Featured Release Roundup: August 16, 2017
Not much to report this week in terms of my personal life and non-new-record news. I've been spending a bit of time going through old records and flyers and stuff and thinking about all of the memories associated with them... I guess I've been feeling a bit nostalgic, which is something I've actively resisted in the past. I've always been scared that looking backward will keep me from looking forward, but thinking about how stoked I am on some of the stuff in this little roundup makes me realize that remembering good times past only makes me more dedicated to creating good times now.
The Cowboys: Volume 4 12” (Drunken Sailor) Second album from this band out of Bloomington, Indiana, but don’t go judging by the record’s title and think they’ve integrated some heavy Sabbath vibes… this pretty much picks up right where their brilliant previous LP left off. In my mind, the Cowboys have access to some kind of time machine that has allowed them to get a job as the house band at a lake resort somewhere like upstate New York or the Poconos, playing two 3-hour sets per night of rock and soul standards sprinkled with their own well-crafted homages to said style. There’s simply no other explanation for how a band can come to sound like this… while the label’s description references Thee Mighty Caesars (which is not out of the ballpark, I suppose), the essential difference between the Cowboys and neo-garage bands is that nothing really sounds neo- about them at all… they seriously sound like a relic from a long-lost past. I mean, listen to the track “After Sunset.” It could just BE a Buddy Holly song… it doesn’t sound like an approximation of a Buddy Holly song by someone who grew up on Weezer; it sounds like the real thing. And even more impressively, the Cowboys aren’t just one-trick ponies… Volume 4 suffers from none of the same-iness or near-sightedness that plagues so much modern music, punk rock in particular. While this LP is a total no-brainer if you’re a fan of 60s garage like the Seeds or ? and the Mysterians, I really think it transcends that style. There’s some invisible x factor here that makes me think this will appeal to just about anyone who likes rock and roll. Seriously, I can’t recommend this one highly enough.
Limp Wrist: Facades 12” (Lengua Armada) Brand new 12” from Limp Wrist, following nine years after their last record. Limp Wrist have proven themselves to be a remarkably flexible entity, not simply trudging along fighting the same fight year after year, but rather changing with and adapting to the times. In particular, I’m really interested in how their stance and message have evolved with this latest release. I remember first hearing about them in 2000 or 2001… if I remember correctly, they were billed as a “gay straight edge” band (I’m not sure if that’s actually true or not, but there’s a big x’ed up hand on the cover of their first EP, so I suppose, at the very least, that they were playing with that image), and musically they fit in extremely well with the then-current “Y2K thrash” scene. I remember seeing them play in Richmond with Das Oath right around that time, and I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I saw one of Martin’s bands, as I just missed Los Crudos the first time around. Anyway, I remember their message and image being much more confrontational back then, with songs like “Punk Ass Queers” and “Recruiting Time.” This was just before the period when the internet enabled the giant data dump of primary material (records, zines, flyers, anecdotes, etc.) that would result in the constant historicization that has characterized the punk scene since then. Punk still felt like a current thing rather than a re-enactment of a bygone era, and as a result Limp Wrist’s image and rhetoric were a lot more straightforward and direct… people weren’t necessarily expecting or looking for subtlety in punk and hardcore. Fast forward fifteen years and things are a lot different. Thanks to the internet, I think that anyone who is even mildly curious can quickly get a sense the rich history of queer punk, and simply being gay isn’t as shocking a thing as it was even a decade ago. It seems like Limp Wrist have adapted to this changing landscape, in particular by reassessing who their audience is. Facades comes with a thick, content-rich zine directed, at least in part, at, “the rural queens, dykes, trans kids, and punk weirdos, especially those who have not ‘figured shit out yet’ who crave to be a part of some dream community, but can’t.” This feels really fresh and exciting to me because so many of the bands I listen to these days seem to be addressing such a niche audience… I mean, I’m a giant nerd so when a new punk band references some obscure detail from punk history I get really stoked and feel very smart, but Limp Wrist are trying to say something broader and something far more important. In particular, I really like how their overall message seems to be about not being limited by identity… you can be gay and still be into really aggressive hardcore (and vice versa, obviously), you can like both hardcore and minimal synth / dance music (oh yeah, I should probably note that the entire b-side of this record is devoted to the latter genre), etc. As they put it in the zine / insert, “when we think we have really clear definitions, especially of who and what we are, we find that those definitions may trap us, and may allow spectators to flatten us.” Much like G.L.O.S.S., Limp Wrist seem to be keenly aware of where the punk community is at in the year 2017, what their expectations and priorities are, what they want to hear and what they really need to hear. Where am I going with this? I guess this is just all to say that Facades feels like a very significant and important record, one that is both a response to and a prescription for the times in which we’re living at this very moment.
Prom Nite: Dancing to This Beat 12” (Barfbag) Debut LP from this Toronto band and it’s a real standout. This brings together a lot of different threads, including the quirky punk of the Northwest Indiana / Lumpy scene, DIY hardcore, and something a little more straightforward and poppier than either of those. The label’s description says “Dangerhouse meets Die Kreuzen” and I think that’s perfectly apt, though if I were to come up with my own “this meets that” I think I’d probably go with “CCTV meets Brain F≠.” Like those bands, this has this sort of effortless catchiness that is really powerful and endearing, and keeps things interesting and direct no matter how weird the band attempt to get with their quirky rhythms (of which there are plenty here). Really, though, this doesn’t sound too much like anything I’ve heard before, and I can’t think of a better compliment for a record released in punk’s 41st year of existence.
Voight-Kampff: The Din of Dying Youth 12” (Deranged) Latest record from this long-distance project featuring Joe from Q on vocals and Colin from Davidians playing all of the instruments. While they started off sounding a bit like the Observers, they’ve continued to move in more of a post-punk direction, and there’s very little of the band’s early melodic hardcore left in their sound. I’m pretty sure I mentioned this when I wrote about their last single for Deranged, but Voight-Kampff these days remind me quite of Merchandise, both because Joe’s voice bears more than a passing resemblance to Carson’s, but also because their releases tend to have a similar pacing. As with a couple of different Merchandise records, The Din of Dying Youth is centered around one standout uptempo pop track, “Victim of Desire.” Like Merchandise songs such as “Anxiety’s Door,” “Victim of Desire” careens along at a similar pace to Smiths songs like “This Charming Man” or “Bigmouth Strikes Again,” with an absolutely brilliant vocal melody to match. Starting off with such an obviously strong track can be a bit of a gamble, but that initial shot of adrenalin carries me through the EP’s other five tracks, which have a lot of variation in tempo and instrumentation, but tend to have a more brooding, introverted vibe. If you’re like me and you need a heaping helping of pop sugar to get your modern post-punk medicine down I’d highly recommend a dose of this album.
Sacrificio: Pulidores de Tumbas 12” (SPHC) After an excellent 7”, here’s the debut 12” from Mexico’s Sacrificio. One of the things that I really like about contemporary Mexican punk is that it seems largely oblivious to American trends. If Sacrificio were white suburban teenagers playing VFW hall shows or whatever they would probably be mocked for having kind of sloppy blast beats and bouncy, (dare I say it?) almost nu-metal-inflected mid-paced parts, but it definitely works for them. I worry that the previous sentence will come off as racist, but what I’m trying to get at is that punks seem to have a different way of going about things in Mexico. While, in the US, there’s an unstated but mutually agreed-upon ideal of what is “cool” at any given moment that everyone is striving for (while, paradoxically, trying to appear as if they’re not striving for it at all), bands like Sacrificio and Inservibles and lots of their associated bands seem willing to use whatever tools they have at their disposal to express themselves. Perhaps they’re just striving for an ideal that I’m not familiar with, but I get the sense that it’s about something a little different, that it’s self-expression and catharsis in a much purer form. Like the Limp Wrist LP I wrote about above, this is one of those records that seems weightier than most, that the members’ unique perspectives allow them to make music that matters because it adds things to the discussion that people like me wouldn’t know otherwise. So, if you’re going to turn this off the second the band goes into a blast beat then you might as well not bother, but if you like your punk raw, visceral, and unpretentious this is well worth checking out. Oh, and as with their last EP, the artwork and layout are ACES.
Andy Human & the Reptoids: Refrigerator 7” (Total Punk) Latest single from Andy Human & the Reptoids, who has been releasing a string of scorchers that I have not been shy about hyping. “Refrigerator” is one of their best songs yet, even if the premise is a little thin. As far as I can tell the lyrics don’t really make any sense, and are just an excuse to rhyme as many words as possible with “Refrigerator.” However, I don’t really need any high concept poetry… if you can write hooks as beefy and memorable as the several that populate “Refrigerator” you can sing about pretty much whatever you want and I’ll still pay attention. The b-side isn’t quite as monstrous, but that’s what b-sides are for, right? It’s still a hot track and I don’t think it’ll get any less play than the A-side. I absolutely love to follow a band when they’re on a hot streak, and Andy Human & the Reptoids is on a real tear.
Ausencia / Narcoestado: Split 7” (Todo Destruido) Split 7” between these two bands, Ausencia from LA and Narcoestado from Mexico, who recently toured together. They’re a great pairing as both bands have this way of sounding super punk while still being extremely melodic. On the surface Narcoestado play something like traditional oi!, but I think that the songwriting is a lot more interesting. The first track in particular, with its soaring chorus, reminds me of the countless gems in the latter half of the Ramones’ catalog, but with obviously much rawer and nastier production. As for Ausencia, they’re faster and more punk, and I’m sure lots of people will compare them to the Spanish classics (which is appropriate given the way they balance melody and aggression), but to me this also has a lot in common with the Peligro Social / Ruleta Rusa school, though as was the case with Narcoestado this is much rawer than the bands it sounds like. I could see either of these bands losing me if they got too polished, but with both bands employing raw but very clear and straightforward production (both bands sound like they were recorded on an analog 4-track) this sounds like some long-lost punk artifact from the early 80s in the best way possible.
Rut: Attraction 7” (Digital Regress) Debut vinyl from this California band who, I believe, has a connection to Acrylics. I dare say that if you like Acrylics that you’ll really like this, as it’s very much along the same lines… hardcore that is both raw and in your face, but densely packed with ideas and played with care and precision. Rut reminds me of bands like Torso and Blackball in that the songs sound slightly deconstructed, like the band started with something like a bunch of standard hardcore songs but tweaked and modified them until they were something different, meticulously going through every riff and every transition and thinking to themselves, “well, it would be a little bit more interesting if we made this very subtle adjustment.” So, while the overall structure and form feel very familiar (not in a bad way! More like a comfortable way), the details are where the real action is at. It’s like a masterfully executed painting where you’re not really too concerned with the overall concept or composition, but you can get lost all day in looking closely at the brushstrokes.
Running Wild: Port Royal 12" (Noise)
Running Wild: Under Jolly Roger 12" (Noise)
Downtown Boys: Cost of Living 12" (Sub Pop)
Narcoestado / Ausencia: Split 7" (Todo Destruido)
Mane: Alpha Female 12" (Digital Regress)
Preening: Beeters 7" (Digital Regress)
Rut: Attraction 7" (Digital Regress)
Sacrificio: Pulidores de Tumbas 12" (SPHC)
Exit Hippies: Dance Maniac 12" (SPHC)
Illya: In Adversity 7" (SPHC)
Thisclose / Sludge: Split 7" (SPHC)
Remnants: Accomplices Not Allies 12" (Discos MMM)
Durs Coeurs: Dur Dur Dur 12" (Discos MMM)
Amon Amarth: Fate of Norns 12" (Metal Blade)
Amon Amarth: With Odin on Our Side 12" (Metal Blade)
The Lurking Fear: Out of the Voiceless 12" (Century Media)
Moral Void: Deprive 12" (Translation Loss)
No Use for a Name: Rarities Vol 1 12" (Fat Wreck)
Poison Blood: S/T 12" (Relapse)
Venom Inc: Avé 12" (Nuclear Blast)
Limp Wrist: Facades 12" (Lengua Armada)
The Cowboys: Volume 4 12" (Drunken Sailor)
Radiohead: Kid A 12" (XL)
Motorhead: Bomber 12" (Sanctuary)
Operation Ivy: Energy 12" (Epitaph)
Bathory: Under the Sign of the Black Mark 12" (Black Mark)
Death: Spiritual Healing 12" (Relapse)
Earth Crisis: Destroy the Machines 12" (Victory)
Earth Crisis: Firestorm 12" (Victory)
Electric Wizard: Dopethrone 12" (Rise Above)
Geto Boys: We Can't Be Stopped 12" (Rap-A-Lot)
Joey Bada$$: All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ 12" (Cinematic)
Modest Mouse: Building Nothing Out of Something 12" (Glacial Pace)
Modest Mouse: Sad Sappy Sucker 12" (Glacial Pace)
Modest Mouse: This Is a Long Drive 12" (Glacial Pace)
Municipal Waste: Slime and Punishment 12" (Century Media)
Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold 12" (What's Your Rupture?)
Parquet Courts: Sunbathing Animal 12" (What's Your Rupture?)
Power Trip: Manifest Decimation 12" (Southern Lord)
Slayer: Live Undead 12" (Metal Blade)
Sleep: Dopesmoker 12" (Southern Lord)
Sunn O))): Kannon 12" (Southern Lord)
Sunn O))): Monoliths and Dimensions 12" (Southern Lord)