Heavy Discipline: S/T 12” (Painkiller) Painkiller pressed this Pittsburgh band’s demo to vinyl a while back, and now they’ve given us their debut LP. Painkiller has been a go-to label for modern bands modeled on the early 80s Boston hardcore tradition, and Heavy Discipline is a perfect fit. This is one of those records that is so perfectly executed that you could trick a poseur into thinking it’s a long lost release from the X-Claim! Records catalog… it’s like 50% Kill for Christ, 50% Get it Away, and 100% killer. And while the production is right on the nose, the songwriting doesn’t feel like a mere pastiche of Heavy Discipline’s influences. Recommended for fans of X-Claim! Records, the first Boston Strangler LP, Sam Adams, and baked beans.
Ray Gun: S/T 7” (It’s Trash) Three-song EP from this band out of Nashville, Tennessee that combines elements of garage-punk and noise rock. The noise rock comes out in the blown-out sound and the emphasis on gritty and feedback-y textures, but while many noise rock bands focus on riffs and textures, Ray Gun’s songs feel more song-y. “Seance,” for instance, simmers at a Lost Sounds-ish, paranoid-sounding pace until it explodes into a triumphant chorus. “I Am the Rat” is shuffly-er and jangly-er with strong Gun Club vibes and a long, bluesy guitar solo. These three tracks are so dense that it feels like the band is cramming everything they’ve got into them, and that all-or-nothing approach makes this a very exciting EP.
Power Face: Door Slammed Shut 7” (Adult Crash) Stockholm, Sweden’s Power Face have a few records out already (including an LP on Really Fast Records!!!), but this is the first time I’ve heard them. While it’s not so on the nose they sound like a “worship” band, parts of Door Slammed Shut are a dead ringer for peak-era RKL. Like RKL, Power Face sounds kind of metal but they aren’t afraid of major keys, their guitarist and drummer are serious rippers (I love the accents on the ride bell! That’s classic a classic Bomber move…), and their vocalist sounds raspy and snotty but can still lead an anthemic sing-along. This reminds me of the catchy and ripping punk that No Way Records made a name for themselves releasing in the mid-2000s, and if you’re still spinning your Government Warning records, I think you’ll get plenty of mileage out of Door Slammed Shut.
The War Goes On: Assisted Armageddon 12” (Adult Crash)Assisted Armageddon is the second LP from this Danish band featuring former members of Hjerte Stop and No Hope for the Kids. If you’ve heard those two bands, Assisted Armageddon sounds like the two of them mashed together, with the big melodies and soaring vocals of No Hope for the Kids combined with the shorter songs and leaner approach of Hjerte Stop. If you haven’t heard those bands, The War Goes On reminds me of the most melodic early 80s Southern California punk… bands like Channel 3, M.I.A., and Social Distortion. Those bands contributed DNA to pop-punk, but The War Goes On doesn’t sound like a pop-punk band to me… they’re too gritty, angry, and political, and their melodies are dark and sophisticated. That being said, when Usman heard this he said it sounds like it could be on Hellcat Records, so maybe I’m just old. However, if you’re like me and have fond memories of the early 2000s when Kick N Punch Records was ruling everything and thousands of punks were newly able to locate Denmark on a map, and/or if you played that No Hope for the Kids LP to death, this LP is full of anthems perfect for autumn 2020.
Uniform: Shame 12” (Sacred Bones) Shame is the latest full-length from New York industrial / noise band Uniform. I haven’t followed Uniform’s discography closely… I remember liking their first album, Perfect World, but I lost track of them after that. Then last fall they played a crushing set in the middle of the afternoon at the Hopscotch music fest here in Raleigh. That set knocked me out, and I made a mental note that I should pay more attention the next time Uniform released a record. And now here we are with Shame. I’m glad Uniform got back on my radar because this record crushes. While it’s heavy and aggressive, the sensibility feels familiar to me as someone who grew up in and is still immersed in hardcore… it doesn’t feel macho, cheesy, or fall into any of the other traps that turn me off when I stray too far outside my hardcore comfort zone. That being said, Shame is remarkably diverse. “Life in Remission” has blasting parts that sound like an industrial take on Darkthrone’s classic albums, while “The Shadow of God’s Hand” centers around a doomy, Sabbathian riff, and “I Am the Cancer” is an epic space rock jam rammed through Uniform’s neo-Wax Trax filter. Elements might sound familiar, but they’re put together in interesting and often surprising ways. This isn’t typical of the stuff we hype at Sorry State, but there’s more than enough crossover to please the more adventurous among you.
Korrosive: Hiroshima 7” (Manic Noise) Latest 2-song flexi from Oakland’s Korrosive. Korrosive has released a handful of EPs over the past several years. I was a big fan of their Syövyttävä Laji EP on Distort Reality Records, and even though this white vinyl flexi only has one punk track and one piano instrumental, it has me jazzed. “Hiroshima” is a hit, reminding me of mid-paced tracks by Kaaos and Appendix. Korrosive nails that old Finnish punk sound… slightly metallic, based in the UK82 sound, but with an extra hint of catchiness that doesn’t compromise the toughness. While “Hiroshima” is a slow burn, it’s all impact… a killer track. I’m sure this flexi will get a lot of play, but I’m looking forward to the day when Korrosive drops a full-length that levels everything.
Sabre: II 7” (Erste Theke Tonträger) Another EP from this new-ish Bay Area band and it’s even more limited than their first (only 200 copies this time!), so if you liked that one I’d pick this up before it’s gone. As before, Sabre has a unique sound. The rhythms are straightforward and punk, based on the wide-open drive of UK82, but the guitarist drops in quirky and melodic bits from the Die Kreuzen / Mecht Mensch playbook. Then there’s the vocalist, whose growl-grunt might seem at odds with the multi-syllabic complexity of the lyrics. If you ever wondered what Sakevi would sound like pronouncing the name of the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, this will be the closest approximation you’re likely to find. I’m sure the minimal packaging helps offset the cost of such a small press run, but the music here is cool enough to sell it on its own.
Nag: Dead Deer 12” (Die Slaughterhaus) Atlanta’s Nag has released several singles over the past few years, and Dead Deer is their first full-length. Dead Deer is a very Atlanta record with its angular rhythms, catchy riffs, and disaffected yet subtly melodic vocals. There’s something about the bands that come from there—maybe it’s just the pervasive influence of the Carbonas—that gives them a similar vibe, and if you love bands like the Carbonas, Predator, and GG King, this is a no-brainer. While Bukkake Boys and Hyena are notable exceptions, I love the way these Atlanta punk bands embrace melody and avoid the tropes of hardcore while borrowing its intensity. That being said, Nag’s vibe is more sinister than any of the bands I mentioned above. While they don’t use synth, the mechanical quality of the rhythms and the eerie, paranoid vibes remind me of the early era of Devo captured on Hardcore Devo. Dead Deer is a worthy addition to the healthy pile of great punk records Atlanta has produced over the past couple of decades.
Razorblades & Aspirin #10 zine Latest issue of Razorblades & Aspirin, which has established itself as one of the most important zines in the current punk scene. As ever, there’s a heavy focus on photography, including interviews with photographers Chris Boarts Larson, Alison Braun, and Matthew Kadi, and tons of beautifully reproduced (often full-color) photographs throughout the magazine. I know I complained about the copy editing in the last issue, but the writing in this issue is excellent at every level, not only well edited but also the interviews are deep and insightful, even if you aren’t a huge fan of the bands being interviewed. There’s also a photo essay on the recent Black Lives Matter protests in Richmond and lots of talk about and reflection on the protests and other current events throughout the zine. While some of my favorite zines over the past ten or more years have been self-consciously nostalgic, Razorblades & Aspirin feels focused on the here and now. Essential reading, if you ask me.
The U.N.I.T.: What’s It All For? 12” (4Q Records) This is the first I’m hearing of this hardcore band out of Texas, though they have a few earlier cassette releases. The sound is burly and heavy with a similar mix of influences as Warthog… I hear Scandi-style hardcore in the faster riffing, but at least half of the record is mid-paced, sometimes in a moshable way (see the outro to “Evil Days”), but more often in a fist-pumping way akin to Impalers’ mid-paced parts (shout out to Jeff for that observation). Sick artwork and packaging on this one too, so if you like your hardcore big and burly this 5-song, one-sided LP will do you right. Note: limited edition of 250 hand-numbered copies.
Kuro: Collection 12” (DTK Records) The latest classic Japanese band to get the “unofficial reissue” treatment is Fukuoka’s Kuro. For me, Kuro is one of the best Japanese hardcore bands of all time. While they never released an album, their Who the Helpless 8” EP is one of the most feral and crushing early Japanese hardcore records. The sound resembles Fuckheads-era Gauze or G-Zet in that you can tell Discharge is the base of the soup, but the playing is more precise, a little cleaner, and with an emphasis on heaviness and grit rather than pure density. People often remark that there’s a Motorhead-esque quality to a lot of the best Japanese hardcore, and that’s the case here, though the vocals are shredded, up there with John Brannon or Jerry A in intensity. This collection brings together pretty much all of Kuro’s discography, leading off with the peerless Who the Helpless EP. If you’re into 80s Japanese hardcore, you should school yourself on Kuro, and if you need a lesson, this LP is a fine place to get it.
Jenny Diver: demo 7” flexi (Estaría Chido Poder Volar) This 7” flexi preserves the aggressively eclectic demo from Mexico City’s Jenny Diver on a durable physical format, and I’m thankful for it. When I say “aggressively eclectic,” I mean you get everything from a melodic punk song that could have been on Lookout! Records (“El Rock De La Década”) to a blistering eight-second thrash explosion (“Lamento Boliviano Vol. 2”) to a drum machine-led, reggaeton-influenced track (“Perreocore”). Despite the eclecticism, everything feels natural here, hanging together because of the charismatic vocals and sense of joy oozing out of every track. It’s loose, lo-fi, and as unpretentious as they come. 100% punk.
Twisted Nerve: Archive 2: Never Say Goodbye 12” (Secret Records) Secret Records has reissued the discography from this Scottish post-punk band across two LPs: volume 1, Seance, collects their sole LP, while Never Say Goodbye gathers the rest of the band’s discography. When a customer tipped me off to these reissues, I didn’t recall having heard Twisted Nerve before, but once I listened to Never Say Goodbye I recognized the track “When I’m Alone” from Sacred Bones’ excellent Killed by Death Rock compilation a few years back. Most of the things I’ve read about Twisted Nerve state that they started as a more straightforward punk band and gradually developed more of a post-punk / death rock sound. You can hear that transition across Never Say Goodbye as the tracks from Twisted Nerve’s 12” EP, Eyes You Can Drown In, have a straightforward Cure / Banshees type of sound, but the earlier singles here are far from straightforward punk. The best tracks—including the classic “When I’m Alone”—remind me of Crisis in that they’re punk in attitude, but not afraid of being more ambitious with their songwriting and arrangements. I haven’t seen much hype about these compilations, but I think Twisted Nerve is a real underappreciated gem.
GUNN: Peace Love & Heavy Weaponry 7” (Going Underground) We’ve carried a few demo tapes from Orange County, California’s GUNN, and now we get their debut 7” courtesy of Going Underground Records. The sound here is straight-up USHC influenced by the classics, Negative Approach and Negative FX in particular. The gruff but slightly sing-song-y quality of the vocals reminds me of those bands, but GUNN also reminds me of Negative Approach in that the guitar riffs are primitive and a lot of the catchiness comes from the drums. Recommended for fans of Armor, Jackal, and similar USHC-inspired bands.
Vintage Crop: Serve to Serve Again 12” (Anti-Fade) Serve to Serve Again is the third LP from this group out of Geelong, Australia. It doesn’t offer any major left turns, but more of the sophisticated post-punk they’ve been serving up for several years. While Vintage Crop can get angular and Devo-ish (see “Gridlock”), most of their songs have a kind of ambling, stoned-sounding tempo that reminds me of Parquet Courts. Like Parquet Courts (to whom I’ve compared Vintage Crop before), Vintage Crop sounds nimble and light on their feet; their rhythms and melodies are as crisp as an ice cold La Croix. While there are melodies and hooks here, what sticks with me after I listen to Serve to Serve Again is that steady, insistent Krautrock-ish beat. A good soundtrack to sitting at your desk and pounding out some work.
MARV: S/T 12” (Tone Log Records) MARV is a two-piece instrumental synthesizer project from Carrboro, North Carolina. The members have a long track record in the local scene, including projects like Sponge Bath and Natural Causes, but MARV is more ethereal than what you might expect if you know these guys from hanging around North Carolina’s underground venues. I caught MARV live once, and they blew me away, but it was strange to take in their spacious, often gentle music in a club environment. The whole time I was watching them, I wished I could stretch out on a couch and listen to them while enjoying Jah’s blessed sacrament. Well, that day is here, and it’s all I’d hoped it would be! MARV’s debut vinyl sounds straight out of early 70s Germany… think Tangerine Dream, Cluster, Klaus Schulze… spacey analog synthesizer bliss. While it’s a cliche to invoke space when discussing this kind of music (one name for it is kosmiche musik, or “cosmic music” in German), you can’t help it with MARV. The arrangements are so open that you feel like you’re a tiny blip in a vast landscape, and the purity of the synth sounds is as precise and delicate as light itself. Whether you’re a scholar of 70s German experimental music or you just want something to play in the background while you stare at your lava lamp, this is awesome. Also, the LP is an edition of 250 with screen printed, textured covers and hand-stamped labels and looks beautiful.
Life: Ossification of Coral 12” (Desolate Records) Ossification of Coral is the third full-length by this long-running hardcore band from Tokyo, Japan. Life started releasing music way back in the early 90s, and they retain a lot of that 90s Japan sound even today. Ossification of Coral’s huge production is one link to the bigger bands of late 80s and 90s Japan (Lip Cream, Death Side, Nightmare, etc.), but so is the diversity of their sound. This record has straight up, Bastard-style rippers like “Endure Everyday” and “To Gain Freedom,” the epic, Death Side-esque title track, and even some grooved-out parts… I was always wary of those in the past, but they sound great here. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like this 90s / Burning Spirits-influenced style isn’t as popular as it used to be. However, listening to Ossification of Coral reminds me how powerful this style is in the hands of a great band.
Era Bleak: S/T 12” (Dirt Cult) Debut vinyl from this band out of Portland, Oregon, and it’s one of those records that is catchy and intense in equal measures. I spot Code of Honor and Petite t-shirts on band members on the album’s jacket, but the hardcore influences on Era Bleak’s music are subtler. There are fast songs like the ripping “Tinder Box,” but it’s like hardcore is the crunchy cookie center of these tracks obscured by rich layers of punky caramel and noodly nougat. Era Bleak’s songs sound like simple and immediate three chord punk songs filled out with more complex bass lines, guitar licks, and vocal melodies. The result is the best of both worlds as those elements are interesting and memorable, but the visceral impact still comes through thanks to that strong underlying structure. I guess that’s a very long way of saying this is smart and catchy, hardcore-informed punk. I bet you’ll lock right into what Era Bleak is up to If you’re a fan of bands like Night Birds, No Love, and Neighborhood Brats.
Zyfilis: Alla Ska Ha 12” (Adult Crash) Last year we carried the debut EP from Sweden’s Zyfilis, and now they’re back with a new 12” that’s even more ripping. Zyfilis reminds me of Torso in that they’re influenced by the best of recent Swedish hardcore (projects like Herätys, Profoss, Infernöh), but less retro and they don’t skimp on the catchiness. Not that there’s anything like a conventional melody here, but Zyfilis sounds adroit here… it’s hardcore that makes you want to pogo, not crouch down in a power stance and pump your fist. Alla Ska Ha is also an elegantly sequenced record. Take side A, which starts strong with the killer title track, throws out a few rippers, slows things down a little for “Control” and “Dom Överför,” then erupts into one last fit of energy of “Bränn Mig.” Each track is strong on its own, but the sum feels greater than the parts. Top shelf stuff here.
Sweeping Promises: Hunger for a Way Out 12” (Feel It) I’d never heard of Boston’s Sweeping Promises before Feel It Records dropped this, their debut release, but it looks like it’s become something of a sub-underground hit. Its small initial pressing has already sold out, so if you want that all-important first pressing you should grab one of our limited number of copies. It’s easy to see why Sweeping Promises has caught so many peoples’ ears… there’s something special going on here. The band is a capable, post-punk-informed group with a cool, lo-fi sound rooted in all the right parts of the Rough Trade catalog, but it’s Lira Mondal’s charismatic vocals that steal the show. It’ll take a better writer than me to pinpoint what makes her so great, but her star power is undeniable. When I first threw Hunger for a Way Out on my headphones while I went on my morning walk, I remember thinking to myself, “whoa, this band is going places” by the time I was halfway through the first song. Subsequent listens have cemented my feeling that this is a very special record. For fans of neo-post-punk, this is a no-brainer, but it’s more than a genre record. And if you happen to be reading this from the A&R desk of a hip indie label like Merge, Matador, or Domino, please hook my dude Sam at Feel It up with a healthy finder’s fee.
Oily Boys: Cro Memory Grin 12” (Cool Death) Well, this is a weird one. This hardcore band out of Sydney, Australia gives us the progressive, psychedelic take on tough hardcore none of us knew we wanted. Seriously, who would have thought you could smash together the Cro-Mags and Wire so effectively? Oily Boys don’t just slap some “weird” intros and outros on standard hardcore tracks, either. While there are straightforward HC tunes (“Headstone,” for instance, sounds like Feel the Darkness-era Poison Idea covering something from Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing), Oily Boys are at their best and most memorable when they sound like someone took an artsy post-punk band and locked them in a room with nothing but steroids and weights for a year. See the knuckle-scraping “Lizard Scheme” (part “LA Blues,” part “Dub” from the Cro-Mags demo), the unexpectedly melodic “Heat Harmony,” and the closing track, “GTrance,” which answers the question, “What would ‘Malfunction’ sound like if it had appeared on 154?” Cro Memory Grin is one of those records that sound so new I didn’t know what to make of it at first, but I’ve been seduced by its originality.
TI-83: demo cassette (self-released) 7-song synth-punk tape from this band out of Denver. If you’re a big fan of Germany’s Erste There Tonträger Records this is one you should check out… in fact, it would surprise me if there wasn’t already a contract in the mail from ETT to TI-83 because their fuzzy guitars and synths and distorted vocals fit that label’s aesthetic perfectly. The highlight for me is the first track, “Newsflash,” which has a monstrous guitar hook about a minute in that sounds straight out of prime era Devo. The rest of the songs are more in the “fast and jittery” mold with plenty of cool twists and turns to keep your interest. A quality demo for sure.
Gills: Dried Clothes 7” (self-released) Very limited, self-released LP from this band out of Ohio. Gills base their sound on Negative Approach’s oi!-tinged hardcore with rage-o-meter fully in the red, but Dried Clothes isn’t all meat and potatoes. Gills’ location, along with the Nathan Ward artwork, brings to mind the Cruelster / Knowso axis of bands, and whether or not there’s any actual connection there, Gills shares some of those bands’ quirkiness. The lyrics to “Bird Rage” (from what I can make out) have a surrealist bent, there are a few samples, and a bit of unexpected instrumentation occasionally peeks from behind the curtain. Those quirks might turn off purists, but in my book this is still a solid rager. The band only pressed 150 copies and there’s hardly any info about Gills on the internet, though, so it’s up to you whether the mystery is enough to draw you in.
The Cowboy: Feel the Chi Releasing from You 7” flexi (Feel It) The Cowboy brings us a new 3-song EP on a beautiful clear vinyl flexi courtesy of Feel It Records. The Cowboy is one of those bands who found a formula that works and knows enough not to deviate radically from it, so every time they release a new record it’s fascinating to see how they expand upon that foundation. If you haven’t heard the Cowboy, they have a breezy, propulsive sound that fuses the light-footedness of Pink Flag-era Wire with the crunchy and noisy textures of 90s noise rock, topping it off with a big dollop of trademark Ohio weirdness. While their previous LP, Wi-fi on the Prairie, was more stretched out (it was 20 whole minutes long!), these three songs are compact and hooky, each of them delivering a melody, rhythmic quirk, and/or hook to make it special. It’s over before you know it, but since all three tracks are on one side, you don’t even have to flip it over to play it again.
Knowso: Specialtronics Green Vision 12” (Drunken Sailor) After a 12” EP and a 7”—both of which I loved—Cleveland’s Knowso give us their debut album, the bizarrely titled Specialtronics Green Vision. Let me say this straight off the bat: I fucking love this band. They sound like no one else (save their related bands Perverts Again and Cruelster), their music is catchy, energetic, and memorable, and their lyrics have a rare mixture of cynicism, surrealism, and profundity that I could eat with a spoon. It’s a brilliantly conceived thing that hangs together perfectly, and when I listen my body jerks along with their angular, over-caffeinated rhythms while my brain chews on whatever snatches of lyrics I can grab as they fly by. It feels futile to construct an “if you like x, you might like Knowso” is analogy because their music is so singular. Either you get and appreciate what they’re doing or you don’t… there doesn’t seem to be much room for middle ground. You’ve got the internet, though, so give this a listen and figure out which side of the fence you’re on.
Research Reactor Corp: The Collected Findings of 12” (Erste There Tonträger) The Collected Findings of is the debut vinyl from this Sydney group. It looks like they’re affiliated with other Sydney projects like R.M.F.C. and Set-Top Box, both of whom have also released vinyl on Germany’s Erste Theke Tonträger label. Like those bands, Research Reactor Corp’s sound is a perfect fit for ETT. They share DNA with Liquids and Coneheads, as evidenced in their raw production, catchy hooks, and rock-and-roll lead guitar licks, though RRC’s vocal sound is harsher and nastier. While the first half of this record is in that Coneheads / Liquids wheelhouse, the b-side features a more prominent synth, often playing bright melodies that remind me of Ausmuteants. The energy, hooks, and rawness elevate this above also-ran status, so if you’re a fan of this sound, The Collected Findings of is worth checking out.
Es: Less of Everything 12” (Upset the Rhythm) London’s Es released a 12” EP on La Vida Es Un Mus back in 2016, and now, four years later, the follow up appears on Upset the Rhythm. Es’s setup is drums / synth / vocal / bass, which makes them sound unique right off the bat. The bass tends to carry the songs’ rhythm and chord progression, but the synth player rarely doubles the bass line. Instead, the synth lines are ethereal, cascading melodically over the songs’ strong rhythmic backbones. The vocalist shouts rather than sings and this, along with the grimy bass sound, makes Less of Everything sound gritty and punk. If you like this kind of un-slick post-punk, Es’s unique approach and memorable songs are worth a listen.
LD-50: Lethal Dose Hardcore 7” (Symphony of Destruction) Lethal Dose Hardcore is the debut release by this Belgian hardcore band. The sound is stripped down US-style hardcore with nihilistic ferocity, the feral, distorted vocals bringing to mind John Brannon from Negative Approach at his most throat-shredding. The music isn’t as stripped down as Negative Approach, but there’s a similar punky catchiness here, as if LD-50 are at least as informed by driving, catchy UK82 punk as they are by light-speed USHC. Fans of Negative Approach, Last Rights, and DC’s Youth Brigade should take particular note as this has a similar feel, but regardless of what you compare it to, it sounds explosive.
Carcass: Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious 12” (Earache) Earache’s revolving reissue schedule again lands on Carcass’s landmark 1991 album Necroticism, so if you don’t already have the vinyl in your collection, now is as good a time as any to pick it up. In case you aren’t deep into Carcass, they started out as one of the most extreme and nastiest grindcore bands, but their sound evolved across their full-length releases. With such a diverse—but uniformly excellent—discography, Carcass fans might name any of their albums as their favorite, but Necroticism frequently gets the nod. It’s not unlike the melodic Swedish death metal that would take over the metal scene a few years later, but Carcass is less cheesy than something like At the Gates; Carcass’s riffing style is more angular and quirkier, not to mention heavier. I’ll leave it to someone more knowledgeable than me to say something new about this record, but I’ll just note it’s an undisputed metal classic and I’m stoked to have a few copies on the shelf.
Arson: Savage Butchery cassette (self-released) Demo cassette from this all-star UK group featuring several notable ex-members of, including Rob and Liam from Perspex Flesh, Campbell from Mob Rules, and Callum from No Form. That’s a strong pedigree for noisy hardcore, and Arson isn’t about to disappoint anyone coming here for more. The vibe is less arty and more straightforward than the aforementioned bands, which Arson stresses with a raw and gritty recording. There’s a desperate sound here that’s rooted in later Black Flag, but filtered through decades of more streamlined hardcore bands. It’s a sound I love, but I have to admit it, the most straightforward d-beat track on the tape, “No Light No Sound,” is the highlight for me, blowing past like a supersonic jet.
Public Eye: Music for Leisure 12” (Pop Wig) It’s funny that Public Eye’s first album was titled Relaxing Favorites and this new one is Music for Leisure, because those titles perfectly capture Public Eye’s off-the-cuff approach to punk. I’m sure they put plenty of work into their band, but the recordings—this new one in particular—have a carefree slacker vibe that reminds me of Pavement. The songs amble at stoned-sounding tempos and the vocalist sounds like he rolled out of bed hung over and walked up to the microphone. While the slacker vibe reminds me of Pavement, sonically this is more in line with something like Parquet Courts, particularly the way Public Eye balances pop song craft with more jammed-out, Krautrock-informed elements and even a bit of avant-garde stuff like the skronky saxophone in “The Duet” and “You’re Being Laughed At.” If you’re into thinking person’s punk that aims at an audience wider than Maximumrocknroll’s former readership, this is a good grip.
Huraña: Brujas, Cholas E Inventadas 7” (Iron Lung Records) I’ve listened to this debut EP from Mexico’s Huraña at least five or six times now and I feel like I still haven’t wrapped my head around it. Iron Lung Records releases some of the most progressive, boundary-pushing hardcore out there, and while I wouldn’t call Huraña one of the weirder bands the label has ever released, there’s something unique about this band and this recording that has me intrigued. The EP has a strange sound with heavy delay on the vocals and lots of reverb on the guitar, making it sound like you’re in a big empty cathedral with sounds bouncing off the walls in such a way that you can’t quite tell which direction they’re coming from. The sound alone makes Huraña’s more straightforward songs stand out, but when they stretch out it gets even more interesting. The tom-heavy drumming and surfy lead guitar on “Mi Ggeneración” sounds like Christian Death covering the Dead Kennedys on Wretched’s equipment while “Fue Una Buena Noche” adds some eerie-sounding saxophone into the mix that somehow makes everything sound even creepier. Also, the vinyl version contains a cool cover of Las Vulpess’s “Me Gusta Ser Una Zorra” that isn’t on the digital version. This is one of those records that sounds so unique and new that I wasn’t even sure if I liked it at first, but experience has taught me that these are the records I keep coming back to and that stand the test of time.
Banshee: Livin’ in the Jungle 12” (Feeding Tube) This Boston band featuring members of a bunch of notable hardcore bands self-released a 12” back in 2017, and now they’ve moved to Feeding Tube Records—home of the true freaks and progressives of the New England scene—for this follow-up. In case you never checked out their debut, Caw!, Banshee sounds to me like a band fascinated with the Stooges and the MC5 but with a lot of 70s and 80s hardcore and punk in their DNA. If that description reminds you of Mudhoney, that makes perfect sense because Banshee sounds a lot like Mudhoney in places. However, while Mudhoney has tended to write songs that are, at their core, pop songs, Banshee is prone to jam out and explore different influences. For instance, one of the most memorable tracks here, “Dawn of Man,” is a five and a half minute raga that reminds me of Primal Scream or Happy Mondays in the way it takes India-by-way-of-60s-psych and forces it through a bombastic rock filter. Another standout, “Savage Man,” is pure Fun House with its bluesy riff drenched in fuzz wah, chanted chorus, and bleating saxophone. I’m probably coming from a similar musical place as the members of Banshee. I grew up on punk and hardcore and discovered the Stooges, psychedelia, and lots of other music once I grew up, mellowed out a little, and opened my mind. Livin’ in the Jungle buzzes with the same energy I got from growing my record collection’s width rather than its depth.
Aus: II 12” (Static Age Musik) Second LP from this dark post-punk band from Germany. As before, Aus takes influence from bands like Xmal Deutschland and Siouxsie and the Banshees with their tom-heavy drumming, melodic bass lines and simple, hypnotic keyboard and guitar melodies. The rhythms are angular, and when combined with the icy, spoke-sung vocals my mind also goes to Lithics, though Aus aren’t as angular in their angular moments or as transcendent in their melodic ones. If you come to this record looking for big pop hooks, this might not do it for you, but if you throw this on at a healthy volume late at night with only candlelight, it’ll hit the spot.
Varoitus: Helvetin Hardcore 12” (Religious Vomit) Debut vinyl from this Swedish band with lyrics in Finnish. The a-side contains four new tracks (including a Kaaos cover) while the b-side collects their 2017 demo tape, which I can’t imagine many people heard. Varoitus plays Swedish mangel, but there are a few interesting wrinkles. First, Varoitus isn’t afraid to throw in an intense mid-paced part, the best of which happens on the first track, “Valitse.” For me, Warthog is the current gold standard for catchy, dance-able, and non-cheesy mid-paced parts, and “Valitse” is right in that same pocket. The second wrinkle is the Finnish lyrics. While the singer’s raspy shout isn’t that different from a lot of recent Totalitär-inspired bands, Finnish hardcore singers have this way of hanging on vowel sounds for a long time that makes them sound so intense and angry. The final wrinkle I’ll mention is the wah-drenched guitar leads, which aren’t rocked-out but give Varoitus a unique sound. While the a-side sounds a little brighter and more polished, the recordings on both sides are great: clear and punchy, but with a ton of grit. If you have a ton of Swedish and Finnish hardcore records in your collection, I guarantee you’ll find plenty to like about Varoitus.
Abyecta: Infrafuturo 7” (Symphony of Destruction) Debut 7” from this band out of Barcelona. I don’t know much about the inner workings of the Barcelona scene (I’ve only been there once as a tourist), but my impression is that there is a tightly knit scene there with a strong group of bands who seem to be in dialog with one another. Ten or twelve years ago there was a wave of raw d-beat bands that came from the city, and then you saw that wave splinter and the bands branching off, some getting artier and weirder (like Una Bestia Incontrolable) and others going in different directions. I mention this because Abyecta don’t fit with the other bands I’ve heard from Barcelona. Yes, they’re a fast and angry punk/hardcore band, but their sense of melody and their catchy, metallic riffing sound unique. They remind me of Burning Kitchen or Post Regiment, bands who played fast and hard, but also embraced complexity and melody, particularly gloomy melodies. Even regarding those comparisons, though, I hear what sounds like a Japanese hardcore influence in the riffing style that sets Abyecta apart. I can see how this sound would be an acquired taste, but as a huge fan of the bands I mentioned above, I’m all in.
Dame: S/T 12” (Beach Impediment) We carried the debut 7” from Boston’s Dame back in 2017, and now we get their debut LP. Despite the long gap, the sound is similar: brooding pop-goth with a rough and raw underground punk aesthetic. I imagine Dame takes inspiration from the same groups as similar bands—the Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Chameleons, etc.—but they have their own take on the sound. The playing is loose and raw, and when they speed things up on the closing track, “Parlor Games,” they sound a lot like the first Iceage album, back when that band had a loose and ethereal style. Both the guitarist and the vocalist have a knack for straightforward melodies, and the most interesting parts of the LP are when those instruments weave through one another and create something greater than the sum of their parts. While there are a lot of players in this post-punk game, Dame’s punky sense of melody and scrappy playing style make them stand out from the pack.
Long Knife: Night of the Hunter 7” (Beach Impediment) Portland’s Long Knife return with this new two-song single, their first new material since 2017’s Sewers of Babylon EP on Beach Impediment. If you’ve heard Long Knife, you already know they bear an uncanny resemblance to Feel the Darkness-era Poison Idea with their driving, mid-paced style, rocked-out lead guitar, and (most importantly) vocalist who is a dead ringer for Jerry A. If you loved their previous records, I doubt you’ll be disappointed in Night of the Hunter, though there are a few new wrinkles. The a-side has some vocal parts that are almost crooned (!!!), while “Rough Liver” is overflowing with riffs that squeeze hints of rockabilly and neo-classical metal into the band’s well-honed style. There probably won’t ever be a piece of writing about Long Knife that doesn’t mention Poison Idea, but rather than just sounding like PI, they’ve taken to heart that band’s way of pushing at the boundaries of their sound without losing sight of what made them great.
Sick of It All: The Blood and the Sweat book (Post Hill Press) While I’ve seen them play some incredible live sets over the years, I’ve never counted myself a huge fan of Sick of It All. I am, however, a huge fan of punk books, so you know I grabbed a copy of this as soon as it came in. Rather than a dense academic analysis of Sick of It All’s music or an intensively researched history of the band and its members, The Blood and the Sweat takes a loose approach to chronicling the Sick of It All story. The book’s title and cover emphasize the Koller brothers, and the book is essentially one long interview with the two of them, interspersed with (very occasional) quotes from other band members, family members, and related parties. They divide the book into chapters that take you through a more-or-less chronological history of the brothers and their band, but there are a lot of digressions and asides. While it sometimes feels like you’re reading a lengthy magazine article rather than a book, the strength of this approach is that the Koller brothers are as experienced spinning a yarn as they are commanding a stage, and after having toured as much as they have, they have plenty of stories. I’m not sure how the SOIA diehards will feel about the book, but I thought it was a real page-turner. I plowed through its 300 pages in a little over 24 hours and I wasn’t bored for a minute.
Snot Puppies: S/T 7” (No Matrix) First ever release from this obscure LA area band. The band members were students at Beverly Hills High School when they recorded these tracks with Geza X in 1978, and while they never managed a release while they were together, they played clubs like the Masque and the Whisky with bands like the Germs, the Middle Class, and the Screamers (with whom they shared a member). The three songs here may not be on the level of the classics Snot Puppies’ contemporaries wrote, but they’re solid, aggressive punk tunes buoyed by Geza X’s always great production. A lot of time with obscure reissues, I hear them and I think, “yeah, I can see why this never came out before.” However, if you’re a sucker for the old SoCal punk sound like me, I think you’ll get good mileage out of this single.
Krimtank: Ditt Fel 7” (Pike Records) Latest EP from this long-running Swedish band. I’ve seen their EPs kicking around over the years (in fact, I’m sure we’ve had used copies come through Sorry State), but I don’t think I’ve ever listened to Krimtänk before. The sound is a guitarist and bassist banging out simple riffs with little to no sense of melody while another guys yells and the drummer plays as fast as they can. In other words, it’s punk! There are 13 tracks crammed onto this 45rpm EP, so everything is short and to the point. The shortness of the songs and how blisteringly fast everything is makes me think of the Swedish band Pusrad that had a string of great records a few years ago, but this is wilder-sounding, like the fastest and blurriest moments of Mob 47. Raging!
Litige: En Eaux Troubles 12” (Destructure Records) Second LP from this melodic punk band out of France. Litige’s big, crunchy guitar sound and charismatic, melodic vocals remind me of the 90s, when punk bands were first getting put into studios that got them huge sounds, but the compositions remained lean and to the point. The Muffs come to mind, but many of the songs on En Eaux Troubles also remind me of darker Screeching Weasel tracks like “What We Hate” or “Every Night.” While the big, confident vocal melodies are the star of the show, there are also great, Greg Sage-esque lead guitar hooks that any Masshysteri fan will flip for. Recommended for fans of heavy melodic punk that’s not cute or commercial.
Impotentie: Leopold II Is Niet Dood Genoeg 12” (Roach Leg) You might remember Impotentie from their earlier tape (which Drunken Sailor re-released as a 7”, which we still have in stock), and this 45rpm 12” picks up right where that recording left off. From the moment I heard them, I thought Impotentie had an oddball element to their sound, and that remains the case here. Roach Leg’s description mentions Reich Orgasm and French oi!, and like a lot of French oi! bands, Impotentie has a turgid sound, like they’re purposefully playing the songs at a very slow tempo. That choice gives these tracks a unique vibe, but the songs themselves are excellent. I mentioned Warsaw (the band, not the city) in my description of Impotentie’s tape, and that reference comes to mind again here, particularly on tracks like “Medemens,” which is simultaneously gloomy, melodic, and raw. That mix of characteristics will also appeal to people who love dark and melodic UK anarcho like Hagar the Womb, the Mob, and Crisis. While Impotentie reminds me of these things, it doesn’t sound exactly like any of them, so if you value originality in your punk and you think you might be into the general vibe, give this a try. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the LP’s title translates to “Leopold II Is Not Dead Enough,” an indictment of the Belgian king who presided over a brutal colonial regime in the Congo.
Mobs: Demo + Live 1986 12” (Fan Club) A few months ago we carried a Mobs fan club LP that featured their first two 7”s, Diabolism and Projection of Astral Body. In case you missed that release, Mobs were an 80s hardcore band from Japan who mixed gritty hardcore in the vein of Kuro or L.S.D. with some goth-ish elements. This LP raids the rest of the officially released Kill ‘em All CD, taking the demo tracks and live set that appeared on that disc and putting them on vinyl. (By the way, the cheapest copy of the Kill ‘em All CD on Discogs will set you back over $200.) The demo tracks sound great, at least as good as or better than their debut EP, Diabolism, and three of the tracks are exclusive to that demo. As for the live set, the recording is raw but clear and heavy, and features several more unreleased tracks. While I think Projection of Astral Body is Mobs’ finest moment, the tracks collected here are much better than leftovers or castoffs.
All Hits: Men and Their Work 12” (Iron Lung) Well, this rules. Iron Lung once again surprises me with a release by a band I knew nothing about, yet is better than at least 90% of the bands I know about. All Hits is from Portland, and they sound like Crisis and Bikini Kill had an unlikely baby. Their sound is bass-driven (like a lot of anarcho punk) and the lyrics aren’t afraid of sloganeering (also like a lot of anarcho punk), but All Hits makes frequent detours into more melodic directions. Take a track like “Sugar Supply,” which goes from a driving, Gang-of-Four-on-speed verse into a bright, melodic chorus that wouldn’t have been out of place on Lookout! Records. All Hits also pepper Men and Their Work with punkers like “Don’t Wanna” and “World Is a Fuck,” either of which could have been a standout Raw Records single if a bunch of dudes had written it in the UK in 1978. A less talented band would sound scattered making transitions like these, but All Hits nails it, confidently claiming this quirky mix as their signature. I love that this came out on Iron Lung, but Men and Their Work is so lively and so infectious that I could see All Hits getting huge, not because they sound is palatable or watered down, but just because they’re that good.
Subdued: Over the Hills and Far Away 12” (Roach Leg) Like their Roach Leg label-mates Rigorous Institution, Subdued is a band I’ve been following for a while. Their previous releases were powerful, but Over the Hills and Far Away is a big leap forward, elaborating on the Amebix influence that characterized Subdued’s earlier releases and hitting upon a sound totally their own. The first track, “Sanctuary Is Nowhere,” comes out of the gate ripping at full hardcore velocity until the second track, “The Joke,” brings in the punked-up Killing Joke vibes we all loved on the early Amebix singles. The energy level reaches an ebb for the long bass intro to “Problem of Evil,” but Subdued gradually works themselves up to a tizzy until the a-side climaxes with another ripper, “No More,” which peaks with one of the most ripping guitar solos I’ve heard in some time. The b-side pulls from the same bag of tricks, but the songs are longer and more intricate, bringing a Celtic Frost-esque sense of grandiosity to the album’s second half. While Subdued has some familiar points of reference, Over the Hills and Far Away is ambitious in a way few modern punks records are. Subdued pushes past the familiar and the cliche and gets at something that feels more substantial, both musically and lyrically. It’s a big swing, but Over the Hills and Far Away fully connects. Mark my words; you’ll be seeing this record on a lot of Best of 2020 lists, mine included.
R.M.F.C.: Reader 7” (Anti-Fade) We last heard from Australia’s R.M.F.C. on their Hive 1 + 2 compilation LP, on which Germany’s Erste Theke Tonträger compiled two previous cassette releases. Now they’re back on the Australian label Anti-Fade, and maybe it’s just my imagination, but the sound this time is less robotic and poppier, more in line with the pop-oriented bands on Anti-Fade. The a-side, “Reader,” starts with a pogo-punk part, but slides into a mid-paced, melodic punk tune that would fit comfortably on Devo’s Freedom of Choice. I know Devo comparisons are as common as oxygen molecules, but this track hits the nail on the head with its tight playing style and melodic sophistication. The b-side, “Faux Freaks,” is shorter and faster, and the emphasis on rhythm over melody puts it more in line with modern Devo disciples. It’s still a good song, though, which is important to note since it seems like only the a-side is on bandcamp and streaming services. I can’t imagine these two tracks will disappoint anyone who picked up that first record and liked it.
Peace Talks: A Lasting Peace 7” (Cruel Noise) A Lasting Peace is the debut vinyl from this Pittsburgh hardcore band. Peace Talks reminds me of Torso in that I hear traces of modern d-beat and straight edge hardcore in their sound, with the complex and furious riffing style of bands like Herätys mashed up with dramatic breakdowns that get the pit boiling over. The recording is clear, raw, and refreshingly un-stylized. I’m at a loss for how to elaborate because this just sounds like honest, angry hardcore made for our historical moment. If you’re a fan of Torso, C.H.E.W., and other contemporary bands who tap into hardcore’s vitality without pandering to particular cliques of record collectors, I encourage you to check out Peace Talks.
Régimen de Terror: Inherente del Poder 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) I was just writing about how Pittsburgh’s Peace Talks sound modern and un-stylized… well, this 7” from Régimen de Terror is the complete opposite of that. It’s like they’re trying to convince us Discharge’s Fight Back and Decontrol EPs are the only records they’ve ever heard in their lives. I’m not complaining, though, because this totally rips. While a lot of d-beat bands go for a wall of sound production style, Régimen de Terror has a sound more like Minor Threat, with drum and vocals way up front in the mix and guitar and bass much less prominent. Maybe it’s because I listened to so much Minor Threat as a young’un, but “drums up front” has always been my preferred mixing style for hardcore… it just makes the music sound so relentless and energetic. While the riffs won't wow anyone with their complexity, the songs are sturdy and well-constructed. Maybe this won’t melt your brain, but it’ll get you out of your seat and thrashing around the room.
Barcelona: Resuduous del Ultrasonido 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Barcelona remains one of the wildest and most innovative bands in the world, creating punk rock that edges right up to the cliff of “completely unlistenable” without ever falling over. There are moments I love on records like Wretched’s In Nome Del Loro Potere Tutto E' Stato Fatto... EP or Negazione’s split with Declino when I wonder if the band is playing in time with one another or whether some or all of them have lost the plot. While, for bands who pursue tightness as a goal, this can be a deflating moment, a handful of bands thrive in this under-explored zone between order and chaos, and Barcelona is one of the best of them. Not that Resuduous del Ultrasonido is a mess… “Me Jode La Felicidad” even has a little of melody to it, sort of like Wretched’s later stuff circa La Tua Morte Non Aspetta. However, most of what you’ll hear on this record blurs the line between “toddler temper tantrum” and “musical performance.” This isn’t for everyone, but I love it.
Tozibabe: Anthology 12” (Hardcore Ljubljana Records) Fan club LP compiling Tozibabe’s great 4-song 7” along with their contributions to the Hard-Core Ljubljana and Novi-Rock compilations. I remember when I first heard Tozibabe thinking, “why didn’t I discover this earlier?” The answer is probably sexism (3 women comprised Tozibabe), but regardless of why, I think my impression that they’re vastly under-appreciated is a common one. While Tozibabe is a hardcore band, their sound weaves in elements of goth and post-punk, giving them a creepy and melodic vibe that is totally their own, though it’s not miles away from goth-tinged UK anarcho bands like Part 1 or Vex were doing. Tozibabe’s 4-song EP is an unheralded classic of 80s punk and one of the most unique and worthwhile punk records to come out of Eastern Europe in the 80s. There have been a few reissues over the years (including an official one in 2015), but the compilation tracks are a pleasant bonus. The Hard-Core Ljubljana LP is great all the way through and worth getting on its own, but Tozibabe’s tracks are strong, a little more straightforward and hardcore than the goth-ier EP. There aren’t many frills with this bootleg, but the sound is great, and it’s a nice way to get the tunes in your collection.
Geld: Beyond the Floor 12” (Iron Lung) I loved Geld’s last LP, Perfect Texture, and if you’re in that same camp, check out Beyond the Floor because it takes everything I loved about Perfect Texture and pushes it just a little further. I’ve always been a sucker for bands that combine hardcore with dense and punishing noise rock, and there’s a lot of that on Beyond the Floor, though I also hear elements of stomping, mid-paced black metal on tracks like “Infrasound.” Double Negative was a band with a similar set of influences, and there are moments on Beyond the Floor (particularly “Nocturnal Hand” and “Red Mist,” the frantic one-two punch that opens the b-side) that sound uncannily like early Double Negative. Geld travels much further into the damp caves of noise rock, though, with a handful of tracks breaking the three-minute barrier, making space for psychedelic jamming and droning that causes the hardcore to hit that much harder. Beyond the Floor is a dense LP with rich, velvety sonic textures throughout. Sometimes my ear gets lost in those textures, while sometimes I let the rhythms pound me in the gut. It’s like a hardcore version of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel! Seriously, though, if you like your hardcore heavy, noisy, and a little bit arty, you can’t go wrong with this LP.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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