Apologies for the blog being a little quiet lately. Not only did I miss last week’s post, but Jeff and Seth were also both MIA for their scheduled posts this week… maybe we’ll just forget that week existed and move on from there? I feel like the lack of activity is a combination of it being really oppressively hot and muggy here in Raleigh—weather that makes you want to sit around and do absolutely nothing—and the store being really busy. We’re still not out of the cash crunch I mentioned last time by any stretch of the imagination, but we’ve been managing to fill up all of our time nonetheless, mostly pricing killer used stock for the store and bringing in a bunch of extremely cool new releases, many of which will be discussed below.
For the past few weeks my personal listening diet has been focused heavily on the new Sheer Mag and Impalers albums—both of which I like a whole lot—but when I’m not spinning the two of those relentlessly I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to looser, jam-ier and more experimental music. The reissue of Yoko Ono’s Fly that came out last week prompted me to sit down with that album for the first time in a while, and then at the Kombat show the other night Matt from Public Acid / Menthol mentioned that he’d been really into Miles Davis’s On the Corner lately, which prompted me to pull out that album. Man, what a record! It’s kind of Miles’s homage to Sly & the Family Stone and James Brown, but the density of rhythms on it (there is a LOT of percussion… like maybe even more than a Fela Kuti record) surpasses those records, and a lot of the playing and soloing on it is completely wild. This kind of improvisation has become really interesting to me… hearing how far bands and players can take a melody to where it’s virtually unrecognizable. But, then again, On the Corner doesn’t really have melodies, just groove, but somehow your ear makes sense of it anyway and interesting things are happening in your ears and brain pretty much constantly. It’s a real joy. Thanks so much, Matt, for reminding me about that record.
Sheer Mag: Need to Feel Your Love 12” (Wilsuns) Like a lot of people, I’m sure, I wondered how Sheer Mag would navigate the transition to full-length, but it doesn’t appear to have been much of a hurdle. My experience with Need to Feel Your Love was pretty much exactly the same as it was with the band’s previous EPs. On the first listen I have a hard time hearing the hooks and I wonder if I’m over the band. On the second listen I start to hear some of the hooks, and I think to myself “there are some pretty good songs on this, but also some I don’t get it.” Then on the third listen I’m pretty much in love with every moment, and I play it to death over the next several weeks. Need to Feel Your Love is, however, quite stylistically different than the band’s earlier stuff, but it’s something you really only realize when you reflect on it, because the band still plays to their same basic strengths, but they take those strengths into new areas. “Meet Me in the Street” and “Turn It Up” are pure 80s radio rock… while radio-friendly hair metal isn’t a bad comparison, what those songs really remind me of is what Jeff likes to call “cowboy boot metal,” i.e. bands like Dangerous Toys and Junkyard that injected a distinct Skynyrd / southern rock vibe into the hair metal formula. I love both of those songs, but the real gems on this album, for me, are the tracks where Sheer Mag goes full Jackson 5. The disco-funk of the title track is up there with the very best songs that Sheer Mag has written, and is the clearly highlight of the album for me. While I tend to prefer the hard-hitting a-side tracks over the spacier, country-inflected songs on the b-side, there isn’t a track here that I want to skip. This honestly far exceeds my (pretty lofty) expectations for a Sheer Mag full length, and I’ve already played it so much that this will probably be the record that I associate with the summer of 2017 for many years to come. I’m sure this band will continue to have its haters, but for me they remain one of the most vital and exciting bands to come out of the punk scene for the past several years, but even more than that Need to Feel Your Love is just a blast to listen to.
Vittna: demo cassette (self-released) I’m not sure how much Jeff is going to hype his own band’s demo, so I wanted to make sure that everyone knows how hard this rips. Vittna features much of the core of the sadly-departed Blackball, along with new face Sea Bass on vocals, but you can tell that Vittna is a concerted effort to do things a little bit differently. While Blackball felt largely like a “back to basics” affair, Vittna seems to push forward into something a little more distinctive and original, primarily by incorporating the quirky rhythms and more complex chords of bands like Die Kreuzen and Nog Watt into the foundation of straightforward, US-meets-Sweden hardcore. Yeah, there are plenty of riffs that are blistering, crushing, et al, and the vocals are completely savage, but what really stands out about this demo is the overall vibe, which is slightly dark and spooky… again, sort of like the first Die Kreuzen album, but with an added layer of claustrophobia and misanthropy. Additionally, while a lot of punk demos can feel very tossed-off, this feels fully conceptualized in every respect, from the density of the songwriting (both musically and lyrically), the subtlety of the recording (which is excellent, but still raw and in your face), and even the artwork, which uses a cool little transparent overlay to give it a slight 3D effect. This is, without a doubt, one of the standout demos of 2017.
Judy & the Jerks: 3 Songs from Us to You cassette (self-released) Brand new 3-song cassette from this band out of the unexpectedly fertile (for punk rock, at least) land of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I remember being blown away by Judy & the Jerks’ first tape, but we under-ordered it and it went out of stock before I really got a chance to let it sink in. I rectified that problem with this new tape, and of course immediately grabbed a copy for myself so that I can play it into the ground. If you haven’t heard Judy & the Jerks before, they play hardcore punk, but rather than (like a lot of bands) being grounded in heavier stuff and noisy d-beat, Judy & the Jerks seem more like the sped-up, sarcastic punk of bands like the Circle Jerks and the Dead Kennedys. Like those bands, the playing is tight, fast, and unexpectedly melodic, and the vocals have a ton of personality and character rather than just being someone yelling at you in the same pitch and timbre for a few minutes straight. The closest comparison that I can think of in terms of the overall approach is Warm Bodies, but Judy & the Jerks aren’t nearly as musically out there as Warm Bodies… they’re certainly not as musically irreverent, and they even have a pretty straightforward hardcore breakdown in one track. If your tastes extend across the divide between the more straightforward hardcore scenes and Lumpy / Neck Chop Records-style quirkiness then I would say this is a no-brainer (and will probably be one of your favorite new bands as well!), but even if you’re solidly in one of those camps or the other I would highly recommend checking this out… it’s really something special.
Pollen: Fear of Another War 7” (Brain Solvent Propaganda) I remember when Pollen’s last EP came out I listened to it twice, in its entirety, at 33RPM rather than 45, being blown away by what I thought was the best death metal record I’d heard in years. While it was still really good on 45, I honestly kind of preferred it on 33. Well, I wonder if the folks in Pollen did the same thing, because what I liked so much about the slowed-down version of their last EP actually comes across pretty well on Fear of Another War when played at the correct speed. At this point, Pollen are so raw and so gross-sounding that they’ve transcended d-beat… while their foundation (particularly in terms of their visual aesthetic) is clearly still grounded in that scene, I feel like Fear of Another War sounds way more like Napalm Death’s Scum than any d-beat record that I can think of, even super noisy stuff like D-Clone or Zyanose (though it is actually comparable to some of the very rawest Disclose stuff). For me, there’s some kind of invisible line between music that is, at its core, rock and roll, and stuff that is more like industrial music… it’s not about dancing, but rather about reflecting a bleak reality. Pollen are definitively on the other side of that line… when I listen to this record I don’t want to thrash around, I just want to lie on my back and let the fucked-ness of it all wash over me. If you come to this record looking for riffs you are going to be sorely disappointed, but if you like hardcore that teeters on the edge of industrial and noise music (i.e. you’ve checked out Merzbow and not immediately thought “this isn’t for me”), then you need to check this out. It’s definitely one of the most extreme and punishing records I’ve heard in some time.
Impalers: Cellar Dweller 12” (540) The day that this thing hit Bandcamp I remember asking Jeff, “have you heard that new Impalers yet?” and we both just looked at each other purely flabbergasted at how great it is. After their last record it’s kind of hard to imagine how Impalers could have gotten better… Psychedelic Snutskallar was already such a perfect hardcore record, and there really wasn’t anywhere to go in terms of getting faster, meaner, tighter, or whatever. So it seems, from my perspective at least, that Impalers didn’t even really try to do any of those things; they just made some more songs that just happen to be even better than their last batch of songs. I mean, not much has changed… this is still a pure hardcore record, and if anything it’s a more straightforward one than the last LP. However, there are all of these incremental improvements that are hard to put your finger on, but just make everything better. The one thing that really jumps out at me about Cellar Dweller is the vocals. For heavy hardcore bands like this, the vocalist is usually just fighting to be heard, screaming and yelling as loud as they possibly can in order to compete with the electronically-enhanced bashing of the other instruments. However, on this record Chris’s vocals have a real sense of dynamics… not only are there different approaches (like on the instantly-memorable “Technology”), but also there are all of these smaller moments where the vocals do something really memorable and exciting, whether it’s a perfectly-timed grunt or an unhinged, cathartic scream a la Barney from Napalm Death. And then there’s the epic closing track, which is a reworked version of the title track (which appeared on an earlier tour tape) with no vocals and an epic, 3-minute-long guitar solo. So, while those are the things I like about it, at the end of the day all I can really say about this record is that it’s a perfectly realized statement. That also extends to the details of the physical product… the mastering on the vinyl is crushingly loud and powerful, the jacket artwork is beautiful (and as subtly innovative as the music), and it also comes with a huge poster with full-color illustrations for every single track. Cellar Dweller is such a next-level statement that it’s bound to be near the top of everyone’s year-end list, so you might as well just go ahead and get it so that you can have something to talk about when all of your friends start jibber-jabbering to you about how great this record is.
Kombat: S/T 7” (Hysteria) This EP had a little bit of hype behind it, so I checked it out despite not having listened to the band’s previous demo tape, and honestly on that first experience it was kind of in one ear out the other… but really, that probably had more to do with me than the record, because a few nights later Kombat played in Raleigh and blew the doors off the place. Their set was, without a doubt, the single best set of live hardcore that I’ve seen in years. I mean, we have some seriously great bands in North Carolina and I see killer touring bands regularly, but Kombat felt like they were playing exactly my vision of what hardcore should be. There were no breakdowns, they were playing as fast as they could possibly play, and while the music was stripped-down and raw, they also were clearly pushing themselves to play at the very edge of their ability as players. They kind of reminded me of a band trying to play along to the SOA 7” at 78RPM, but they were also more than that, the guitarist in particular throwing in all of these complex but non-shred-y bits that elevated the songs to another level. So, after that experience I revisited this EP and of course I liked it a lot more. I do wish that the drums were a little more up front in the mix and I could do without the chorus effect on the guitar, but by and large I hear the band that I saw at that show on this record. It’s really cool to hear a band without a bunch of obvious reference points… it doesn’t sound like they’re trying to recreate any particular era of hardcore or rip off any band’s sound… it sounds really authentic, like the genuine and spontaneous expression of the people in the band. I guess that’s why it sounds like an old hardcore record to me… not because it sound’s particularly vintage-y (it doesn’t), but rather because it’s free of pretense and exudes authenticity in a way that’s very similar to the hardcore bands from the 80s that I love. Highly recommended.
Criaturas: Ruido Antisocial 7” (Todo Destruido) Has it really been four years since the last Criaturas record? That just seems so wrong! Maybe it’s because I still revisit their records so often, but it feels like Criaturas hasn’t dropped off the face of the earth like most bands seem to when they go for several years without a new record. At any rate, despite my warped perception of time I could not be happier to have this record in my hands, particularly since it is the best Criaturas record yet! As with the latest LP from Impalers (with whom Criaturas share their guitarist), not much has really changed… any of these songs could have appeared on any other Criaturas record without sticking out, but everything has been fine-tuned. This is particularly true of the production, which is beefy and raw, but still clear and powerful, particularly on the vinyl (which is cut LOUD). I’m not really sure what else to say… Criaturas have long been one of my favorite hardcore bands, and this record is their best one, so what are you waiting for?
Glue: S/T 12” (self-released) So, I actually wrote the label’s description for this record, so I’m not really sure what else I have to say about it. I’ve been on board the Glue bandwagon ever since their demo, and I’m still here. They had a pretty great formula from the get-go—basically marrying the heaviness of prime-era SSD with the upbeat catchiness of pogo-punk—but they’ve also consistently shown a willingness to mess with that formula. Nowhere is that more apparent than on the track “Flowers of Friendship” on this record, where they fuse their sound with something akin to melodic oi! music. Altogether, this 12” is probably the rawest and nastiest thing that Glue have done (excepting their tour tape, which was REALLY raw), and they manage to sound raw and feral without losing any of the power that made them stand out in the first place.
All New Arrivals
Taking Back Sunday: Louder Now 12" (Warner Bros)
Radiohead: OK Computer OKNOTOK 12" (XL)
Chainshot: demo cassette (self-released)
Black Lips: Satan's Graffitti or God's Art? 12" (Vice)
STRFKR: Vault Vol. 2 12" (Polyvinyl)
Modern Baseball: MOBO Presents: The Perfect Cast EP Featuring Modern Baseball 12" (Lame-O)
Various: Gettin' Together: Groovy Sounds from the Summer of Love 12" (Rhino)
The Electric Prunes: S/T 12" (50th anniversary edition; Rhino)
Love: S/T 12" (50th anniversary edition; Rhino)
Grateful Dead: Smiling on a Cloudy Day 12" (Rhino)
Neo Neos: Neo Neo Neo Neo Neo Neo Neos cassette (self-released)
Neo Neos: Type V cassette (self-released)
Neo Neos: Oen Night in Basement cassette (self-released)
Neo Neos: Unit 02: In Punk for the Culture Set cassette (self-released)
Neo Neos: Puke Girl Anthology cassette (self-released)
Shabazz Palaces: Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines 12" (Sub Pop)
Shabazz Palaces: Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star 12" (Sub Pop)
Silverstein: Dead Reflection 12" (Rise)
Yoko Ono: Approximately Infinite Universe 12" (Secretly Canadian)
Yoko Ono: Feeling the Space 12" (Secretly Canadian)
Yoko Ono: Fly 12" (Secretly Canadian)
Psychic TV: Allegory & Self 12" (Sacred Bones)
Psychic TV: Pagan Day 12" (Sacred Bones)
Waxahatchee: Out in the Storm 12" (Merge)
Missy Elliott: Supa Dupa Fly 12" (Atlantic)
Weaks: Flamenco 7" (Strong Mind Japan)
Tigress: S/T 7" (Not Normal)
Cherry Death: Saccharine 12" (Not Normal)
Liquids: Hot Liqs 12" (Not Normal)
Humanoids: demo cassette (self-released)
Mania for Conquest / Svaveldioxid: Split 7" (Brain Solvent Propaganda)
Vagra: Refuse 7" (Brain Solvent Propaganda)
Pollen: Fear of Another War 7" (Brain Solvent Propaganda)
Melvins: A Walk with Love and Death 12" (Ipecac)
Nightbringer: Ego Dominus Tuus 12" (Season of Mist)
Pandemix: Scale Models of Atrocities 12" (Boss Tuneage)
Flowers of Evil: Cities of Fear 12" (Deranged)
Hurula: Vapen Till Dom Hopplosa 12" (Deranged)
Sheer Mag: Need to Feel Your Love 12" (Wilsuns)
Hygiene: Hypocrite cassette (self-released)
Hygiene: Soylent Clean cassette (self-released)
Geiger Counter: S/T 12" (Desolate)
GG King: Another Dimension 7" (Scavenger of Death)
Caesium Mine: God's Messenger to Fukushima cassette (Scavenger of Death)
Bloodclot: Up in Arms 12" (Metal Blade)
Expulsion: Nightmare Future 12" (Relapse)
Integrity: Howling, for the Nightmare Shall Consume 12" (Relapse)
Shit Blimp: Good Natured Friends of the Scene 7" (Shit Blimp Inc)
Criaturas: Ruido Antisocial 7" (Todo Destruido)
Glue: S/T 12" (self-released)
Impalers: Cellar Dweller 12" (540)
Innocent: demo cassette (Side Two)
Blue Dolphin: Demo 2016 cassette (self-released)
Blue Dolphin: Earth Day 2017 cassette (self-released)
Blue Dolphin: 2 New Songs cassette (self-released)
Cryptopsy: Blasphemy Made Flesh 12" (War on Music)
Tarantula: S/T 7" (Lengua Armada)
Rank/Xerox: M.Y.T.H. 12" (Adagio)
Life's Blood: Hardcore A.D. 1998 12" (Prank)
Municipal Waste: The Fatal Feast 12" (Nuclear Blast)
Nurse: 2nd 7" (Scavenger of Death)
Kombat: In Death We Are All the Same 7" (Hysteria)
ISS: Endless Pussyfooting cassette (State Laughter)
Kurraka: Otra Dimension cassette (Todo Destruido)
Breakdown: 87 Demo 12" (540)
Warhead: S/T 12" (540)
Rakta: S/T 12" (540)
Section Urbane: The Final Program 7" (540)
Merchandise / Destruction Unit / Milk Music: Split 12" (540)
Big Boys: Fun Fun Fun 12" (540)
Breakdown: Runnin' Scared 12" (540)
The Clean: Oddities 12" (540)