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Featured Release Roundup: November 26, 2020

Solvent: Demo 2020 (self-released) Demo cassette from this furious band out of Seattle. I guess you would call this d-beat, but it’s not of the polished stadium crust variety. Rather than most modern d-beat bands, Solvent reminds me of Deathreat… they just sound like a fast, pissed, and noisy hardcore band steeped in the international classics. In certain parts I hear Bastard vibes off in the distance, but this is go for the throat stuff in the Shitlickers / Cimex mold, but not as stylized as most modern bands who go for that style. A ripper for sure.

Septic Yanks: S/T cassette (Stucco Label) Short demo from this band presumably out of Olympia Washington. At least that’s where the label, Stucco, is based. Stucco earned our attention by introducing us to Electric Chair and Suck Lords, and Septic Yanks appeals to a similar sensibility. However, whereas those two bands are all about speed, Septic Yanks are more primitive and more approachable. The playing is loose, but the grittiness balances out the Circle Jerks-y catchiness of the riffing. Nasty production wrapping around a nihilistic attitude and straightforward but effective songwriting makes me think of the best bands on an old Mystic Compilation, so if you researched every band on Party or Go Home or Copulation, you’re going to like Septic Yanks.

タイフーン (Taifun): Demo 2020 cassette (Desolate) Taifun comes from Germany and released this demo in 2020, but if you played it for me blind, I don’t think I could pick it out of a lineup of Japanese bands released on Blood Sucker or HG Fact in the late 90s or 00s. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Taifun has at least one member of Burial (who did a pretty great Burning Spirits take of their own back in the aughts), they have this sound on lock. While the galloping beats and glass-gargling vocals that we all love in Japanese hardcore are very much in effect here, the sound is more rocked out and slicker than, say, Bastard or Death Side, instead reminding me of Paintbox, Forward’s first few records, or Rocky and the Sweden’s early stuff. I feel like this sound is out of fashion nowadays as people want stuff that’s more raging, but if you liked the Detractors tape that Desolate released a while back, this is a total no-brainer. And for those of us who still ride for this 90s iteration of the Japanese hardcore sound, this is as comforting as a sherpa blanket. Also of note, while the tape’s A side is all hardcore, side B is a 10-minute noise piece, and as 10-minute noise pieces go I thought it was pretty interesting.

Hekátē: Μέρες Οργής (Days of Wrath) 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Μέρες Οργής is the debut 12” from this band from Greece. While the keyboards and dark vibes will put them in the post-punk category for many people, to me they have more in common with the Damned or TSOL. In other words, Hekátē writes high-energy punk songs with a strong sense of melody and a dramatic flair, and as you might expect given that this is on La Vida Es Un Mus, they’re great at it. Hekátē bookends Μέρες Οργής with two atmospheric tracks without vocals, placing the more conventional songs in the middle. “Soapbox” has an anarcho brood, but its shouted vocals and early Fall-esque keyboards keep it well away from being on the nose. “Ψυχαναγκασμός,” the fastest and punkiest song on the record, is my hot track. While the core is a solid three-chord rock song that could have gone in many directions, the bright, new-wave synth line makes it a total earworm. Μέρες Οργής is compact but full of variety, a record you play repeatedly because you can’t get enough.

Pitbul: Demo 2020 cassette (self-released) Another ripping demo out of the Seattle area. While Solvent has a gritty, d-beat influenced style, Pitbul plays tight, start-and-stop hardcore with a heavy Negative Approach influence. It’s not totally retro 80s though. I hear a little of straight edge hardcore in the riffing style, which makes me think of bands like Dead Stop, Punch in the Face, Violent Minds, etc., who sounded like the logical product of the 20 years of hardcore that preceded them. If you’re into bands that fall into that space, I can’t recommend this one enough. 7 tracks, about 5 minutes, and zero bullshit.

Death Sentence: Death and Pure Destruction 7” (Bomb-All Records) The German label Bomb-All Records brings this underrated UK82 ripper back into print. There isn’t much in the way of frills for Death Sentence… their riffs are of the simple 3 chord variety, their drummer only knows how to do dunka dunka 1-2 beats, and the singer sounds like he’s auditioning for the Exploited. The two tracks on the a-side are rippers, lightning-fast UK82 punk in the vein of Ultra Violent or the better Exploited songs. The b-side slows things down for “Victims of War” and the record finishes with “Death Sentence,” whose endearingly sloppy playing and screaming guitar solo leave a strong impression. While it isn’t on the level of Ultra Violent or the Partisans, Death and Pure Destruction is a ripper that any fan of this style will love.

Mower: Grand Punk 7” (Audacious Madness Records) We last heard from Pittsburgh’s Mower when they released an LP on Splattered! Records, which was the perfect home for their Motorhead-inspired punk-and-roll. The first thing that stood out about Grand Punk was the artwork, a conceit so perfect I wonder why I haven’t seen it before. It looks awesome, though! And the Grand Funk reference is perfect for a band that plays dirty rock and roll. Unlike Overdose’s straightforward Motorhead worship, Mower has more of a party punk vibe a la Annihilation Time or Midnight, with classic rock riffs sped up and played with a loose, last-call swagger. And even though this a 7”, the four fully developed tracks will leave your ears pleasantly full.

Sudden Impact: Freaked Out 7” (Supreme Echo) Supreme Echo Records gives us another killer Canadian punk reissue, this time from Toronto’s Sudden Impact. I knew the band from their 1986 LP, No Rest from the Wicked, which is a record that never grabbed me. I skimmed through it after hearing Freaked Out and my opinion is still the same. No Rest from the Wicked is cool… it’s fast and I like the wild guitar solos, but the crossover feel is further from my wheelhouse and the songs never grabbed me. Freaked Out, though, is a different story. While it’s a little metallic, I wouldn’t call it crossover at all. It’s just ripping, early 80s USHC with great riffs, fast drumming, and snotty vocals. This recording reminds me of Direct Control, and by extension bands like DRI and Attitude Adjustment that had a similar tight, metallic punk sound. The recording is perfectly vintage—clear but miles away from overproduced—and with 10 tracks it feels longer than a lot of 12” EPs I’ve heard. As usual, Supreme Echo does it up on the packaging, including a 7”x7” booklet containing loads of pictures, flyers, ephemera, and a new interview with the band. Highly recommended for fans of vintage 80s North American hardcore.

Featured Release Roundup: November 19, 2020

Smarts: Who Needs Smarts Anyway? 12” (Feel It) Smarts is a new Melbourne band featuring a bunch of familiar faces from other bands, and while their sound isn’t miles away from some of other bands (particularly Ausmuteants, whose singer / keyboardist Jake Roberts plays drums here), there’s something fresh and exciting about them. The label’s description drops the term “egg punk”—which, in 2020, is somewhere between a backhanded compliment and outright insult—but the tag makes sense given that Smarts’ angular rhythms, high-pitched vocals, and quirky sensibility sound like the Coneheads. However, the reference point I keep coming back to is Freedom of Choice era Devo, because that quirkiness and angularity is subservient to a great pop sensibility. Basically, these are great songs played fast and quirky. But that’s not the complete story with Smarts. There’s also the unique instrumentation, the way the saxophone, synth, guitar, and bass work together. The sax playing isn’t skronky or jazzy, but locked in with the guitar licks, doubling the same angular melodic lines. The way those instruments work together sounds natural, but also like nothing else I’ve heard before. I feel like my description isn’t coming together as well as Smarts’ music, which melds these disparate qualities into a seamless and original whole.

Vex: Sanctuary 12” (Bomb-All Records) This is a reissue of the 1984 12” EP by this London band. Even if you’re not a deep anarcho punk head, you might recognize the band’s name or this release because Sacred Bones did their own reissue of Sanctuary a few years back. Sacred Bones’ version (which is out of print and sells for collector prices) added a few compilation tracks (and hence had the title Sanctuary (The Complete Discography)), but this version from Bomb-All is a straight reissue of the original 4-song 12”. While Vex gets described as an anarcho band, Killing Joke is the clearest influence on their sound. In fact, their song “It’s No Crime” bears more than a passing resemblance to Killing Joke’s “The Wait.” Whereas Amebix took Killing Joke’s mechanistic post-punk and made it heavier and meaner, Vex play things straight on Sanctuary, and if you’re a fan of Killing Joke’s first couple of records, it’s pretty certain you’ll like this EP. If you’re also a fan of the grittier sounds coming out of the underground at that same time, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll flip out over this record.

Patois Counselors: The Optimal Seat 12” (Ever/Never Records) Charlotte North Carolina’s Patois Counselors, one of the most buzzed-about bands in our state’s underground, are back with a second album! To paraphrase an apt quotation, this time around things are the same, but different. I remember my description of their first album on Ever/Never was one of the most out-there descriptions I’ve written for Sorry State. At the time I was reading this book that Gilles Deleuze wrote about the painter Francis Bacon (thanks Danny!), and Deleuze’s analysis of Bacon’s approach to painting reminded me of the ornate density of Patois Counselors’ music. That sensibility carries through to The Optimal Seat; like Proper Release, The Optimal Seat is musically and lyrically dense. I’m glad that Patois Counselors has found a home on Ever/Never Records, because that label specializes in music that exercises your brain muscles. As for what’s different, despite the density—or maybe complexity is a better word—there’s something that feels more elegant and confident about The Optimal Seat, like the band knows who they are and are leaning way into it. Even after just a week of listening, I’m confident this is a record that will share more of its rewards with you the longer it sits on your turntable. The Optimal Seat may be loud and bombastic like punk, but it expects more of you as a listener than most any other record you’d apply that term to.

Deseos Primitivos: S/T 12” (Going Underground) After a demo and a 7”, Going Underground Records brings us the debut LP from this California punk band. Deseos Primitivos’s sound is fast and tough, but also sophisticated and melodic. They sound like a California punk band through and through, from their surf-infected guitar licks to their anthemic choruses and great songcraft to the bubbly bass to the cool confidence of their playing. The production is lean and direct (I don’t even think the guitar is double-tracked), and if their songs were bad, there would be nowhere to hide… thankfully they are killer. I can name a ton of bands this record reminds me of—the Adolescents, the Avengers, the Brat, the Bags—but Deseos Primitivos isn’t trying to sound like those bands. They’re just playing no-frills, classic-sounding punk songs that all but force you to pogo and sing along.

Molchat Doma: Monument 12” (Sacred Bones) I imagine most people know the broad contours of Molchat Doma’s backstory by now, but in case you don’t, here’s the quick version. In 2018, their second album, Etazhi, blew up on YouTube, going viral and getting millions of plays, catapulting this group from Belarus to international renown. If you used YouTube to listen to any minimal synth or darkwave in 2018 or 2019, there’s a good chance YouTube played a Molchat Doma track when your video finished. I think our friend Carly—who did a month-long fill-in stint at Sorry State—was the first person to play Molchat Doma for me, and I liked it so much I ordered 30 copies of the LP from their German label, Detriti Records. They sold out immediately. I knew punks were talking about this band, but when I saw someone I didn’t know wearing their t-shirt at a goth night in Raleigh, I knew their reach was wider. Next thing I know they’re signed to Sacred Bones and planning a US tour, which they had to cancel because of COVID. Now Sacred Bones has released their follow-up album to sky-high expectations. I liked Etazhi, and I tried to approach Monument with as little baggage or expectation as possible. After listening to it 4 or 5 times, I think it’s awesome. The record starts with a track that sounds like Etazhi, and while the song was good, it worried me this would be a retread. However, Monument is a clear progression. The synth-heavy tracks lean more on the rhythmic pulses of dance music, reminding me of Boy Harsher. But at least half of the album doesn’t have this sound at all, instead using guitar as the main melodic instrument and highlighting melancholy vocal melodies. These songs sound like the Smiths, particularly tracks like “Still Ill” and “Hand in Glove” that are propulsive yet dark and melodic. Not only is Molchat Doma great at this style but also it serves as a great counterpoint to the more dance-oriented tracks while sounding natural alongside them. And, in case you thought they were going to sound too clean or pro, everything is still bathed in the same warm tape saturation as Etazhi. As a fan, you want a follow-up album to build upon the things you loved about the previous record without abandoning its strengths, and that’s what Molchat Doma has done with Monument.

Portray Heads: S/T 12” (Bitter Lake) While Bitter Lake has released a couple of punk records, this awesome compilation from Portray Heads returns to the label’s original focus on the Japanese electronic / post-punk underground. It’s also telling that this is a split label release with Minimal Wave, into whose discography this also fits very well. While they made these recordings in 1985 and 1986, it sounds like Portray Heads was experimenting with the same kinds of gadgets that groups like the Human League, D.A.F., Grauzone, and New Order were using a few years earlier. There are a few things that separate Portray Heads from the pack, though. The first is that their songs tend to be upbeat and fast-tempo, which along with the gritty sound, gives them a punkiness many synth groups lack. The second is the group’s unique sense of melody. It sounds like they use a lot of middle eastern scales, and if you have a taste for “Eastern” sounding new wave (like that killer Yugoslavian post-punk mix we carried a few weeks ago) or even Anatolian rock, give this a listen. I’ve liked everything Bitter Lake has released so far, but this one is noteworthy. Highly recommended.

Featured Release Roundup: November 12, 2020

The Mentally Ill: Gacy’s Place: Complete Starbeat Sessions 12” (Almost Ready Records) The Mentally Ill’s “Gacy’s Place” is one of the all-time great Killed by Death tracks, and by extension one of the all-time classic punk songs; in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if some people call it the ultimate KBD track. This LP expands the original 3-song EP to 8 tracks, bringing together all the tracks from the recording session. “Gacy’s Place” kicks things off, and it sounds as great as ever. It’s where everything that makes KBD punk comes together perfectly: anti-social lyrics (“they’re fucking your kids!”), primitive production, punk swagger, and a dash of Residents-esque esoteric weirdness. Wrap all that up in one of the greatest bass lines ever, and you have a song that everyone should know. Alternative Tentacles had already released the other tracks on this LP back in 2004 on a collection called Gacy’s Place: The Undiscovered Corpses (along with two other studio sessions), but I wasn’t very familiar with them. While there’s nothing as perfect as “Gacy’s Place,” those elements I mentioned above all feature in different mixtures on those other tracks, and I wouldn’t call any of them weak. While this isn’t necessary if you have the Alternative Tentacles release, it’s a great pickup for any KBD fan, from the dabbler to the full-on fanatic.

Geza X: Practicing Mice / Me No Wanna Be 7” (No Matrix) Those of you who have dug deep into LA punk should be familiar with Geza X. While, as a performer, he never achieved the fame of the Germs or the Dead Kennedys, he was a key player in the scene who played in a ton of the classic LA punk bands and produced a huge portion of that scene’s studio recordings. In fact, he produced early recordings by both of the aforementioned bands. I remember I picked up Geza X’s LP, You Goddamn Kids!, in the late 90s because it looked interesting and punk, but it confounded by teenage brain that was looking for more stuff that sounded like the Adolescents and the Circle Jerks. While Geza X’s music has a lot of punk’s energy (which is unsurprising given how talented he was at capturing that energy on tape), there are also elements of silliness and satire. The titles of the two tracks on this single, “Practicing Mice” and “Me No Wanna Be,” say quite a lot. While some people might not like the “wacky” elements like the lyrics and Geza’s high-pitched voice, if you’re a fan of the weirder, Zappa / Residents-informed end of the KBD spectrum, this will be right up your alley. The production is also interesting, with a very processed sound to the guitar. Geza X’s other production jobs are straightforward; I wonder if he felt more daring with this home-recorded material. Besides the music, you also get some interesting liner notes from Geza himself in which he recounts several wild and hilarious stories from the Masque days.

Speed Plans: Field of Vision cassette (Kill Enemy Records) Latest cassette from this Pittsburgh hardcore band, and to me it sounds like a throwback to the late 2000s and early 2010s when No Way Records ruled the scene. In particular, Speed Plans reminds me of bands like Cardiac Arrest, Wasted Time, Citizens Patrol, and Reprobates. Like those bands, Speed Plans foregrounds their early 80s USHC influences, but aren’t afraid to bring in catchy mid-paced parts or slightly melodic lead guitar licks. I would imagine they like the Adolescents just as much as they like the Negative Approach EP or Victim in Pain, even if the latter two influences are more prominent in their music. I think what makes this sound like “No Way era” hardcore to me is the lack of d-beat influence. The tradition of Discharge-inspired bands permeated the hardcore of the 2010s, but you won’t find any of it here. Thus, what was old is now new again, and it sounds as great as it always did.

Necro Heads: demo cassette (Kill Enemy Records) This debut tape from Pittsburgh’s Necro Heads came out alongside the latest Speed Plans tape, and the two of them together are quite the pair of rippers. Where Speed Plans bring in a little of that west coast catchiness to their USHC sound, Necro Heads is looser, more aggro, and more brutal. While it’s appropriate to cite the same USHC touchstones, the grittiness and ugliness pulls this more toward dark shit like Siege and Septic Death. You get six short and fast rippers, then the last track, “Opt Out,” descends into your classic hardcore dirge with noisy, feedback-drenched improvisational guitar wailing as the band dissolves into a writhing mess a la “Damaged I.” Good shit.

Featured Release Roundup: November 5, 2020

Milk: Bricks 7” (Hysteria Records) Bricks is the first US release from this hardcore band out of Nagoya, Japan. I first heard about Milk when they played Damaged City Fest. Suddenly everyone was talking about this band from Japan that sounded like Minor Threat and had an impossible to find LP. I checked them out and their LP was super rad, but not being able to find a physical copy meant that it never sunk in that hard. However, I’ve been listening to Bricks a ton and loving it. The first thing you’ll see mentioned when someone is talking about Milk is the guitar sound… it’s not distorted at all; it’s thin and scratchy and (on Bricks even more so than the LP) it has a claustrophobic, direct-in-the-board sound. Amde Petersen’s Arme is another band I see compared to Milk, and that’s a pretty spot on comparison. The riffs are simple but catchy, and the playing has a looseness that makes Bricks sound explosive and alive. If your tastes tend toward classic, punky-sounding US hardcore, it’s hard to see why this wouldn’t do it for you. Killer.

Second Layer: World of Rubber 12” (Radiation) World of Rubber is the lone album from this short-lived UK minimal synth / cold wave duo whose members, Adrian Borland and Graham Bailey, were the guitarist / vocalist and bassist for the great post-punk band the Sound. The Sound grew more polished and pop-oriented over the course of their run (their later records are good, but have a U2 style of polish), so as you might expect Second Layer is even rawer than the earliest material by the Sound. While Borland’s voice is instantly recognizable, World of Rubber has little of the dramatic rock flair that’s a big part of the Sound’s Jeopardy. While I’m sure some fans of the Sound will miss the big riffs and big choruses, I think Borland’s songwriting is just as powerful in this context. Instead of anthems, Second Layer has a brooding, monochromatic style that reminds me of the Cure circa Faith or Seventeen Seconds or Closer-era Joy Division, that quality accentuated by a rather primitive-sounding drum machine. If you’re a fan of minimal synth groups like Solid Space or the Units, this has a very similar aesthetic, but its power is amplified by a world-class singer and songwriter. A very cool obscurity for deep post-punk heads.

Disfear: Soul Scars 12” (Havoc Records) Havoc Records reissues a record that is perfect for them, Disfear’s 1995 full-length Soul Scars. Truth be told, I haven’t spent much time with Disfear. By the time I was digging into international crust and d-beat in the 2000s, Disfear was putting out records like Misanthropic Generation and Live the Storm, and the computer-generated graphics and the fact that those records were on Relapse turned me off… I mean, who can blame me for passing over Disfear when I was just hearing bands like Shitlickers and Disarm for the first time? I bet even the members of Disfear themselves would acknowledge that I took the right path. I did see Disfear live once, in Philadelphia with Warhead and Forward. I’ve seen both Japanese bands many times, but this set was the best I ever saw either of them… which may have something to do with the enormous amount of speed my friends gifted the bands before the gig. Disfear was good that night, but you can’t beat two legends of Japanese hardcore in a chemically enhanced state. So, it’s 2020 now and my good friend Usman rides hard for Disfear, so I checked out Soul Scars and it turns out that it rips! While too many bands over the years have taken this bulldozer crust sound into directions that are too polished and/or metallic for my tastes, Soul Scars is a hardcore record through and through… if you fuck with Totalitär and don’t like “The Ultimate Disaster” or “The Price of Ignorance” you might need to consult your ear doctor. It’s too bad I wasn’t cool enough to be into this the first time around, but it’s never too late to turn over a new leaf.

Various: Yugoslavian Post-punk/New Wave mixtape cassette (World Gone Mad)  Yugoslavian Post-punk/New Wave mixtape is the latest in a series of incredible international mix tapes that Aaron from World Gone Mad Records has been releasing over the past few years. If you’ve gotten any of the other genres, then you already know the deal: 90 minutes of obscure tracks you’ve never heard, professionally duplicated with strong sound. I had heard of one band on this compilation, which I’m proud of because usually it’s zero. If you’re fanatical about hearing obscure international music in this vein, this is an easy decision. However, even if you aren’t looking up every single band on here to find more material, this is a great tape that you can throw on and just let it run, like you should be able to do with any great mix tape. The compilers construe the terms “new wave” and “post-punk” broadly here, encompassing everything from minimal synth and straight up punk to music that sounds like mainstream 80s pop from the US and UK. One of my favorite things about these mixes is how these groups integrate their own musical heritage with what’s happening in the Anglophone world, and there are countless different approaches to that across these 90 minutes. Like I said, these tapes have been awesome, and this one is no exception.

No streaming link, sorry!

Vicio: S/T 7” (Emma Navajas) This is a vinyl reissue of a demo tape from Texas’s Vicio, originally released in the year 2000. While clueless white people like myself were freaking out over “Y2K thrash” and chasing down Tear It Up pressing variants, these Texans were channeling the unhinged spirit of early Italian hardcore, blasting out these eight tracks of primitive punk. Sometimes the drummer drifts away from the beat and the bass and guitar are out of tune with one another, but the riffs are killer and the band is playing like it’s the last time they’ll ever touch instruments in their lives. I don’t know if the members of Vicio were familiar with bands like Wretched and Negazione, but they captured something on tape that evokes the same feeling as those bands. Major props to the folks who brought this recording back into circulation… you’ve done the world a service.

Second Attack: Lies and Myths 7” (Puke N Vomit) Puke N Vomit digs up this total punk obscurity. According to the liner notes, these two songs originally came out in a tiny, self-released edition of 250, but almost all of those copies were thrown away after the record failed to find distribution. I think Second Attack had a few things working against them. The first was that they were a one-person project. While the insert has a flyer showing Second Attack as support on some Conflict gigs, I can’t imagine it was easy for a project like this to get noticed in the pre-internet era. The second issue is that they recorded this in 1989 and the record presumably came out shortly thereafter, meaning this was WAY late to the party. This record sounds like a long lost treasure from the No Future Records catalog, but it’s being released at the same time as Nirvana’s Bleach. Thankfully, today’s punks can hear it because this is a solid single. The sound is primitive punk a la Red Alert or the 4 Skins, nothing more and nothing less. You could slip these tracks onto a new pressing of the Oi! compilations and I guarantee no one would bat an eye, so if that’s your style, don’t let the date on this one deter you.

Featured Release Roundup: October 15, 2020

Clock of Time: Pestilent Planet 12” (Static Shock) Clock of Time is a new band out of Berlin, and while they may seem to have come out of nowhere (Pestilent Planet is their first release, a mere 8 months after playing their first gig), the speed at which they move is unsurprising given the musicians’ veteran status. Clock of Time features people from Diät, Vexx, and Useless Eaters, but it’s Diät fans in particular who should get excited, because Clock of Time draws most heavily on that band’s sound. That being said, while the vocals have the same gloomy, melodic quality as Diät and I could imagine “Companion” or “Rotten Master” appearing on one of their records, there are some differences. “Funny Farm” is a death rock dirge a la Part 1 whose grinding, mechanical rhythm builds tension past the point at which you feel you can’t take it anymore, approaching a kind of auditory S&M. That sense of gloom (which, admittedly, was a big part of Diät too) permeates Pestilent Planet, making it feel more like a death rock record rather than a dark pop record a la the Chameleons… a subtle difference for sure, but one worth noting. If you like Diät (I love them), this is essential and you’ll love it, but even if you never checked out that band, it’s a great time to get in on the ground floor with Clock of Time.

Cry Out: More Echoes of a Question Never Answered… Why? 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Cry Out is a solo project from Rosie Davis, a Canadian musician who passed away earlier this summer. More Echoes… was a work in progress when she passed, and from what I understand, La Vida Es Un Mus had already planned on releasing it, and helped coordinate the record’s completion so it could get an official release. It’s an outstanding record, and I’m happy to have it, though sad to know that we won’t get to hear more. Cry Out takes a lot of inspiration from classic anarcho punk (the cover art and the track “Fucked Silly” both reference Crass’s Penis Envy album, for instance), but its sound spans that genre’s eclectic breath, even traveling outside it a bit for “Garden Song,” which (as LVEUM’s description notes), recalls Sad Lovers and Giants’ gloomy and melodic post-punk. “Your Shame Not Mine” has all of Crass’s punk experimentalism, “War Aesthetic” is a catchier punk track in the Crisis / Zounds mode, and “Fucked Silly” is a jittery, upbeat song a la Crass’s early records. While these are reference points, More Echoes doesn’t feel like an imitation, but an attempt to summon the same muses, and the primitive recording and drum machines also give it a unique flair. There’s a lot packed into these 11 minutes.

Gen Pop: PPM66 12” (Post Present Medium) Gen Pop’s first EP appeared back in 2017, but we’ve had to wait until 2020 for their debut full-length. I’ve been wondering what a Gen Pop full-length would sound like ever since I first heard them. Their 7”s were eclectic, and the beautiful graphic design complimented their balance of tunefulness with an experimental / progressive flair. I’m glad Gen Pop took their time putting together a full-length, because PPM66 brings those elements together as brilliantly as I would have expected. Whenever I listen to PPM66 I think of Wire’s Pink Flag. While they’ve never made it explicit, I’ve always suspected early Wire was a big influence on Gen Pop, and on PPM66 they combine jittery punk like “Hanging Drum” and “Personal Fantasy” with great melodic pop like “Bright Light People” (which has a cool video) and “Concrete” and atmospheric tracks like “Jilted and Blitzed,” achieving a delicate balance very akin to Pink Flag. However, to be a Wire disciple, you can’t imitate Wire; that would miss one of the big takeaways of their aesthetic, that moments of transcendence come from pushing forward, experimenting, and exploring. I often cite Pink Flag as my favorite album of all time, and I value the idea that music should be both intellectually gratifying and viscerally exciting. If you share that belief, you’ll love PPM66 too.

Gag Still Laughing 12” (Iron Lung) Olympia’s Gag were the toast of the early 2010s; I remember watching them play an explosive set at the final Chaos in Tejas back in 2013, they released a series of killer EPs that led up to 2015’s America’s Greatest Hits LP, and that’s the last we heard from them. I’d assumed they’d dissolved, but a promo tape surfaced last year and now we have a new full-length. Thankfully, not much has changed in the intervening five years. One thing that set Gag apart from the beginning was their catchy, mid-paced riffing style. While a lot of hardcore bands have the ambition of playing as fast as possible and others play with dynamic tempo changes, Gag had this way of locking into a heavy, fist-pumping groove that made dance floors explode. That’s the m.o. for Still Laughing… mosh for weirdos, music made for you and your friends to crash into each other in a sweaty basement. Another thing that carries over from Gag’s earlier releases is a quirky, artsy aesthetic, which comes out in the band’s strange artwork (Still Laughing is a doozy), but also surfaces in their music, like on the minimal synth outro, “Scorpion Sequence.” Five years can be an eternity in hardcore, but Still Laughing proves that Gag’s approach hasn’t aged a bit.

Larzon: S/T 7” (Ken Rock) Sweden’s Ken Rock Records digs up this gem from Larzon, an early 80s Swedish punk band who never managed a release during their original lifespan. I’m not sure if these tracks circulated among tape traders or what, but to my ears it’s a real gem that deserves to be out in the world. While Larzon is from the 80s, their sound is rooted in 70s punk, particularly of the tougher variety. The songs with simple, major-key chord progressions remind me of UK oi!, but mostly this is grimy, overdriven rock-and-roll a la Brian James-era Damned, but maybe a little less manic. I feel certain the members of this band must have had Rude Kids records in their collection as well (and if you don’t know Rude Kids, dial up either of their first two singles or the great, underrated Safe Society LP). Lovers of obscure KBD and Europunk take note… this one is hyper obscure, but worth hearing.

Sorry, no streaming link for this one!

Featured Release Roundup: October 8, 2020

Sonic’s Rendezvous Band: Detroit Tango 12” (Svart Records) Detroit Tango takes the expansive 6-CD Sonic’s Rendezvous Band box set that came out in 2006 and whittles it down to a double LP with no repeated songs. If you aren’t familiar with SRV, they’re a Detroit band who existed from 1974 to 1980 and only released one single during that time. However, that single is a track called “City Slang” that is one of the most exhilarating pieces of Detroit rock-and-roll you’ll find. The “Sonic” in the band’s name refers to Fred “Sonic” Smith, who played guitar in the MC5, and SRV’s drummer was Scott Asheton from the Stooges, so they’re Detroit royalty. To me, their music is more streamlined than either the MC5 or the Stooges, downplaying those two bands’ soul/R&B and avant/jazz influences (respectively) and focusing on hard-edged, riff-driven hard rock. SRV, despite featuring these first-wave Detroit players, reminds me more of bands like Radio Birdman who took what those first-wavers did and took it into the punk era. While Sonic’s name is on the marquee, for me it’s Scott Asheton who makes this band. I can’t even imagine what he would sound like playing on something that sucked, and whenever his drums kick in here (and even on the live recordings the kick drum always hits you like a gut punch) it kicks everything up several notches. Detroit Tango does an admirable job of being the SRV album they never made. While it peters out a little on side four with a few weaker tracks, the bulk of this is a bonanza of riffs and rhythms, as pure an expression of rock-and-roll as you’ll find anywhere. My only complaint is that “City Slang” doesn’t appear on the record, but all that means is that you need two SRV records in your collection rather than just this one.

Sorry, no streaming link for this one!

Fuzzy Duck: S/T 12” (Be With Records) I first came across Fuzzy Duck a few years ago when deep diving into early hard rock and psychedelia. When you’re scrolling past album after album on sites like, Discogs, or Prog Archives, you can’t help but notice that artwork… it’s so gloriously WTF that you just have to hear what kind of music would fit that artwork. However, while the artwork might draw you in, it’s the music that will keep you coming back. Fuzzy Duck’s membership features musicians from a heap of second and third-rate psych and rock groups (Five Day Week Straw People, The Killing Floor, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown), but aside from the classic Arthur Brown track “Fire,” I like this better than anything I’ve heard from those groups. Part of that might be where it falls in the intertwined history of freakbeat, psych, prog, and blues rock. On this album I hear freakbeat’s tough, danceable rhythms, the textures of psych, the musical intricacy of prog, and the heaviness of blues rock in a balance that no one else achieved. If you like the jammed-out sounds of anything from early Cream to the Pink Fairies or Hawkwind, you should check this out. I know this isn’t the normal Sorry State fare, but I can’t take this one off the turntable.

Nu-Kle-Er Blast Suntan: 2019 demo 12” (self-released) Nu-Kle-Er Blast Suntan started in Augusta, George in the 00s, and at some point they resurfaced in Portland, where they’re still based. When they were in the southeast, I got to see them a few times and I always thought they were an underrated band. I’ve always had a taste for hardcore punk with progressive elements, and Nu-Kle-Er Blast Suntan has stuck with that basic idea through years of punk trends. This latest release is a one-sided 12” that features one long track. According to the band, they were writing a new album when COVID forced them to pause, so they let this piece out into the world. The track is killer. The basic foundation is crusty hardcore punk, but throughout the track gets spiced up with unexpected vocalizations, countless rhythmic changes, and interesting lead guitar work filtered through what must be an impressive collection of effects pedals. Despite the track’s length and scope, it never feels pretentious or “epic.” Like the Subhumans’ “From the Cradle to the Grave,” it hardcore punk with a lot of thought put into how the short bursts of power and speed fit together to create something greater than the sum of its parts. If you dig on groups like Crow, Grave New World, and Lebenden Toten, I urge you to help rescue this band from the “underrated” category.

The Generics: Cost Cutter 7” (Feel It) You can check Feel It’s description for a more fleshed-out version of the story, but the Generics were a teen (really, TWEEN!) punk band from the small town of Cross Lanes, West Virginia. They made a single in 1983, most of which they distributed to classmates at their JUNIOR high school. A few years ago, record collectors got hip to the Generics and word got out. Now Feel It has put together this official reissue that compiles that two-song single along with two outtakes from the same session. It’s funny that the Generics were so young, because to me they have little of the innocent playfulness I associate with very young punk bands like the ones that appeared on the No Puberty compilation we carried a few years ago. Instead, the Generics’ hard rock riffing and drawled vocals remind me more of sleazy bar-punk bands from the KBD era like La Peste, the Suicide Commandos, or the Zeros. All four tracks here are excellent, and as always with Feel It Records, the packaging leaves nothing to desire.

The Zits: Back in Blackhead 12” (Feel It) Alongside the Generics reissue, Feel It has also reissued another slice of killer KBD-era teen punk, this time from Virginia’s the Zits. Like the Generics, the Zits released a two-song single during their time as a band, to which Feel It has added several worthy outtakes to make this excellent LP. Musically the Zits couldn’t be more different from the Generics. Whereas the Generics seemed weary beyond their years, the Zits (unsurprisingly, given their name) were all about juvenile humor. The a-side of their single is about puking on people, while the b-side revels in the cartoon violence you see in Looney Tunes cartoons, the Ramones’ “Beat on the Brat,” and GG Allin’s “Beat Beat Beat.” While the lyrics are silly, the music is top-notch, with great songs and melodic lead guitar indebted to the Undertones (whose “Get Over You” the Zits cover here). If you love obscure punk from the KBD era, you shouldn’t waste any time picking up both new Feel It Records releases.

Humant Blod:  Flykten Från Verkligheten 7” (Desolate Records) This week’s second Atlantic Ocean-spanning band is Humant Blod, whose members are spread across New York City and Sweden. Jeff covered the background info when he chose  Flykten Från Verkligheten as his staff pick back in August, but the short version is that Jesse and Mike from Extended Hell hooked up with Joe B from Fairtytale and Condominium, cooked up a batch of the ferocious d-beat hardcore they have perfected, and Poffen from Totalitar and Mattis from Dissekerad flew over to New York for a weekend to add vocals and guitar. You’d be right to have sky-high expectations given this group of musicians, but  Flykten Från Verkligheten does not disappoint. This is one of the most blistering, crushing, and uncompromising records since… well, the Extended Hell LP! It’s what you want it to be in every way, a relentless onslaught of crushing heaviness. This record’s first press sold out instantly, which isn’t surprising because if you’re a hardcore fanatic you’ll need this in your collection the second you hear it. Fortunately, Desolate and Havoc are keeping it in print for those of you who are slower on the uptake.

Featured Release Roundup: October 1, 2020

Strul: Punkrock Deluxe 7” (Ken Rock) This is the fourth record we’ve seen from Gothenburg, Sweden’s Strul, and it’s another ripper. I love the consistent visual aesthetic across all of Strul’s releases (and their “mascot” rat character), and on Punkrock Deluxe the music is just as strong. As before, the sound is fast hardcore with a noticeable punk rock edge in the sense of melody and songwriting. When I wrote about their first EP, I compared them to Krig I Hudik—the project band devoted to resurrecting unrecorded songs from long-lost Swedish punk bands from the 70s and early 80s—but this time around the sound is a little more modern… or at least “retro modern.” While the vocals are more of a raspy hardcore shout, Punkrock Deluxe reminds me of Government Warning; there’s a similar sense of catchiness and a metallic quality to the riffing a la RKL. There are also a few super memorable lead guitar licks thrown in. If you’re a fan of catchy 80s-style hardcore, stop sleeping on Strul and pick this up!

Brandy: The Gift of Repetition 12” (Total Punk) The Gift of Repetition is the second LP from this New York band. I missed that first full-length, but I heard their previous single on Total Punk. I liked that record OK, but I think I “get” them on LP a little more. What sounded to me like meat and potatoes garage-punk on the single feels more unique here, stretched out and with room to breathe. Maybe the album’s title is priming me to think about it this way, but The Gift of Repetition brings me to this hips forward, head-nodding space, like it’s 1AM and I’m in a bar watching a band and I don’t know if I’m a little drunk, a lot tired, or both. What it might lack in dynamism it makes up for with a uniquely lumbering tenacity. Recommended for fans of Spray Paint, the A-Frames, and Life Stinks.

Naked Roommate: Do the Duvet 12” (Trouble in Mind) The World’s last 12”, Reddish, is one of my most played records of the last few years, so when I heard about this debut vinyl from Naked Roommate—who started as a home recorded offshoot of the World but have since blossomed into a four-piece group—I had to hear it. Surprise, surprise, I love it and I’ve had it on constant rotation since we got it in. Fans of the World won’t be disappointed as Naked Roommate has a similarly strong sense of style and great songwriting, but the aesthetic here is a little different. Most of the rhythms seem to come from programmed drums, giving the record a robotic backbone that serves as an interesting counterpoint to the warm, gritty sounds coming from the analog instruments. Second, Naked Roommate foregrounds their dub and dance music influences, with most of the songs featuring hypnotic grooves and deep, resonant bass right at the front of the mix. That being said, tracks like “Mad Love,” “Je Suis le Bebe,” and “(Re) P.R.O.D.U.C.E.” have huge vocal hooks that you’ll have to make a concerted effort not to sing along with. So, fans of the World should check this out, but so should anyone into dub-influenced 70s post-punk bands like the Slits, ESG, and the Raincoats.

Loud Night: Mindnumbing Pleasure 12” (Vinyl Conflict) Debut full-length from this band out of Richmond, Virginia. The core of their sound is somewhere between Midnight’s Venom-influenced punk-metal and Inepsy’s d-beat rock-and-roll, though with flourishes from other styles across punk and metal’s wide spectrum. I think I reach for the Midnight and Inepsy comparisons because every track on Mindnumbing Pleasure is so ripping and catchy, maintaining a high energy level that makes it feel like a punk record. But while the vibe is punk, Loud Night incorporates metal’s musicality with no self-indulgent tendencies, particularly for the (frequently harmonized) guitar leads, which are tasteful and melodic. This record’s entire pressing sold out from the label in just a couple days, and for good reason; if you’re in to this style of punky metal / metallic punk, this is a flawlessly executed, front-to-back ripper.

Featured Release Roundup: September 24, 2020

Rash: Hivemind 12” (Convulse Records) Chicago’s Rash has been kicking around for a while now, flying below the radar despite putting out a bunch of releases. Hivemind is their second 12” (the first, Skinner Box, appeared on High Fashion Industries in 2016), and it continues to develop the blend of hardcore and noise rock we heard on those earlier records. While Rash’s sound is a punishing roar, they rarely settle into a groove for more than a few bars. Instead, their rhythms are jagged, shifting with little notice and giving Hivemind an unsettlingly schizoid vibe. Once your ear acclimates to the assault, though, you hear how dense these songs are. Nothings seems off the shelf or lazy… every second of music has a gritty texture, a counter-intuitive rhythm, or an unexpected melody that earns its spot on the record. Rash’s harsh and bruising sound will appeal to fans of the Youth Attack Records / “mysterious guy HC” sound, but that it’s on the more technical and adventurous end of that sound means Hivemind is way more than just a genre record.

Girls in Synthesis: Now Here’s an Echo From Your Future 12” (Harbinger Sound) I’ve been listening to this debut LP from London’s Girls in Synthesis for the past week and I still feel like it’s a puzzle I haven’t quite unlocked. Their sound is interesting. Classic anarcho punk is part of the mix, as is noise music (there are swirling synth noises layered over everything), but there’s an element of Sonic Youth’s noisy, song-oriented art rock circa Daydream Nation or Goo. While Girls in Synthesis reminds me of Bad Breeding when the latter element drops out of the mix, for most of Now Here’s an Echo from Your Future these sounds come together in a way I’ve never heard before. I think people who have like a wide range of styles but have a particular affinity for anarcho punk would love this, particularly if you’re into bands like Poison Girls, Omega Tribe, or the Mob, bands who didn’t foreground punk’s more aggressive elements. It’s arty, ambitious, political, and sounds like no other record in my collection… what’s not to like?

Contrast Attitude / The Knockers: Split 7” (Distort Reality) Cross-genre split 7” between these two Japanese bands. First up is Contrast Attitude, who give us two more tracks of their well-oiled, Disclose-influenced d-beat hardcore. Rather than being raw and scrappy, Contrast Attitude has a huge, heavy production and a sound that might lean toward more straightforward crust if it weren’t so gritty and nasty. As for the Knockers, they’re a heavy but melodic punk band whose sound is somewhere between Leatherface and Jawbreaker’s gritty pop-punk and darker Screeching Weasel tracks. I used to listen to a lot of Japanese music in this vein—a lot of it came out on a label called Snuffy Smiles Records—but I haven’t been in touch with that sound or scene for ages. That being said, this is exactly the stuff I was into… it’s a little more saccharine than Dillinger 4, but still has plenty of kick. It’s an unexpected pairing for sure, but kudos to these bands for thinking outside their respective boxes.

Sorry, I don't think this is streaming anywhere!

Hellish View: Holy Horrors 7” (Disarmy Records) Minneapolis’s Hellish View has been kicking around for a few years, plying their trade in overt Disclose worship. Holy Horrors picks up right where Reaper’s Hand left off… the vocalist still sounds almost exactly like Kawakami, and just about the only thing distinguishing this from an actual Disclose record is that it says “Hellish View” on the front. Holy Horrors is a little more in the Yesterday’s Fairytale, Tomorrow’s Nightmare mold with its heavier production, fast palm muted parts, and “nuclear rain” guitar leads… and in case you couldn’t figure that out on your own, the “disbones” emblem is right there on the back of the sleeve. If you’re coming to Holy Horrors looking for surprises, you’re barking up the wrong tree, but if you’re after pitch-perfect Disclose worship, I dare say you won’t do much better than this. Crushing, ripping, and all of the other relevant adjectives apply.

Nightfeeder: Rotten demo (self-released) Demo cassette from this band out of Seattle featuring former members of Disrupt and State of Fear (see Usman’s staff pick this week for a more detailed history lesson). It intrigued me right off the bat since the tape’s artwork reminds me of Judgement, and while Nightfeeder doesn’t sound like a Judgement copycat, they appeal to a similar sensibility. In other words, it’s hardcore punk with a heavy, Motorhead-esque swing to the groove, ambitious songwriting, and some metallic flourishes in the guitar playing without ever sounding like metal. Another good reference point might be Criminal Trap-era Anti-Cimex. The sound on Rotten is raw, but the playing is so skilled and powerful that I could imagine them moving toward a heavier, more produced sound and pulling it off. In the meantime, this is a great listen for Japanese hardcore heads and/or fans of the Tragedy / Deathreat / Talk Is Poison axis of bands. And bonus points for the excellent Missbrukarna and Victims covers that close the tape. These covers are a cool window into influences that don’t come through on Nightfeeder’s own songs, though I hope we hear more of these tracks’ snottier vocal style on future Nightfeeder recordings.

Siggy Magic and the Hey-Hoe Band: Commercials for Free 7” (Neon Taste) Neon Taste Records reissues this ultra-rare Canadian punk EP… seriously, check out the Discogs sales history on this one. According to the liner notes, Commercials for Free was a soundtrack record for a 1978 20-minute DIY film of the same name. Nothing about the music screams “soundtrack” to me, though; this is just a straight punk record. The title track is a thuggish punk track with off-key and off-time vocals, and while they’re a little silly, the rest of the musicianship is tight enough to remind me of some of my favorite “fake punk” records. Either way you slice it, if you have more than one Killed by Death or Bloodstains compilation in your collection, this is the shit you love. Of the remaining three tracks, two are in a similar vein and the last is a bitter acoustic track called “People Who Cheated Me.” I don’t know if I’d drop $800+ on this one, but for less than a tenner, this is a no-brainer.

Featured Release Roundup: September 17, 2020

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.

Featured Release Roundup: September 10, 2020

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.

Featured Release Roundup: August 27, 2020

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.

Featured Release Roundup: August 20, 2020

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.

Sorry, no streaming link for this one!

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.