Featured Releases: May 13 2021
Spike in Vain: Death Drives a Cadillac 12” (Scat Records) Death Drives a Cadillac is the second Spike in Vain album that I never knew existed until I heard about this release on Scat Records. I guess I can forgive myself, because I can’t find any evidence that the recording had been released in any capacity until now. This description is going to assume that you’re already familiar with Spike in Vain’s one proper album, Disease Is Relative, so if you don’t know about that already, read about that album first. Or better yet, just buy it because it is one of the great unheralded punk LPs of the 80s. As someone who has long treasured my copy of Disease Is Relative, I didn’t know what to expect from Death Drives a Cadillac, but I dove in head-first and was rewarded with a great follow-up. Most of the things I love about Spike in Vain are present on Death Drives a Cadillac: the surreal lyrics, knotty rhythms, inventive guitar playing, sinister vibe, great artwork, and—most importantly—the band’s talent for bringing punk energy to a sound that is more or less art rock. I know nothing about the people who comprised Spike in Vain or what they were listening to but my impression is that—like Saccharine Trust, the Meat Puppets, or United Mutation—Spike in Vain was a bunch of arty weirdos who were drawn to hardcore because it was a freak scene. However, by 1984 and 1985, when Spike in Vain recorded Death Drives a Cadillac, the artier end of hardcore had splintered off, the meathead element pushing them toward genres like post-punk and roots music that offered more room for innovation and experimentation. Thus, Death Drives a Cadillac reminds me less of hardcore records and more of bands like the Gun Club, (2nd album and beyond) Meat Puppets, and the Birthday Party, all of whom seemed to value hardcore’s intensity but despised its strict norms. While some of that “post-hardcore” music could sound wimpy or commercial, this is not the case with Death Drives a Cadillac. This is still underground weirdo music, but it’s underground weirdo music with a wider palette and a sense of curiosity about what other emotions and ideas are out there. There isn’t a dud on Death Drives a Cadillac, which is surprising given that it’s a relatively lengthy LP (13 tracks!) and hadn’t been circulated until now. The sound is also great. Scat’s description mentions that these recordings had a bigger budget than Disease Is Relative, but I don’t hear any dodgy 80s production choices. If you already have and love Disease Is Relative, I’m can confirm that Death Drives a Cadillac is well worth your time and attention.
Disattack: A Bomb Drops 12” (Demo Tapes) Disattack was a short-lived band from Merseyside, England, and their claims to fame are that they featured a 15-year-old Bill Steer before he was in Napalm Death or Carcass and that they ripped off Discharge earlier than most people thought of doing it. That’s the short version, but as this package from Demo Tapes Records proves, there’s so much more to the story. If you’re concerned about the music, it’s cool, but it’s not the total Discharge worship you might expect. While you can hear hints of the Scandinavian style that had emerged by the time they recorded this tape (which they were aware of… one of Disattack’s members ran the label that released Anti-Cimex’s Criminal Trap 12”), most of the songs here do a lot more than just rearrange Discharge parts into new patterns. If you’re into obscure British and European crust from the early to mid-80s, though, you’ll get plenty of spins out of this 1-sided 12”. However, what I enjoyed most about A Bomb Drops was the thick booklet, which told the band’s story through a mix of archival documents and interviews with Negative Insight fanzine from 2015. Disattack started as a joke in a fanzine—the 80s punk equivalent of a meme—then morphed into a functioning band and fell apart after a few months. However, it’s the details—including encounters with future metal superstars and international d-beat legends—that make the story interesting. I can think of very few packages that tell a band’s story more eloquently than this one. This is only for the real punk nerds, but if you’re one of those people, you’re gonna love it.
Execütors: The New Decline 7” (Mister Face Records) New Jersey oi! band the Execütors has been around for several years now, putting out releases on a variety of labels (in fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen their All Against All LP in the bins at Sorry State), but this is the first time I’ve given them a close listen. I threw in copies of The New Decline when I was ordering copies of the Violent Way 7” from Mister Face Records. I think it might have been out for a minute, but it’s new to me and it fucking rips! Neo-oi! and UK82 punk have been a big thing in Sorry State’s distro for the past several years with bands like Rixe and Condor getting a lot of attention, but Execütors’ sound is less retro than most of the bands we’ve heaped praise on over the past few years. The cleaner, fuller sound works for them, though, because they are more complex and dynamic than most music I hear in this vein. Execütors remind me a lot of the two singles by the great UK82 / oi! band the Blood. As with the Blood’s tracks like “Stark Raving Normal” and “Megalomania,” Execütors bring an energy level, complexity, and dynamism to their music that reminds me of the Damned circa Machine Gun Etiquette. In other words, rather than recreating the surface trappings of a style, they put their energy toward writing great pop songs and delivering them with maximum speed and intensity. If you’re looking for an under the radar ripper, check this one out.
Artistic Decline: 4 Song 7” 7” (Meat House) Meat House has been killing it with the SoCal punk reissues. Rather than the lavish retrospective packaging of labels like Radio Raheem, Meat House does straight reissues that have great sound and packaging that is very true to the original release, and that pattern holds for this reissue from Artistic Decline. Artistic Decline is one of those bands I was vaguely familiar with; I’ve seen their Random Violence 12” a few time and they have a track on the 1983 compilation Life Is Boring So Why Not Steal This Record, but I don’t recall listening to them much, if at all. I’m glad to hear them now, though, because this 4 song EP is killer. While the original date on the EP is 1983, this sounds more like something that would have come from the Masque era of LA punk. The guitar sound is a little thinner and the music seems oblivious to hardcore’s then-calcifying genre conventions. They remind me of the bands on Keats Rides a Harley or Cracks in the Sidewalk, and like this week’s Record of the Week by Cleveland’s Spike in Vain, it seems to capture a time when hardcore had an artier, more expressive side. “Andy Warhol” is the hit here with its chanting, Rhino 39-esque chorus, but you won’t be skipping any of the four tracks. If you’re a fan of late 70s / early 80s SoCal punk and you’re not in the market for a $100 original, this is a great pickup.
Blood Ties: S/T 7” (Slow Death Records) We carried a demo tape from Canada’s Blood Ties a while back, and now they’re back with their debut 10-song EP. If I had to sum up Blood Ties’ sound, I’d say they sound like music made by and for people who consider the Negative Approach EP the purest and greatest expression of hardcore. It’s not that Blood Ties is imitating Negative Approach (in fact, I occasionally get a whiff of something that reminds me more of United Blood or Siege), but rather they are summoning the same muse. It’s hardcore stripped down to its bare essentials, that takes loud, fast, and pissed to its undiluted Platonic ideal, with only the bare skeleton of English oi! to give it the faint outline of musical shape. If you share this philosophy on hardcore—I do, even if there’s plenty of room in my listening diet for other things—I can’t imagine you wouldn’t think this rips… it’s raw, pissed, fast, and perfectly executed in every way. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but sometimes what you need is good old fashioned meat and potatoes.
Go Lamborghini Go: Low 12” (Mangel Records) I’m not sure how many people have caught onto them in the US, but for my money, Germany’s Mangel Records is poised to become the hot new label. Their latest release is this debut 12” from Germany’s Go Lamborghini Go, and like the Ostseetraum 12” Mangel Put out a couple of months ago (which I’m still listening to regularly), I can’t get enough of Go Lamborghini Go. Part of this record’s charm is that I can’t figure it out. The label’s description notes that Go Lamborghini Go formed as a last-minute substitute for another band and that all of their music is improvised (except the vocals, which are overdubbed later). These circumstances and choices seem to color the music on Low. First, it’s difficult to pin down stylistically. While there is a Gang of Four-ish quality to the songs that have a bass groove at the center, “Truce” sounds like shoegaze to me, and the a-side closer “Cheap” is a short skronk-fest that reminds me of Can’s least accessible moments. Not only is listening to this record exciting because you never know what’s going to happen next, it also makes me realize how controlled and mannered a lot of the music I listen to is. And of course, beyond just being eclectic, the music here is full of powerful moments. Like the Ostseetraum record I mentioned above, I find myself playing this record over and over. It’s like a puzzle I can’t figure out but keep chipping away at.