Featured Releases: March 30, 2023
Rudimentary Peni: Cacaphony 12” (Sealed Records) Sealed Records’ Rudimentary Peni reissue series continues with the band’s second full-length, Cacaphony. Released in 1988, five years after their previous record, Death Church, Cacaphony finds Rudimentary Peni still sounding very much like themselves while expanding their sound considerably. I’m sure there are plenty of punks who don’t go any further with Peni than Death Church, which I understand. Rudimentary Peni’s earlier records are indisputably punk, while Cacaphony is still grounded in punk, but ultimately something more than, or least different from, punk. I’ve always found it rather inscrutable. In fact, I got rid of the first copy I owned years ago, convinced it was just too weird for me… I no longer feel that way at all, so I’m very glad to have it back in my collection. I still find Cacaphony strange and inscrutable, but my attitude toward the strange and inscrutable has changed… whereas I used to feel like I had to figure out a record in order to love it, now I feel like I can only love a record if I can’t quite get my head around it… it has to have some kind of tension to the listening experience, something for me to wrestle with. And lord knows Cacaphony has plenty to wrestle with. Ostensibly inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s writing, I’ve never found that a helpful lens through which to view Cacaphony. While it’s easy to see how Lovecraft would have appealed to Nick Blinko, Lovecraft’s work is hardly a key that unlocks Cacaphony’s mysteries… it’s too bathed in the band’s idiosyncrasies for that. Rather than trying to dissect those idiosyncrasies, I tend to just let Cacaphony wash over me, enjoying the ride as Rudimentary Peni travels through a kaleidoscopic litany of vocal personae and deep catalog of creepy rhythms. I once heard someone refer to Cacaphony as the Trout Mask Replica of punk, and that reference captures how the record is ambitious, yet fragmented. However, Cacaphony, unlike Trout Mask Replica, isn’t a difficult listen… overwhelming, perhaps, but not unpleasant. The album’s conceit is rich and fascinating, and the band is in incredible form, with bassist Grant Brand still their secret weapon. Cacaphony is a record that demands a lot of the listener, so if you just want to thrash, then maybe it won’t be for you. However, it offers a lifetime worth of rewards for those who wade into its depths.
Alternative: If They Treat You Like Shit - Act Like Manure 12” (Sealed Records) Sealed Records reissues another 80s UK anarcho gem, this time the 1984 album from Scottish punks Alternative, originally released on the Crass Records sub-label Corpus Christi. I was familiar with Alternative’s In Nomine Patri single on Crass Records, but I’d never heard If They Treat You Like Shit until this reissue, so I didn’t know what to expect. On one hand, If They Treat You Like Shit is a pretty on-the-nose anarcho / peace punk album, but even so it’s quite diverse, taking in the stylistic breadth of that movement, from Crass / Flux-style ranting and chanting, to more adventurous post-punky tracks, to more melodic songs that remind me of Zounds. Of these, it’s the hookier numbers that stand out on the first couple of listens, particularly “Now I Realize,” but I’m glad it’s all here… Alternative is excellent at all these styles, and the album’s powerful recording helps everything to land with the impact you want. If They Treat You Like Shit is long and dense, so it might take a couple listens before it gets its hooks in, but the wealth of material, none of which feels redundant or extraneous, will keep it on your turntable for a good long while. I imagine this record’s rarity (I can’t recall ever seeing a copy of the original pressing) has kept its profile low until now, but thanks to Sealed Records this gem can get the attention it deserves.
Dolly Mixture: Remember This: The Singles Collection 1980-1984 12” (Sealed Records) Remember This is the third vinyl reissue from the Dolly Mixture we’ve had in the past several years, following the reissue of their legendary Demonstration Tapes collection and Other Music, the compilation of outtakes and unreleased tracks Sealed Records released in 2019. Remember This collects Dolly Mixture’s singles, which showcase a different side of the band than the other two collections. What we hear here is the pop version of the Dolly Mixture… Dominic observed that they seem indebted to Brill Building pop on these tracks, and I also hear a retro sensibility that reminds me of the acts on Stiff Records around this same time. While there are a couple of punkier tracks like the highlight “Ernie Ball,” I find it interesting that these were the tracks Dolly Mixture presented to the public when songs like “He’s So Frisky” and “How Come You’re Such A Hit With The Boys, Jane?” remained on the cutting room floor. Monday morning quarterbacking aside, there are some great tunes here, like the aforementioned “Ernie Ball,” the effervescent “Everything and More,” and the instrumental medley that closes the album, on which the band rearranges melodies from their songs for piano and cello. It’s an essential piece of the Dolly Mixture puzzle, and I for one am happy to have all three recent reissues on my shelf.
Rixe: Act IV 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) This three-song 7” is a retitled and repackaged version of a promo cassette Rixe released back in 2018, and while I’d love to hear some new material, I’m sure there are plenty of fans who are glad to have these songs on vinyl. I can’t imagine anyone who is reading this doesn’t know about Rixe… they burst onto the scene in 2015 with their first EP, Coups et Blessures, with a batch of songs that sounded so perfect and timeless that you’d almost wonder if they were covers of classics you missed the first time around. Turns out that, nope, the band is just that good, as their subsequent releases proved. Act IV features three more of their patented anthems, and for me the first track, “La Clé,” is the gem. It’s built around a typically meaty riff, but there’s this slow-moving phaser effect on the guitar that just makes the song. Often an effect like that can appear gimmicky, but Rixe deploys it perfectly here. They’re a band that has yet to make a wrong move, and every one of their records is worth your time, Act IV very much included.
Ultra Razzia: Jusqu’au Bout de la Nuit 12” (Warthog Speak Records) Jusqu’au Bout de la Nuit is the second album by this Francophone oi! group from Montreal. I liked Ultra Razzia’s first album, but Jusqu’au Bout de la Nuit strikes me as a lot more refined. While it’s bookended by two hardcore-ish tracks, most of the record is quite polished as far as oi! music goes, with careful production, complex (but still stylistically on the money) songwriting, and powerful performances from all the players. It reminds me of Syndrome 81 recent LP, Prisons Imaginaires, that so many people have been loving… oi! music with a somber tone and a higher degree of sophistication that one expects from the skinhead set. The last Criminal Damage album, Call of Death, and the earlier, punkier Leatherface records are two more good points of comparison. I also have to mention the over the top packaging on Jusqu’au Bout de la Nuit. It comes housed in a gatefold sleeve whose inside and outside (as well as the two-sided poster insert and center labels) are all illustrated by the same artist, Claudio Elias Scialabba. The drawings are insanely detailed… a bunch of the SSR crew spent like fifteen minutes the other day standing in a circle around a copy and pointing out all the crazy things we noticed. With a criminally small vinyl pressing of only 270 copies, I’d suggest grabbing this one quick if you’re interested.
Eteraz: Destined to Kill 7” flexi (Iron Lung Records) Just a few months after their debut 12” on Iron Lung, Olympia’s Eteraz is back with a follow-up two-song flexi. As on the 12”, they remind me of the punkier end of 80s crossover, particularly bands like Final Conflict and Christ on Parade. The sound is rooted in Hear Nothing-era Discharge, but tightened up with the demanding musical chops of the most blistering early thrash metal. The second track, “No One’s There,” sounds even more metal than usual thanks to some shredding lead guitar, which is of a piece with recent bands like Tower 7 and Salvaje Punk who draw as much inspiration from cult 80s metal as they do underground punk. Also like their previous record, Eteraz’s Persian-language vocals give them a unique sound thanks to that language’s distinctive phonemes and rhythms. If you enjoyed the 12”, you’ll want this too, and if you haven’t checked out Eteraz yet, these two tracks are a fine place to start.