Featured Release Roundup: June 14, 2017
Spodee Boy: S/T 7” (Drop Medium) Debut vinyl from this Nashville project (I think it’s a one-person band). The person behind Spodee Boy actually dropped by the store while on tour with his other band and mentioned this project, noting that it was in a similar vein to a lot of Northwest Indiana stuff like DLIMC, Coneheads, Liquids, et al, and the similarities to that sound are pretty obvious with its raw production, Devo-inspired mechanical-sounding (but as far as I can tell acoustic) drums, but willingness to engage with a lot more melody and traditional pop songcraft than most noisy DIY punk bands. I think it’s pretty much a given that if you’re into that sound—particularly Liquids’ rawer cassette releases—that you’ll really enjoy this too, but I’ll also say that Spodee Boy can get pretty far out there. While some bands / songs in this style can almost start to sound like pop-punk with rawer production, Spodee Boy seems more grounded in a Hardcore Devo / Electric Eels type of thing. Definitely recommended if you’re still enjoying pulling on this thread of current punk.
Obnox: Niggative Approach 12” (12XU) Obnox has been a name that has been bumping around the edges of my awareness for some time now, and while I’ve heard records in passing and even seen him/them live a few times, I’ve never before actually sat down and tried to engage with his music. Niggative Approach has me rethinking that whole… er, approach… because, man, what a record! This album feels like a world that is completely unto itself, because I’ve never heard anything remotely like it. Attempting an exhaustive list of the influences on this beast would be completely impossible, but the primary ingredients in the stew seem to be classic funk and soul, modern hip-hop production (particularly the shimmery “Chipmunk Soul” sound that was really popular a few years ago and, for some reason, always reminds me of the Love Boat theme), hardcore, psych, and neo-garage. But I’m sure there’s way more to that, and dismissing this album as a mere cross-pollination of genres is something I definitely don’t want to do. Rather, it seems like Obnox is a man with a vision, and he’s able to pull songwriting and production techniques from whatever he feels like in order to realize that vision. The result is something that sounds utterly unlike anything I’ve ever heard before, but if I were to choose a couple of adjectives to describe the music on Niggative Approach they would be “lush” and “trippy.” I’ll refrain from trying to break this down any further, because at the end of the day it is what it is, and if you consider yourself an adventurous listener you should probably check it out.
Ben Trogdon: Rock N Roll Forever book (self-released) This is a lengthy (100+ pages) compilation of photographs by Ben, who you may know from the long-running zine Nuts. First of all, calling this a “photo book” is kind of misleading, because most of those that I’ve seen consist primarily of live band photography, and the photos themselves often portray the act of playing music as a kind of heroic, larger-than-life activity. Rock N Roll forever kind of does the opposite… portraying the music scene in a way that is almost shockingly devoid of pretense and posturing. Most of the shots are candid pics of people hanging out. The exceptions are a handful of band photo shoots that I think were mostly done for previous issues of Nuts and a smattering of live photos, neither of which really have anything of the tone and texture of most of what gets printed in contemporary zines and photobooks. In these photos, the bands don’t look heroic at all. They, almost without exception, look kind of schlubby and, in a word, human. That’s true to an even greater extent of the candid shots that form a majority of the book’s content. Most people don’t seem like they’re trying to look cool, and in the cases of the ones who are, Ben’s camera is able to capture something about them that feels very real and human. I know a lot of the people photographed in this book, and there’s a kind of truth to what Ben captures about them in his photos, and by aggregating them all together into this book (particularly along with the meticulously-constructed individual layouts for each page, which definitely add up to a unique and coherent aesthetic) Ben also reveals a wider truth about the punk scene of the last ten years as a whole. If you’ve been heavily involved in the DIY punk and hardcore scenes over the past decade, flipping through this will probably feel like flipping through a high school yearbook, though for a high school we all would have wanted to go to rather than the ones that we all, I’m pretty sure uniformly, hated. That mix of gratifying my very human impulse toward nostalgia as well as capturing something a bit higher and more artistic is a real achievement. I’m sure this isn’t for everyone, but it’s so perfectly and truly for me that I can’t help but give it my highest recommendation.
Sick Horse: S/T 12” (Static Age) I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe Sick Horse’s music, but I’m drawing a blank. They have this way of skirting categories… they’re too fast and too punk to really be accurately labeled a post-punk-inspired band, they’re too melodic to really be a hardcore band, and they’re too cerebral and angular to fit the mold of a straight up punk band. But even though they’re none of those things, somehow they’re also all three at the same time. I guess that they have a similar mix of elements as a band like Hot Snakes, but when I try to pin down that comparison Sick Horse don’t sound much like Hot Snakes at all… while the stew of influences might be similar, vibe-wise this is totally different… slightly loose and organic where Hot Snakes are nervy and wound super tight. Jeff said that Sick Horse sounds like Heavy Metal (the band, not the genre) with the goofy / campy elements removed, and I suppose that I can hear that as well, particularly on a track like “Culture Is Getting High,” which closes out the a-side quite brilliantly. I must say that I’m really looking forward to being done writing this description, because while analyzing their music feels like a fruitless activity, listening to Sick Horse is a really fun activity that I would very much like to get back to.
Ekman & Owen: S/T 7” (Goodbye Boozy) Transatlantic collaboration 7” between one of Finland’s Achtungs and DD Owen of Sick Thoughts. It’s funny, both Achtungs and Sick Thoughts have fairly manic sounds that tend to blur the lines between punk and hardcore, but both of the songs here are uncharacteristically mid-paced. “New Orleans to Helsinki” is a punky power pop track that reminds me of a lot of old European stuff that blurs the lines between those genres, Hubble Bubble in particular. On the other hand, “Gonna Go Downtown” is pretty much straight-up glam, with a rad, melodic mid-paced bootboy riff (that maybe owes a little to “Two Tub Man” by the Dictators), a Bolan-esque vocal (which I’m honestly kind of surprised Drew is capable of) and some sick Mick Ronson-worthy soloing in the outro. Someone told me a few months ago that they thought the next big punk trend was going to be bootboy glam, and “Gonna Go Downtown” makes a good case for punks making this genre their own. Like a lot of the singles on Goodbye Boozy, this one feels frustratingly brief, but damn do both of these songs smoke.
S.B.F.: Double Blind 7” (Goodbye Boozy) Second 7” from this California band that shares members with Race Car (as well as, presumably, a number of other projects), and I think it’s even better than their already-awesome first one. The first thing you’ll notice about S.B.F. is that they have a really distinctive sound. They use a drum machine, but rather than using it to program quirky robotic beats they instead use it to play the manic, Ramones-derived beats that power bands like the Carbonas. While a lot of these newer drum machine-based projects have a very thin and brittle sound, S.B.F. actually have a fairly beefy, heavy but melodic guitar sound. Putting aside the drum machine, the guitar tones and riffs have a very OC punk quality that reminds me of things like D.I. or Rikk Agnew’s solo LP. And, fortunately, S.B.F. also has the songwriting chops to match that comparison. Both of the tracks here have a surprising amount of complexity, with layered, overlapping guitar riffs that again recall the master Rikk Agnew’s work, particularly the darker flavor of the first track, “Disintegrate.” I love pretty much everything that has come out of this crew, but Double Blind strikes me as a real high-water mark.
Various: Ketters Van Het Vlaamse Platteland 12" (Mauerstadt) While I can’t make much sense of the German-language liner notes, I believe that this is a compilation of Belgian post-punk music from 1979-1983, including the bands De Brassers, Enterprise Incorporated, Struggler, Suspects, and Camera Obscura. When I think of Belgian punk the first thing that usually comes to mind are the more ’77 era/style bands like the Kids, Hubble Bubble, the Pigz, Chainsaw, et al, but Ketters Van Het Vlaamse Platteland has a different focus, centering on artier and more experimental bands working in more of a post-punk milieu. While the bands featured are quite different from one another, I can tell that they’re aware of what was happening in the English / British post-punk scene as you can hear the distinct influence of those bands, the Fall’s dystopian, Krautrock-inflected moments in particular. While several of these bands (most prominently De Brassers) went on to release vinyl, Ketters Van Het Vlaamse Platteland captures them at a very early stage… everything compiled here feels raw and immediate (possibly even live?) but with more than enough fidelity to hear everything that’s going on. Admittedly this is pretty niche stuff, but man there’s some good music on this one, as well as on the Mauerstadt label as a whole.
Piss: II 7” (Static Age) Second vinyl EP from this German band who recently toured the US, and it definitely stands up to the quality of their first. In case you didn’t check out that first one, Piss remind me quite a lot of S.H.I.T. and Blazing Eye in that they play noisy hardcore, often employ a really fast pogo beat, but also manage to infuse their music with some of the apocalyptic vibe of G.I.S.M. at their very best. While Blazing Eye’s sense of camp makes them special and S.H.I.T.’s mastery of atmosphere causes them to stand out, Piss stake their claim by upping the raw fury and aggression to the maximum possible level. At points, this EP even begins to transcend their established aesthetic, moving toward something more like the progressive noise-punk of Japanese bands like Zyanose or D-Clone. I also would be remiss not to mention the excellent packaging on this thing, including an eye-catching full-color layout and a cool screen-printed polybag that references a bunch of punk graphic cliches without feeling like a low-brow rehash. Definitely one of the standout hardcore releases of the past few months.
Bikini Cops: Number Two 7” (Goodbye Boozy) Second 7” from this Australian band, and it’s a real standout. Stylistically, this reminds me a lot of the Carbonas (and other adjacent Atlanta punk) in the way that it sounds like classic rock and roll (or that end of the 70s punk, a la the Brian James-era Damned) amped up to the point where they can hang with just about any hardcore band in terms of velocity and aggression. The combination of pop hooks and punk power is one of the most exhilarating things in music, and Bikini Cops totally nail it. Bonus points for also having more than their fair share of the vibe of Aussie punk classics like the Saints or the Chosen Few, but again sped and amped up for our modern age. Fortunately Bikini Cops even managed to persuade Goodbye Boozy to put music on both sides of this record, so it feels like a fully-realized EP and not the too-brief snapshot of some of the 1-sided Goobye Boozy releases. Basically, if you’re into any of the stuff above I’d strongly recommend checking these folks out.
All New Arrivals
Blue Dolphin: Demo 2016 cassette (self-released)
Blue Dolphin: Earth Day 2017 cassette (self-released)
Blue Dolphin: 2 New Songs cassette (self-released)
Various: Various Distractions 12" (Mauerstadt)
Various: Ketters Van Het Vlaamse Platteland 12" (Mauerstadt)
Vonbrigði: Ó, Reykjavík 12" (Mauerstadt)
Strange Devotion: Again the New Formation 7" (Mauerstadt)
Neural Circus: S/T 7" (Mauerstadt)
Mutter: 25 2x12" (Mauerstadt)
Rancid: Trouble Maker 12"+7" (Epitaph)
Crisis Man: S/T cassette (self-released)
III Guera: S/T 12" (Discos Enfermos)
Gaitze: S/T 12" (Discos Enfermos)
Asinus / Venganza: Split 7" (Discos Enfermos)
Ekman & Owen: S/T 7" (Goodbye Boozy)
Fresh Flesh: S/T 7" (Goodbye Boozy)
Bikini Cops: Number Two 7" (Goodbye Boozy)
Bad Boyfriends: S/T 7" (Goodbye Boozy)
S.B.F.: Double Blind 7" (Goodbye Boozy)
Draggs: 3D Funeral 7" (Goodbye Boozy)
Dead Kennedys: Bedtime for Democracy 12" (Manifesto)
Dead Kennedys: Plastic Surgery Disasters 12" (Manifesto)
Dead Kennedys: Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death 12" (Manifesto)
Slapshot: Step on It 12" (Taang!)
Negative FX: S/T 12" (Taang!)
Kilslug: Answer the Call 12" (Taang!)
Slaughter & the Dogs: Do It Dog Style 12" (Taang!)
Last Rights: Chunks 7" (Taang!)
Lemonheads: Laughing All the Way to the Cleaners 7" (Taang!)
Poison Idea: Learning to Scream 7" (Taang!)
RAS: Rien A Signaler 7" (Dirty Punk)
Distrust: A Dream of Peace + FOAD 12" (FOAD)
FCDN Tormentor: Demonic Thereafter 12" (FOAD)
Toxic Noise: Discography 1990-1994 12" (FOAD)
Kaleidoscope: Neurosonic Data Collection cassette (Outsider Tapes)
Violence Creeps: Gift of Music + Singles cassette (Total Punk)
Performing Ferrets: S/T 7" (Insolito)
Suffocation: Of the Dark Light 12" (Nuclear Blast)
Merrimack: Omegaphilia 12" (Season of Mist)
Morbid Opera: Collection 12" (Vinyl Rites)
Subversive Rite: The Demos 12" (Bloody Master)
Allergy: Smog 12" (Bloody Master)
Obnox: Niggative Approach 12" (12XU)
Ben Trogdon: Rock N Roll Forever book (self-released)
Bulsch: Tartington 7" (Blow Blood)
Magic City: S/T 7" (Blow Blood)
4 Skins: The Good, the Bad & the 4 Skins 12" (Radiation)
Death Piggy: Studio Session 84/85 12" (Vomitopunkrock)
Samhain: Unholy Passion 12" (Euro Import)
The Crowd: A World Apart 12" (Radiation)
Rhino 39: S/T 12" (Radiation)
Wretched: Libero E Selvaggio 12" (Agipunk)
FU's: Kill for Christ 12" (Taang!)
DYS: Brotherhood 12" (Taang!)
Buck Biloxi: Hollow Earth 7" (Holotrash)
Patsy: Tuley Tude High 7" (Total Punk)
Paranoid: Cover of the Month 12" (Svart)
Vagra: Demo 12" (Bloody Master)