Featured Releases - March 10 2022
Nabat: 1982 cassette (Foreign Legion Records) Foreign Legion Records presents a reissue of the 1982 demo by the Italian oi! band Nabat, originally released as a split cassette with Rip Off. Foreign Legion notes there were a lot of crummy bootlegs of this recording floating around (including crummy YouTube rips), so they released this edition of pro-printed cassettes with great sound so people could hear these tracks with all their original impact. I’ve seen a lot of Nabat merch around the punk scene over the past several years, so I think they’re not as obscure as they once were, but I’m sure many people aren’t familiar with this excellent band. While taking inspiration from the British oi! scene, Nabat had their own take on the sound, with stripped-down riffs and arrangements and a raw, biting sound that’s miles away from more polished and melodic oi! groups. I get the impression the members of Nabat used records like Blitz’s All Out Attack EP as a template for their sound, accentuating the gruffness and toughness. The recording’s raw guitar sound and punchy drums make Nabat sound a bit like S.O.A. or Negative Approach here, albeit with slower tempos. Not being in such a rush helps these songs pop, with the terrace-chant choruses planting themselves in your head after just a listen or two. While Nabat’s debut 7” (also released in 1982) is an Italian punk classic, I must admit I hadn’t given these earlier tracks their proper hearing, and I’m very pleased Foreign Legion Records has righted that wrong.
Cenobite: demo cassette (Foreign Legion Records) Foreign Legion Records brings us the very limited (50 copies!) demo cassette from this Chicago hardcore band. While Cenobite’s style is hardcore punk, I hear elements of different sounds bouncing around in their mix. The desperate-sounding vocals (with lyrics in Portuguese) make me think of early 80s Brazilian hardcore, and a song like “Ondas de Rádio Perdidas” switches back and forth between a straightforward hardcore sound and a bouncy mosh riff that sounds like it could have come from a late 80s crossover record. “Deixando a Terra,” on the other hand, has some cool chiming guitars ringing out over the hardcore barrage, reminding me of Indigesti’s sound on their first album, Osservati Dall’Inganno. This is some raw, original, and vital-sounding hardcore punk.
Smirk / Zhoop: split cassette (Loopy Scoop Tapes) Loopy Scoop Tapes brings us a well-matched split cassette featuring three songs each from these two punk rock solo projects. Smirk you’ll remember from their debut LP on Feel It Records and their recent EP on Total Punk / Iron Lung, both of which got a lot of play around Sorry State. Their three tracks aren’t as poppy as some of my favorite songs on the EP, showcasing the more punk rock side of the band. No complaints about that! While Smirk is a solo project (at least on their recordings), their songs have the dynamism of a full band, with a lot of interesting push and pull between the songs’ rhythms and the vocal and lead guitar melodies. It’s a cut above your typical egg punk-y solo project, and even these three raw tracks have that certain something special about them. As for Zhoop, we’ve carried a ton of this prolific band’s releases, but I haven’t dug into them yet… they have so many limited cassette releases I didn’t know where to start. Perhaps it’s because I’m hearing them next to Smirk’s more measured and composed songs, but Zhoop here sounds to me like a snotty, catchy hardcore band in the vein of Boogada Boogada Boogada-era Screeching Weasel, but filtered through the sound of contemporary post-Coneheads punk. Each of their three tracks gets faster and tougher-sounding than the previous one, with the opener “Fighting for Control” running at a similar clip to Smirk’s tracks, “I Don’t Care” getting angrier, and then “Breathe” erupting to a full-on hardcore sprint.
The Slickee Boys: Here to Stay 7” (Vinyl Conflict Records) The Slickee Boys were a band from Washington, DC that started in the mid-70s and continued until the late 80s. They first came on my radar around twenty-five years ago when I was reading everything I could get my hands on about the early 80s DC hardcore scene. That well-documented scene always gave the Slickee Boys props, noting that they were an early punky band on the scene and that guitarist Kim Kane was interested in and supportive of the younger hardcore bands. Growing up in Virginia, I’d see Slickee Boys records in the used bins from time to time and I’d always pick them up, but they never grabbed me when I was young and spinning out on hormones. They may have been an important predecessor of the original harDCore scene, but the Slickee Boys always struck me as a 60s revival band that was allied with the punk scene more than a proper punk band themselves. That said, I plucked their 1983 album Cybernetic Dreams of Pi out of Sorry State’s used bin a few months ago and it’s gotten many spins, my ear being a little more open than it was when I first encountered the Slickee Boys. I never came across the original pressing of their 1981 single Here to Stay, reissued here by Vinyl Conflict Records, and if I had, it might have been the record to push me into full-blown fandom. The a-side is a total punk scorcher, with the energy, drive, and hooks of classic UK punk. While it’s still built on a 60s garage foundation of lead guitar and vocal hooks, the Slickee Boys play the song with the speed and power of the Buzzcocks, and the track stands up next to any 77-era UK a-side you can throw at it. The b-side is similarly upbeat and built around an excellent lead guitar hook, making this single an essential 2-sider. Here to Stay may be an anomaly in the Slickee Boys’ catalog, but anyone with a taste for poppy ’77 punk should be glad to add these two bangers to their collection.
SSRI: Nice Life 7” (Filthkick Records) Sydney, Australia’s SSRI brings us this limited 5-song cult banger. Like a lot of bands from Australia, I hear a lot of 90s Cleveland in SSRI’s sound, particularly the desperate and nihilistic sounds of the H100s. Like the H100s, SSRI can sound unhinged, the soundtrack to a complete abandonment of control, but there are other elements to their sound too. Most prominent is a United Mutation-esque psychedelic guitar style that peeks around the edges of the first four faster songs, then comes to the fore for the title track, the extended, warped, No Trend-esque dirge that closes the record. Rather than the band’s style, though, the first thing you’ll notice when you drop the need on Nice Life is the crazy vocal sound. It sounds like the singer is overloading the mic, to where it almost drowns out the other instruments. That idiosyncratic production choice gives Nice Life a cult feel, scaring away the poseurs and serving as a clarion call to the true heads who like their hardcore fucked up and dirty. Said true heads should note Nice Life is pressed in a minuscule edition of 150 copies, which appears to be sold out pretty much everywhere else.
Sekaannus: Kutsu 12” (Finnish Hardcore Records) Usman wrote about this reissue from Finland’s Sekaannus in his staff pick a while back, so refer to that for the perspective of the true scholar of Finnish hardcore. I’ll try to give you the “light” version here. Sekaannus is perhaps best known in Finnish hardcore collector circles for their 1984 split 7” with Massacre. On that record, Sekaannus is right in line with the classic early 80s Finnish hardcore bands you know and love, vicious Discharge-inspired hardcore that, while sloppier than some of their peers, has all the feral power that you want from that sound. By the time Sekaannus recorded their first stand-alone record, 1985’s Kutsu 7”, they had gotten much tighter and had discovered anarcho punk, which (according to the liner notes for this reissue) changed the band’s sound. The tempos on Kutsu aren’t as maniacal as the earlier split tracks, but what Sekaannus loses in speed they make up for with the newfound complexity in their arrangements, stronger playing, and the clear and powerful recording. As with a lot of UK anarcho bands, I suspect Killing Joke had a big influence on this era of Sekaannus, and if you like KJ-influenced UK anarcho like early era Amebix, this will be right up your alley. Still, Sekaannus still sounds distinctly Finnish, their mid-paced tracks sounding less like a copy of UK anarcho bands and more like the mid-paced tracks that punctuated LPs by fast Finnish hardcore bands like Kaaos and Riistetyt. As for this reissue, it expands the original 7”s three tracks to six, restoring three songs that were recorded at the same session but cut do to length restrictions. These extras show no dip in quality from the tracks that made the 7” and one of them, “Huuto” is a fast, Discharge-influenced song more like their earlier split tracks. This edition includes a big insert booklet featuring liner notes, lyrics, vintage zine interviews, and other ephemera. A top-notch reissue of this obscure but worthwhile gem.