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. 

Featured Release Roundup: February 27, 2020

Leper: Frail Life 12” (Kink) Frail Life is the debut vinyl from Leper, who are from the unlikely but perennial hardcore hotbed of Umeå, Sweden. When I first checked out Leper, the Choke-esque vocals and bruising sound made me think this would be full-on skinhead hardcore a la Violent Reaction or Boston Strangler, and while there’s plenty of that here, it’s more varied than you might expect. In particular, there are lots of little melodic rock and roll guitar flourishes (see “ICBM,” for instance) and the dissonant Greg Ginn chords of “P&D,” which is a welcome diversion from the rest of the album’s more straightforward vibe. Throw in some eye-catching artwork and you have a standout hardcore record.

Green Jag: demo cassette (Dream Home) Green Jag is a new project from Brendan from Hologram, Aesesinato, and a bunch of other bands. I make it a point to check out everything that Brendan plays on and he's yet to disappoint me. The conceit for Green Jag is nasty, snotty punk played at hardcore tempos a la the Necros’ Sex Drive EP. Like that record, the recording quality here is raw, with an idiosyncratic mix that makes the bass the most prominent instrument. While I think these tracks are ripping enough to deserve a better recording, the rawness has its charm and the songs and the attitude still shine through. I keep thinking to myself that if Brandon from No Way Records could hear this he would flip his shit. If you’re a fan of snotty punk like Career Suicide and you have a high tolerance for shit-fi recordings, you’d be smart to pick this up.

Note: The original version of our description contained an error; Brendan does not play in Green Jag, the cassette is just released on his label.

Der Moderne Man: Unmodern 12” (Rockers) Last week we covered the reissue of Der Moderne Man’s debut, and this week we have the German post-punk band’s follow-up, 1982’s Unmodern. I compared their debut, 80 Tage Auf See, to the pre-Joy Division band Warsaw, and like that band’s work, 80 Tage Auf See evoked a color palette of muted, dirty, industrial greys. Unmodern, however, is a Wizard of Oz moment that finds Der Moderne Man stepping into a world of full color. The production is clearer and brighter and the songwriting more varied and accomplished, infusing their take on classic post-punk with prog rock’s ambition and meticulous attention to detail. If you think that sounds like the formula the UK’s Magazine developed a few years earlier, you’re correct. Unmodern reminds me of Magazine’s first two albums, records that kept punk’s vitality while diving headlong into more ambitious waters. Unmodern is one of those records that will need a lot of play to reveal all of its secrets, but if (like me) you love a lush and ambitious post-punk album, that process will be a treat.

Chiller: 2nd 7” 7” (self-released) As the title indicates, this is the second 7” from Pittsburgh’s Chiller. If you picked up their previous record, you’ll be pleased to hear the sound is similar, blending various sub-strains of hardcore into a sound that feels fresh and authentic. There’s the hyper-fast “Remonstration,” the big breakdown of “Final Names,” and the Pick Your King-esque “Whistler.” It’s uncommon for hardcore bands these days to mix things up so much, but the warm production and catchy, oi!-tinged vocals (which still sound like Damian from Fucked Up) hold it all together. I also love how all of Chiller’s releases have a similar visual aesthetic, begging you to catch ‘em all.

Romero: Honey 7” (Cool Death) This single is the debut release from this new band out of Melbourne, Australia, and it has “next big thing” written all over it. The two bands Romero reminds me of most are Sheer Mag and Royal Headache. Just like when I checked out those bands, the first time I listened to this single I couldn’t tell if I liked it or hated it. On the second listen, though, I had to surrender and acknowledge that I love this. “Honey” is a monster track with huge guitar hooks building to even bigger vocal hooks. It has a soulful garage vibe that is, again, very similar to Royal Headache, but with added heft to the production and playing. The b-side, “Neapolitan,” is also great. The way the lead guitar snakes around the chorus’s vocal melody reminds me of the first Strokes album, which is a very good thing. If this band can put out an album anywhere near this good, they will be inescapable. And I will love it.

Sabre: S/T 7” (Erste Theke Tonträger) Debut record from this new band out of the Bay Area. The label sells it short by calling it a hybrid of UK82 and USHC; that’s not inaccurate, but these songs are more interesting than a simple throwback. The guitar player uses dissonant chords that remind me of Die Kreuzen or Articles of Faith, and the band has a quirky sense of rhythm that’s unique and interesting. The vocals sound like any number of gruff 80s hardcore frontmen, but the music is so left of center it defies my attempts to find comparisons. However, if you’re a fan of bands who are raging, progressive, and unique (think AoF, Mecht Mensch, or even the creepy anarcho-punk of Part 1), this is a recommended weirdo ripper.

Raspberry Bulbs: Before the Age of Mirrors 12” (Relapse) Before the Age of Mirrors is the Relapse debut from this long-running New York band. While I haven’t been diligent about picking up every single Raspberry Bulbs record, they’ve been on my radar for several years and their three previous albums are records I still spin often. If you haven’t heard them, they’re often described as “blackened punk,” but besides black metal and punk there are also significant strains of AmRep-style noise rock and avant-garde and experimental music in their sound. That’s true of Before the Age of Mirrors, which stays true to the band’s aesthetic but feels more ambitious and composed than their previous records. At any given moment, Raspberry Bulbs might sound like Darkthrone, Unsane, Alice Coltrane, or a primitive and noisy band from a Punk and Disorderly compilation. Sometimes they can hit several of those points in the same track (such as the first track here, “Spitting From on High,” which features a spooky black metal intro and outro (complete with tremolo picking), a middle part that sounds like blackened noise rock, and snotty, punk-y distorted vocals), while they reserve the more out-there moments for the album’s four interlude segments. These interludes are some of my favorite moments on the record, not only lending variety to the sonic palette but also serving as a respite from the onslaught of heaviness. Recommended fans of bands like Celtic Frost that find a delicate balance between the primitive and the progressive.

Set-Top Box: TV Guide Test 12” (Erste Theke Tonträger) TV Guide Test compiles two previous cassette releases by this mysterious band. While I know little about them (I don’t even know where they’re from, but I think one vocalist might have an Australian accent?), if you’re familiar with Erste Theke Tonträger’s discography you’ll have a good idea where they’re coming from. Devo and Mark Winter’s bands (Coneheads, but even more so D.L.I.M.C.) are a good reference point, but one thing I like about this scene (insofar as there is such a scene) is that it places a high value on originality. Thus, even though Set-Top Box might sound familiar in some respects, they’re not biting anyone’s style. Some moments have a pop element (like the D.L.I.M.C.-esque “Channel 69”) while others are experimental (“Infomercial”), but TV Guide Test balances those elements, tilting a little more toward the latter. I also love how many of the lyrics are TV-themed (sample lyric: “on the alien game show / show ‘em what you know!”), which combined with the album’s eclecticism makes it feel like you’re flipping through a series of little-watched channels way up on the dial.

Featured Release Roundup: February 20, 2020

Pisse: S/T 12” (Harbinger Sound) Berlin’s Pisse has been bumping around for several years new, releasing a previous LP, a mini-LP spread across two 7”s, and a heap of EPs and compilation appearances. Interestingly, members also serve in the similarly named Berlin band Urin, making you wonder what you’d find were you to dig into those members’ internet search histories. Anyway, with this self-titled album Pisse have moved up in the world, signing to the UK-based Harbinger Sound label, who has a long tradition of plucking left-field and experimental gems from various corners of the underground. Pisse fits in, as their take on synth-punk has a freewheeling, experimental quality that pulls it out of the genre ghetto. Tracks like “Draußen Zuhause” and “Fliegerbombe” remind me of Lost Sounds, but there’s also a palpable hardcore influence throughout and moments of pure weirdness like the doo wop-infused “Zu Viel Speed.” While some bands that cross genre boundaries can sound neither here nor there, Pisse pull from synth-punk/punk and avant-garde/experimental traditions in a way that both camps can get behind.

Totem: Media Burn 12” (Lost Soul Enterprises) Media Burn is the debut from Totem, a solo project by Jason Halal, whom you might know from his time drumming in 86 Mentality or singing for Neo-Cons. Totem, however, is something different: an instrumental project that pulls from industrial and electronic music traditions. The only connection I can draw to (what I know of) Jason’s musical background is the opening track, “Em Dash,” whose intertwining polyrhythms could only have sprung from the mind of someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about drums. While “Em Dash” reminds me of how African Head Charge integrated tribal-sounding polyrhythms into their music, “Bug Trap” has a glitchy, industrial sound, “Snag” brings in a new wave groove (sounding like early Nine Inch Nails without the vocals and pop elements), and the EP closes with “Untitled (Media Burn),” whose cavernous, reverb-drenched sounds end the record on a cold, isolated note. Structurally, rather than being composed of discrete parts, these songs flow and progress in the manner of trance-y electronic music, the steady, pulsating backbeat rarely interrupted. This isn’t a genre of music I know much about, but I find the combination of grimy textures and danceable rhythms here irresistible.

Fragment: Serial Mass Destruction 7” (Sewercide) Serial Mass Destruction is the latest EP from these Canadian crusties, and I’m loving their combination of raw, d-beat ferocity and avant-garde touches. When I first dropped the needle on this record, the thin, trebly sound was striking, making me wonder if this would be a throwback to the era of half-assed MySpace crust. Listen past the hiss, cymbal wash, and feedback and you’ll hear a rhythm section that sounds like it’s trying to play along with Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing at 78rpm. While the sound here is noisy, it feels artistically so, with strange timbres like the unidentifiable high-pitched noise in “Bodies” as intriguing as anything you’ll find on a harsh noise or power electronics record. My favorite track, though, is the closing “Hatred Spreads,” whose lumbering, Amebix-inspired groove allows the experimental touches to bubble to the surface, reminding me of that killer recent EP from Rigorous Institution. The brittle sound might turn some people off, but fans of progressive d-beat will want to check this out. 

Alien Nose Job: HC45 7” (Iron Lung) I think everyone knows the deal with this by now, but in case you haven’t heard, I’ll get you up to speed. Alien Nose Job is the genre-hopping project of Jake Roberts from Ausmuteants, Hierophants, Leather Towel, and a bunch of other bands, and their latest release is a hardcore record on Iron Lung Records, one of the world’s premier hardcore punk labels. I went in to HC45 wondering if it would be straight up Koro or Septic Death worship, but HC45 is still very much an Alien Nose Job record. With Jake Roberts’ trademark voice, what else could it be? The most straight up hardcore song on the record is the first one, “I Still Call This Punk Scene My Home,” whose blistering pace and epic drum rolls remind me of Nosferatu. “Bond Clean” is a little more jittery and mechanical, but the next two tracks illustrate that wild, Jerry’s Kids-influenced drumming is a great fit for Alien Nose Job’s general sense of weirdness. The EP ends with my favorite track, “Cabanossi,” which is a little slower and meaner, featuring a great Dickies-esque descending melodic guitar line and a wild and ripping guitar solo. We got these a little later than most distros because of a shipping mishap and it’s now sold out from the label, so jump on this if you think you need a copy.

Der Moderne Mann: 80 Tage Auf See 12” (Rockers) If you enjoyed the reissues from Abwarts and Grauzone last year, get pumped for this reissue of another German post-punk classic. 80 Tage Auf See is Der Moderne Mann’s debut album from 1980. Relying mostly on a typical guitar / bass / drums / vocals setup but with a clear interest in progressive post-punk, 80 Tage Auf See sounds of a piece with much of what was happening in the UK a few years before as post-punk and UKDIY branched off from the original punk movement. The standout opening track, “Der Unbekannte,” reminds me of Warsaw, the pre-Joy Division band, with its classic-sounding main riff that is both melancholy and melodic. Like Warsaw, Der Moderne Mann’s predilection for minimalism makes it seem like they had to strip punk rock down to its bare essentials before they went full post-punk. This reissue adds the tracks from DMM’s Umsturz im Kinderzimmer EP (making it quite a lengthy record), and these tracks incorporate more synths and Devo-influenced mechanistic rhythms, which has me excited to check out their second album, Unmodern. The Rockers label has also just reissued that one, so odds are you’ll see me describe that one next week.

Featured Release Roundup: February 13, 2020

Sirkka: Kuluttava Kone cassette (self-released) Four-track demo cassette from this band out of New York, but with lyrics in Finnish. The music also has the frantic yet sophisticated vibe of a lot of classic Finnish hardcore, but not in a way that cops any particular band’s style. “Onkalo,” the opening track (and the longest on the tape) reminds me of Rattus circa their LP for Ratcage Records, while “Lopeta Illman Myrkytys” seems inspired by Discharge’s classic mid-paced tracks by way of Riistetyt’s Valtion Vankina album. Sirkka isn’t one of those bands that just reminds me of other bands I like, though; these four tracks have a timeless, classic quality. I hope Sirkka isn’t one of those flash in the pan bands that drops a great demo and disappears, because I could use a lot more of this in my life.

Cometbus #59: Post-Mortem zine (self-published) Since Cometbus is a long-running punk institution and I’ve never written about it before, it’s probably appropriate to mention my personal history with the zine. In a word, I have none. While, at some point, I purchased Despite Everything, which compiles material from their first twenty years, this issue, #59, is the only one I’ve ever read cover to cover. While those early issues look cool, the tiny, hand-written lettering never agreed with my eyes. I suppose I also associate Cometbus with corners of the punk scene that I’ve never felt at home in; I’ve never squatted, never hopped a train, and Crimpshrine’s music never grabbed me. However, I couldn’t tear myself away from Post-Mortem, devouring its 130-ish pages in less than 24 hours. This issue's title is Post-Mortem because Cometbus is attempting what he calls a post-mortem of the underground. What that means is that he looks at a bunch of different punk institutions—a mix of record labels, squats, magazines and publishers, leftist / anarchist bookstores, DIY venues, and even one vegan donut shop—interviewing their founders and the people who keep them running and reflecting on how those institutions got to where they are today. Calling this issue a post-mortem seems to imply that these institutions (or perhaps even the underground as a whole) have died, but most of them are still alive and well. Some of them have gotten bigger and some haven’t, but all of them have gone through difficult periods. While I wouldn’t be so bold as to rank Sorry State alongside Cometbus’s subjects, I feel a kinship with many of them, so the subject hits close to home. And while it doesn’t have the intellectual rigor of a scientific study (as evidenced by my fuzziness on exactly what this issue’s project is), Cometbus is a thoughtful person and a capable writer, making this a joy to read. So, while I can’t predict how this issue might play with the Cometbus superfans, you don’t have to be one to enjoy it.

Razorblades and  Aspirin #8 zine We’ve carried previous issues of the Richmond-based zine Razorblades and Aspirin, but #8 is a near-total reboot, shifting from a photo-zine to a more traditional mix of content, including interviews and record reviews alongside the eye candy. It’s also been scaled-up to full-size rather than half-size, and the beautiful photography (much of it full-color) that has always been the zine’s trademark looks even better. The writing is also excellent. While the reviews aren’t critical (sounding more like the descriptions I write for Sorry State than opinions or analyses), they are informative, and the interviews are very strong. They speak to a few photographers (which makes sense given the zine’s focus) as well as Radio Raheem Records, Dropdead, Integrity, Mark from Youth Attack, and several more. The questions and the answers are both thoughtful and interesting, a cut well above your typical DIY punk zine. I just got an email notification that their next issue is already in the works with a plan to publish quarterly, so I look forward to devouring a new one of these every few months.

Liquid Assets: SNC Lava Lamp 7” (Schizophrenic)This debut 7” from Ottawa’s Liquid Assets has a different vibe than their demo from last year. Like the demo, SNC Lava Lamp dances back and forth over the line between hardcore and ripping fast garage-punk, but these tracks are more unhinged. The two short tracks on the A-side both sound like Angry Samoans’ snot-punk filtered through the sensibility of later-era Gauze, with unexpected changes that keep you on your heels, struggling to stay upright. The longer b-side track, “Never Enough,” also defies expectations, starting off as another ripper but transitioning into a breakdown about four times as long as the fast part of the song. The big riffs and occasional lead guitar flourishes might be tongue in cheek, but maybe they’re just fun, immediate, and not over thought. At any rate, this is a wild little ripper with more than enough weirdness to make it stand out from the pack.

F.U.P.: Noise and Chaos 12” (Bitter Lake) Bitter Lake Records offers us another slice of obscure Japanese hardcore, this time from F.U.P., who were active in the late 80s and early 90s in Sapporo, on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. I wasn’t familiar with F.U.P. before this release; they only released cassettes and two tracks on the Sapporo City Hardcore flexi on MCR Records while they were around. The insert is a little confusing about which of these tracks come from which sessions / releases, but assuming that the tracks on the LP are in chronological order, F.U.P.’s earlier material had a strong 80s Japanese hardcore influence, with the Discharge-inspired rhythms and gruff vocals reminding me of many classic 80s Japanese hardcore releases. While many of those bands suffered from primitive and/or idiosyncratic recordings, all the tracks on this LP sound fantastic, revealing a band who executed their stark compositions with power and precision, much like S.O.A. was doing in America a decade earlier. While F.U.P.’s early stuff is strong (and recommended listening if you enjoyed the Secretors flexi we wrote about last week), for me the real treat is the later tracks. On the latter part of the LP, F.U.P. is a three-piece with drummer Oichin taking over vocals, and his percussive style reminds me of Fugu from Gauze. As with Bitter Lake's last release from Kyosanto, fans of classic Japanese hardcore won’t want to miss this one.

No Blues: A Collection of Love Songs 12” (Schizohrenic) A Collection of Love Songs is a discography release from this Canadian band, bringing together their cassette on Blow Blood Records together with their two 7”s and five new tracks. If you didn’t catch any of those releases the first time around, No Blues plays raw, poppy punk with big hooks. The “underwater” vocal sound will remind you of their fellow Canadians Booji Boys, but No Blues’s big riffs and sunny melodies sound like they’re culled straight from MTV’s 90s Buzz Bin. Many of these tracks sound like they could have evolved into Weezer or Nada Surf songs, if only they were four times as long and recorded with something higher than kvlt black metal fidelity. The overall vibe is similar to Tony Molina, but again, much noisier and more primitive. If you like your melodic punk with a layer of grime to balance out the sugary sweetness, you’ll be all over this. Better act quick, though, because only 100 copies exist.

Detractors: S/T cassette (Desolate) Before I heard Minneapolis’s Detractors I saw them described as an “American Paintbox,” which had me intrigued. It’s hard not to see the resemblance, as Detractors also marry a classic Japanese hardcore style with elements of melodic, west coast-style hardcore, edging almost uncomfortably close to the more ripping and shredding end of the Fat Wreck spectrum. Aside from the weird vocal thing that introduces “Crickets,” you won’t find any of Paintbox’s zaniness, though; consequently, the overall vibe of these six tracks reminds me more of Forward’s catchiest material (like, say, the Fucked Up album) with a big helping of Chelsea-style shredding added in for good measure. While it’s unfair to evaluate this tape based on how much it sounds or does not sound like Paintbox, there isn’t much else out there with a similar combination of heaviness and melody. As with Paintbox when they were around, that combination might alienate less open-minded listeners, but I’m loving the big production, adventurous songwriting, and powerful, almost virtuosic playing. 

Featured Release Roundup: January 6, 2020

Dolly Mixture: Other Music 12” (Sealed Records) The UK’s Sealed Records is establishing themselves as one of the foremost punk reissue labels on the planet, and this latest LP from Dolly Mixture continues their hot streak. Dolly Mixture is a pretty obscure band—they never released a proper LP, which didn’t help their legacy—but they’re the very definition of a cult band, with a passionate fanbase who keeps prices on their hard-to-find original vinyl releases sky-high. Their self-released Demonstration Tapes double LP compilation, in particular, is many a collector’s holy grail. Musically, they sound to me like a missing link between the homespun UKDIY pop of bands like Television Personalities and the early shoegaze bands. Like the TVPs, they’re rough around the edges but have great pop songcraft (and awesome bass playing!), but on their later material they’re somewhat darker and more influenced by the Velvet Underground. Other Music collects eleven tracks that have never appeared on vinyl before, ranging from across their original time as a band, which ran from 1978 to 1984. I’m no expert on the band, but if you’re interested in Dolly Mixture, I don’t see why you shouldn’t pick up Other Music. If you’re a die-hard fan of the band, you’ll want these tracks on vinyl, but if you’re a newcomer, Other Music offers a more digestible introduction to the band than either Demonstration Tapes or the Everything and More compilation, both of which are so long as to be unwieldy. You’d better make your choice quickly, though, as demand seems to be exceeding supply on this release.

Zyanose: Total End of Existence 12” (Distort Reality) Zyanose is winding down their time as a band, and Total End of Existence is their send-off, with 7 new tracks on the a-side, re-recordings of 6 older songs on the b-side, and beautiful packaging, including a Crass Records-style poster sleeve and obi strip. Zyanose has an imposing discography but Total End of Existence is a fitting capstone and an ear-splitter that’s worth your time whether or not you’ve followed them closely. If you aren’t familiar with Zyanose, they come from the noisiest and most aesthetically radical end of the hardcore punk spectrum. Descended from anti-music forbears like Confuse and Gai, Zyanose’s songs have no trace of melody and rarely lock into a consistent rhythm. This isn’t music to dance to; it’s music that’s meant to hold a mirror to an ugly, corrupt, and decaying world. Not that I don’t enjoy listening to it; like the best noise-punk bands (the aforementioned and my modern favorite D-Clone), Zyanose’s music is dynamic and exciting, even more so since it generates its power without ever straying into the cliches of pop or rock music. Basically, this is the gnarliest shit out there, and it feels like they’re leaving everything on the field with Total End of Existence. We hear lots of “noise not music” here at Sorry State, but this is top shelf, one of the wildest, most radical slabs of wax I’ve heard in recent memory.

Bedwetters Anonymous: Have U Experienced Discomfort 7” (Neon Taste) This 5-song debut EP from Canada’s Bedwetters Anonymous is one of those rare records that feels as well-crafted and powerful as the best 70s punk. Much of contemporary punk rock is primitive and raw, but Bedwetters Anonymous—despite their low-brow name—isn’t afraid to display their musical chops. The label’s description mentions the Weirdos as a point of comparison, and that’s the reference point I keep going back to. Besides the vocalist’s similar vibrato, these tracks have a balance of speed, power, and anthemic melody that likens them to the Weirdos’ best stuff. All five tracks are strong, but “Heistville” gets my vote for the standout anthem. As well as having great hooks, Bedwetters Anonymous are great song arrangers, building loans of cool fills and transitions into their songs to make sure everything hits with maximum impact. Have U Experienced Discomfort is so catchy that it could appeal to fans of a band like the Briefs, but it’s gritty and fast enough for a hardcore guy like me too.

Lux: New Day 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Lux hasn’t changed much since their full-length debut two years ago, but you won’t find me complaining. Their double-tracked vocals still sound uncannily like Vice Squad, but as before I think Lux is about a million times better. Their riffs and rhythms seem simple on the surface, but Lux packs these songs with subtle touches that keep them moving at an exciting clip. A lot of punk bands make records that are sonically dense and crowded, but New Day breathes. I’m often attracted to music that sounds very noisy and chaotic but makes sense as your ear unpacks it, but this is the opposite. New Day feels like a dumb punk record with big riffs and anthemic choruses, but when you listen closely you realize there’s nothing simple or obvious about these songs.

Membrane: S/T 7” (Byllepest Distro) Debut vinyl from this Oakland hardcore band on the Norweigan label Byllepest. Stylistically, Membrane reminds me of the Invasión / Destino Final school of hardcore, influenced by Discharge and Disclose (the recording here is particularly Disclose-esque), but without the mannered attention to stylistic detail of a clone / worship band. This EP isn’t the rawest, the fastest, or the catchiest thing I’ve ever heard, but it’s a solid slab of noisy, fist-pumping hardcore.

Celluloid Lunch #3 zine Latest issue of this old school-style zine out of Montreal, with at least one member of the Protruders serving as an author / coordinator. This kind of zine is nearly extinct nowadays: a thoroughly old school affair full of cut-and-paste layouts and heaps of interviews, tour diaries, record reviews, comics, and other content. One thing I like about Celluloid Lunch is that it doesn’t seem confined to one scene; there are interviews with Toody Cole of Dead Moon, John Sinclair (manager of the MC5), Christina Pap from Vanilla Poppers, and tour diaries from Puzzlehead and Cement Shoes. There’s a little something for everyone in this thick, square bound zine.

You can't stream a zine, ya ding dong!

Featured Release Roundup: January 30, 2020

Fuga: Sin Frontera Sin Nacion cassette (self-released) A few weeks ago we had the second tape from Santa Ana, California’s Fuga and now we have their debut in stock. While Fuga’s combination of Discharge-inspired chaos and UK82 bounce doesn’t sound super original on paper, their way of combining those styles feels fresh and unique. The killer opening track, “Orgullo Idiota,” is a perfect example. It’s built around a catchy, major-key riff that wouldn’t be out of place on an early Casualties record, moves to a simpler, more Discharge-inspired riff during the chorus and the guitar solo splits the difference, taking a simple street punk-style lead and imbuing it with a heaping helping of Bones-inspired chaos. It all sounds seamless, particularly given that the raw and desperate vocals provide a consistent through line. These are just the comparisons that pop into my head because I’m a giant record nerd; the bottom line is that this tape is raw and vital hardcore punk the way it should sound.

Subversive Rite: Live in Japan cassette (Chaotic Uprising) Just like it says on the cover, this is a live set recorded on Subversive Rite’s recent Japanese tour. It sounds great; everything is audible, but there’s enough room sound to make it feel like a proper live recording. More importantly, the band is on fire. I love how live recordings can show a different side of a band or a song, and that’s the case here. The songs are noticeably faster than the studio versions and the band feels more vicious, with a lunging, unhinged energy that reminds me of Poison Idea’s Pick Your King EP. That this is a live recording might turn some people off, but it’s their loss; this thing rages.

Acute: _ みだら_ 12” (Desolate Records)New six-song, 45rpm 12” from this Japanese hardcore band that has been kicking around for at least a decade now. The tracks remind me of back in the early 2000s when Hardcore Holocaust was importing every title on Blood Sucker Records and I was buying as many of them as I could afford. A lot of it was ripping, but some of it was off the wall, especially to a young person who just wanted everything to rage at maximum capacity all the time. Acute can rage, but they have that oddball quality that I love about so many Japanese hardcore bands. These six tracks are full of quirky rhythms and changes, odd and unexpected vocal performances (a la what Crow was doing on some of their later records on Prank), and interesting production touches such as haunting backing vocals lurking low in the mix. While it’s not as confrontationally eclectic as something like Paintbox’s Trip, Trance, & Traveling, it’s on the quirkier end of Japanese hardcore. However, if you’re a fan of that style I’d check this out.

Secretors: Antidote for Civilization 7” flexi (Roach Leg) The debut four-song flexi from this New York band is a treat for those of us who love the early Japanese hardcore sound. Secretors’ primitive but catchy riffing style and straightforward drumming are a dead ringer for the great G-Zet, so if you’re a big fan of that band you’ll want to hear this. However, Secretors’ blown out, dirty production and harsh, delay-drenched vocals also imbue it with the sinister vibe I associate with GISM and Zouo. It’s dark and creepy, but rather than pushing you away with aggression, it seems to beckon you toward it seductively. More than just another good hardcore record, the unique feel of this one makes it stand out from the pack.

Featured Release Roundup: January 23, 2020

Dayglow Abortions: Wake Up, It’s Time to Die 7” (Supreme Echo) Wake Up, It’s Time to Die is the first vinyl release of a 1982 recording session from this long-running Canadian hardcore band. Recorded between their ultra-rare Out of the Womb 12” and their high-water mark, the Feed Us a Fetus LP, the raw recording and loose playing give these tracks a more traditional US hardcore sound than the band’s two official vinyl releases. I know about half the tracks from Feed Us a Fetus, but the others are new to me. These new-to-me tracks find the band pushing their satirical lyrics to the limits of good taste. It’s hard to know where those limits were in 1982, but some of this stuff wouldn’t fly in 2020. It’s more than just empty provocation, though. “Whiter than Hitler,” for instance, points out the absurdity of the very idea of racial purity. Some people will love this because it’s provocative, some will think it goes too far, and some people won't care either way and will just appreciate the ripping vintage USHC. The vinyl version comes with a big booklet and it’s already sold out from the label, so if you’re interested you shouldn’t wait around too long.

The Cowboy: S/T 7” (Drunken Sailor) New 3-song 7” from this Cleveland project that released an LP in 2017 on Fashionable Idiots Records. The label’s description notes that the Cowboy features members of Homostupids and Pleasure Leftists, and if you know those two artists, you can hear the former’s weirdness and the latter’s catchiness seeping in here. The two tracks on the a-side both hover around the 90-second mark and sound like dirtied-up outtakes from Wire’s Pink Flag. “Swimming with the Fishies” is a breezy punk tune whose combination of snappiness and hookiness reminds me of classics like “Mannequin” and “Ex-Lion Tamer.” There’s an intriguing dynamic between precision and rawness that gets flipped for the longer b-side, “Way Out Beneath,” which seems to drift in and out of existence over the course of its three and a half minutes. Like any good single, this is good for repeated plays, but also has me eager to hear what the Cowboy does on their next full-length.

Nylex: Plastic for People 12” (No Patience) Debut LP from this Australian post-punk band. If you’re a fan of Pleasure Leftists’ or Public Service’s Siouxsie-inspired sounds, I recommend checking out Plastic for People. Nylex isn’t a Banshees tribute band, but they’re good at the things that the Banshees were good at, particularly creating shimmering, spacious arrangements that bubble over into a swirling, psychedelic boil. So much music in this style sounds cheesy to me; when bands go for a big, anthemic hook it often ends up sounding like emo or pop-punk, but Nylex remains tasteful throughout. While there are punkier tracks like “Forces,” most of the pleasure of listening to Plastic for People comes from subtle contrasts in rhythm, texture, and tempo. The guitarist is brilliant, creating memorable melodies without ever trying to cram in too many notes. Plastic for People has the energy of a punk record, but its subtlety and refinement remind me just as much of classic 4AD bands like Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil.

Armor: Some Kind of War 7” (11pm) Debut 7” from this band out of Tallahassee, Florida. I probably don’t need to tell you what Armor sounds like because they’ve been blowing up, but I will confirm they warrant the hype. Armor has the fuzzy, blown-out production of a great d-beat band, but their riffs and overall vibe remind me more of the skinhead-infused hardcore sound of bands like 86 Mentality and Violent Reaction. In other words, it’s fast and punk, but also tough and includes the occasional big breakdown. The playing is also great. While there are a lot of precise stops and starts, both the fast and slow parts have a swing and swagger that makes you want to move your body. Another winner from the ever-reliable 11pm Records.

Corvo: Live at Artifact cassette (Artifact Audio) We had the demo tape from DC’s Corvo a few months back, and here’s a new 6-song session recorded at Artifact Audio in New York. While the band still sounds raw, the recording here is big-sounding and clear, which makes this band hit even harder. Corvo combines elements of raw USHC like Armor with moments of fast and loose hardcore in the Deep Wound / Septic Death mode. I’m a sucker for that style, but Corvo keeps things spicy and original with moments like the United Mutation-ish “Rechazo Colonial” and the quirky rhythmic accents in “Pérdida” and “Ignorancia y Arrogancia.” They close things out with a cover of Void’s “Who Are You?,” which makes perfect sense given they’re from DC and have a similarly loose and sinister style.

Alien Nosejob: Suddenly Everything Is Twice as Loud 12” (Drunken Sailor) New LP (their second) from this Australian project helmed by Jake from Ausmuteants. Jake seems like one of those gifted musicians who always has a ton of projects going (he’s also in Heirophants, my personal favorites Leather Towel, and a bunch of others). While most of those have a particular style, Alien Nosejob seems to have no boundaries, with genre, style, and instrumentation often changing drastically from track to track, though most everything on Suddenly Everything Is Twice as Loud falls more or less under the punk umbrella. Several songs recall different eras of another eclectic group, the Television Personalities, with the plonky bass tone of “Blending In” reminding me of that band’s earlier stuff and the darker, more baroque “Rainbow Road” evoking their Painted Word album. Then there’s the Hardcore Devo-ish “Spin Cycle,” the Heartbreakers / Johnny Thunders-esque riff to “Emotional Rep,” and the New Order / Total Control-style closer, “Alien Island.” That’s already an eclectic list of comparisons, but it barely scratches the surface of what’s going on with this LP. Jake’s instantly identifiable voice and melodic sensibility holds everything together, so if you’re a fan of his other projects, odds are you’ll like at least a big chunk of Suddenly Everything Is Twice as Loud.

Nervous SS: Future Extinction 12” (D-takt & Råpunk) 14-song LP from this new project out of Skopje, Macedonia. According to the label, Nervous SS started as a solo project, and while mastermind Seksi recorded the drums, guitar, and vocals for Future Extinction, he brought in a friend to play bass. To me, Nervous SS sounds like pure Totalitär worship. Worship bands (if it’s fair to call Nervous SS that) can often be one-dimensional, but Totalitär covered a lot of stylistic ground over their career and Future Extinction references nearly all of it. There’s the primitive brutality of the opening track, “Sick to Death,” the warp speed mangel of “Total Braindead,” the rocked out “Blindless Desire,” and the mid-paced and slightly melodic “Neverending Soul Scars.” There’s so much to love about Totalitär, and it’s clear that Seksi has studied all of it closely in order to pay tribute to it in such an articulate way here. And even if you aren’t some kind of Totalitär scholar, this is perfectly executed d-beat with a perfect balance of catchiness and brutality. 

Featured Release Roundup: January 16, 2020

Deadyn: Backstreet Heroes 12” (Splattered!) Vinyl reissue of this Italian band’s 1989 cassette. If you’ve been following Splattered! Records, you know they specialize in Motorcharged punk and NWOBHM, and it’s easy to see why they wanted to resuscitate this obscurity. Deadyn worshipped at Motorhead’s altar, and tracks like “Burn Him Down” are very much akin to what Motorhead worshippers like Inepsy have done in the intervening years. While Deadyn is capable at Motorhead’s style, I like the tracks that are a little slower, which have a grimy, trudging through sand quality that sounds like an early Celtic Frost rehearsal tape. And speaking of tapes, Splattered! presumably remastered this reissue from a somewhat degenerated cassette as there is audible tape hiss throughout. It’s not like Deadyn is doing anything fancy, though, and what they might lose in clarity they more than make up in spooky cvlt vibes.

Zyfilis: E.P. One 7” (Adult Crash) Debut vinyl from this Danish hardcore group. These tracks appeared on a split tape with Colombia’s Muro, but I don’t think many of those made it to the US. I love a six-track 33rpm hardcore 7”, and Zyfilis do it right with this EP. They alternate between bruising pogo-hardcore a la Gag and catchy d-beat punk that reminds me of Vaaska or Larma’s catchier moments. My favorite track is “Samhälssystemets Kyrkogård,” which has a catchy, fist-pumping rhythm that reminds me of Toxic Reasons’ great Kill by Remote Control album. If you’re into a catchy, fast punk like Toxic Reasons or Electric Deads, it’s worth giving these Danes a listen.

Raamattu: S/T 7” (Best Seller) Debut vinyl from this ripping fast band out of Finland. The label’s description mentions Heresy as a point of comparison and I can see that, but there are a few keys differences: 1. this 7” has a more powerful recording than Heresy ever got; 2. Raamattu doesn’t have Heresy’s occasional straight edge-type breakdowns; and 3. Raamattu is so much meaner than Heresy. Their tempos, however, roam in that space between Mob 47’s ripping fast d-beat and the hyper-drive of Siege or early Napalm Death, but infused with the tightness, anger, and attitude of top-shelf Finnish hardcore. With ten lightning-speed rippers, this one also tips the value-for-money scales. Limited to 300 copies and a Finnish import, so snooze and lose.

Rata Negra: La Hija del Sepulturero E.P. 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Brand new two-song single from Spain’s Rata Negra. If you like their particular brand of moody melodic punk, it’s hard to imagine these two tracks would disappoint you. That being said, they sound like a leap forward from the band’s earlier stuff. Rata Negra seems to be growing more sophisticated, retaining their trademark style, but with more delicate arrangements and extra little touches like backing vocals and subtle synth overdubs. These two tracks remind me of something Echo and the Bunnymen or the Chameleons might have done early in their respective careers, and that’s high praise.

Jarada: Ma'agal Sina'a 12” (Doom Town) 45rpm one-sided 12” from this Israeli hardcore band. Jarada has a noisy yet progressive style that reminds me of the more stripped-down and 80s-influenced 90s hardcore bands like Born Against and Deathreat. Like Deathreat, they have hoarse, shouted vocals and are fast, but touches like the dissonant lead guitar on “Fed Up with the Future” and “They Wore You Down, They Burned You Out” (I’m using the English translations of the song titles) and the instrumental breaks that connect the tracks make me think of progressive hardcore bands from Born Against to Una Bestia Incontrolable. Also, in case you’re not sure about supporting a hardcore band from Israel, their lyrics are critical of their country’s policies while offering a perspective on what it looks like from the inside rather than simple, crowd-pleasing sloganeering. If you’re a fan of the aforementioned bands (or newer ones like Shit Coffins who play a similar style), I recommend checking this out.

Various: Hardcore Unlawful Assembly 12” (Fan Club) Unofficial repress of this excellent Japanese hardcore compilation from 1984. The list of artists should be enough to convince you this is worth your while, but I’ll confirm this comp’s excellence. Also, except for G.I.S.M., every band gets a heavy, professional recording, which is a big plus. On the a-side, Laughin’ Nose and Cobra both offer UK-influenced punk, and Mobs deliver two tracks that combine the best elements of their first and second EPs, which makes sense as this compilation came out between those two records. Lip Cream delivers a huge helping of classic Japanese hardcore with bonkers riffing and G.I.S.M. and Zouo close things out on a weirder tip. While I wish G.I.S.M.’s recording here wasn’t so murky, “Nervous Corps” is a classic with its moshable riff repeating underneath a chaotic sound collage of war sounds. Zouo’s tracks are also rad, particularly the creepy-sounding “Frustration.” Fortunately, this version doesn’t have terrible cover art, and the vinyl sounds phenomenal.

The Only Ones: Live in Chicago 1979 12” (Alona’s Dream) Over the past few years, I’ve gotten more interested in both live albums and the Only Ones, so I was eager to give this one a spin. Like many people, I used to hate live albums, but I’ve come around to them in a big way. At this point I’ve played in bands long enough to know the day you record the record is only one of hundreds of times you play a song, and lightning can strike (or not strike!) at any moment. Often, a live version of a song isn’t just a lesser version of a studio track, but a different beast, and often more interesting than the studio version. As for my interest in the Only Ones, I’ve loved “Another Girl, Another Planet” for decades, but a year or two ago I came across a copy of their brilliant second album, Even Serpents Shine, and got obsessed. Even Serpents Shine is a lush, delicate record, but this LP showcases a different side of the group, one that’s much heavier and more “rock” rather than pop. The Only Ones’ drummer, Mike Kellie, served time in 70s rockers Spooky Tooth, and it’s amazing how much the Only Ones sound like a 70s rock band here. They strip their arrangements down and sound like four people playing in a room, which is a stark contrast to the much more polished studio recordings. That being said, they all sound great, with Peter Perrett giving a particularly strong vocal performance. This set was professionally recorded for a radio broadcast, and according to the liner notes they recorded many other bands the same way, and hopefully we’ll see more releases. In the meantime, this LP is a great way to kick off the series.

Featured Release Roundup: January 9, 2020

Chain Cult: Shallow Grave 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Debut album (their earlier 12” was their demo pressed to vinyl) for this post-punk band out of Athens, Greece. Chain Cult sound, to me, like a band who takes equal influence from the Wipers and Bauhaus. From the Wipers you have those long, melodic, chorus-drenched guitar lines, and from Bauhaus you get the gloomy vibe and more percussive vocals. I can’t put my finger on it (maybe it’s just the heavy chorus effect on the guitar), but I want to place Chain Cult alongside modern melodic punk bands like Masshysteri, Signal Lost, and Rata Negra… bands who are melodic but not poppy, and whose political and aesthetic approach seems more aligned with hardcore than pop music or pop-punk. As with the Wipers, my favorite parts of Shallow Grave are the longer instrumental passages where the guitarist lets loose on longer, more complex melodic lines, but if you’re a fan of this gloomy, grey-skied punk, the whole album will be a treat.

Poison: Flexi + EPs 12” (Poison Records) Unofficial reissue compiling a flexi and two 7”s by this Japanese band, the latter two featuring Chelsea of Death Side / Paintbox on guitar. While Poison (who later changed their name to Poison Arts) would eventually have an extensive discography, these earlier releases find the band experimenting and developing their sound. Their first flexi (recorded before Chelsea joined the band) is one of the most primitive Japanese punk records out there, with beyond-basic oompah drumming, rough sound and a noticeably out of tune performance. While the record has a cool cover featuring the singer’s huge mohawk, it reminds me more of bargain-basement UK82 punk than the more studied, avant-garde primitivism of Confuse or Gai. Things get much more interesting on their second EP, Mystery Temptation, when Chelsea joins the band and drenches every song in his trademark shredding lead guitar. Even beyond Chelsea’s contribution, you can hear Poison homing in on the classic Japanese hardcore sound, with some tracks leaning more toward melodic hardcore (not unlike Chelsea would later explore in Paintbox) and others with a more metallic edge. There are some great moments on Mystery Temptation, but I think what I love most about it is how it sounds not-quite-right, like a band taking chances and inventing a new style on the fly. If you’re deep into Japanese hardcore, you have a few quirky records like this in your collection, and if you have developed the taste for it, this kind of record provides a fix you can’t get anywhere else. Finally, the band’s third 7”, Hot Rod, takes up the entire b-side of this collection and finds the band locking into a consistent style. While the reverb-drenched production isn’t as powerful as the bigger sounds that some of these bands would get later on, if you’re a fan of Death Side, Lip Cream, and Gudon, Hot Rod is in that same vein. While this collection is a mixed bag, I love hearing how the band progressed, and if you enjoy hearing all the strange, unique Japanese hardcore records out there, I’m sure you’ll love it too.

The Inhuman: We Will Build b/w Cheap Novocain 7” (Lumpy) Two-song single from this very obscure bedroom recording project from Tucson, Arizona in 1983. According to the liner notes, the Inhuman only played one show and the person behind the project didn’t do much else that we would have heard of, so it’s a miracle that these tunes found their way from an old cassette to 7” vinyl in the year 2020. The songs are cool, too! They build both songs around primitive drum machine rhythms augmented with synth, guitar, and vocals, and have a creepy, sinister vibe. The a-side lurks in the shadows with a vibe like Suicide, while the b-side gets more confrontational, giving it a Screamers-type menace. If this recording had gotten out back in the day, this would be a $200 single.

Paranoid: Kind of Noise 7” (Paranoid Northern Discs) Latest 4-song EP from Sweden’s Paranoid. If, like me, you weren’t really feeling the more polished, metallic sound of last year’s Heavy Mental Fuck-Up LP, it’s worth giving Paranoid another chance, as these four tracks are full-on, noisy Disclose worship. That being said, there are subtle touches that make it more than a generic d-beat workout. There are the cool tempo changes on the second track, a nice, semi-melodic guitar solo in the 3rd, and some intense near-blasting-speed drumming in the final track. That final track reminds me of D-Clone’s crazed attack, and it’s a style I hope the band explores further. Also, note this record is limited to 250 numbered copies, and it’s already sold out from the band, so Sorry State is your only bet for picking up the vinyl on this one.

Sniper Culture: Combat Rock 7” (11pm) Debut 7” from this raw and nasty hardcore band out of Chicago. Sniper Culture has a bruising sound that’s not unlike their label-mates Armor, but with insanely raw production. The first few times I listened I thought Combat Rock had a vibe similar to Urban Waste, but then I remembered that on the Urban Waste 7” it’s only the guitar that sounds blown out and fucked; on Combat Rock, pretty much everything sounds like that. You’d think such nasty production would blunt a hardcore band’s impact, but it works well for Sniper Culture. When they’re raging out, they can slip into a Larm-esque blur of speed, but those moments serve as an appropriate balance for bits like the oompah drumbeat on “Terminators” or the blazing riff in “Brad’s World.” Limited to 300 copies, so if you like your hardcore raw, nasty, and mean, I’d suggest to grip this soon.

Screaming Fist: Templanza 7” (Iron Lung) Debut vinyl from this East Bay, California hardcore band featuring Jasmine from Torso / Siamese Twins / a million other bands on vocals. Jeff and I commented that this record seemed to appear out of nowhere. I hadn’t heard anything about Screaming Fist before checking this record out, but it’s easy to see why they got the Iron Lung stamp of approval. Screaming Fist’s sound fits somewhere between modern d-beat and a more traditional US hardcore sound; while they often find that fist-pumping groove that I associate with bands like Vaaska or Criaturas, their playing is extremely tight and the songs are technical, with lots of perfectly executed intricate rhythms. For example, there’s my favorite moment of the record, when the last track, “Betrayed” takes a slight breath before putting the accelerator to the floor for its last few seconds. That microsecond pause before the change makes my heart feel like it's skipped a beat and serves as a perfect ending for a ripping hardcore punk EP.

Slender: Time on Earth 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Debut album from this New York City group featuring familiar faces from a bunch of Toxic State bands, but you won’t find any raging punk on Time on Earth. In fact, Time on Earth is one of the weirder, more esoteric records that has come across my desk lately, more akin to the outsider music on a label like Ever/Never than what you’d expect to hear from these people or this label. Trying to describe Slender’s sound is a fool’s errand, but primitive drum machines overlaid with acoustic guitar are the core of many of the tracks. Usually they overlay those tracks with some other combination of sounds, including (but not limited to) electric guitar, synth, sampled vocals, singing, and bowed string instruments (violin and/or cello?). “New Country” is the only track I’d call a song as such; the rest are more like free-flowing auditory experiments that flow from part to part in a way that’s experimental and/or symphonic. Many of the tracks are short, but I particularly like the three longer tracks that end the album which unfold gradually in a way that makes time seem to slow down. When I first listened to Time on Earth I definitely had some trouble wrapping my mind around it, but it got its hooks into me and it’s become a regular listen. I’m guessing most of Sorry State’s crowd might think this record is a bunch of nonsense, but if you like spaced-out psychedelic music, avant-garde composition, and/or home-recorded experimental music, give this a try.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring: All in Good Time 12” (Castle Face) If you care, you already know that Eddy Current Suppression Ring ended a lengthy hiatus by releasing a brand new album with very little advance notice. They’ve reached the point in their career where their records get dissected by Pitchfork, so I don’t need to yammer on about All in Good Time too much, but I thought I’d throw in my two cents as a longtime fan. While there isn’t a great pop song like “Which Way to Go” or “Memory Lane” here, it’s still a top-notch album that should please anyone who’s into Eddy Current beyond their “hits.” One thing I love most about this band is how they find these gentle, lazy grooves and ride them into the sunset, hanging on riffs and grooves for way longer than most bands would without ever sounding repetitive. If that’s an aspect of Eddy Current’s music that you love, All in Good Time is a record for you. This isn’t a record I’d throw on at a party, but it’s a record that I’ve already spent several quiet evenings on the couch with, sometimes giving it my full attention and sometimes letting it wash over me as I read a book or do the dishes. It’s not background music, and while it doesn’t beg for your attention, it rewards it. So, that’s my piece… I’m thankful that All in Good Time exists.

Featured Release Roundup: December 19, 2019

Warhead: Change the Reality 7” (Farewell) Latest 7” from this long-running and legendary Japanese hardcore band. This is the first new material from Warhead in four years, and the band has not mellowed or changed at all with age. Their music is noisy and primal, with riffs that feel as violent and as precise as an attack from a seasoned assassin. It’s a sound they’ve honed over 30 years, and they own it… it’s hard to imagine anyone else writing these songs or performing them in exactly this way. While it’s a short record, I can’t see it disappointing any of the band’s many passionate fans, myself included.

Leather Lickers: Eye of the Scared 7” (Cool Death) Latest 7” from this Australian hardcore band who turned a lot of heads with their debut vinyl a few months ago. On Eye of the Scared we get three tracks. The first one is blistering fast, noisy, and out of control, like wilder groups from Japan or Cleveland. The second turns up the punk dial, accentuating the Cleveland over the Japan, while the entire b-side is a mid-paced fist-pumper that has the anthemic quality of Wasted Time or Fucked Up’s great early singles. The execution is raw and nasty, and the packaging—silver ink screen-printed on red paper—is nice. Another solid release from a band to watch.

The Wraith: Gloom Ballet 12” (Southern Lord) We carried the demo tape from LA’s the Wraith several years ago, and now their debut LP is out on Southern Lord. Wild, huh? Anyway, if you don’t remember the Wraith, the title Gloom Ballet hits the nail on the head. The Wraith bills themselves as death rock, and the record reminds me both of vintage post-punk like Killing Joke or Chameleons and more rock-oriented dark stuff like the Cult or even the modern metal band Ghost. The production is slick and took some getting used to for me—I’m more of a basement and 4 track type of guy—but if you’re a fan of the latter two bands I mentioned, you’ll appreciate the powerful sound.

Lipid: Nuclear Masturbation cassette (Vinyl Conflict) Second cassette from this hardcore band out of Richmond, Virginia. Having seen them live I expected Nuclear Masturbation to have a strong d-beat vibe, but it’s way more original than that. How it’s not quite hardcore, punk, d-beat, or metal makes me think of records like Crucifix’s Dehumanization and Agnostic Front’s Victim in Pain, gritty and primitive records that feel 100% honest and devoid of bullshit. I doubt that early 80s NYHC is much of an influence on Lipid, but “Obey the Whip” even reminds me of the Abused. I don’t think this is streaming online anywhere yet so you’ll just have to trust me, but this is some rad punked-up hardcore.

Sorry, this doesn't appear to be streaming online anywhere!

Noxeema: S/T 7” (Dot Dot Dot) Debut 7” from this Portland band. The sound is fast punk rock bordering on hardcore with an undistorted guitar and a dynamic, charismatic vocalist. While people who were into hardcore in the 00s would compare them to Regulations or Social Circkle, the personality-drenched vocals and proto-hardcore sound remind me the most of the Bags. Despite being in this stylistic pocket, it doesn’t sound like Noxeema is trying to be anyone but themselves, so they aren’t afraid to experiment with simple melodic vocal parts like on “Time to Go” or push into Amde Petersen’s Arme-type hardcore territory on “Victim Story.” With a great recording and eight songs packed onto a 45rpm 7”, you’ll enjoy this if you’re a fan of the bands mentioned above.

Program: Show Me 12” (Anti-Fade) Between the Whiffs, ABC Gum, and Program, it’s been a good month for power-pop records at Sorry State. While Australia’s Program aren’t as indebted to the American power-pop tradition as the former two bands, they’ll appeal to the same ears, particularly if you also have an affinity for the Television Personalities’ poppiest moments. While the guitars mostly jangle, the power chords in “Motorbike” make me think of new wave like the Cars, Tom Petty, or Joan Jett, and I also love the punky energy of “They Know,” whose Treacy-esque melody makes it my favorite track on the album. Program’s reserved, unpretentious presentation may mean it takes their music a little longer to catch your ear, but once it does, you’ll be so refreshed to hear a band that isn’t trying to be louder than everyone else. Like I said, if you’re a fan of vintage 70s power-pop, this should be on your list of new records to check out.