Featured Releases - October 14 2021
Personal Damage: demo 7” (Test Subject Records) From afar, LA’s Personal Damage seemed to make a big splash when they released their demo tape a few months ago. After that small run of cassettes sold out super quickly, these 5 songs of lean and mean hardcore punk have been re-released on a single-sided 7” flexi. Personal Damage appears to be the brainchild of just two people from the LA/Santa Ana area who also play in groups like Hate Preachers and Abuso De Poder. If you’re a fan of early 80s California hardcore, then you’ll feel right at home listening to this flexi. Like their contemporaries White Stains or Chain Whip, Personal Damage takes a few pages out of the book of the distinctly old school, snotty, punky side of LA hardcore. The first Wasted Youth LP or the Circle One Demo are suitable points of comparison. The 50-second opening ripper, “Shit’s Fucked,” is also a dead ringer for The Fix “Vengeance,” but with that unmistakable LA punk guitar rhythmic approach. The vocal performance oozes with charisma and personality, but is also seething with OC-style frustration and dark humor, all presented with a Cadena-esque lackadaisical aloofness. The flexi is also housed in beautiful DIY packaging. The cover art is screen printed in black and silver and contains a 12-page, risograph-printed lyric booklet stapled inside. Much like the cassette, this run of flexis is super limited, so snatch this ripper while you can.
Smirk: EP 12” / cassette (Total Punk Records / Iron Lung Records) With this new EP, Smirk has the unique distinction of having a simultaneous release on Iron Lung Records (cassette) and Total Punk Records (vinyl). That should be a clue for you that this EP is special. As Dominic mentioned in his staff pick a few weeks ago, Smirk’s EP offers seven crackling tracks of punk-infused pop. Not pop-punk, of course, but something far less stylized. While they don’t have the faux-English qualities of bands that emulate their style, Smirk reminds me of Cleaners from Venus, Television Personalities, and the Times, all of whom made homespun pop music informed by punk’s DIY aesthetics and emphasis on energy and drive. While I am, of course, a punk to my bone, it’s the poppiest moments of EP that hit the hardest, like the wistful closing track “Lost Cities” and the bouncy and sunny “So Original,” with its cool Wilko Johnson-esque rockabilly riff. Each track feels like its own little universe though, and the EP’s variety and brevity is an infectious combination.
Prison Affair / Research Reactor Corp: Split 7” (Erste Theke Tonträger) You don’t see split 7”s as much these days; even rarer are splits like this one, which features two well-matched bands, great artwork, and an EP’s worth of non-throwaway material from each band. If you like either Research Reactor Corp or Prison Affair (and if you like one, you almost certainly like the other), you’re going to want this EP. If you haven’t heard them, both bands play that Coneheads-influenced style of egg punk, but they’re far from interchangeable. RRC is more abrasive, with harsher vocals, more manic grooves, and hooks that center on bursts of synth squelch. Prison Affair is more laid-back and melodic, building their songs around intricate, high-speed lead guitar riffing. Both bands offer three tracks, and if you’re a fan of this sound, it’s hard to imagine you won’t walk away satisfied.
Dog Flashback: demo cassette (Foreign Legion Records) Foreign Legion Records brings us the demo tape from this hardcore band from Chicago. According to Bandcamp, this demo came out in December 2019, but I’m glad Foreign Legion has given it a wider release. Longtime followers of Chicago hardcore will clock Ebro’s distinctive vocals right off the bat, and fans of his band Punch in the Face will love Dog Flashback’s pure hardcore sound. That being said, this recording is looser and rougher around the edges than the PITF stuff, but the approach is similarly streamlined. The guitar is a blizzard of power chords (punctuated only a couple of times with unison bends or chaotic bursts of noise), the vocals and bass charge forward without letup, and the drums pound away with power while leaving room for plenty of catchy rolls and fills. It’s very much in the style of SOA, Negative FX, and Negative Approach, but in the hands of these hardcore veterans, the style sounds classic rather than tired. The tape ends with a chaotic run-through of “Arms Race” by B.G.K. No bullshit here, just rippage.
Warcollapse: Bound to Die 7” (Phobia Records) Bound to Die is the latest EP from this long-running Swedish crust institution. While Warcollapse is a name I’ve known for many years (I often think about their memorably titled first album from 1995, Crust as Fuck Existence), I can’t recall hearing them. On one hand, they sound like I would have expected: heavy, Doom-style metallic crust with high production values and an emphasis on heavy low-end frequencies. However, while there’s plenty of fist-in-air, grooved-out banana riff action, there’s a lot going on in these four tracks to keep your ear interested. I love the rhythmic quirks in the chorus to the first track, “Manipulerad,” and the guitar leads are rocked out and drenched in wah-wah. My ear gravitates toward bands with a looser sound, but it’s hard to deny Warcollapse’s power when they lock into a groove, particularly on the memorable mid-paced parts. Maybe this sound would get tiring on a long 12”, but these four tracks are a long way from wearing out their welcome.
Judy & the Jerks: Live in NWI cassette (Earth Girl Tapes) Hattiesburg, Mississippi’s Judy & the Jerks are back with this new tape, which captures them live in a basement in Hammond, Indiana. I’ve been a huge fan of Judy & the Jerks since I heard them, and this 10-song live tape is a welcome addition to their discography. The gig itself sounds wild… you can hear the crowd going off during the mosh parts, yelling between tracks, and dragging the band back for an encore at the end of the set. While some live recordings can seem sterile, this one crackles with energy. And the band’s performance is spot-on. I’m amazed that the singer can keep up with those high-speed vocal acrobatics in a live setting, and while I hear a few flubs here and there (it’s a wild basement show after all!), they rip through their complex yet catchy songs with explosive energy. As I’ve said before, Judy & the Jerks always radiates pure fun, and that’s as true of Live in NWI as it is of their studio releases.