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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.

Featured Release Roundup: March 26, 2020

Discovery: Earth to Fucker 7” (Erste Theke Tonträger) The band name, title of the record, and graphic design on this debut vinyl from the Bay Area’s Discovery led me to expect some ear-splitting noise-punk or d-beat, but that’s not the vibe here at all. Instead, this is nihilistic hardcore punk in the vein of early Poison Idea or 80s Bay Area miscreants like Sick Pleasure and the Fuck-Ups. Like the best of those bands, the playing here is tight and powerful, and while the songs stay within the standard USHC template, Discovery is talented enough to make that sound their own. There are even a few surprises like the wild, dissonant intro to “Nothing.” If you’re a fan of USHC that brings together catchy songwriting with a ton of fuck you attitude (i.e. if you have enjoyed recent releases by Electric Chair and Loose Nukes), this is something you should check out.

Zodiak: TKY 2020 7” flexi (Symphony of Destruction) TKY 2020 is the 3-track debut flexi from this new band out of Tokyo that features members of 2 Bay Area hardcore bands, Morpheme and Odio. The sound here is raw d-beat with a Disorder-style dentist-drill guitar sound. However, while the guitars are noisy, the rest of the instruments have a heavier, meatier sound more like Kriegshog or Framtid’s more bruising moments, which makes for an interesting juxtaposition. This might not be the most original thing in the world, but it’s powerfully played and well executed.

Masochism: Plague of Warfare cassette (Suck Blood) Debut cassette from this LA band on the Suck Blood label, who brought us notable releases from Hate Preachers and Cruelty Bomb. Masochism plays raw, metallic crust—not a sound I would have expected from this group—but they have a similar explosive quality as their labelmates. The guitar sound here is nasty, dense and biting, like a malfunctioning chainsaw hacking through your bowels. While the riffs themselves are metallic, there isn’t much in the way of lead guitar or metal posturing, just hardcore punk aggression. If you’re a fan of the previous releases on Suck Blood or a lover of gnarly metallic hardcore/crust, this is a must-listen.

Psykik Violence: demo cassette (self-released) Another week, another Erik Nervous-related release lands at Sorry State. You don’t see me complaining though! Psykik Violence is Erik’s hardcore project, and aside from a slight herky-jerky quality to some riffs, you won’t find much in the way of his trademark Devo influences here. Instead, the sound is pure US hardcore, raw and angry. The recording places the drums right up front (like any great hardcore recording should), making the driving rhythms and Minor Threat-style rolls the focus. While the vocals are nondescript and low in the mix, the guitar riffs are killer, their catchiness balanced by a Wire-esque angularity. This is definitely worth checking out, particularly if you’re into punkier hardcore like Big Zit or Fried E/M.

Smut: First Kiss 12” (Iron Lung) This record from LA’s Smut is a throwback to a time when hardcore didn’t mean athletic shoes and breakdowns… it meant PUNK AS FUCK. This one is all big, catchy punk riffs and vocals drowning in snot backed by a rhythm section with the power and subtlety of a jackhammer. I’m reminded of peak-era FUs and Gang Green or west coast equivalents like the Fuck-Ups or the Lewd… there’s no pretense, no trying to be something that it’s not, just punk rock played with a knife in hand, ready to lunge at any second. Grab this and that new Discovery 7”, crack open a 40, and light some shit on fire.

Vanity: Rarely If Ever b/w We’re Friends 7” (Beach Impediment) Hot on the heels of their recent single on Feel It comes two more tracks from New York’s Vanity. Given the proximity of their release dates and the similar artwork, I imagine we should take these two singles as a pair, and no doubt if you enjoyed the Feel It single you should pick this up. However, these two tracks aren’t just more of the same. “Rarely If Ever” relies on the same intricate lead guitar that sounded so great on the Feel It single, but ups the ante with the most confident, memorable chorus hook the Vanity has produced yet. “We’re Friends” is a harder rocking song that will please fans of the Stones-ish Evening Reception album, and its scorching guitar solo is a big highlight. If you’ve been picking up Vanity’s previous releases, I don’t see any reason you should stop here.

Hate Preachers: Live on KXLU cassette (Suck Blood) Live on the radio tape from this great band out of LA with two previous cassette releases on Suck Blood. I loved the recordings on band’s earlier cassettes—pretty much everything coming out on the Suck Blood label sounds incredible to my ears with the perfect balance of rawness, heaviness, and clarity—but this recording proves that Hate Preachers aren’t just a mediocre band adept at getting a good sound. It’s not that this recording sounds bad by any means—everything is clear, present, and good-sounding—it just doesn’t have that perfectly placed layer of grit the other two tapes had. That’s OK, though, because Hate Preachers is a killer band. It’s not a reference I would have reached for before (and maybe it’s because the band, which is a three-piece, is pictured on the cover), but on this recording Hate Preachers sound a lot like Direct Control. If nothing else, they have a similar knack for making hardcore punk catchy without being melodic and sound so classic that it feels like they could have made their music at any point in the last 40 years. If you’re a Sorry State regular, you should have a complete collection of Suck Blood releases. They haven’t made anything worth skipping yet, this included.

Featured Release Roundup: March 19, 2020

Eric Nervous & the Beta Blockers: S/T 12” (Drunken Sailor) We’ve seen several releases from Erik Nervous over the past few years—including a compilation called Assorted Anxieties on Drunken Sailor and Neck Chop and a killer EP of obscure Devo covers—but this is his first release with backing band the Beta Blockers. This incarnation finds Erik Nervous leveling up with a clearer sound while retaining the big hooks of his earlier work. You’ll still hear plenty of Devo influence, with tracks like “Blasted Heath” reminding me of Freedom of Choice, that band’s pop peak, while “Want to Not Wanna” relies on quirkier drum machine rhythms more akin to their earlier, home-recorded material. The album also incorporates post-punk influences, with the angular lead guitar and fast post-punk rhythms on “Gravure” making it a standout that fans of Shopping or early Priests will love. The album ends with the climactic “Worry,” whose intertwining guitar lines remind me of the Buzzcocks’ most transcendent instrumental moments. Sometimes I’m sad to see an artist adopt a more polished sound, but the move suits Erik Nervous well, making this LP his best work yet.

Man-Eaters: Gentle Ballads for the Simple Soul 12” (Feel It) In case you didn’t catch their self-titled cassette from last year, let me get you up to speed: Man-Eaters is a new Chicago band featuring folks who brought you Cülo and Tarantüla. The aesthetic resembles those bands, i.e. sleazy-sounding hardcore punk, but this time around they add an element of Annihilation Time-style 70s rock riffing to round out the sound. Their combination of rock chops and nihilistic hardcore punk energy reminds me of RKL’s Keep Laughing LP, and if you’re a fan of that record’s combination of hooks, energy, and musical prowess, check this out. The slower, brooding “Baptized in Spit” and “Man-Eaters” also incorporate some of Hank Wood’s vibe by locking into dense, James Brown-like grooves. Check that killer Drügface cover artwork too!

Hank Wood & the Hammerheads: Use Me 7” (Toxic State) Hank Wood & the Hammerheads are back with a new 4-song single on Toxic State. If you had told me in 2012, just after I heard their inescapable debut LP, that in 2020 Hank Wood & the Hammerheads would have three full-lengths and a healthy stack of EPs in their discography, I never would have believed you. However, Hank Wood & the Hammerheads have not only persevered for a decade, but grown and evolved. When those early records came out, the auxiliary percussion and the organ set them apart from what most other bands were doing at the time, but on Use Me the emphasis is on the core band’s songwriting and playing. The vocals are a little more buried than they were on the last LP, but the sound is clearer and cleaner, even incorporating piano and melodic, feminine-sounding backing vocals on the title track. While that song has a 90s alt-rock grandeur that I haven’t heard from Hank Wood before, “Strangers” sounds wistful, like Replacements songs such as “Here Comes a Regular.” I’m sure there are plenty of you who only ride for the band’s early material, but it’s hard for me to imagine Use Me being a let-down to anyone.

Genogeist: S/T 12” (Black Water) Back in 2018, we carried the demo tape from Portland’s Genogeist, and with their vinyl debut they’ve made the logical move to their home town’s punk institution, Black Water Records. Genogeist blend metal and crust into a sound that’s sprightly and even catchy. When I hear something described as “metallic crust” I worry it will be a bunch of boring riffs dressed up with palm muting, but Genogeist’s music is interesting and complex, reminding me of Sacrilege’s underrated second LP Within the Prophecy or the meaner end of thrash metal (stuff like Sodom or Onslaught) more than, say, early Axegrinder or Amebix. It’s an obscure reference for most people, but Genogeist also make me think of the late 00s Richmond band Parasytic, who had a similar knack for blending the catchy riffing and thoughtful songwriting of thrash metal with the griminess of crust. 

Hondartzako Hondakinak: Bruiarta 12” (Solar Funeral) As a native English speaker with only the most rudimentary grasp of other tongues, I’m intimidated by band names not composed of English words, particularly if I have to pronounce them. However, I love saying Hondartzako Hondakinak. Just try sounding it out, then repeating it faster and faster until you can say it at a good clip… it’s a satisfying collection of syllables. Anyway, this French band released a killer EP back in 2016 and this 12” is the follow-up. I’d describe Hondartzako Hondakinak’s style as fast, intricate, and impassioned. They remind me of early Husker Du and the bands they influenced (Articles of Faith, early Funeral Oration, Norway’s So Much Hate, etc.) in that the music is fast and cathartic, but you can hear melody bubbling just under the surface. Just check out the track “Borondatezko Morrontza” from this LP if you want to hear what I mean. If you’re a fan of their earlier EP, Bruiarta has a cleaner sound and it's sprinkled with a handful of broad, mosh-able, mid-paced riffs (like the lengthy intro that starts the record), but if you are a fan of that record there’s still plenty of the wicked fast stuff here.

Shrinkwrap Killer: Stolen Electronics to Shove Up Your Ass 7” (Iron Lung) Debut vinyl from this mysterious project helmed by Greg Wilkinson of Brainoil, Deathgrave, and Earhammer Studios. I didn't know what to expect when I dropped the needle on this single, but it RULES. The obvious point of comparison is the Spits given that it’s catchy, synth-infused garage punk and the vocals sound similar, but it’s not a mere homage. While the Spits’ songs are  stripped-down and Ramones-based, these two tracks are more complex and in the pocket without losing any of the catchiness. It’s very short, but that’s OK because this is one of those records you’ll play three times in a row every time it gets near your turntable. Note also that it’s limited to only 200 copies, so don’t expect it to stick around for very long.

Girls in Synthesis: Pressure 7” (Own It Music) “Pressure” was originally a self-released, tour-only single from this UK band, but they did a small repress and Sorry State was lucky enough to grab a few copies. If you haven’t heard them, Girls in Synthesis is from the UK and plays an intense hybrid of hardcore, post-punk, and noise music. This single tilts toward the hardcore end of things with its brisk tempos and menacing demeanor, but the intricate textures and sustained tension that come from electronic music are a welcome bit of extra spice. The a-side, “Pressure,” will appear on their upcoming LP on Harbinger Sound, while the two live tracks on the b-side are exclusive to this release. While the live recording sacrifices a little of that texture, the energy of the band’s performance more than makes up for it. This is a style I love, and if you’re a fan of Bad Breeding, Broken Prayer, and Droid’s Blood, I’m sure you’ll agree that Girls in Synthesis does it well.

Internal Rot: Grieving Birth 12” (Iron Lung) Even though Iron Lung is a power violence / grind band, Iron Lung Records releases relatively few bands from that genre. Obviously the Iron Lung folks know this genre of music pretty well, so when they place their stamp of approval on a band who plays in this style, it’s worth paying attention. Internal Rot is a grind band, and Grieving Birth is a punishing whirlwind of a record. There are hundreds of killer riffs spread across its 20-ish minutes. Thank god records have two sides, because I’m not sure if I could take the whole thing in one interrupted burst… not because it’s same-y sounding or boring, but because it’s so relentlessly punishing that I feel like I’m having an anxiety attack. If that’s your idea of a fun time, pick up this ripper.

Featured Release Roundup: March 5, 2020

Death Ridge Boys: Don’t Let Them Divide Us 7” (Black Water) I’m surprised Portland’s Death Ridge Boys hasn’t received more hype. They released a full length tape a few years ago (since repressed on vinyl and in stock at Sorry State) and have followed that up with two 7”s in the past year, of which Don’t Let Them Divide Us is the latest. Their earlier material was straight up, catchy oi!-punk with leftist, pro-PC lyrics, but these two tracks find the band dallying with different sub-styles of oi! / skinhead music. “Don’t Let Them Divide Us” kicks off with a melodic, Blitz-style guitar riff, which quickly joins a complimentary riff from the second guitarist in more of a rock-and-roll / bootboy glam style. I’m a sucker for two-guitar bands, and throughout this track the two guitarists’ complimentary styles keep things peppy. Add in anthemic vocals and you have exactly the single a-side I imagine Death Ridge Boys was aiming for. The b-side, “Working” (not a Cock Sparrer cover) is faster, tougher, and shorter, but just as accomplished from a songwriting standpoint. Fans of contemporary oi! and other retro forms of skinhead rock-and-roll should check this out as it’s just as good as the members’ impressive pedigrees suggest.

Vanity: Anticlimax 7” (Feel It) Anticlimax is the brand new two-song single from this New York band. While Vanity has covered a lot of stylistic ground (they started as an oi! band and made forays into Britpop and 70s Stones-inspired rock), Anticlimax feels like a band settling into their own sound. My favorite part of these two tracks is the intricate, Byrds-y guitar lines that run through both. The two guitarists both play complex lines that are both psychedelic and melodic, and I love listening to them wriggle around one another while a big, glam-inspired vocal hook also competes for my attention. There are elements here of everything Vanity has done so far—the energy of the punk stuff, the baroque textures and big melodies of their Britpop-style record, and the swagger of their Stones-inspired previous album—so if you’ve enjoyed anything they’ve done over the past few years I’d give this a listen.

Dadar: To Take Out or Eat In cassette (Lo-Fi Life) I don’t know much of anything about Italy’s Dadar, but I sure love this cassette. These ten tracks cover a lot of ground, but I like all of it, from the melodic garage-punk of “Brain” to the more angular synth-punk of “Calendarize” to the jittery, hardcore-ish “Digital Degenerate” and “Sick of Pasta.” Dadar walk so many fine lines, being fun without being goofy, melodic without being saccharine, and high-energy without being tough or unduly aggressive. When I look for band comparisons, I reach for names like the Dickies, the Shitty Limits, and the faster Screeching Weasel songs, but comparisons don’t tell the whole story. I’m surprised a bigger label like Drunken Sailor or Erste Theke Tonträger didn’t step up to press this on vinyl, because a release this exciting and well crafted deserves attention from more than just collectors of limited-run cassettes.

The Cowboy: Wifi On the Prairie 12” (Feel It) Following up their recent single on Drunken Sailor, here’s the latest full-length from Cleveland’s the Cowboy. I compared that single to Wire’s breeziest moments, and most of the songs on Wifi on the Prairie follow a similar pattern, matching motorik rhythms with catchy bass lines and noisy (but catchy) guitar lines. Even more than Wire, Wifi on the Prairie reminds me of Texas’s Spray Paint; like that band, the Cowboy marries punk aggression with trance-like rhythms, making you feel like you’re wandering through a raging house show after taking a big swig of cough syrup. Occasionally they back off the throttle and do something looser that reminds me of early Pavement (see the long intro for “New Moon Tune” or “Trippy Movies”), but mostly this is all go, no slow. If you are a fan of the Slump LP that Feel It released a few months ago, odds are you’ll enjoy Wifi on the Prairie too.

Sex Pill: Anarchy and LSD 7” (self-released) This debut 7” from Houston’s Sex Pill is, without a doubt, one of the most fucked up-sounding punk records I’ve ever heard. While some bands’ way of going about “noise not music” is to run everything through a bunch of effects (every available knob turned to 10, naturally) until you have a bland soup of static, Sex Pill’s production choices are more idiosyncratic. The first thing you’ll notice is the siren sound that runs throughout the entire record (not just between the songs, but right over top of them), speeding up and slowing down and placing a woozy, druggy haze over the whole thing. The non-siren parts of the music remind me of Japan’s Kuro, but the vocals (which are quite powerful) are way louder than the other instruments, which are often all but inaudible because of the vocals and the siren. Plenty of people will dismiss this as complete garbage, but I recommend it if you enjoy staring quizzically at your speakers while you try to figure out what, precisely, the hell is going on. 

Headcheese: demo cassette (Slow Death) The demo tape from this Canadian band grafts the grainy production style of bands like Armor and Protocol onto Circle Jerks-level songwriting, and I, for one, was won over instantly. If you love the Circle Jerks, you’ll also fall for Headcheese the minute you hear the 36-second track “Incel,” which is jam-packed with the intricate yet catchy arrangements that make Group Sex a peerless record. Headcheese’s guitar riffs are straightforward, but the dynamic shifts in rhythm make this tape a non-stop thrill ride. I bet you could listen to the isolated drum tracks for this recording and they would not only sound interesting, but memorable. The drummer isn’t Headcheese’s only asset, though, as the vocalist also has a ton of charisma, their snotty growl leagues beyond most hardcore shouters. If you’re a fan of snotty hardcore like School Jerks and Career Suicide, you need to check this out ASAP.

Blood Ties: demo cassette (Slow Death) This Canadian group delivers three minutes of top-shelf hardcore on this frustratingly short demo. Blood Ties owes a big debt to early Agnostic Front, particularly the way they disregard conventional hardcore song structures. See, for instance, the 22-second “Lemmings,” which starts with a dramatic four-bar intro, goes into a ripping fast hardcore part for four more bars, then plays one bar of the intro again and stops. Then there’s the longer “Poser” (47 seconds), which has a breakdown that’s longer than the “main” part of the song. The epic closer (one minute, twenty-nine seconds) “Where Am I?” is more of a fist-pumper a la AF’s “Power,” but Blood Ties still makes time for a gnarly breakdown. Just like United Blood or Victim Pain, this is the musical equivalent of being jumped into a gang. Leave your library card at home, because this is for the cavemen, neanderthals, and other primitive human species.