Featured Releases: November 10, 2022
Lexicon: Devoid of Light 12” (Iron Lung Records) Way back in 2018 Iron Lung Records released a demo tape by Seattle’s Lexicon. Now they’re back with their vinyl debut. That demo tape was already head and shoulders above most hardcore records I hear, so Lexicon needed little refinement. Still, things seem a little more unified on Devoid of Light, which sees the band locking into a sound that takes the dense and chaotic production values of noise-punk bands like D-Clone, Zyanose, and Lebenden Toten, and applies it to a more rhythmically intricate and punkier songwriting style. I wonder if you took all the distortion off this if it would sound like Amde Petersen’s Arme or something? It’s hard to say, especially with this full-bore assault blasting in your ears. Lexicon reminds me a lot of the Richmond band Spore I also wrote about this week, and as with Spore, the moments on Devoid of Life that hit the hardest for me are the loosest and most chaotic passages. Lexicon is so locked-in that when a track like “Parasite” or “Electric Shock” flies off the rails, it’s thrilling. Records like this are why we love Iron Lung… it’s raging, interesting, and exciting in all the right ways.
CML: The Dirty Tape cassette (Rotten Apple) Most of what the new label Rotten Apple has released so far has fallen on the weirder and/or poppier end of the spectrum, but this tape from Indianapolis’s CML proves they know raging hardcore when they hear it too. The first track, “State of Mind,” starts off with a haunting intro that makes me think of Part 1, and even when the song erupts, there’s a haunting quality to the riffing and an off-kilter, anarcho vibe to the rhythms… like a more manic Rudimentary Peni or something. After that first track, though, things get down, dirty, and raw, with more straightforward, early 80s hardcore-style bash-you-over-the-head riffs and changes. The vocals are snotty and a little screechy, a dead ringer for Urban Waste in places, and the music has that raw and immediate early 80s New York Hardcore vibe too. Everything about this rules, right down to the perfectly shitty drawing on the cover.
Spore: Rabid Intent cassette (Not for the Weak Records) Not for the Weak Records brings us this gloriously noisy and crushing cassette from Richmond, Virginia’s Spore. I can hear a whole lineage of hardcore punk in Spore’s music… they sound like an American hardcore band influenced by noisy Japanese punk bands from the 2000s inspired by Swedish bands from the 80s who were stealing from the playbook Discharge first drafted. It’s fists-in-the-air, bruising shit, fast and heavy as fuck with no letup. My favorite parts are when the guitarist drops the riff and dissolves into a D-Clone-esque squall of inchoate distortion… most of Spore’s music winds me up, ratcheting up the intensity until I feel the anxiety in my body, then when the guitarist makes that move, it’s like being in the middle of a panic attack and screaming at the top of your lungs, shutting out the world and providing an essential moment of cathartic relief. As with everything on Not for the Weak, the sound is massive and bruising, and with eight tracks and eye-catching artwork, I don’t see anyone complaining they didn’t get their money’s worth out of this one. Totally killer.
The Apostles: Best Forgotten 12” (Horn of Plenty Records) The short history of 80s anarcho punks the Apostles on their Discogs page sums up the band’s unique approach very well: “The Apostles were an experimental post-punk band who developed within the confines of the 1980s Anarcho Punk scene in the UK, but did not necessarily adhere to the aesthetics of that movement.” While the Apostles eventually, once they moved from releasing cassettes to vinyl, evolved into a somewhat more conventional anarcho-punk band (I wrote about their excellent second single, Blow It Up Burn It Down Kick It Till It Breaks, in our Staff Picks section a while back), the tracks on Best Forgotten compile an earlier era for the project when they sound less like a band at all, and more like a container for a wide range of musical experiments. In that way, this era of the Apostles reminds me of groups like Alternative TV, Television Personalities, and Cleaners from Venus… all of them very different from one another, but united by the approach of following their curiosity and pushing at the edges of their respective sounds. Best Forgotten does a great job of documenting that approach, feeling less like an album and more like a documentary, and while it’s hard to imagine anyone saying that Best Forgotten contains a wealth of great songs, it is rich with vibe. It practically smells like a squat in early 80s London, cold and damp and desperate, but at least with the free time to get weird and creative (even if the means to document that creativity are of the make-do variety). I imagine this era of the Apostles’ music flies way over the heads of Conflict and Crass-loving crusties in both their time and ours, but this is tailor-made for punk intellectuals with a taste for the artistically confrontational music of groups like Alternative TV (particularly their second album, Vibing Up the Senile Man), Virgin Prunes, and early Cabaret Voltaire.
Churchgoers: demo cassette (11PM Records) 11PM Records brings us the demo cassette from London’s Churchgoers. Falling on the rawer, punker, and more early 80s-inspired end of the contemporary UK hardcore scene, it’s easy to imagine Churchgoers on a bill with bands like the Annihilated and Last Affront (who also released a record on 11PM)… I’d go to that gig! This is just a theory, but it seems to me that one of the distinguishing characteristics of contemporary UK hardcore is that many of the players grew up listening to New York hardcore, which comes out in their music in subtle ways, even when I think they’re trying self-consciously to do something different from that. I don’t know if that’s the case with Churchgoers, but I hear it on a track like “Hillsy’s,” which sounds like something that could have been on the New Breed compilation tape. Most of Churchgoers’ songs, though, are more in the fast and raw, early 80s vein, though the way the drummer lunges ahead of the beat on the fast parts also makes me think of Heresy (the super short track “M.S.P.” serves as further evidence for that line of thinking). Maybe you won’t hear any of that and Churchgoers will just sound like a ripping 80s-style hardcore band to you, but either way, it’s a win.
Alerta Roja: Punk Rock En Dictadura 7” (Esos Malditos Punks) Esos Malditos Punks brings us this 5-song 7” from early 80s Argentinian punk band Alerta Roja, which they bill as the first punk rock studio recordings made in that country. According to Discogs, two of these tracks came out on an extremely limited 7” (only 50 copies!) in 1982, but Punk Rock En Dictadura presents all five tracks Alerta Roja recorded at the session. While hardcore was in full swing in other parts of the world by 1982, Alerta Roja’s music here is still steeped in the music of the Damned, the Heartbreakers, and most of all the Sex Pistols (they even borrow the “no future for you” melody from the end of “God Save the Queen” for the chorus of “Desocupación”). While the compositions are in that riffy, rock-influenced punk mode, the recording is raw and nasty, giving this a feel closer to that of early European punk classics by bands like Tampax or Lost Kids. Alerta Roja’s singer also has a similar tone of voice to Eduardo Benavente from Paralisis Permanente. All five songs are killer, starting with the anthemic “Desocupación” and climaxing with the gloriously strange guitar solo at the end of “Robots.” If you’ve put in your time with your Killed by Death and Bloodstains compilations, this 7” is gonna be right up your alley.