Featured Releases - September 16 2021
Amyl & the Sniffers: Comfort to Me 12” (ATO Records) The name Turnstile is on the tip of everyone’s tongue, with half the punk scene apologizing for liking them and the other half offended by their very existence. The controversy reminds me, in some respects, of the debate that surrounded Amyl & the Sniffers a few years ago. I’m not sure to what extent that debate is still happening, though Amyl’s singer and lyricist Amy seems to address it on the track “Don’t Fence Me In” (my favorite line from that song: “Bah! Binaries”). If one still needs to take a position on Amyl & the Sniffers, I am heartily in the “pro” camp. I fucking love this band, and I think I like Comfort to Me even more than their previous records. As much as I love punky hardcore bands (old ones like the Adolescents, later ones like the Carbonas and Career Suicide, and even recent ones like the Imploders, whom I also write about this week), sometimes I want something a little more pop, and Amyl & the Sniffers scratches that itch. That being said, the Sniffers can rip, and you could stack “Choices” up against just about anything from the world of DIY punk and hardcore. But Amyl & the Sniffers’ main thrust reminds me of punky rock and roll bands like the Boys, Slaughter & the Dogs, Generation X, or the Damned. Those bands were as much pop as they were punk, and a song like “Soda Pressing” or “Neat Neat Neat” is no less a reach for a hit than “Security” or (my favorite song on Comfort to Me) “Hertz.” It’s clear Amyl & the Sniffers aren’t trying to sound like those bands; rather, they have a pop group’s ambition to make great songs, but they also want those songs to be loud, fast, and hard. Looking back at what I’ve written so far, it sounds like I’m apologizing for liking Amyl & the Sniffers, but truth be told, I have no shame. I love this record.
Marv: Keyboard Suite I 12” (Enmossed Records) North Carolina synth duo Marv is back with their second vinyl release, and if you loved the spaced-out kosmiche bliss of their first album, you’re bound to love Keyboard Suite I too. As before, Marv’s music has a huge sense of space, with a wide-open mix that makes the lush synth sounds seem like they’re ping-ponging across the limitless vastness of space. While that sound is still the foundation of Marv’s music, there’s more melody on Keyboard Suite I, with pulses of tone sometimes coalescing into gentle melodies. While some passages are new age-y, mostly those melodies remind me of the gentlest, most delicate classical music, like Erik Satie. This is particularly true of “Tokyo TX,” the longest track on the record at eight and a half minutes and my favorite for its particularly melodic bent. Keyboard Suite I comes to us via the Enmossed label, which means it’s housed in beautiful silk-screened packaging with a debossed seed paper insert. It’s as much a joy to look at as it is to listen to.
Imploders: S/T 7” (Neon Taste Records) Debut release from this new Toronto band on the (West Coast) Canadian label Neon Taste. The sound is fast and snotty hardcore punk / punky hardcore with short songs and brisk tempos. I hear a lot of Angry Samoans and Circle Jerks in Imploders’ sound. Like those bands, Imploders sound liked they’re amped up on stimulants, but rather than getting violent, they get wired and antsy. Also, like those bands, there’s a rock and roll / classic punk approach to the guitar riffs, while the rhythm section blazes like a hardcore band. Fans of Career Suicide and the Carbonas will also be primed to love this. Five ripping, catchy tracks and I hear there’s already an LP in the works. Sign me up for that too!
Acid Casualties: Victims of Psychick Warfare cassette (Neon Taste Records) Victims of Psychick Warfare is the first release from this mysterious band from New Jersey, brought to us with the stamp of quality that is the Neon Taste Records logo. Acid Casualties has a raw and gritty sound that reminds me of a band deep in the track listing of The Master Tape Volume 2 or We Got Power: Party or Go Home, but this doesn’t strike me as generic. Acid Casualties’ songs swing and lurch with a variety of subtly different bash-you-over-the-head rhythms, and for every straightforward track like the YDI-ish “Against the Wall,” there’s something quirkier like “Back on the Chain Gang,” which works in a little rock riffing a la Eye for an Eye-era Corrosion of Conformity. 7 rippers, no bullshit.
Psyop: This Is Your Brain on America cassette (Pokeys Records) Psyop is a new band from Iowa City; hardly a hardcore hotbed, but I think they might be related to a band from there who caught my ear a few years ago, Beyond Peace. One reason I’m always excited to hear bands from outside the cultural centers on the coasts is because they often sound refreshingly out of sync with punk’s prevailing trends, and that’s the case with Psyop. The first track, “What’s in My Pants,” starts with a bright, major-key riff that could have started off a gritty underground pop-punk release, but it’s only a few seconds before Psyop reveal themselves as a hardcore band. While This Is Your Brain on America has all the thrashing and blasting you would expect, there’s a 7 Seconds-esque sing-song undercurrent running through everything that I really like. The tape is short and sweet with only four tracks, climaxing with the (primarily) mid-paced closer, “Secretary of Defense,” whose dramatic punches and dissonant riffing make it the highlight.
Celluloid Lunch #6 zine w/ Bubblegum Army flexi While there aren’t as many music zines as there used to be, the ones who have chosen to stick it out in that space really mean it. Case in point, Celluloid Lunch. This thick, square-bound half-size zine has a slightly different focus than Sorry State (they don’t seem too into hardcore, like the more adventurous stuff on labels like Feel It, and have one foot in the outsider / experimental end of the underground rock/garage scene), but the authors have a rigorously thoughtful approach to the music they are passionate about. This issue features bands like Collate, Leopardo, Silicone Prairie, and Crazy Doberman, along with other musings about music and records (including a review section). I was familiar with roughly half of the artists covered, yet I still read this issue cover to cover with rapt attention. Celluloid Lunch gave me new knowledge and insight about existing favorites like Collate that allowed me to revisit them with a new, deeper appreciation, and gave me a frame of reference for checking out a bunch of stuff I didn’t know about at all. What more could you ask of a music zine? Celluloid Lunch is essential reading for the underground rock fanatic.