, but the focus on pummeling hardcore never shifts. No funk, no death, etc. While this Fan Club collection doesn’t feature the extensive packaging we expect from legit reissues, the sound is excellent and the record just steamrolls you from start to finish.
Various: This Is Copenhagen 12" (Elektriske Plader) This is Copenhagen is the second compilation of contemporary(-ish) Danish punk we’ve had in the past couple of weeks, though this one presents a very different view of the scene than the recent Öresund HC Omnibus LP on Adult Crash Records (though there is a little overlap). According to the excellent, informative liner notes inside This Is Copenhagen’s gatefold sleeve, this LP documents the era of Copenhagen punk between the well-known “K-Town” scene with bands like Amdi Petersens Armé, No Hope for the Kids, and Gorilla Angreb, and the contemporary Copenhagen scene. This Is Copenhagen encompasses the years just after when the original location of Ungdomshuset—which was the hub for the K-Town scene—was demolished by the city of Copenhagen in 2007. While these may have seemed like wilderness years to outsiders, This Is Copenhagen shows there was still plenty happening, particularly if your interests were broader than the stripped-down punk the K-Town bands played. Of course there’s plenty of that on This Is Copenhagen, with Junta, Death Token, The War Goes On, and Night Fever carrying over sounds and personnel from the earlier era, but This Is Copenhagen also showcases the more melodic punk of Big Mess and the more post-punk-oriented sounds of Chainsaw Eater, Kold Front, and Melting Walkmen, among others. The music is strong throughout and the extensive liner notes bring it all together, providing a detailed snapshot of this fertile period of Copenhagen punk history.
Smirk: Material 12” (Feel It Records) Material is the much-anticipated second album from Los Angeles’s Smirk, whose earlier LP and 12” EP turned a lot of heads, both at Sorry State and in the wider punk scene. Smirk feels like a project with a lot of energy behind it, and Material maintains the excitement level by moving forward without abandoning what everyone liked about the earlier releases. There are still some egg punk trappings like the warbly, lo-fi tones and the frequent and dramatic use of out-there synth sounds, but it feels like Material moves the emphasis from the sounds to the songs themselves, which are very strong. Material also avoids the jittery, hyperactive feel of so many egg punk-type bands, cruising along to slacker rhythms that wouldn’t be out place on one of Pavement’s first two albums. Just check out the lead single “Souvenir” if you haven’t already. Its shimmering lead guitar line is one of Material’s high points, and the lyrics and vocals reach for a Parquet Courts style of intellectual ennui. Taking the sounds of the deep underground and applying them to a pop context is an age-old trick, but it’s one that works if you have the chops, and Smirk can pen a catchy, well-structured tune.
Ženevski Dekret: Protest 1986-1988 cassette (Aftermath Tapes) Protest 1986-1988 compiles two cassette-only releases from this 80s Yugoslavian band. Besides releasing these two cassettes, they appeared on a handful of compilations and gigged with all the well-known Yugoslavian punk bands of the day. Judging by the sound and the info on the j-card, the two cassettes capture two different eras of the band. The first side of the tape, their 1986 release, pulls from across the punk spectrum, from anthemic Pistols-influenced rock songs to UK82-style hardcore to post-punk influenced sounds a la Killing Joke or Bauhaus. The label’s description compares it to UK anarcho, and Ženevski Dekret’s eclectic songs and raw sound on that recording bears a resemblance to a lot of those bands. As for the 1988 release on the b-side, only the bass player remains from the 1986 tape’s lineup and the music is more metal, with a discernible Metallica influence (they even cover “Master of Puppets”). They also cover “Chinese Rocks,” though, and there’s a raw punk energy to the recording that you’ll love if you’re a sucker for raw 80s metal demos from the tape trading circuit. And while you can hear the western influences on Ženevski Dekret’s music, their language and the musical traditions they undoubtedly absorbed in their pre-punk days gives the music a unique character. This is a very cool artifact for 80s European punk deep heads.
Trash Knife: Hungover 7” flexi (FDH Records) Hungover is the latest 2-song flexi from this Philadelphia band whose praises I’ve been singing in the Sorry State newsletter for many years. Longtime readers will know I’m a sucker for bands who combine hardcore energy and grit with melodic vocal and instrumental hooks, and Trash Knife has the proportions of this delicate recipe down pat. The trick is to keep things from getting too slick and pop-punky, but this isn’t a problem for Trash Knife’s vocalist Lauren, whose gravelly, raspy voice and nihilistic lyrics keep Trash Knife lodged firmly in the gutter, just where I like it. The chorus hook to “DTF”—“down to fuck… fuck shit up”—says it all… Trash Knife is as clever as they are confrontational, and I’m stoked to have another earful on this flexi.
Blatant Dissent: 1985-1986 12” (Alonas Dream Records) I remember picking up Blatant Dissent’s 1985 7” Is There a Fear in the late 90s or early 00s—back when you could still find cheap 80s punk 7”s to take chances on—and I always thought it was an enjoyable slab of melodic, Chicago-style punk/hardcore. Now, Alonas Dream gives us 1985-1986, which fills out the band’s story with all the tracks from Is There a Fear plus additional ones from the same session and another session recorded a year later. If you enjoyed the Sluggo reissue we wrote about a few weeks ago, Blatant Dissent will be up your alley too. They sound like a mid-80s hardcore punk band, specifically the ones who chose not to go metal, but to channel their growing musical sophistication into crafting hooky, energetic, and memorable songs. The first session compiled here, from which Blatant Dissent culled Is There a Fear’s four tracks, reminds me a lot of DC’s Marginal Man (as well as the second side of the aforementioned Sluggo record), and if you dig that style of post-Minor Threat / 7 Seconds style melodic hardcore, it’s hard to imagine you won’t like them. You can still hear that DC influence on the 1986 session captured here, with Blatant Dissent’s sound expanding to incorporate elements that wouldn’t be out of place on a Scream or Beefeater record. While I’ve just dropped a lot of DC comparisons, Blatant Dissent also wears their Chicago influences on their sleeve (they were from the college town of Dekalb, Illinois), particularly in the soaring, whoa-oh lead vocals, which are straight out of the Naked Raygun playbook (Naked Raygun’s Jeff Pezaati even produced the 1985 studio session). As those artier influences continued to color Blatant Dissent’s music, they changed their name to Tar and released a bunch of influential noise rock records on Amphetamine Reptile and Touch and Go. 1985-1986 also features the liner notes, photos, flyers, and other contextual info that helps to deepen your understanding and appreciation of the music, so if you’re an 80s punk nerd, you know what to do.