Featured Release Roundup: July 9, 2020

T.S.O.L.: Beneath the Shadows 12” (Dink) Dink Records brings this American punk masterpiece, T.S.O.L.’s second album from 1982, back into print. Unconstrained by the lack of ambition that kept most American punk bands ghettoized in the underground, with Beneath the Shadows T.S.O.L. created a sound and a record that could stand alongside any of the bigger-budget, pop-chart-troubling records by bands like the Buzzcocks, the Stranglers, the Damned, or Siouxsie and the Banshees. Beneath the Shadows’ closest soundalike is the Damned circa The Black Album, when they reveled in Beatles-inspired pomposity without losing their ability to write a great hook (case in point: “Wait for the Blackout”). Similarly, Beneath the Shadows is a dense and lush record, with the guitars, keyboards, and vocals fighting for center stage. When all three players go for the gold—as they do on the brilliant title track—it’s orgiastic, melodies bombarding you from every direction. Really, though, there isn’t a dud on the entire record. If you’re a fan of the bands I mentioned, or if you’re a fan of T.S.O.L.’s earlier, equally brilliant records who never ventured on to album #2, get this in your ears right away. While this reissue is free from frills (only upgrading the jacket with foil stamping and embossing), it sounds great and it’s the quickest way to get this brilliant record on your turntable.

Poison Arts: Flexi + Comps 12” (DTK) Fan Club LP that compiles Poison Arts’ Hi-Energy 7" flexi as well as their appearances on the Attack of 4 Tribes compilation 12", Nobody's Fault Sulais Omnibus compilation 12", and Game of Death compilation 12". Poison Arts can be an intimidating to get into because they have a slew of releases, but this compilation gathers up several odds and ends from the band’s discography into a digestible chunk. The tracks from the flexi and Attack of the 4 Tribes compilation are from 1988, and while Japanese hardcore deep heads will love them, the band feels a little less focused at this earlier stage, combining elements of thrash, rock-and-roll, hair metal, and punk in a way that has plenty of charm, but doesn’t hang together into a consistent sound and vision. However, the b-side compilation tracks from only a year later are a major upgrade. While not as anthemic as Death Side (with whom Poison Arts shared their guitarist Chelsea), everything seems to click together on these 1989 tracks, showcasing a band that is locked in, channeling their undeniable musical virtuosity into a sound whose intensity matches its complexity. As with a lot of these recent Japanese fan club releases, the packaging is meager but the sound reproduction is very strong.

Cassie: Change My Image 7” (Reminder) Reminder Records reissues this 1982 obscurity from the Isle of Wight, and it is a full-on blinder. While, judging from the label’s description, Cassie couldn’t catch much of a break during their original run as a band, these two songs show that it wasn’t for lack of talent. Perhaps by 1982 they were just late, as these two slices of amped-up, punky power-pop make me think the pop gems bands like the Pointed Sticks, Nasty Facts, and the Go-Go’s were pumping out a few years earlier. Vocalist / songwriter Debbie Barker’s unpretentious lyrics and high-energy vocal style are the star of the show, but the band is explosive here, summoning 60s garage energy and filtering it through a new wave pop style. Another reason Cassie’s single might not have taken off is the production. Like the Protex album Sing Sing Records reissued in 2010, it has a grainy sound that isn’t up to major label production standards, but is just perfect for those of us who love discovering old punk singles like this. What a kick off for Reminder Records! I can’t wait to see what they bring us next.

Irreal: 2020 EP 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Oh man, what a ripper! We loved Irreal’s first 12” here at Sorry State, but this new 5-track EP might melt your turntable. The a-side is devoted to three short tracks with clipped, busy-sounding riffs. While a lot of bands who sound similar to Irreal let their riffs breathe and hang on a groove for a while, these three tracks sound anxious and compressed, reminding me early Riistetyt in how it take an early Discharge influence and applies it to the more tightly wound sound of US hardcore. The two tracks on the b-side breathe a little more, climaxing with the killer closer, “Inútil,” which adapts the main riff from Anti-Cimex’s “Pain” into a track that could cause serious mosh pit injuries. But then in the chorus the guitarist takes a total left turn with an airy, melodic guitar line that sounds right out of early Public Image, Ltd. or Magazine and it’s all over for me… I’m in love with this record. This record makes me so bummed out that shows aren’t happening right now because I would love to see Irreal live. Until then, I’ll be blasting this EP.

Loss Prevention: Shoot to Kill 7” (11pm) The whole recent drop from 11pm Records has been great, and while I love the Cadenaxo LP and Freon tape, this four song rager from Loss Prevention takes the title for me. Loss Prevention plays the kind of fast and grimy US hardcore that I love, taking cues from the early Dischord and Touch and Go catalog, but augmented with a big dollop of Black Flag’s hopelessness. While they’re not as fast as Suck Lords or Electric Chair, this appeals to the same nihilistic sensibility, and if you’re a fan of what those bands are doing, I recommend checking this out. All four tracks are ace, but the fast hammer-ons in “Devil’s Fools” brings a little early C.O.C. into the mix, making it this southern boy’s clear favorite. Lovers of pure USHC, don’t miss this!

Cheryl: Killer Kiss 7” (Reminder) More brilliant vintage power-pop from Reminder Records, who this time give us a reissue of the lone 1981 single from Cheryl. These two songs sound like they’re straight out of the Stiff Records catalog with their amped-up, Phil Spector meets Dr. Feelgood style, but for all of their pop classicism the energy level is as high as any second-wave punk single you can throw at it. Fans of the Pointed Sticks, Nasty Facts, and Protex’s Strange Obsessions should take note, as this has the same time of manic pop energy. Oh, and if you noticed that I used the same comparisons for the Cassie single that came out on Reminder at the same time, that’s because they’re very similar (and similarly awesome). If you love this style, you need both… trust me.

Featured Release Roundup: July 2, 2020

ISS: Too Punk for Heavy Metal 7” (Total Punk) This new two-song single from North Carolina’s own ISS is the final single on punk institution Total Punk Records (the label will keep going, but will drop the hand-stamped sleeves and focus on 12”s). In much the same way they take samples from classic punk records and bend and twist them into new songs, ISS has turned the Total Punk aesthetic against itself. The a-side track, “Too Punk for Heavy Metal,” takes several swipes at Total Punk and its owner and, to add injury to insult, they put the lyrics on the record’s cover, forcing Rich at Total Punk to stare at them for hours on end while he hand stamps hundreds of sleeves, like Bart Simpson writing out his offenses on the chalkboard. Fortunately, Rich at Total Punk has a sense of humor and an ear for a great track, because “Too Punk for Heavy Metal” is as great as anything ISS has done so far, taking a Dead Kennedys bass line and adding the perfect disco beat the original never had. The b-side dips back into the Rudimentary Peni catalog for more sample material, and while it’s not as anthemic as the a-side, it reminds me of a classic b-side in that it feels looser and more introverted. 100% Total Punk and 100% essential.

Lockheed: Conflict Delirium 7” (Blown Out Media) Usman wrote about this debut EP from Löckheed in his staff pick a few weeks ago, and now the vinyl is in. It’s easy to see why this would grab Usman’s ear, because this is top-shelf, memorable d-beat with a healthy Totalitär influence. It’s pretty on the nose stylistically (the vocalist even sounds like Poffen), but there are so many details here I love. The recording is strong; while the tones are all powerful and gnarly, there’s a lot of separation between the instruments, which makes it feel spacious whereas so many d-beat bands’ recordings are dense and claustrophobic. The drumming is also stellar. I love it when fast punk drummers play behind the beat; it makes me feel like I’m bombing a hill on a skateboard, going super fast but feeling chill with the wind rushing past me. The kick drum is also high in the mix, but the playing is so precise that it works. Great songwriting, great execution… there’s nothing here a d-beat fanatic shouldn’t love.

Cadenaxo: Lenguas Podridas 12” (11pm) I’ve heard several people mention how great Tenochtitlan, Mexico’s Cadenaxo are live, so I was pumped to check out this 12” from 11pm Records. It’s easy to imagine the crowd going off to this band, because the way Cadenaxo combines big, mosh-worthy riffs and blazing d-beat makes it hard to sit still. The beefy parts remind me of Warthog or S.H.I.T., while the ripping parts have the propulsive feel of Impalers or Vaaska, with plenty of the latter’s catchy, anthemic quality. I just love how upbeat and punk this record feels… it has a sprightly energy that many bands find it difficult to capture on a recording. There’s nothing unexpected or weird here, just well-written, well-executed, infectious hardcore punk.

Freon: PYK cassette (11pm) Debut cassette from this new hardcore band out of St Louis. I’m not sure what the title PYK refers to, but I suspect it might be a reference to Poison Idea’s Pick Your King EP, which seems like an important influence on this tape. The guitar sound is straight Pig Champion, and the tightly wound riffage on tracks like “Crisis Aborted” betrays a lot of time spent studying the GOAT’s every move. I get a little whiff of straight edge hardcore in places (as I do from several 11pm bands), but this isn’t positive, good-living shit… not only are their lines of cocaine on the cover but also the vocals are way too mean for that. After the intro intro’s slow build-up, this is one of those hardcore EPs that feels like a dead sprint for its entire runtime. Recommended for fans of fast hardcore that doesn’t waste a second of your time.

Redd Kross: Red Cross EP 12” (Merge) Merge Records takes Redd Kross’s debut EP (from back when they were called Red Cross) and brings it back into print, beefing up the package with some excellent bonus material. I have a lot of friends who view the Red Cross EP as total godhead punk, and while I love it, it’s never gotten its teeth in me as deep as it should, probably because I’ve never been able to track down an original copy. Revisiting it now, though, it’s fucking great. I mean, “Cover Band?” “Clorox Girls?” “Standing in Front of Poseur?” These are bona fide punk classics, exactly the catchy, song-oriented west coast punk I adore. While Red Cross’s name was an obvious nod to Black Flag, these songs sound less like Flag and more like Dangerhouse / Masque-era LA punk or the more melodic sounds of the Simpletones or the Cheifs. As for this reissue, the a-side presents the original EP, while the b-side collects a bunch of demo tracks. While the demos date to a few months before the proper EP, the sound is clearer and beefier and I could see how some people would prefer these versions. There’s also a live track by pre-Red Cross band the Tourists that’s well worth hearing. It’s crazy that, even though they were so young when they recorded this EP, there’s still a pre-Red Cross band to dig in to. As you would expect from Merge, the sound, the design, and the presentation are all on point. If, like me, you’ve never laid your hands on an original, this is an essential grip.

The Sound: Physical World 7” (Reminder Records) Reminder Records is a new reissue label from Jeremy Thompson, formerly of the great Sing Sing Records, and they’re starting strong with this much-needed reissue of the first single by the Sound, which has never been reissued. I was excited to get this because I’m a massive fan of the Sound. Their first two LPs, Jeopardy, and From the Lion’s Mouth, are unheralded post-punk classics, both of them overflowing with classic tracks. (Their LPs after that are decent too.) Jeopardy is a particular favorite, and if you’re a fan of how the Chameleons combine punky energy and post-punk brooding with big pop hooks, you’ll agree. As for this single, it’s not as great as the albums, but it’s worth hearing if you’re a fan. The first two tracks are upbeat punk with a mechanized groove that hints at where the band was going. Adrian Borland was a huge Joy Division fan, and it’s not unlike the early Warsaw-era tracks that found that band using punk rock as a jumping-off point. The closer is an early version of “Unwritten Law” (which would appear in a different version on Jeopardy), and I’d say it’s one of those Wizard of Oz moments of stepping from black and white into technicolor, but it’s more like stepping from punk’s flat plastic day-glo into the grey and grittily textured world of post-punk. Whereas the first two tracks are all bluster, “Unwritten Law” breathes, showing off the memorable bass work that gives Jeopardy so much of its power. While Jeopardy is hardly a high production value affair, these tracks are even grittier and grainer. It’s hard for me to say how this single would land with someone who isn’t familiar with the albums, but as a fan of the Sound, I’m stoked to have this.

Paragons: Abba 7” (Fan Club) Fan Club repress of this great, obscure garage single from North Carolina circa 1966. An original will set you back upwards of two grand, and I can see why… this is as brilliant a slice of 60s garage as you’ll find. The a-side pulls out all the stops with a great guitar hook, a huge chorus, and even a rousing call-and-response part. The vibe reminds me of Them’s best tracks, but it could have just as easily come from London or Canada or Peru or anywhere that was pumping out garage bands as quickly as teenagers could lap them up. While the a-side has been comped several times, the b-side hasn't gotten out there as much, and it’s worth hearing. More mid-paced, it’s driven by a Byrds-y guitar line and features some great fuzz guitar too. North Carolinians will be particularly interested in this, but this is a heavyweight for any deep 60s garage head.

Featured Release Roundup: June 25, 2020

Stiff Richards: Dig 12” (Erste Theke Tontraeger) With Stiff Richards, Germany’s Erste Theke Tonträger Records has added some straight up garage punk to their already eclectic roster. That said, while Stiff Richards resemble the New Bomb Turks or the Rip Off Records roster, it’s clear why their huge, catchy riffs would appeal to the label that released records by Bib. Like Bib, Stiff Richards hang on simple riffs for a long time, and while the repetition helps the songs stick in your memory, it never feels like they’re belaboring the point. Lyrics are in the Iggy mold of just a handful of lines per song and, judging by the photo on the cover of the album, Stiff Richards' live show also summons the Stooges’ style of chaos. That photo says everything there is to say about Stiff Richards… if you want to hear music that sounds like it’s made in the middle of a wild, drunken show where the floor is littered with beer bottles and everyone in the band and the crowd is stumbling and falling over themselves, Dig captures that spirit.

Kohti Tuhoa: Elä Totuudesta 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Elä Totuudesta is a new 5-song EP from this Finnish band that has built an impressive discography over the past several years. I’m always interested in hearing extreme music from Finland, and this record is a perfect example of why. It totally rips! Like my favorite 80s Finnish hardcore bands like Appendix and Lama, Kohti Tuhoa’s music strikes the perfect balance between catchiness and intensity without sacrificing either. The riff to the opening track, “Taas Sivussa,” could almost be a Pennywise song, but it’s played so mean that no one will mistake it for mall punk. The vocals are also great. Like the music, they’re powerful and commanding while remaining clear and catchy, and the timbre and phrasing remind me of another great band, Poland’s Post Regiment. If the references above intrigue you, don’t waste any time checking this one out.

The Chisel: Deconstructive Surgery 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Debut release from this new punk/oi! band featuring a bunch of familiar faces from the  contemporary London scene. The sound reminds me of Ultra Violent, the Insane, or the best moments from the early part of the Exploited’s discography. Like those bands, the Chisel makes punk that’s straightforward and catchy, but matches the intensity of hardcore without losing an ounce of catchiness. I think this features some Charlie Fresh (Chubby and the Gang, Violent Reaction, Crown Court) guitar work, so if you’re a fan of his style from those previous bands—50% hardcore, 50% catchy oi!—you’ll want to give this a listen. Great vocals, too, that tread the catchy / tough line just as well as the music.

Cuir: Single Demo 12” (Offside Records) I’ve seen people hyping Cuir online for a while now, but I haven’t given their music a close listen until we got in this LP, which compiles an earlier single and demo cassette. Their aesthetic struck me as a little cheesy, so I was resistant to investigating further, but it’s easy to see why people are hyping them. They’re excellent and don’t sound like anything else I can think of. The basic formula is tough, fist-pumping punk with an oi! edge, overlaid with super melodic synth parts. If you took away the synth, Cuir would sound like a mix of the Carbonas and Rixe, but those synth lines take these songs to places I never would have expected them to go. Every track is short, punchy, and all impact. I’m sure some people will think the synths are cheesy, but the more I listen to this, the more I think I love it.

The Times: Red with Purple Flashes 7” (Static Shock) Static Shock brings this slice of brilliance from 1981 back into print, and I am beyond stoked to have it in my collection. Just last week I wrote my staff pick about how much I love the early Television Personalities, a love that extends to related groups like the Times, Teenage Filmstars, and O Level. This single might be the single best record from any of those groups, as both tracks are DIY pop classics delivered with all the ramshackle brilliance you want from this sound. Seriously, if you don’t love “Red With Purple Flashes,” I don’t know what to tell you. If you’re a fan of this style of music, you need this. Pro tip: the Times’ second single, “I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape,” is a banger too.

Gaffer: demo cassette (Helta Skelta) Gaffer is a new band from the Helta Skelta camp out in Perth, Western Australia. Their sound is tough, mid-paced punk spiced with elements of post-punk, anarcho-punk, and garage-punk. The tape starts off strong with “Hang,” whose Crisis-esque lead guitar line makes it my favorite song on the tape. The others don’t lag too far behind, though, as Gaffer keeps everything catchy. Two of the tracks even break three minutes, and while I like a lot of music that holds nothing back, Gaffer’s slow boil is a welcome counterbalance to all the frantic hardcore in my listening diet. Not to belabor the point, but I’d recommend this if you’ve put a lot of wear on your Crisis vinyl.

Featured Release Roundup: June 18, 2020

Rudimentary Peni: Wilfred Owen the Chances 7” (Sealed Records) Sealed Records digs up this obscurity from the Rudimentary Peni catalog and puts it on vinyl for the first time. As the label’s description notes, this track originally came on a CD that accompanied Nick Blinko’s book The Haunted Head. That book came out in 2009, and while there are no recording credits or other information, one must assume it comes from around the same time as the No More Pain E.P., which came out in 2008 and was Rudimentary Peni’s last release to date. Like No More Pain, “Wilfred Owen the Chances” sounds like Rudimentary Peni, a band that no other group has been able to emulate. The track is mid-paced, with a catchy riff and that trademark claustrophobic guitar sound. I am a person who celebrates Rudimentary Peni’s entire catalog, and I’m not willing to miss one second of music they make, so I’m stoked to have this track in my collection. Just as importantly, this release also features new Nick Blinko illustrations on the front and rear sleeve, printed with debossing that accentuates his striking line work. Just as no Rudimentary Peni music should be missed, so is every Nick Blinko illustration well worth your time. My only complaint is that the beautiful, full-color illustrations that came with the original CD release don’t reappear here, though I suppose they would have upset this tight packaging design. While this single may not offer as much value for money as a Mystic Records compilation, greatness is well worth paying a little extra for.

Newtown Neurotics: Kick Out! 12” (Sealed Records) Kick Out! compiles the first six Newtown Neurotics singles in their entirety (originally released between 1979 and 1984), along with the two tracks they contributed to 1983’s Son of Oi! compilation. Kick Out! is a companion release meant to come out alongside a recently completed documentary film about the Neurotics, but the film’s release was delayed because of COVID-19. Fortunately they decided not to delay the vinyl, as jamming these great tunes is a welcome relief during these turbulent times. While I’d been familiar with tracks like “Living with Unemployment” and “Kick Out the Tories!” for some time, the band first hit me hard when a spate of reissues of their early singles appeared around six years ago. When Brazil’s Nada Nada Discos reissued their first single, “Hypocrite,” in 2014, it stayed on my turntable for a long time and made it onto a mix tape that I played into the ground over the next few years. I still think “Hypocrite” is the Neurotics’ best song (it appears in two versions on Kick Out!, though I prefer the original), but I don’t think there’s a dud on this compilation. Newtown Neurotics’ lyrics have all the simple directness of classic anarcho-punk, but their music is straight up pop, combining the driving, riffy energy of the early Clash with the melodic sensibility of the Ramones (whom they cover twice on this LP). While the lyrics might be a little “heart on sleeve” for some, you can't deny these chaps had a way with a tune, and Kick Out! is earworm after earworm. Lovers of upbeat, catchy ’77 punk (think the Boys, the Lurkers, Eater, or Peter & the Test Tube Babies) should have these tunes in their collection in some form. And, needless to say, I’m eagerly anticipating the documentary.

Various: Days of a Quiet Sun 12” (Feel It) Most of you know Feel It Records as one of the top labels in contemporary punk and hardcore, but they’ve been in the reissue game for a while; their first release was a 7” by the 80s hardcore band Lackey Die, and they’ve also reissued recordings by the Landlords and Insinuations. With Days of a Quiet Sun, however, they take things back a little further, exploring Virginia’s music scene during the 60s and 70s. This compilation focuses on bands involved with the producer Martin Gary, who worked with bands throughout the state and across a wide range of genres. Days of a Quiet Sun covers a lot of sonic territory, from the soul group King Edward & His B.D.’s to garage groups like the Hazards and Jokers Wild to psych groups like the Barracudas to the heavy acid rock of the Bosom Blues Band and even one Fahey-style finger-picking guitarist, Duck Baker. It’s an eclectic listen, but the tracks are tied together by their great-sounding, vintage mono recordings. The inside gatefold also features detailed liner notes that give background information on Martin Gary and the musicians he worked with, notes and/or label scans for each track, and scans of other vintage paraphernalia to set the scene. It’s a top shelf job from Feel It, and as a native Virginian it’s interesting to hear what was happening in the state in the 60s and early 70s. Even though these groups clearly take influence from national acts, it seems like Virginia was slower-paced and less connected to the national zeitgeist than it is nowadays (though maybe that feeling also comes from the fact that these groups seem to come from the southern part of the state rather than the metro DC area). As you might expect given Feel It’s background in punk and hardcore, most of the tracks here are upbeat, energetic, and short, exactly the 60s music you dig if you grew up listening to punk rock.

Robodrum: Elektro Mafia 12” (Detriti Records) From what I’ve heard of their output, Germany’s Detriti Records specializes in an under-explored area of music where post-punk intersects with electronic dance music. I’m approaching this intersection from one direction, being that I’m much more knowledgeable about post-punk music than dance music. In fact, my knowledge of dance music is more or less nil. I think that’s why Robodrum was the first one of the fresh batch of Detriti releases I wanted to listen to. It’s that dance music flavor that makes the post-punk-ish releases on the label so interesting, and I wanted to see how far that influence could go before I lost interest. It turns out it’s further than this, because I love this Robodrum LP. To my ears, it’s pure electronic dance music, with a constant, pounding beat and minimal vocals. The steady beat creates a trance-like effect while the synth sounds that populate the higher registers skitter and swirl, creating interesting rhythmic and melodic interplay. My favorite track is the b-side opener, “Przepraszamy Za Usterki,” which has a seasick, psychedelic quality that contrasts with the ever-present boom bap. Who knows if knowledgeable dance heads would be into this, but I'm feeling it.

Goldie Dawn: S/T 7” (Drunken Sailor) Drunken Sailor brings us the debut release from this Scottish band, and if you’re a fan of high-energy, catchy, and biting garage-punk, it’s worth a listen. Two of the tracks, “Gone with the Wild” and “What’s Inside (Never Dies)” are high-speed punkers that remind me of the Carbonas or (as Jonah Falco’s blurb notes) the Rip Off Records catalog. My favorite track, though, is “Crime,” with its big, mid-paced metallic riff that would have been a highlight of the Runaways catalog. It’s not unlike the classic hardcore dirge, where you drop the tempo and tilt the scales toward hard rather than fast. The EP ends with the country-tinged “It’s Nothing to Me,” which leaves me wondering if it’s possible to pin Goldie Dawn down. This EP is an embarrassment of riches, and it makes me very curious to hear where Goldie Dawn might go from here.

Osbo: demo cassette (self-released) Debut cassette from this hardcore band out of Sydney, Australia. While I associate Australia with poppier sounds these days, this is pure hardcore with a snotty, ranting vocalist and simple, driving rhythms. The sound is raw and live, and I love how primitive the playing and the recording are here… it gives Osbo a very old school feel, like you would discover them buried in the middle of a Mystic Records comp LP, investigate their discography further, and find that they have a bunch of cool tracks. The snottiness of the vocals might interest fans of the Crucifucks, and the closing track, “Time,” slows things down for a Flipper / No Trend-informed dirge. The j-card may be a little on the artsy side, but the music is raw and immediate hardcore punk.

Featured Release Roundup: June 11, 2020

Sniffany & the Nits: The Greatest Nits 7” (Thrilling Living) Sniffany & the Nits are from Brighton / London and they play a high-energy combination of straightforward punk and anarcho that fits well on the Thrilling Living label. Like CB Radio Gorgeous, Judy and the Jerks, and Good Throb, Sniffany & the Nits bang out big, catchy punk riffs with a thin and scratchy guitar sound, occasionally speeding up to hardcore tempos, but the ranting, Eve Libertine-esque vocals serve as Sniffany & the Nits’ calling card. It’s hard to say what separates spectacular vocals from mediocre ones, but whatever it is, Sniffany has it. When I was listening to this EP in the living room, my partner poked her head in from the kitchen and said, “what is this? It RULES!” and immediately dialed up their Bandcamp site. The lyrics are also great, each song building an extended metaphor rich with detail. “Spider Husband” is the record’s climax, casting an obedient wife as “a silly little fly” whose titular husband devours and digests her. If you love Good Throb and Cold Meat, you shouldn’t be without this EP, but it deserves way more than just a simple “for fans of…” recommendation.  

Primo!: Sogni 12" (Anti-Fade) Australia’s Primo! returns with a second album and it’s excellent. I’ve listened to Sogni several times, and the word I keep coming back to is “gentle.” Primo! reminds me of the Shifters in that they sound a bit like the Fall, but unlike most bands who share their loose playing style and emphasis on rhythm, Primo!’s approach is feather-light and delicate. The songs on Sogni are all melodic, but they don’t use the stark contrasts I associate with pop music. The melodies are too blurred and hazy, lulling you into a tranquil, dreamlike state rather than prompting you to stand up and raise your fist. Sogni remains interesting throughout, though, proving that pleasant does not necessarily equal bland. I’d recommend checking out Sogni if you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard of contemporary Australian indie and punk, particularly if the Shifters and/or Parsnip are among your favorites.

Carnivorous Bells: The Upturned Stone 12” (Human Headstone) The Upturned Stone is the debut vinyl from this Philadelphia band. I recognized two of the band members’ names: Matthew Adis from Salvation and David Vassalotti from Merchandise, Cult Ritual, solo recordings, and many other projects. Salvation’s fans will be happy to hear Adis’s distinctive voice and strong lyrics carry over to Carnivorous Bells, but Carnivorous Bells’ overall sound departs from hardcore. To my ears, at least, they’re a prog band. Their songs are full of unconventional time signatures, virtuosic instrumental flourishes, and spaced-out, sometimes jazzy interludes. While there’s a heaviness and intensity that makes sense given the members’ backgrounds in hardcore, punk, and noise rock, The Upturned Stone doesn’t foreground its heaviness. Many moments remind me of King Crimson’s Red album, and fans of that record should make it a point to check out The Upturned Stone, though the complexity and virtuosity will also impress anyone who loves Slint, Tortoise, and related strains of math and/or post-rock. It’s a heady, demanding album, but Carnivorous Bells rewards listeners up for the challenge.

Scheme: demo cassette (Slow Death) If you’re in the market for some ripping d-beat, look no further than this 10-song smasher out of Vancouver, BC. Scheme’s big sound and tight playing might drift toward pro d-beat in the wrong hands, but their lean and catchy songwriting style leaves no room for pomp or pretense. While there are clear nods to Discharge, I also hear elements of driving USHC and anthemic oi! in Scheme’s sound. Like Social Unrest or Upright Citizens, Scheme’s songs feel sleek and aerodynamic, with no discernible drag on their relentless forward momentum. Fans of Iconoclast should also take note as Scheme has a similar vibe. This one will get you out of your chair faster than a quadruple espresso.

Battlefields: 4 Track Demo cassette (self-released) Four tracks of blown out rippage from this all star project band. This tape reminds me of the Shitlickers 7” in its relentlessness and the way it’s blown out and raw, yet also sounds huge and powerful. A couple of members of Blood Pressure appear here, and while Battlefields’ tape is harsher and more blown out than any of Blood Pressure’s stuff, there’s a similarly inexorable approach here, with riff after riff raining down without letting up for even a second. Don’t come to this tape looking for breakdowns, melodies, or anything but unfiltered hardcore intensity.

Cement Shoes: A Love Story of Drugs & Rock & Roll & Drugs 7” (Drunken Sailor) After recording their recent LP, Too, Cement Shoes shifted their lineup and their drummer Trevor took over the mic. While Cement Shoes’ recordings until that point felt like they were mocking the punk scene, Trevor led the band into full-on antagonism, an attitude that reaches full flower on this EP, recorded during the band’s recent Australian tour.  Trevor’s vocals sound manic, swinging unexpectedly from gruff hardcore shouting to Jello-esque mocking to drugged-out babbling, often shifting drastically in tone over the course of a song (or even a single part). The music does the same, moving from crunchy punk to ripping hardcore to goofy mockery in a way that feels intuitive and stream of consciousness rather than schizophrenic. More than any other recent record that I can think of, A Love Story of Drugs & Rock & Roll & Drugs captures the feeling of being drunk and speeding and getting knocked around the mosh pit in a sweaty basement, not sure whether you’re immersed in the moment or on another planet. If you’re even slightly uptight you should steer clear, but for everyone else, this is an extraordinary record.

Skitklass: Sekaino Byoudou Sayonara 7” (Distort Reality) Japan’s Skitklass has been bumping around for a few years now, releasing a steady stream of cassettes and vinyl that somehow fell just off the edge of my radar. A few months ago I listened to their debut full-length, Primitiv Känsala, and it blew me away. After listening to that record a bunch and spending some time with this latest 5-song EP on Distort Reality, I can sense them charging toward the top of my list of favorite current punk bands. Skitklass sounds like a straightforward and raging Cimex / Shitlickers-style d-beat band, but with one important difference: rather than using a guitar sound that is beefy and metallic or noisy and blown out, their guitarist has a sound that’s scratchy and minimally distorted, more in line with garage-punk bands like the early Hives stuff or Henry Fiat’s Open Sore. It’s amazing how much this subtle difference changes the vibe. While there is, perhaps, a hint more punk catchiness in some of their riffs that you might expect from your typical d-beat band (which comes out a little on the third track, “Specimen,” here), most of the riffs, vocals, and songwriting style are pure Discharge worship. However, as modern d-beat as a genre grows a little stale and formulaic, Skitklass sounds urgent and explosive. Maybe it’s just that they’re a great band and their unique guitar sound is just a hook to make them stand out from the d-beat crowd. Whatever the reason, this band rules and this EP is a certified ripper.

Sorry, no streaming link for this one!

Featured Release Roundup: May 28, 2020

Sin Ritmo: Sonidos Barbajanes 7” (Planeta Destrozado) Debut 7” from this band whose members are split between Mexico City and California, and who also serve in Fuga and Cadenaxo, among others. Sin Ritmo’s sound isn’t tethered to any particular punk subgenre, incorporating elements of d-beat, UK82 punk, USHC, and even garage rock (they love that Ramones-style ultra fast closed hi-hat thing). Rather than sounding unfocused, on Sonidos Barbajanes, Sin Ritmo sounds agile and flexible, packing these songs with dramatic shifts in rhythm and tight technical flourishes. The recording sounds great, and they strike a unique balance between catchiness and anger. I can’t think of another record that sounds quite like Sonidos Barbajanes, and that’s a very high compliment in punk circa 2020.

Various: Pinch and Ouch 12” (Fan Club) Fan Club reissue of this 1985 Japanese punk / hardcore compilation with great sound and questionable graphic design, as is the way these days. While we’re all into Japanese hardcore here at Sorry State, none of us claimed to be too familiar with Pinch and Ouch. While I might have mp3s sitting on a hard drive somewhere, it’s not a compilation I’ve spent much time with. It does feature three bands I like—Gai, Kuro, and Aggressive Dogs—and three others I don’t know, and none of them are un-punk outliers you sometimes get on old compilations. All of the bands recorded their tracks for Pinch and Ouch in the same studio, so there’s a consistent sound and high fidelity throughout. While the production is cleaner than on Gai and Kuro’s other records (and, consequently, not quite as powerful), it’s interesting to hear them so clearly. It’s disorienting but fascinating, like finding a high-resolution photograph of a historical figure you’d only seen in paintings. I wouldn’t say any of the bands I already knew deliver their best material here (Gai’s songs are a little silly, including a cover of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” and Kuro’s are powerfully played but too clean), but it’s all worth hearing. The three bands I didn’t know—No-Cut, Gedon, and Gess—aren’t undiscovered gems, but are interesting, all of them having a UK punk and oi! influence. The punkiness of Pinch and Ouch sets it apart from most Japanese punk compilations. While I wouldn’t start my journey into Japanese hardcore with Pinch and Ouch, it’s a solid comp that is a little more noteworthy because of its great recording quality.

Launcher: Bone Saw 12” (Wanda Records) Bone Saw is the debut LP from this Los Angeles punk band, and it’s a unique and interesting record. The core of Launcher’s sound is fast punk that’s either “punk at hardcore tempos” or “hardcore with catchy punk elements.” In other words, it’s in the same pocket as bands like Career Suicide, injected with the grimy vibe of Total Punk Records and a snotty vocalist who is, at times, a dead ringer for Lumpy. It’s clear Launcher isn’t just doing a genre run-through, though, because their songs are so quirky. While there are a handful of punk smashers here, many tracks are built around melancholy chord progressions and that, when combined with quirky flourishes like the upstroke guitar in “Fingers Crossed” or the lead guitar runs in “Shrunken Head,” makes me think of Naked Raygun. Like Naked Raygun, Launcher sounds like they could write great punk anthems, but they can’t help weirding their songs up. While it might make the music less immediate, those of us who value originality in our punk appreciate the move. Bone Saw is too quirky to get sucked into the hype machine, but if you’re a fan of weird records that are really good in spite of the fact—or maybe because—they fall in the spaces between genres, give this a try.

Program: Dehumanized Progress 12” (Mutant Sounds) Dehumanized Progress is the debut LP from this Japanese hardcore-inspired band from Texas, not to be confused with the Australian band Program whose records we also carry. Program isn’t just a weak imitation of their influences, either. The recording sounds huge, the songs are built around powerful, driving rhythms, and they’re full of catchy vocal lines and explosive lead guitar breaks. In particular, Dehumanized Progress reminds me of Forward’s last few records, streamlined attacks from a band confident enough to do what they’re great at and leave it at that. Recommended for fans of Destruct, Selfish, and other Western bands who do the Japanese hardcore tradition proud.

Executioner: Hellbound 12” (Puke N Vomit) We first stocked Hellbound a few weeks ago, but I wasn’t able to grab a copy before it sold out. However, it’s back in stock now, so it’s not too late for me to point your attention toward this rager. Executioner was from San Jose, California, and played their first show in 1982. The flyers in the insert booklet show them playing numerous gigs with Northern California punk luminaries, but in particular it seems like Crucifix and Social Unrest rubbed off on Executioner’s sound. Like Crucifix, Executioner was explosive when they were in full-on hardcore mode, but like Social Unrest their songs were shot through with the melodic sensibility of Southern California bands like (early) Social Distortion and the Adolescents. I love all those sounds, and the fact Executioner could nail them so perfectly makes Hellbound a slam dunk for me. Most of the a-side is devoted to a 1983 recording session with a clear and powerful sound, while the rest of the record is filled out with recordings that are rougher but still powerful and legible. I’m confident any early 80s punk fanatic will love all 23 tracks. Hellbound also has great packaging, so if this is your thing, there’s no reason not to pull the trigger.

Sorry, no streaming link for this one!

Cool Hiss #10: The Guitar Tab Issue!! zine Just like it says on the cover, this latest issue of the Richmond, Virginia zine Cool Hiss is devoted to guitar and bass tabs from your favorite current and recent hardcore and punk bands. Hopefully I can find the time to learn a couple of these (I’m particularly stoked to get into the Public Acid track), but for now the most interesting thing about this zine is how each band has chosen to present their tabs. It looks like each band designed their own page, so each band has their own graphic style, but the tabs themselves are also presented very differently. Dark Thoughts just gives you a chord chart, which Jeff pointed out is a very songwriter-ly move. Some bands’ pages are dense with tablature, while others try to make their music as simple and approachable as they can. Quarantine dumbs it down the most, showing you how to play four power chords and instructing you to “repeat twice, third time strum out more!” If you’re a punk who owns a guitar, this is a very cool thing to have lying around.

Featured Release Roundup: May 14, 2020

Sial: Tari Pemusnah Kuasa 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) When Sial toured the US a while back, everyone I spoke to raved about what a great live band they were. I was already bummed I couldn't make their shows, but Tari Pemusnah Kuasa makes it sting even more. Like D-Clone or Zyanose at their best, Sial takes a blown-out, Disclose-influenced guitar sound and wrenches high drama from its monochromatic hiss. They can move from a low mosh inducing quicksand groove to a hyper-speed d-beat in a hair’s breadth, the transition giving the listener the same sense of weightlessness you get at the peak of your ascent on a vert ramp. Like the guitar sound, the vocals might seem one-dimensional at first, but I find myself yelling nonsense along at the key moments, showing those yells and screams punctuate the rhythm just as deftly as a talented jazz drummer attacks their crash cymbal. The riffs and instrumental arrangements are just as powerful, doling out the intensity in perfectly timed doses that keep the energy level in the red for the record’s entire duration. If you follow the hardcore we hype here at Sorry State, check this one out. It’s a real masterpiece.

Powerplant: A Spine / Evidence 7” (Static Shock) London’s Powerplant follows up their much-loved People in the Sun album with this noteworthy five-track EP. While Powerplant has expanded from a recording project to a full live lineup, this 7” shows no dilution of the singular voice that made People in the Sun stand out. If anything, A Spine / Evidence is even more singular, with the band locking into a voice utterly their own. Each track seems like its own universe, with the sound ranging from the dance-y “A Spine” (which reminds me of Freedom of Choice era Devo in the best way) to the dense, hardcore-ish closer “Hurtwood.” Powerplant combines a post-punk band’s sense of restraint with punk band’s energy level, a feat that’s difficult to achieve. Further, they wrap their sound in top-notch songwriting jammed with memorable moments. I think A Spine / Evidence is even better than People in the Sun, and it’s worth checking if you’re into anything from Diat’s catchy post-punk to the glass-smashing anthems on Total Punk Records.

False Brother: Uncanny Valley 12” (Iron Lung) Kansas City’s False Brother weren’t on my radar before Iron Lung dropped this 12”, but it’s a great fit with the post-punk oriented bands on that label, particularly Diat and Total Control. While not as anthemic as either of those bands, False Brother has a sound that splits the difference between minimal synth and classic post-punk, reminding me of the early Human League tracks or moments of Joy Division’s Closer that seemed to foreshadow New Order’s later moves. The drum machine kicks with the power of dance music, but the rhythms stick to a slower, brooding tempo, with bass lines and synth noises traipsing across the abyss like mischievous ghosts. If you’re a fan of the aforementioned groups (or similar ones like Low Life or Constant Mongrel), this lodges its hooks in much the same way.

C.H.E.W.: In Due Time 7” (Iron Lung) Chicago’s C.H.E.W. drops five more songs on the hardcore faithful, and if you’re a fan of the style, this EP is essential. Like Raleigh’s great Vittna, C.H.E.W. is at equally at home with crushing, d-beat-inspired hardcore as they are with Die Kreuzen / Part 1-inspired creepy crawlers, and In Due Time achieves the band’s best balance of those two sounds yet. When I saw C.H.E.W. live, the first thing I noticed is that they have one of the best drummers in the current hardcore scene. While that didn’t come across as clearly on their previous records, In Due Time captures his heavyweight boxer-style balance of power and agility. The songs themselves are complex and dramatic, intricate mazes of stops and starts and clever transitions where a sasquatch might leap around a corner and deck you at any second. The EP reaches its climax with the closing track, Noise Square, where they dial back the heaviness and the sinister, Die Kreuzen-inspired guitar takes center stage. If you’ve liked C.H.E.W.’s previous releases, In Due Time is a no-brainer.

Arts: Graveside Summoning: Flaming Dagger 7” (Youth Attack) Graveside Summoning is the latest EP from Mark McCoy’s long-running black metal project, Arts. I’m not sure if I’ve ever checked out Arts before, but I like these four tracks. While several bands on the Youth Attack label dabble with different recipes with hardcore and black metal as ingredients, Arts’ scales tip way toward the metal side. The howling vocals, tinny recording, and melodic, single-string lead guitar melodies are pages torn straight from the Darkthrone playbook. However, I hear a distinct hardcore element coming through Graveside Summoning, particularly in the big, dramatic chord changes that punctuate every track. While a lot of black metal is blurry and stretched out, pulling the listener’s attention away from small details and toward a song’s (or a record’s) holistic atmosphere, Arts peppers their songs with moments that remind me of Youth of Today’s finger-pointing climaxes. I’m not sure what the truly kvlt would think about this, but if you’re down with the bm vibes sprinkled throughout Youth Attack’s catalog, odds are you’ll enjoy Graveside Summoning

Featured Release Roundup: May 7, 2020

Cosmic Sand Dollars: Requiem for King Dick 12” (Cold Vomit) We carried a previous LP from the Cosmic Sand Dollars a few years ago, but either I didn’t listen to it enough or I wasn’t in the right headspace for it. However, Requiem for King Dick is hitting me in the sweet spot. Cosmic Sand Dollars doesn’t sound like any music I’ve heard before. As befitting their name, they combine noise music and power electronics with traditional surf songs, and when you first hear them it sounds like a silly novelty, like someone putting ketchup on a toaster strudel and thinking they’re clever even though eating it would be gross. However, as you orient yourself, you realize the combination works great, especially since Cosmic Sand Dollars isn’t a one-trick pony. They devote very little of the LP to the obvious combination of surf songs with bleeps, bloops, and squeals on top. Instead, the genres are in a deeper dialog. Sometimes it’s contentious, like when they take a straightforward surf instrumental and subject it to violent tape manipulation. Sometimes the synths and noise boxes will borrow part of a melody from the surf guitar (these moments can have a Klaus Schulze kind of vibe), and sometimes the surf and electronic elements dance around one another like a complex insect mating ritual. Throughout the LP, Cosmic Sand Dollars push forward, never repeating or belaboring ideas. So, this isn’t ketchup and toaster strudel… it’s more like peanut butter and banana on a burger… it sounds weird at first, but once you’ve tried it, you’re convinced.

Irradiator: Northern Quebec Speedcore Attack 12” (I Owe You Nothing) Northern Quebec Speedcore Attack compiles two demos (the first from 1988, the second from a year later) from this obscure Quebecois group. The lengthy 1988 demo takes up most of the vinyl space here, and it's a primitive, unrelenting assault of raw noise with emphasis on the “raw.” Sane people would classify the fidelity as “nigh unlistenable,” with the drums reduced to a wash of cymbal hiss and little else audible save some vocal grunts and intermittent bursts of wild lead guitar. If you squint your ears, you might convince yourself some parts sound like a crappy Siege bootleg, but it’s more primitive and monochromatic. There are no concessions to melody, rhythm, or anything musical, just a primitive spasm of underground metal id. As for the much shorter 1989 demo, it has a more legible recording style, uses a primitive and goofy sounding drum machine rather than live drums, and the songs have a punkier style, but other than that it’s in the same vein. The second recording has more charm, mostly because you can hear it, but also because the songs themselves are catchier and more memorable. This is way too niche to recommend to a casual listener, but if I mentioned any keywords related to your particular obsessions, consider investigating further.

Video Prick: Demo 7” (Forever Never Ends) Demo on wax from this hardcore band from Seattle, and like their label mates Fentanyl, I’d recommend this for connoisseurs of the Youth Attack aesthetic. The recording is harsh and blown out in a quasi-black metal way, the vocalist has a snotty, punky scream, and you’ll also hear some skronky, noisy lead guitar breaks. One strength of this of band is they draw from a wide range of hardcore influences, unlike more retro-minded bands who follow a narrower aesthetic template. Video Prick has catchy pogo-hardcore parts, big breakdowns, fist-pumping fast parts, and even a little GISM-esque metallic soloing, but it’s wrapped in an arty and progressive package . Recommended for fans of Hoax and Suburbanite. 

Opus: Procedures / The Atrocity 7” (Meat House Productions) Meat House Productions brings us another LA-area KBD punk rarity, this time from Opus. I don’t recall hearing of Opus before they announced this reissue; I suppose that’s easy to believe when there were 200 copies of this single in the original pressing and most of those were destroyed by a band member’s angry roommates. Because of its rarity, there are some eye-popping previous sale prices for this one on the internet, including one ebay auction from 2011 where it went for $4,800 USD. Wow! As for the actual music, the a-side is a loud/quiet/loud number that reminds me of the Pixies in how it moves from a jittery, new wave-y verse into a boisterous chorus. It’s a good track, and the b-side is even better, an upbeat punk track that wouldn’t have been out of place if it had come out on Dangerhouse. If I had 5 grand, I’d try to find a Koro EP and a Sex Drive, but for 10 bucks this is worth a few spins.

The Wuffy Dogs: S/T 7” (Meat House Productions) Meat House gives us another rare punk reissue, this time from funny punks the Wuffy Dogs. While this one doesn’t fetch the same prices as the Opus single MHP re-released, I like the music better. Two of the tracks are upbeat, new wave-y punk with keyboards, like the Plugz’ first single if it were a little lighter weight or the punkier end of the UKDIY spectrum. The other two tracks stick out for their silly lyrics: the Dead Milkmen premonition “Things Dogs Do” and “I Must Be Lou Reed,” which is a cover of “Hey Joe” with an incredible guitar solo that I won’t ruin for you… just listen to the record. Anyone with an ear for 70s punk will dig this, but it’s recommended if you have a taste for the sillier and more sarcastic end of that sound.

Fentanyl: demo cassette (Forever Never Ends) Remember how people used to call Youth Attack Records bands “mysterious guy hardcore?” Fentanyl is updating that concept by refusing to post this demo anywhere online. However, if you’re reading this, you’re likely a keeper of the flame for physical formats. The label described Fentanyl to me as a Youth Attack-style band, and I can see what they mean… like their label mates in Video Prick, they have an artsy sound that pulls from different substyles of hardcore. The Youth Attack band Fentanyl reminds me of the most is Raw Nerve, who had a similarly compressed and explosive sound. These tracks are full of tight changes with sudden bursts of intensity, and while no single part is complex, the songs have the manic, schizo quality of Scum b-side-era Napalm Death (though the vibe here is very different). Comparisons aside, the energy and urgency comes through on this tape.

Sorry, no streaming link for this one!

Behavior: Spirits & Embellishments 12” (Post Present Medium) Spirits & Embellishments is the latest record from Behavior, whom you may remember from their 2017 album Bitter Bitter on Iron Lung. Not that there is a typical Iron Lung Records band, but Behavior is well outside the label’s primary focus on underground hardcore and metal, with a song-focused style built on spare arrangements, emphasizing the excellent lyrics. The slight twang to Behavior’s sound and the timbre of the singer’s voice make me think of Pavement circa Wowee Zowee, but without the surrealistic bent and with a post rock-y sense of artistic gravitas. It’s not pop; it’s dense, intellectual music, much like the P22 that also came out on Post Present Medium, albeit without the overt punk influence. If you’re looking for something to work your brain muscles under quarantine, this would do the trick.

Featured Release Roundup: April 30, 2020

The Pathetx: 1981 12" (Third Man) Third Man Records has done DIY punk and hardcore junkies a solid by reissuing (or, rather, issuing, since the Pathetx never had a release back in the day) this 1981 Detroit ripper. While, according to their bio, the Pathetx played the same Detroit venues as the more well-documented bands that emerged from the area like the Necros and Negative Approach (and even shared bills with them), I can’t recall hearing about them before. If they were in Tony Rettman’s excellent Why Be Something That You’re Not book, then I didn’t bother to store that information in my memory banks. That’s all water under the bridge, though, because I’m stoked to hear this now. With a sound inspired by the first wave of west coast hardcore bands (in particular the Germs), the Pathetx fall on that perfect line between late 70s punk and first-generation hardcore. While they’re starting to incorporate the faster tempos and dramatic chord changes of hardcore (particularly the Fix’s rough but tuneful sound), they’re still writing songs rooted in the rock-and-roll tradition of the ’77-era bands, particularly from the UK. The recording here is also similar to the Fix’s singles, stark but rich and powerful. This record could have worked just as well on the Radio Raheem label, but Third Man’s quality control and attention to detail are just as strong. 1981 is a top recommendation for early 80s punk junkies.

Maggot Brain #2 zine I thought the first issue of Maggot Brain was exciting, but I’m enjoying this second issue even more. In case you haven’t heard about Maggot Brain, it’s a full-size, full-color magazine put out by Third Man Records, and while music is a big part of the magazine, it’s not all of it by any stretch of the imagination. There are articles about film, visual art, books, sports, lots of comics, fine art photography, and other interesting stuff. The magazine doesn’t have a traditional format or clear sections, so every time you turn the page it’s a surprise, but what you find is always good. Both the writing and the graphic design are of the highest quality, sort of like The Atlantic or The New Yorker for people into cool music. Reading Maggot Brain makes me realize how the handful of music magazines still left (Rolling Stone and British monthlies like Mojo) write about boring music and/or insult their readers’ intelligence. Maggot Brain does neither. While there isn’t much about punk in this latest issue, Sorry State’s more adventurous readers will love it. And while it’s expensive, it’s worth it and Sorry State is selling it for 25% off the cover price.

Bootlicker: Live in the Swamp cassette (Neon Taste) Live in the Swamp is a brand new live cassette from Canada’s Bootlicker, recorded on their 2019 East Coast tour in my old stomping grounds of Norfolk, Virginia. While I think of Bootlicker as being a tough, USHC-inspired band with a touch of oi!, they begin their set here with an Anti Cimex cover and close with a Discharge cover, making their d-beat bona fides clear. While this sounds like a room recording, the sound is solid with every instrument and the vocals coming through and the band’s performance is ripping. I know punks shy away from live stuff, but if you’re a fan of live punk recordings and/or Bootlicker, you’ll love this. The packaging is also very fetching, with a 2-color j-card, a little obi strip, and tapes splattered with red paint, and the professional dub quality sounds great. I doubt anyone would argue Live in the Swamp makes Bootlicker’s studio recordings obsolete, but it’s a welcome addition to their discography.

Razorblades & Aspirin #9 zine The latest issue of Razorblades & Aspirin continues transitioning from photozine to a music zine with a broader range of content, while keeping the focus on punk’s photography, design, and visual aesthetic at the forefront. Besides some incredible photos (including a great shot of Raleigh’s own Vittna destroying at the last show I attended before the world ended), you get a ton of interviews (I found the conversations with Alex Heir and Sial particularly interesting, and photography nerds will love the focus on punk photographers), a detailed retrospective on Anti Cimex’s Absolute Country of Sweden LP, an interview with the designer behind the recent Scream with Me book about the Misfits, and a heap of record and zine reviews. The presentation can be jarringly slick for those of us who grew up ink-stained fingers, but it’s nice to see a zine that doesn’t feel retro. I wish R&A had more careful copy editing that matched the high quality of the visuals, but that’s the English teacher in me nitpicking. There are a lot of half assed zines out there, but Razorblades & Aspirin isn’t one of ‘em.

Exec / N0V3L: split 7” (L1BR4RY) This split 7” matches Australians Exec (whom you may remember from their LP on Anti-Fade) with Canadian’s N0V3L, and it’s an inspired pairing. While both bands can fall under the post-punk umbrella (which is so broad as to be meaningless), they share deeper similarities like a non-retro sensibility and a tendency toward experimentation. Both bands feel like part of a long tradition of bands who bring together the avant-garde and pop worlds, such as Gang of Four, This Heat, and Wire. If you follow the more adventurous and experimental end of the DIY punk underground—i.e. if label names like Digital Regress and Ever/Never ring a bell—this two-songer is a solid grip.

La Milagrosa: EP cassette (Redro Deskabezado Records) 7-song cassette EP from this new punk band out of New York. La Milagrosa has a straightforward punk sound that has existed since the genre’s very beginning… 1-2-1-2 beats, straightforward and catchy riffs, and vocals that yell about what’s important to the singer with all the force they can muster. They sound kind of like the Exploited to me, but that seems beside the point. What’s more important is the feeling, and this feels punk as fuck.

Featured Release Roundup: April 23, 2020

Uzi: Cadena de Odio 12” (Discos MMM) Cadena de Odio is the debut vinyl from this Colombian punk band featuring members of Muro. As with Muro, Uzi’s gritty DIY aesthetic belies how rich and varied the music on this record is. I hear elements of UK82 punk, straightforward hardcore, and a little modern pogo-hardcore, but Uzi has digested these influences and incorporated them into their sound. The aesthetic and vibe is like Muro, but while Muro gravitates toward the epic feel of classic Japanese hardcore, Uzi’s street punk influences are their main calling card. A lot of Cadena de Odio doesn’t sound too different from the Casualties (particularly when they throw in a simple, melodic lead guitar line), but filtered through the prism of raw, modern DIY hardcore. If you’ve been feeling the recent spate of Muro records, this shares the same sense of excitement and urgency.

P22: Human Snake 12” (Post Present Medium) We last heard from Los Angeles’s P22 when they released a tape on the excellent Beat Sessions cassette series. P22 was the band I was least familiar with from that entire series, and I didn’t give their tape time to sink in. I need to revisit it, though, because Human Snake has blown me away. P22 doesn’t sound like anything I can think of. The speak-sing vocals, thoughtful, eloquent lyrics, and experimental music make me think of Poison Girls, but P22 is its own thing. While everything about the band is great, I’m particularly taken with the drummer’s style. They have a unique sense of rhythm and while they break into a full rock beat a few times over the course of the record, most of the drumming is more minimal, glancing across the main rhythm rather than underscoring it. The songs’ arrangements follow a similar pattern. In most punk bands, all the musicians are playing pretty much all the time (with perhaps one instrumental break for a bar or less), but the members of P22 often hang back, playing quietly or remaining silent for long stretches. The sense of restraint makes much of Human Snake resemble modern classical music, but there are stretches of full-bore punk too. While there’s plenty more I could say about this one, I’ll stress that if you’re into this kind of intellectual, artsy, underground punk (and particularly if you enjoyed the recent Slender LP) you should listen to this and make up your own mind about it.

Whip: Don’t Call Me 7” (Electric Heat) Don’t Call Me is the latest 4-song EP from this Canadian band with a previous 7” on Neck Chop. These tracks remind me of my favorite Bikini Kill stuff, but not in a cosplay kind of way. The singer’s raspy, snotty tone bears a resemblance to Kathleen Hannah, and the band also shares Bikini Kill’s ability to take a big, catchy riff and totally own it. The production is gritty but not shitty and the performances are loose without being sloppy… it’s right in that pocket where you want snotty, catchy punk like this to be. It’s a timeless style, and Whip makes it sound as good as ever.

Neutrals: Rent / Your House E.P. 7” (Domestic Departure) Neutrals is a band from the Bay Area, California featuring Allan McNaughton, whom you may remember from the bands Giant Haystacks and Airfix Kits. While I haven’t revisited those bands’ records recently enough to explain how Neutrals compares, I’m enjoying these five tracks. Neutrals’ songwriting style seems steeped in the straightforward, punky pop of bands like The Shop Assistants or the Primitives, but I wouldn’t say that Neutrals have a retro sensibility. They build the songs on a Ramones-y foundation, with the vocals carrying the melody and the lyrics tackling contemporary issues in a plainspoken style. All five tracks are winners, and I love the unaffected, unpretentious presentation. It feels like a band getting up and saying their piece about the world without pandering to the audience, which is part of what made me fall in love with DIY punk in the first place.

Cold Feet: Punk Entity 12” (Feel It) We carried the self-released debut 7” from Baltimore’s Cold Feet a while back, and now they’ve moved up to regional institution Feel It Records for their debut 12”. The style here is raw and fast hardcore with a noticeable Pick Your King influence. The riffs are short and clipped, and the band plays ahead of the beat, leaning into their velocity so hard it feels like it’s all about to fly apart. As befitting a 12” release, there’s a bit of variation, including a breakdown in “Good Book” and a No Trend-style downer intro for “Peyote Death.” However, most everything here is so fast that when they slow things down for “Mommy” and “Not Again,” the Blood Guts & Pussy-era Dwarves pace feels like a reprieve. If you’re into the fast and wild USHC of bands like Loose Nukes or west coast groups like Electric Chair, Punk Entity is well worth a look.

Disjawn / Besthoven: Split 7” (Ryvvolte) It’s been a minute since I’ve heard from Brazilian Disclose disciples Besthoven. There was a stretch in the late 00s when it seemed like there was a new record from them just about every month. Not much has changed since the last time I heard them, though. Disclose is still the obvious inspiration, but I dig the primitive recording quality and the odd, melodic lead guitar on two of their three tracks here. It’s a new wrinkle in an otherwise straightforward iteration of the style. As for Disjawn, this is my first time hearing them and they have a faster, Anti-Cimex / Shitlickers-influenced style with USHC energy. Their recording is also rough, but pleasingly so. This one is for the true d-beat crusties, but I think those people will find plenty to enjoy here.

B.E.T.O.E. / End Result: Nuclear Stockpiles 7” (Ryvvolte) South American crusties B.E.T.O.E. give us three tracks of total Victims of a Bomb Raid worship, with a raw, fist-pumping style. There’s not much to say beyond that… punks playing punk and doing it well. End Result from LA are new to me and while the label’s description references D-clone and Gloom, I hear a lot more going on than that. While it’s noisy, I hear elements of d-beat and noisy anarcho punk, and a thread of catchy USHC that reminds me of Direct Control. The extra catchiness and variation in the rhythm go a long way, and I’m looking forward to hearing more from this band.

Sorry, I can't find a stream for any of the songs on the End Result side!

Featured Release Roundup: April 16, 2020

Faux Départ: Vie Ordinaire 12” (Destructure) Vie Ordinaire is the 3rd release Sorry State has carried from Lyon, France’s Faux Départ, and it’s their best one yet. Faux Départ reminds me of North Carolina’s Personality Cult. Both bands combine Marked Men-style power-pop / melodic punk with post-punk angularity, and both have grown more sophisticated in their pop songwriting with each subsequent release. Also like Personality Cult, Faux Départ makes their recordings sound great, with a balanced mix that finds space for every instrument’s subtleties to come through while still maintaining a high energy level and a sense of rawness. Faux Départ is equally adept with a jerky, post-punk-influenced tune like “Le Casse” as they are with the closing track “Fantôme,” which offers a dramatic series of powerful melodies and great backing vocals that add to the song’s climatic feel. Fans of Marked Men, Personality Cult, and similar bands on labels like Dirtnap should give this a spin.

Reincarnate: Take It or Leave It: Demos and Rarities 12” (Splattered!) Splattered! Records offers up another NWOBHM reissue, this time featuring the obscure band Reincarnate. The b-side of this LP compiles their lone 2-track single, a heavy hitter than any fan of NWOBHM will enjoy. The charismatic vocals and intricate riffing remind me of peak-era Diamond Head, particularly on the heavier b-side track, “Metal in Disguise,” which I could imagine 80s Metallica covering in an alternate universe. While these two tracks are prime NWOBHM, the four demo tracks on the a-side are for completists only. These tracks sound like a more embryonic version of the band and have a rough sound, a spotty vocal performance, and what sounds like some minor issues with the source tape. If you’ve been dying to hear more than just the two tracks from the single, I’m sure you’ll love to hear these, but your average metalhead will stick to the two rippers on the b-side.

Dissekerad / Earth Crust Displacement: Split 7” (Rawmantic Disasters) In case you don’t remember, Sweden’s Dissekerad comes from the broader universe of Totalitär-related bands, and along with members of Makabert Fynd features Poffen from Totalitär’s trademark vocals. You won’t find any surprises on this side of split (not that you’d want any!), just catchy, well-constructed d-beat in the vein of Sin Egen Motståndare-era Totalitär. As for Germany’s Earth Crust Displacement, their two tracks come from the same session as their D-Takt Noize LP from 2017, and while I haven’t heard that record, these two tracks are solid, Totalitär-style d-beat that’s a hair sloppier and noisier than the Dissekerad side. The drummer has a penchant for long, insanely fast snare rolls, putting them at the end of nearly every bar. With straightforward d-beat it’s all about a band’s particular quirks, and at least for these two tracks that seems to be one of Earth Crust Displacement’s signatures.

No streaming link for this one, sorry!

Heavy Nukes / Earth Crust Displacement: Spit 7” (Rawmantic Disasters) Sweden’s Heavy Nukes delivers four new tracks of total Shitlickers worship here. If you haven’t heard the Shitlickers you should rectify that, but think blistering fast metallic riffing and raw, blown-out production, like you took Anti-Cimex’s Victims of a Bombraid and turned both the “speed” and “gloom” knobs up a few notches. As for Germany’s Earth Crust Displacement, their three tracks differ from the songs on their split with Dissekerad, having a faster and meaner, Shitlickers-esque vibe. The last of their three tracks is a cover of the old German band MxVxDx and that one has an epic, almost orchestral tone to it that reminds me of the grandest moments on Discharge’s Why? 12”.

No streaming link for this one, sorry!

Street Weapon: Quick to Die 7” (Not for the Weak) Debut 7” from this band out of Virginia Beach, Virginia. According to the label, most of the band members are barely out of high school, which rules. While I listen to a lot of old guy hardcore that’s very conscious of how it exists within the larger historical framework of punk and hardcore, Street Weapon seems more genuine and unaffected, like they’re just shooting from the hip and throwing together elements of stuff they like. I hear elements of Negative Approach-style oi!-tinged hardcore, New Breed-style NYHC (particularly in the breakdowns), a hint of thrash metal in the riffing, and some of that Gag / Bib-style hardcore that’s all about catchy mid-paced riffs. Even with all of those elements, Street Weapon doesn’t sound schizophrenic, but open-minded and un-self-conscious. If you’re into the more 80s-inspired end of the capital H Hardcore scene, check out what the younger generation is up to.

Vile Reality: Detached cassette (self-released) Detached is the second cassette release from this ripping band out of San Diego, California. Vile Reality reminds me of one of my favorite bands from the 00s, Socialcide. (Fun fact: Sorry State was all set to put out Socialcide’s next record, but unfortunately the band dissolved before that happened.) Like Socialcide, Vile Reality plays a fast and negative take on classic USHC (not as fast as Siege or Deep Wound, but faster than average) with a touch of classic NYHC, which comes out on mid-tempo tracks like “Control.” The riffing and songwriting are top-notch; while these tracks are pure hardcore, there’s something about the way they’re constructed and played that makes you want to stand up and thrash around your record room. Another unique thing about this record is the subtle industrial undercurrent that comes from little touches like the unique distortion on the vocals (which sound like Pushead from Septic Death) and the spacey wah-wah guitar sound at the end of the closing track, “Immobilized.” It’s too bad this isn’t on vinyl, because this is top notch hardcore.

The Cowboys: Room of Clons 12” (Feel It) Indiana’s the Cowboys seem to be establishing themselves as the Guided by Voices of modern DIY punk. While the most obvious similarity is the volume of music they release (Room of Clons is, depending on how you count, their seventh or eighth full-length in six years), the similarities don’t end there. Besides the evident ability to write hook after hook, the Cowboys have a lack of fussiness that reminds me of GBV. While a lot of bands work very hard to make everything they do conform to some grand vision (whether it’s one they’ve developed or one they’ve swiped from another artist), the Cowboys seem to write and release music with the same nonchalance with which I make and eat sandwiches. While the recipes are all great, their ingredients differ from track to track—on Room of Clons alone you’ll find acoustic and electric guitar (the latter of which itself employs many different effects from track to track), piano, synths, and even kazoo. The songs also reference different genres, from the quirky new wave of “Wise Guy Algorithm” (which sounds like the Undertones meets Dow Jones and the Industrials) to the Bauhaus-esque goth-glam of “The Beige Collection” to the piano ballad “A Killing,” to the Kinks-style barroom jaunt “Ninety Normal Men,” to… well, I could keep going but I think you get the point. Just to extend the GBV comparison, the critical cliche is that their records are inconsistent, but I’ve never been one to go through an album track by track assessing whether I like each song. I’m sure there are people who could do that with Room of Clons, but I prefer to bask in the album’s eclecticism, to enjoy it like a travelogue of sounds, genres, and styles. I hope (and wouldn’t be surprised if) the Cowboys eventually have their own tribe of super-fans who immerse themselves in the band’s catalog with the devotion people give to bands like GBV, the Fall or the Grateful Dead. When that happens I’ll be gloating, telling the newbies about how they toured through North Carolina just about every year, never playing to more than a few dozen people but always ruling, and what a pleasure it was to digest their eclectic and brilliant discography as it came out. And, by the way, god bless Feel It Records for serving the cause for the past several years, enabling us to watch this long and rewarding story unfold.

Featured Release Roundup: April 9, 2020

Soakie: S/T 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) This geographically scattered band with members in the US and Australia had a demo in early 2008 that flew under my radar, so I’m glad La Vida Es Un Mus is getting their vinyl debut more attention. Musically, this is punky US-style hardcore with a strong pogo streak and a noteworthy vocalist. Rather than a scream or a growl, they have this articulated demon rasp, like a victim of demonic possession in a cheesy 80s b-horror flick. While it’s as gnarly and disgusting as someone like Sakevi from G.I.S.M., you can hear the words clearly, which accentuates Soakie’s catchiness. While I love Soakie when they’re ripping at hardcore tempos, they bookend the record with two tracks (“Nuke the Frats” and “Don’t Talk Back”) with dramatic mid-paced parts that would make any self-respecting punk venue explode into an orgy of squiggle slamming. If you’re into that great new Fried E/M record or the more hardcore end of the whole Midwest / Lumpy Records style, I recommend checking this out.

Muro / Orden Mundial: Sonido de la Negación 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Sonido de la Negación is a new split 12” featuring these two Spanish-speaking powerhouses, Colombia’s Muro and Spain’s Orden Mundial. First up is Muro, since they’re fresh in your mind given you’ve been spinning their latest LP, Pacificar, non-stop since it came out. If you like Pacificar, you will like this. These five tracks have Muro’s patented blend of dramatic tension-and-release and explosive swagger, and there is not a dull moment here. In my description of Pacificar, I mentioned Muro’s flexibility as a band, and on this record I love how “Desperdicio En Producción,” which has a melodic guitar lead that I never would have expected, gets followed up with “Inferil,” which has a nasty, unschooled Bones-style solo. Whether they’re melodic and structured or loose and unhinged, Muro is unstoppable. As for Orden Mundial, as much as I love Muro, I've been playing their side of the split over and over. The sound on their side is huge, with a dense, fuzzed out guitar that reminds me more of 90s AmRep bands than any raw hardcore I can think of. While two faster tracks bookend their side, my favorites are the two slower tracks in the middle. “Marginal” reminds of Flipper or the early Butthole Surfers stuff in that the riff is loose, noisy, and nasty, but also danceable. The song is just one riff played over and over, but it could be three times as long and I would still love it. Once “Marginal” primes you, they let loose “Vais A Sufrir,” which slows the tempo further to an industrial dirge, the danceability replaced with a No Trend-esque pulsation of hopelessness. There’s almost too much great music to handle on this record. 100% essential.

Algara: Enamorados del Control Total 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) One of the more mysterious releases on the La Vida Es Un Mus label, Algara is a band I know nothing about. Their lyrics are in Spanish, so I assume they’re from a Spanish-speaking country, but that’s about all I have for you. Thankfully I can describe the sound, which is minimalist, drum machine-fueled post-punk. The production is full of space, with the drum machine, bass, guitar, and vocals all occupying very different frequency ranges, giving this a cold, isolated feel. The drum machine’s program is minimalist, the bassist bangs out the chord progression in eighth notes, and the vocalist rants rhythmically rather than sings (though both Eric and Jeff described the vocals as “sassy”), so it’s up to the guitar to carry most of the melody. The guitarist plays simple, single-string melodies high on the neck, and while the melodic sensibility reminds me of Diät, the stark guitar sound is of a piece with the record’s minimalist aesthetic. Given how understated everything is here, it may take you a few listens for this to hook you, but as with most everything on LVEUM, your attention will be rewarded.

FOC: La Fera Ferotge 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Debut vinyl from this ripping band out of Barcelona who sings in Catalan. The label’s description references classic Italian hardcore like Peggio Punx and Indigesti, and that is an appropriate comparison as this has a similar sense of unhinged ferocity. Part of that is the vocal phrasing, but much of it is also because of the great guitar playing. While a lot of punk bands’ riffs consist entirely of power chords, FOC’s riffs are full of open strings and bent notes, techniques common in the early Italian hardcore scene. Check out the woozy-sounding intro to “Reacció” or the blistering “15” for great examples of what I’m talking about. Recommended if you like your hardcore loose and wild and/or if you enjoyed the recent records by Idiota Civilizzato. 

The Serfs: Sounds of Serfdom cassette (Wasted Tapes) Sounds of Serfdom isn’t a demo, but a cassette full-length from this American band. The visual and auditory aesthetics might be familiar if you’ve jammed bands like Molchat Doma or Filmmaker who have put out records on the German label Detriti. There’s even a vinyl version of Sounds of Serfdom available on Detriti, giving this the ultimate stamp of approval for contemporary, YouTube-oriented post-punk. Musically, the Serfs are of a piece with the two bands I mentioned, but grittier and punkier sounding. Their way of combining danceable drum machine rhythms with broad, memorable melodic lines reminds me of New Order, though this is scrappier and much lower-budget than anything that band ever did. Sounds of Serfdom also works great as a full-length, floating between catchy melodies and more rhythmic bleep bloops in a way that keeps your ears excited.

Artcore #39 zine w/ Mydolls 7” A new issue of the long-running Artcore is always a cause for celebration in our zine-deprived world, and this time is no different. Sticking with the usual format, issue #39 is dense with text (but with a readable layout!) featuring a mix of older and newer punk. We get interviews with the Subhumans, Game, Exit Condition, Part 1, and others, a massive, 10,000-word feature on Canadian punk, and other huge archival features on Flipside magazine, 80s Southern California punk, and the ’79 mod revival. Recent issues of Artcore have also come with a bonus 7”, and this time around we have a reissue of the 1981 debut single from Texas’s Mydolls, with a John Peel interview tacked onto one side as a bonus. While I have Mydolls’ 12” EP, Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick, I don’t think I’d heard this single, and it’s a great slice of spiky post-punk with an electric piano that recalls the Misfits’ “Cough/Cool” single. As always, Artcore provides you with a package well worth your time, money, and attention.