Featured Releases: February 9, 2023
The Mall: Time Vehicle Earth 12” (Fixed Grin Records) After a previous album and a couple of singles, Time Vehicle Earth is the second album from St. Louis’s the Mall. The Mall has a strong Sorry State connection since mastermind Scott Plant played guitar in Broken Prayer, whose two albums we released in 2012 and 2015. If you are a fan of Broken Prayer, you’ll enjoy the Mall, though there are some big differences. One big one is that the mall is all synths and drum machines, but while the timbres of the instruments come from underground electronic music, the songs still feel like hardcore punk to me. The Mall’s songs are riff-based, only they play those riffs on synthesizers rather than guitar and bass. There’s also a punk energy to the Mall’s presentation, and the vocals and lyrics are totally hardcore, belting out subtle social critiques with a pained shout/howl. The lyrics are worth taking a gander at, with gems like this: “Like city birds forced to sing at night / I can’t get a word in edgewise / With my kind who all sleep at night / Exchanging courtesies / And compromise with my flesh while I sleep.” While so many records we carry at Sorry State seem all too aware of how and by whom they will be received, Time Vehicle Earth feels expressionistic, like it springs from somewhere deep and personal. It’s idiosyncratic as a result, but it also has a power and authenticity that hits you right away and stays with you through multiple listens.
Rolex: Promo (11PM Records) 11PM brings us this four-song cassette from Rolex, which is a preview of an upcoming split LP the band will share with fellow LA band Grimly Forming. I’ve liked Rolex from the get-go, and these four tracks find them continuing to hone their style. Die Kreuzen is the band that comes to mind thanks to the frantic, sometimes herky-jerky rhythms and the way the guitar and bass occupy very different frequency ranges. However, Rolex is not only faster but looser and more unhinged, lunging into their songs like the Germs on a fat line of cheap speed. The songs are also so short and so quick with the changes that they make me think of the Urinals and the early Minutemen, when they were trying to cram as many ideas as possible into a small space. If you love hardcore that is ambitious as it is intense, you should listen to Rolex.
Various: Big, Big Wave 12” (Feral Kid Records) Sorry State has been repping the unlikely punk oasis of Hattiesburg, Mississippi for years now, whether that’s their well-known flagship band Judy & the Jerks or lesser-known projects like Fumes, Bad Anxiety, and Eye Jammy. Now Hattiesburg gets the regional compilation LP they have long deserved, and it’s great. Big Big Wave was born out of a project to record every active Hattiesburg punk band in a single day, and they pulled it off, yielding these 17 tracks by 11 bands. Like the American Idylls project Sorry State released a few years ago, the music runs the gamut of the punk underground, from Judy & the Jerks’ peppy hardcore to Control Room’s synth punk to Daphne’s Dinosaur Jr-inspired fuzz-n-wah indie rock and even some nu-metal-ish hardcore from Year of the Vulture. The back cover features liner notes by Biff from Feral Kid Records—who was key to executing the project—and there’s also a big booklet where every band gets to share a little of their personality in a visual medium. I love compilations like this that immortalize a particular time and place in vinyl, and Big, Big Wave nails everything it was going for.
Permanent: Hunger or Nausea 12” (Modern Tapes) By the time Sorry State released Cochonne’s Emergency 12” in the fall of 2021, the band had split, but Cochonne’s singer / songwriter / bassist Mimi Luse had already moved on to her next project, Permanent. Our part of North Carolina has always had a lot of cross-pollination between the underground punk and electronic / noise scenes (both of which found a home at the Nightlight club in Chapel Hill), and Mimi’s transition from Cochonne to the electronic project Permanent is a perfect example of the magic that can happen when those two worlds meet. I’m no scholar of electronic music subgenres, but I’ve heard Permanent’s music described as “industrial techno.” That term makes perfect sense to me because, texturally, Permanent’s music sounds like it’s grounded in the late 80s / early 90s Chicago / Wax Trax / industrial scene, with pounding, punk-inspired rhythm tracks, synths and electronics that tend toward the noisy and distorted, and clipped samples that lend the music a fractured cyberpunk vibe (the vocal sample that says “jack of diamonds” in that track even sounds a little like Steve Albini from Big Black). However, Permanent doesn’t rely on the pop-oriented structures I associate with the Wax Trax scene, but something more like techno, with overlapping motifs tracks shifting with the subtle power of tectonic plates, revealing compelling cycles of tension and release for those who listen past the relentless thump that confronts you on first listen. I’ve seen Permanent play live a bunch of times and the room is always bumping, and that energy and power are captured beautifully on this 12”. The packaging and presentation are also totally punk, a small-batch pressing (100 numbered copies) with a screen printed foldover cover. Not Sorry State’s usual fare, but it hits just as hard.
Indirekt: Nacht Und Nebel 7” (Larmattacke Records) Jeff wrote about Indirekt’s first LP, 1985’s Op Oorlogspad as his staff pick, and the same label has also reissued the band’s follow-up single, 1986’s Nacht Und Nebel. As Jeff wrote, Indirekt spreads out on Op Oorlogspad, dipping their toes into several genres, but Nacht Und Nebel pares things down to the anthemic punk rock that is probably of more interest to Sorry State’s crowd, and hence it might be a better place to start for those of you who aren’t familiar with this Dutch band. These four tracks are compact, powerful, and anthemic, sounding a lot like California punk from the late 70s and early 80s. Jeff mentioned the Avengers in his piece on Op Oorlogspad, but fans of Legal Weapon and the Adolescents will also like what they hear. Like those bands, Indirekt excels at brooding mid-paced songs like the title track, but can also rip out a fast on like “Proze in C.” I’ve been wearing out this record since the reissue came in, so if your tastes are anything like mine, I’m pretty sure you’ll get some spins out of it too.
Helta Skelta: S/T 12” (Bad Habit Records) Australia’s Bad Habit Records brings us a reissue of Helta Skelta’s debut LP from 2011. Sorry State carried the original self-released pressing way back then, so a few of you who have been buying records from us for 10+ years might already have this one in the stacks. However, by the time Helta Skelta put out their second album on Deranged Records in 2015 and toured the US, this first album was long gone. On this record, Helta Skelta’s style is one I don’t hear too much these days… punk rock with big, catchy riffs inspired by ’77 and garage-leaning bands, but played with the intensity of hardcore. If this had come out in the mid-2000s, people might have called it diagonal line hardcore, referring to the Buzzcocks-inspired sleeve designs on Social Circkle and Career Suicide records, but that’s only a rough comparison, as Helta Skelta had their own thing established here. The riffs are excellent, and while y’all know I like the fast shit, I think Helta Skelta is even more powerful on slower tracks like the almost bluesy “Submit” and the standout track “Disco Junkies.” Maybe there’s some AC/DC gene encoded in these Aussies’ DNA that makes them unstoppable with a big, mid-paced riff? Helta Skelta’s vocalist is also charismatic, the intensity of their performance emphasized by rough production that finds the vocal track frequently peaking way into the red. While this might fly under the radar for folks in the US, I’m glad Bad Habit allowed us to get this one back on the shelves for the curious to discover its riches.
Featured Releases: February 2, 2023
Sexpot Ugly Face: Anti Complete Complex 7” (Harimau Asia) This record seems tailor-made to make the 80s Japanese punk collector nerd sweat. The band has a wild name that sits just on the edge of making sense, they’ve been playing live for over 30 years yet they only released one demo tape, and people compare their music to Mobs, Outo, Bones, and Ikka Shinjyu. Sign me up! I’m not disappointed either. While I wouldn’t say Sexpot Ugly Face is an undiscovered classic, it’s an excellent record with an irresistible back story. The tape on which these six tracks originally appeared was recorded and released in 1990 (and only sold at one gig!), and it sounds like 80s Japanese punk. I wonder if this style felt old fashioned to anyone at the time? By 1990 bands like Bastard, Death Side, and Lip Cream were taking Japanese hardcore in a different, heavier direction. In 2023, though, Sexpot Ugly Face sounds in sync with the 80s Japanese bands mentioned above, so if this one looks interesting to you, there’s no reason to hold back.
Dachau: Tuomiopaiva 7" (Finnish HC) You might remember Dachau from the Russia Bombs Finland compilation. They never released vinyl of their own while they were a band in mid-80s Finland, but the Finnish Hardcore label has righted that wrong with this release. Tuomiopaiva is the full session that yielded Dachau’s Russia Bombs Finland tracks, featuring the two songs that appeared on the record and two others from the same recording session. Though Dachau’s recording sounds far more primitive recording than the other, more well-known bands on that compilation, the band was powerful. They sound a lot like Kaaos to me, with moments of ripping punctuated with tense, mid-paced UK82-style tracks. If Dachau could have mustered stronger production values and gotten their own record out in their heyday, I’m sure it would be a classic, but I’m glad we have this approximation, particularly with the booklet filled with original fanzine clippings about the band to help set the vibe.
Cotärd: 4 Track 7" (Neon Taste Records) Neon Taste Records dips into Mexico’s punk underground for this nasty little 4-song ripper. Cotärd’s sound is brutal, fast, heavy, and very dark. While they’re unmistakably a hardcore band—moments here sound like the purest Swedish käng—they borrow some of the damp and grimy aesthetic of old school death metal. Not to say Cotärd sounds like death metal at all… they don’t blast and their riffs don’t sound like death metal, but there’s a color of doom here I associate with raw 80s underground metal. Cotärd’s approach reminds me of Pollen and Absolut, two other bands whose d-beat hardcore sounds like it’s draped in a fog of old school death metal. As the description notes, fans of Doom will also find plenty to like here. Pummeling.
Rattus: WC Räjähtää 12" (Rolling Records) Finland’s Rolling Records presents a reissue—well, repress—of this Finnish punk monster, Rattus’s first full-length from 1983. This record fucking rips; for me, it’s one of the all-time classics of Finnish hardcore. It’s Rattus at the peak of their powers, tearing through a set of songs that take everything that’s great about UK82-era punk, sprinkle a little metal on them, and slather the whole thing in a uniquely Finnish intensity. It’s a great record, and if you’re interested in what 80s Finnish hardcore is all about, it’s one of the first handful of records you should check out. While I love reissues with thick booklets full of liner notes and scans of old photos and flyers, there’s something to be said for Rolling Records’ approach of making a true-to-the-original repress and getting this classic back on the shelves at a very affordable price. (I wish they had put the correct speed on the labels, though.) So, no bells and whistles, but top-notch job reproducing both the sound and the visuals on this stone-cold classic.
Strange Attractor: Good Boy Bad Boy 12" (Drunken Sailor Records) Drunken Sailor brings us the fourth album by this Canadian punk band. That makes me feel out of the loop, because I don’t recall hearing Strange Attractor’s music before, and it’s the kind of rip-roaring, scuzzy punk we try to keep tabs on at Sorry State. While Strange Attractor isn’t a hardcore band, their tempos are just as fast and their music is just as raw and abrasive as any hardcore band. However, the aesthetic is more of the tambourine-on-the-hi-hats, row-of-empty-PBRs-on-the-Twin-Reverb ilk. Think the corner of the Total Punk party where bands like the Curleys, Live Fast Die, the Outdoorsmen, and Lysol hang out… or maybe Dean Dirg or Henry Fiat’s Open Sore. While this type of sound works well live, it’s also pretty nice in the comfort of my home without someone else’s beer getting spilled all over me.
Camping Sex: 1914 12" (Static Age Musik) Germany’s Static Age Musik brings us a reissue of this 1985 German underground punk / no-wave obscurity. There’s a blurb on the hype sticker where Thurston Moore says Camping Sex was “super influential on Sonic Youth.” I suppose that might give you some indication of what Camping Sex is all about, but if it weren’t for that quote, Sonic Youth wouldn’t spring to my mind as a comparison for Camping Sex. To me, they sound more like Flipper, the Birthday Party, or Laughing Hyenas… like those bands, Camping Sex’s songs are built around dissonant textures riding atop steady, even slightly bluesy grooves. That groovy aspect of Camping Sex’s sound makes me wonder if they also absorbed some of their modus operandi from their country’s tradition of groovy underground bands like Can, Neu!, and Kraftwerk. Vibe-wise, though, Camping Sex is pure art punk… emotionally raw, cathartic, abrasive, and fucking loud, like a lot of mid-80s US punk. If you played it for me and I didn’t notice the lyrics were in German, I might guess this came out on Homestead Records. Like a lot of this music, this isn’t so much about traditional pop hooks as riding waves of emotional turbulence, ebbing toward reflection and flowing into periods of gestalt. I like the music, but to me the accompanying booklet is just as interesting, jam-packed with arty photos of the band.
Featured Releases: January 19, 2023
Total Armsvett: Anarki A Frihet 12" (Import) This Fan Club LP collects 20 tracks from the 80s Swedish hardcore band Total Armsvett. After releasing the handful of cassettes compiled here, Total Armsvett changed their name to Disarm and released two of the best, most punishing Swedish hardcore punk records ever… records that stand toe to toe with other classics from their time and place like Anti-Cimex, Crude SS, Mob 47, and Shitlickers. While you can hear some development over the course of Anarki A Frihet’s 20 tracks, it’s also clear that Total Armsvett knew what they wanted to do from the start: play raw, feral, Discharge-influenced hardcore with maximum noise, intensity, and brutality. By the end of this collection (which, if I understand the liner notes correctly, are songs recorded after they changed their name to Disarm, but were written during the Total Armsvett phase of the band) the production is more dialed-in and the playing a hair more adept, but the focus on pummeling hardcore never shifts. No funk, no death, etc. While this Fan Club collection doesn’t feature the extensive packaging we expect from legit reissues, the sound is excellent and the record just steamrolls you from start to finish.
Various: This Is Copenhagen 12" (Elektriske Plader) This is Copenhagen is the second compilation of contemporary(-ish) Danish punk we’ve had in the past couple of weeks, though this one presents a very different view of the scene than the recent Öresund HC Omnibus LP on Adult Crash Records (though there is a little overlap). According to the excellent, informative liner notes inside This Is Copenhagen’s gatefold sleeve, this LP documents the era of Copenhagen punk between the well-known “K-Town” scene with bands like Amdi Petersens Armé, No Hope for the Kids, and Gorilla Angreb, and the contemporary Copenhagen scene. This Is Copenhagen encompasses the years just after when the original location of Ungdomshuset—which was the hub for the K-Town scene—was demolished by the city of Copenhagen in 2007. While these may have seemed like wilderness years to outsiders, This Is Copenhagen shows there was still plenty happening, particularly if your interests were broader than the stripped-down punk the K-Town bands played. Of course there’s plenty of that on This Is Copenhagen, with Junta, Death Token, The War Goes On, and Night Fever carrying over sounds and personnel from the earlier era, but This Is Copenhagen also showcases the more melodic punk of Big Mess and the more post-punk-oriented sounds of Chainsaw Eater, Kold Front, and Melting Walkmen, among others. The music is strong throughout and the extensive liner notes bring it all together, providing a detailed snapshot of this fertile period of Copenhagen punk history.
Smirk: Material 12” (Feel It Records) Material is the much-anticipated second album from Los Angeles’s Smirk, whose earlier LP and 12” EP turned a lot of heads, both at Sorry State and in the wider punk scene. Smirk feels like a project with a lot of energy behind it, and Material maintains the excitement level by moving forward without abandoning what everyone liked about the earlier releases. There are still some egg punk trappings like the warbly, lo-fi tones and the frequent and dramatic use of out-there synth sounds, but it feels like Material moves the emphasis from the sounds to the songs themselves, which are very strong. Material also avoids the jittery, hyperactive feel of so many egg punk-type bands, cruising along to slacker rhythms that wouldn’t be out place on one of Pavement’s first two albums. Just check out the lead single “Souvenir” if you haven’t already. Its shimmering lead guitar line is one of Material’s high points, and the lyrics and vocals reach for a Parquet Courts style of intellectual ennui. Taking the sounds of the deep underground and applying them to a pop context is an age-old trick, but it’s one that works if you have the chops, and Smirk can pen a catchy, well-structured tune.
Ženevski Dekret: Protest 1986-1988 cassette (Aftermath Tapes) Protest 1986-1988 compiles two cassette-only releases from this 80s Yugoslavian band. Besides releasing these two cassettes, they appeared on a handful of compilations and gigged with all the well-known Yugoslavian punk bands of the day. Judging by the sound and the info on the j-card, the two cassettes capture two different eras of the band. The first side of the tape, their 1986 release, pulls from across the punk spectrum, from anthemic Pistols-influenced rock songs to UK82-style hardcore to post-punk influenced sounds a la Killing Joke or Bauhaus. The label’s description compares it to UK anarcho, and Ženevski Dekret’s eclectic songs and raw sound on that recording bears a resemblance to a lot of those bands. As for the 1988 release on the b-side, only the bass player remains from the 1986 tape’s lineup and the music is more metal, with a discernible Metallica influence (they even cover “Master of Puppets”). They also cover “Chinese Rocks,” though, and there’s a raw punk energy to the recording that you’ll love if you’re a sucker for raw 80s metal demos from the tape trading circuit. And while you can hear the western influences on Ženevski Dekret’s music, their language and the musical traditions they undoubtedly absorbed in their pre-punk days gives the music a unique character. This is a very cool artifact for 80s European punk deep heads.
Trash Knife: Hungover 7” flexi (FDH Records) Hungover is the latest 2-song flexi from this Philadelphia band whose praises I’ve been singing in the Sorry State newsletter for many years. Longtime readers will know I’m a sucker for bands who combine hardcore energy and grit with melodic vocal and instrumental hooks, and Trash Knife has the proportions of this delicate recipe down pat. The trick is to keep things from getting too slick and pop-punky, but this isn’t a problem for Trash Knife’s vocalist Lauren, whose gravelly, raspy voice and nihilistic lyrics keep Trash Knife lodged firmly in the gutter, just where I like it. The chorus hook to “DTF”—“down to fuck… fuck shit up”—says it all… Trash Knife is as clever as they are confrontational, and I’m stoked to have another earful on this flexi.
Blatant Dissent: 1985-1986 12” (Alonas Dream Records) I remember picking up Blatant Dissent’s 1985 7” Is There a Fear in the late 90s or early 00s—back when you could still find cheap 80s punk 7”s to take chances on—and I always thought it was an enjoyable slab of melodic, Chicago-style punk/hardcore. Now, Alonas Dream gives us 1985-1986, which fills out the band’s story with all the tracks from Is There a Fear plus additional ones from the same session and another session recorded a year later. If you enjoyed the Sluggo reissue we wrote about a few weeks ago, Blatant Dissent will be up your alley too. They sound like a mid-80s hardcore punk band, specifically the ones who chose not to go metal, but to channel their growing musical sophistication into crafting hooky, energetic, and memorable songs. The first session compiled here, from which Blatant Dissent culled Is There a Fear’s four tracks, reminds me a lot of DC’s Marginal Man (as well as the second side of the aforementioned Sluggo record), and if you dig that style of post-Minor Threat / 7 Seconds style melodic hardcore, it’s hard to imagine you won’t like them. You can still hear that DC influence on the 1986 session captured here, with Blatant Dissent’s sound expanding to incorporate elements that wouldn’t be out of place on a Scream or Beefeater record. While I’ve just dropped a lot of DC comparisons, Blatant Dissent also wears their Chicago influences on their sleeve (they were from the college town of Dekalb, Illinois), particularly in the soaring, whoa-oh lead vocals, which are straight out of the Naked Raygun playbook (Naked Raygun’s Jeff Pezaati even produced the 1985 studio session). As those artier influences continued to color Blatant Dissent’s music, they changed their name to Tar and released a bunch of influential noise rock records on Amphetamine Reptile and Touch and Go. 1985-1986 also features the liner notes, photos, flyers, and other contextual info that helps to deepen your understanding and appreciation of the music, so if you’re an 80s punk nerd, you know what to do.
Featured Releases: January 12, 2023
Vidro: Glöd 12” (Beach Impediment Records) Stockholm, Sweden’s Vidro has been kicking around for a few years, releasing their debut full-length in 2018, a split LP with Brazil’s Cankro in 2019, and now Glöd, their second full-length. I first heard Vidro about a year ago and wondered how a hardcore band this good could fly under my radar. Their sound is massive, with a straightforward hardcore foundation that leans toward noise rock’s more sophisticated pummeling strategies. The band can play their asses off, their wrecking ball rhythm section anchored by drummer Staffan (who played in a later lineup of Headcleaners!). Rather than relying on flashy fills, Staffan creates skewed takes on classic punk beats that he delivers with the uniform intensity of heavy industrial equipment. Guitarist Lucas favors dense and dissonant chords, giving the music a richness of texture that reminds me of Die Kreuzen and Nog Watt. Vocalist Vendela fronts this white-hot band, matching the instruments’ magical blend of subtlety and intensity… as with the music, once you stop recoiling from the initial attack, you hear all this subtle musicality in the vocals that keeps you coming by for repeated listens. I’m hard-pressed to find any close comparisons for Vidro’s style, though the battering-ram intensity of their mid-paced tracks will appeal to fans of Golpe. If you can’t tell, I’m smitten with Vidro and Glöd, and I’m stoked the record has an appropriate American home on Beach Impediment Records, the top label in the game.
Prisão: S/T 7” (Adult Crash Records) Denmark’s Adult Crash Records brings us this debut from Stockholm, Sweden’s Prisão. If you’re thinking that Prisão doesn’t look like a Swedish word, you’re right… Prisão’s vocalist is Lucas—also the guitarist in Vidro—who is from Brazil and sings in Portuguese for Prisão. Prisão fits right in on Adult Crash’s roster full of exciting Scandinavian bands whose music is rooted in gritty 80s hardcore. While Lucas’s other band Vidro fuses subtlety and power, Prisão has no time for the former, with a stomping, bruising caveman attack. Not that it’s dumb… the riffs and beats are smart but straightforward, the band dragging their knuckles as they march toward their muse. It’s burly and mean, but not tough-guy shit… music made for purging the grinding monotony of the straight world. Totally killer.
Various: Öresund HC Omnibus 12” (Adult Crash Records) Like the classic Japanese hardcore compilation Thrash Til Death, Öresund HC Omnibus presents an EPs worth of material from four different bands, including individual front, rear, and insert artwork for each. I love this style of compilation since it feels like playing four killer 7” EPs right in a row, but costs about half as much as four 7”s. It’s great value for money, especially when the bands are well-matched, as they are here. Denmark’s Adult Crash Records has been one of my favorite labels for many years (in fact, several of Sorry State’s own releases have European pressings on Adult Crash), and if you have followed them, you have a good idea of what these bands sound like. While some of Adult Crash’s bands here and there lean toward particular styles like d-beat, oi!, or UK82, everything on the label is fast hardcore punk, and Öresund HC Omnibus follows the pattern. All four bands—Zyfilis, Nonplus, Junta, and Hag—have earlier releases (though Nonplus only had a demo tape)—so you might come to this record looking for new material by a band you already like, or you might like the sampler aspect of it… either way you’ll be satisfied. All four bands play sprightly and catchy hardcore punk, but each group brings in its own wrinkles. Zyfilis has their explosive guitar leads, Nonplus a gnarlier sound that borrows from the rawer end of the Totalitär school, Junta’s manic hardcore exudes desperation, and Hag’s fist-pumping hardcore punk will appeal to fans of their fellow Swedes Axe Rash. All four bands are killer—like everything on Adult Crash—and you can’t go wrong with this if you want to get hip to four great contemporary hardcore bands from this part of the world.
The Dishrags: Three (1978-1979) 12” (Supreme Echo Records) Archival label Supreme Echo Records brings us an updated version of Three, their retrospective release from the Dishrags, a Vancouver group who lay claim to the title of being the first all-woman punk band in North America. Supreme Echo released Three back in 2014, but this new pressing makes some additions to the booklet full of archival material that accompanies the record. The Dishrags were not just the first all-woman punk band in North America, they were one of the continent’s earliest punk bands period, and like a lot of other early Canadian punk bands, they seem more connected to the UK 77 set than many American bands of the same era (Three even includes covers of the Clash and the Adverts). The Dishrags’ three-song single (reproduced in full here) sounds like one of the legions of bands who formed in the UK in the Sex Pistols’ wake, when an entire generation of young people (the Dishrags were only 15 when they started!) realized the expressive potential of raw and immediate rock and roll. While those three tracks are still raw, the background vocals and more measured performances make the Dishrags’ best songs shine. Besides the single’s three tracks, Three also collects a treasure trove of live and demo material. The sound on all this stuff is great, and while I think the Dishrags’ songs benefited from the slightly more produced sound of their studio EP, these other recordings show a group who could bash out straightforward and aggressive punk with the best of ‘em. In an ideal world, the Dishrags would have recorded a killer album with this lineup, but this collection is the closest thing we’re going to get to that. It’s still a satisfying listen and an important piece of punk history.
Split System: Vol. 1 12” (Drunken Sailor Records) Debut full-length from this Australian band that features the guitarist from Stiff Richards and Jackson Reid Briggs on vocals, from Jackson Reid Briggs and the Heaters, whose most recent LP Drunken Sailor Records released in 2021. If you come to Australian punk looking for bands who are steeped in the tradition of 70s Aussie groups like the Saints and Radio Birdman, Split System is going to be right up your alley, as they combine hard rock riffing, punk energy, and pop songwriting chops in similar proportions to those classic bands. Split System even includes a nod to a classic Radio Birdman track here, nicking a bit of the riff from “Aloha Steve and Danno” (which was itself nicked from the theme song to the TV show Hawaii Five-O) for their track “Ringing in My Head.” Vol. 1 is an amped-up affair that seems like the perfect soundtrack for a sweaty, beer-soaked romp in the back room of a dingy Aussie pub, but the hooks are strong enough that you’ll still be humming them the next morning. While Split System is primarily interested in punk bashing, the standout track “Ultimatum” leans toward the Flamin’ Groovies’ power-pop… hell, you might even play that one for your friend who loves Tom Petty. I’m all for hooks, but you have to send them down the gullet with a big spoonful of punk grit, and Split System has grit to spare.
Green/Blue: Worry 7” (Feel It Records) Minneapolis duo Green/Blue are back with Worry, a two-song single that follows up their recent album Paper Thin, their first for Feel It and their third overall. If you’d told me the two songs on Worry were a hot new band from Melbourne, I wouldn’t have batted an eye, as (despite Green/Blue’s blustery locale) these two tracks have a sun-bleached sense of melody that reminds me of a lot of contemporary Australian underground music. The Mo Tucker-ish drumming and furious rhythm guitar strumming is very Velvet Underground (perhaps through the Modern Lovers, the Clean, or one of the other zillion bands whom the Velvets influenced), but these songs’ meat is in their strong, forward-facing vocal melodies. They’re both total toe-tappers, and work well on the single format where each side gets your undivided attention.
Featured Releases: January 5, 2023
Organised Chaos: Still Having Fun 12” (Sealed Records) Sealed Records brings us the collected works of this early 80s punk band from Wessex. While Organised (or Organized) Chaos never had a record of their own while they were around, they appeared on the Wessex ’82 compilation (alongside their fellow Wessex punks Subhumans and A-Heads) and the Riotous Assembly compilation on Riot City Records, so if a couple of these tunes seem familiar, that might be why. Stylistically, Organised Chaos fits in well with the Riot City crowd, with driving beats, simple riffs, and chanted choruses, the most memorable of which appears in “Mary Whitehouse,” a tirade against an early 80s conservative talking head who often appeared in the UK media (some things never change). A few tracks, particularly on the second of their original cassette releases, bear some resemblance to the Subhumans thanks to the somewhat more ambitious musicianship and the singer’s accent sounding quite a lot like Dick Lucas’s. As with most of Sealed’s releases, Still Having Fun comes with a thick booklet that compiles what seems like every scrap of information relating to the band, including tons of flyers, fanzine interviews, and direct communiques from the band to their fans. It’s a treasure for those of us whose idea of a good time is contemplating the artistic oeuvre of a bunch of drunken teenagers from 40 years ago. If you enjoyed the recent Sealed Records releases from Karma Sutra and Dominant Patri, you’re definitely part of this camp.
Subvert: A Simple Solution to a Complex Problem 7” (Janku Land Records) A Simple Solution to a Complex Problem is a vinyl reissue of this Seattle, Washington band’s 1987 cassette. This is a new one for me; I’d seen Subvert’s name on flyers and heard their name in passing, but I can’t remember ever checking out the tape before. I think it’s killer, which is unsurprising given it touches so many other interesting things I love. The list of bands Subvert played with includes late 80s heavyweights (and personal favorites) like Poison Idea, Final Conflict, the Accused, and Christ on Parade, and like those bands, Subvert’s sound liberally mixes punk and metal, particularly thrash metal. It’s certainly of a piece with the above-mentioned bands, but it also reminds me of early New York hardcore, particularly Cause for Alarm, and Jeff said it reminded him of New York crossover (by which I assume he means bands like Crumbsuckers and Leeway), and I can see that too. Oh, and speaking of other famous things Subvert touched, A Simple Solution to a Complex Problem was recorded by Jack Endino (who recorded fucking Bleach!) and Subvert’s logo on the cover was drawn by Neko Case. Wild! Maybe some of you will find this too thrashy, but I think it shreds, particularly since the gritty, lo-fi recording keeps this sounding more like a hardcore record than a metal one. This version doesn’t come with the bountiful packaging you see on a lot of reissues these days, but the straightforward presentation suits Subvert’s music.
Lama: Onks Marko Täällä? - Live cassette (Finnish HC) The archival label Finnish HC (the same label with whom Sorry State is co-releasing the H.I.C. Sisteemi cassette we announced this week) brings us this reissue of Lama’s 1982 live cassette. Onks Marko Täällä? was recorded in November 1982, the same year Lama released their one and only album. The set here is based largely on the album (they even start the set with the same two songs the album starts with), but they play tracks from the earlier 7”s too, including my personal favorite “Paskaa.” The sound is rough but good enough, and while there are a couple of shaky moments toward the beginning of the set, Lama unsurprisingly reveals themselves to be just as capable on stage as in the studio. It’s a different side of the band than their live album Tavaista, and their studio recordings too, for that matter. This isn’t where I’d start with Lama, but if you’re a big fan and/or you love great live recordings of hardcore bands (there aren’t a ton of you, but you’re out there!), you’ll get some mileage out of this.
Violin: S/T 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) La Vida Es Un Mus brings us the debut release from this London project masterminded by Lindsay Corstorphine, who handled everything here save the drums, where he gets an assist from Jonah Falco, who needs no introduction. I am a fan of Lindsay’s band Sauna Youth, and while Violin’s angry hardcore doesn’t have much in common with Sauna Youth’s eclectic sound on the surface, there are high levels of skill and artistic ambition apparent in both projects. Not that this is prog or anything—the intro riff to “Empty Mind” is about as straightforward as you can get—but by the end of that very song there’s a synth whirring out a sinister melodic line where you’d expect the Ginn-influenced atonal lead to go. Moments like that and the off-kilter harmonized leads on “Chaos at the Seance” are my favorite parts the record, though even when Violin is in kill mode they have an artsy undercurrent that reminds me of Hologram or one of the other noisy and brainy fast hardcore bands on La Vida Es Un Mus or Iron Lung Records. Those of us with a taste for that approach will like the way Violin puts new wrinkles in old sheets.
Nukies: Can’t You Tell That This Is Hell cassette (Adult Crash Records) Demo tape from this new band from Stockholm, Sweden on the primo Danish punk label Adult Crash Records. I heard a lot of chatter about this one from the Bunker Punks corner of the Sorry State industrial complex, which makes sense given there’s a lot of Totalitär evident in the mix here. Like a lot of excellent Swedish bands (Totalitär, Skitkids, Axe Rash), Nukies isn’t afraid to add a little rock vibe to the mix, with bursts of lead guitar and big, catchy riffs that might have some AC/DC deep in their genetic history. Mostly, though, it’s just plain old ripping, with the top-notch songcraft and playing that goes hand-in-hand with so much great Swedish hardcore. If you dig this style, you’ll eat this up.
Sluggo: S/T 12” (4Q Records) 4Q Records brings us this top-shelf reissue from 80 Cincinnati, Ohio hardcore band Sluggo. I was familiar with Sluggo’s 1983 EP, Contradiction, thanks to the reissue it received in 2001 (though we’ve had a few original copies come through our store as well). Even as a fanatic for the type of 80s US hardcore that Sluggo played, Contradiction never got its hooks in me. However, this retrospective album on 4Q changes all that. After hearing this version of these tracks, I realize the problem with Contradiction is a weak mix. Thankfully guitarist Karl Meyer kept the original multi-track masters, which made this new mix possible. Contradiction now crackles with brightness, rivaling Don Zientara’s early Dischord recordings in their balance of clarity and power. No doubt Sluggo was indebted to those Dischord records, and they’re all the better for it. Like Minor Threat, Sluggo wasn’t the fastest, meanest, craziest, noisiest, or heaviest, but they wrote great songs with the catchy choruses of ’77 UK punk and they delivered them with power and conviction. While Sluggo wasn’t Minor Threat, this fresh coat of paint puts them in the league of the best bands who followed that template. Speaking of following Minor Threat’s template, this album features a second Sluggo recording from 1984 that finds the band, Out of Step-style, expanding to a 5-piece lineup and attempting to add a little more complexity and variety to their songs without losing their trademark intensity. I think they nail it, and while (as with Minor Threat), I slightly prefer the more aggro early material, I’m happy to live in a reality where I can experience both. Besides the brilliant new sound (which was all done at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio in Chicago), this album also features a thick booklet with the requisite photos, flyers, and liner notes. It’s beautifully executed, and deepens my understanding and appreciation of the music, as good packaging design should. If, like me, you’re a sucker for ornately packaged 80s hardcore punk reissues, you’ll love this.
Featured Releases: December 15, 2022
Bootlicker: Lick the Boot, Lose Your Teeth 12” (Neon Taste Records) This new collection LP from Canada’s Bootlicker is one of those “does what it says on the tin” situations. Lick the Boot, Lose Your Teeth collects the four six-song 7”s Bootlicker released between 2017 and 2020. I’m pretty sure Sorry State carried all four records as they came out, but there are many of you who jumped on the Bootlicker boat mid-stream, or maybe even caught onto what the band was doing when they released their first album in 2021. Even if none of this music is new to you, it’s a convenient package that sheds some light on Bootlicker’s progression. That progression is subtle—four six-song EPs with black and white artwork that never deviate in terms of fundamental style or presentation—but each EP has its own character. The first one is the most primitive in terms of sound quality and songwriting, and likely some purists think this EP is the best thing the band did. Who Do You Serve draws on an upbeat punky energy, while Nuclear Family locks into a steadier, fist-pumping d-beat groove that reminds me of Impalers. The most recent record, How to Love Life, pulls it all together, with the hard-charging d-beat making room for more varied rhythms and dynamics. Or maybe my brain is just imposing patterns that aren’t there. Either way, this is a fuck of a lot of Bootlicker, and it all rules.
Kilslug: A Curse and Two Singles 12” (Limited Appeal Records) This 12” collects three releases by the 80s Boston band Kilslug: their 1982 cassette A Curse and their first two self-released singles, 1982’s Warlocks, Witches, Demons and 1983’s Necktie Party. These are hard to find records, so unless you’re some kind of crazy super-fan, this material will be new to you. If you haven’t heard Kilslug, Flipper and No Trend are good points of comparison, and I imagine Flipper in particular must have been a big inspiration for Kilslug. It’s fitting that this record runs backward, from inside to outside, because Kilslug sounds like they’re turning punk inside out.Kilslug’s music is slow, dirge-y, dark, and dissonant, but where Flipper in particular often beats you into submission by hammering on the same repetitive groove, Kilslug’s songwriting style is more compact. The grim atmosphere is overwhelming, but no idea overstays its welcome. I love the complex, dissonant chords here, which give these songs a weight and richness of texture any doom metal band would envy. However, rather than songs about weed-smoking aliens, Kilslug’s lyrics are set in the murkier world of everyday violence, reminding me of their fellow underworld chroniclers Big Black. A real gem from the dirty underbelly of 80s punk.
Violent Pigz: The Night a Pig Came Home cassette (No Solution) This cassette collects the three EPs this US hardcore-style band from Osaka, Japan has released so far. Hearing this band for the first time on a collection like this is making me feel out of the loop… the first of these recordings came out in 2016, though it looks like originals are hard to find, with editions as small as 50. Violent Pigz’ sound is right up my alley, ranging from super fast, early Dischord-style bashing to songs that are a little more melodic, sort of like Marginal Man or Dag Nasty. If all Violent Pigz’ songs leaned in that direction (rather than just a handful scattered throughout this tape), I could see them appealing to folks who like late 80s post-hardcore bands like Verbal Assault or Turning Point, but the balance tilts toward the raw and ripping. Their singer sounds a lot like Kenji from Total Fury, whose 13 Songs LP is one of the world’s high-water marks for early Dischord-style hardcore in the same vein as Violent Pigz. Fans of anything mentioned above—or, even better, all of it—would do well to check this band out.
SPAD: demo cassette (No Solution) No Solution plucks another 80s US hardcore-style gem from Asia, this time from Indonesia’s SPAD. To my ears, SPAD is a dead ringer for Boston’s Social Circkle, who released a string of excellent records during the peak of the No Way Records era. I’m not sure how deep the people reading this go with that scene, so if you need some other reference points, think Career Suicide’s less blistering stuff or a more Ramones-y Night Birds. Maybe it’s that Ramones-y downpicking that has me reaching for comparisons from the oughts rather than the early 80s… it sounds like there might have been Screeching Weasel records deep in those musicians’ collections, even if they felt like they needed to live that influence down. For me, catchy and ripping are like chocolate and peanut butter, and SPAD is a Reese’s cup… familiar, but it hits the fucking spot.
Haevner: Kaldet Fra Tomrummet 12” (Symphony of Destruction Records) Symphony of Destruction Records brings us the debut record from this band from Copenhagen, Denmark. Knowing where Haevner was based, Kaldet Fra Tomrummet’s packaging had me wondering if they were a hardcore band… they are, kind of, but if I was looking to compare them to a Danish band, it wouldn’t be anyone from the Adult Crash Records roster, but Ice Age, specifically what they sounded like on their first album. Like that record, Kaldet Fra Tomrummet sounds like a mash-up of hardcore and post-punk, with dark and complex chords from Cure and Siouxsie & the Banshees records delivered at tempos more befitting Discharge. I also hear a lot of the Wipers in Haevner’s sound, both in the dense, precise, and melodic riffing and the manic darkness that hangs like a violent storm cloud over the record. The ideal audience for Kaldet Fra Tomrummet would be goths on speed, but you might enjoy it even if you don’t fall precisely in that category.
Hated: Best Piece of Shit Vol 4 12” (Numero Group) Numero Group turns their best-in-the-game reissue skills toward Hated, an obscure band from 1980s Annapolis, Maryland with a cult following, for the first of what promises to be a multi-volume reissue series. Hated (or the Hated, as it’s sometimes written) has always been a mysterious band for me. I knew their 1985 7”, No More We Cry, as an odd four-song EP with two tracks of top-shelf, Revolution Summer-influenced melodic hardcore bookending two acoustic tracks that are like a no-polish version of acoustic Hüsker Dü tracks like “Hardly Getting Over It” and “Never Talking to You Again.” I was dimly aware there was a lot more Hated material out there and that the band had a small but devoted following (I knew this from the “Hated box set” proto-meme on the Viva La Vinyl message board), but Best Piece of Shit Vol 4 fills in the gaps in Hated’s story and brings together the band’s disparate early material in a way that makes sense. It turns out Hated had roots in primitive and playful sound collage, briefly coalesced into a shit-hot first-wave emo band, then splintered into a more nebulous project that encompassed earnest acoustic songs, Flipper-esque anti-punk, elaborate parody, field recordings, and cut-up collages that mixed those elements. Some people will only be interested in the most straightforward punk iteration of the band, whose output Numero Group collects on side A of this double album. Annapolis, Maryland was just close enough to DC for the young and impressionable members of Hated to fall under the spell of Revolution Summer emo, and the a-side tracks bring together their youthful energy, rigorous work ethic, and budding songwriting ability into a record that you must hear if you appreciate bands like Rites of Spring, Marginal Man, and the obscure but underrated Rain (seriously… check out their 12” on Peterbilt Records). As for the other three sides, they demand a more open set of ears, but there’s so much here. There are two versions of Hated’s signature song, “Hate Me,” which combined Flipper’s drone (the song’s lyrics are its title repeated over and over in an incantatory chant) with the psychedelic freakouts Hüsker Dü liked to close their records with, and Hated would often stretch the song out live, feeding off whatever vibes the audience was giving. The two acoustic tracks from No More We Cry appear here along with a few others in the same vein, and there’s also the “We Are the World” parody “We Are the Cheese,” and a bunch of other fragments and experiments. In contrast to the more sober and straight-laced DC scene, there’s a druggy quality to Hated’s experimentation, and some people will connect with the dark undercurrent that runs through everything Hated did. I’m a sucker for art freaks expressing themselves in a constricted, small-town environment, so I enjoyed Best Piece of Shit Vol 4, particularly since Numero Group’s incredible packaging (the label has won several Grammy award’s for packaging design) contextualizes everything so thoroughly and eloquently. You may or may not love every second of music on Best Piece of Shit Vol 4, but if—like me—you have a home crammed full of books and records, you’ll appreciate this portal into Hated’s world.
Featured Releases: December 8, 2022
Phil & the Tiles: S/T 7” (Anti Fade Records) Australia’s Anti Fade Records once again thrusts their hand into the silt of Melbourne’s fertile punk scene and pulls up gold. If you’re partial to the current sounds of the Australian underground, Phil & the Tiles should be on your to-hear list because they bear an immediate resemblance to bands like the Shifters, Spiritual Mafia, and the UV Race, nailing the delicate balance of melodic appeal and arty repetition that makes those bands so irresistible. A song like “Elixir,” with its repetitive structure and cryptic lyrics, leans toward the arty end of the sound (and it’s a track you’ll love if you were partial to that Spiritual Mafia album that came out a while back), while “Nun’s Dream” represents the poppier side of the coin, with a sound that is dead ringer for the Brix era of the Fall… you could slide it right into Perverted by Language’s track listing and the only real tell would be the singers’ thick Aussie accents. So many cool records are coming out of the Australian underground that it can seem hard to keep up, but this isn’t the place where you want to get off the train… this record is too damn good. And with 4 meaty tracks, it more than justifies the import price tag.
Chainsaw: When Will We Die? 7” (Roach Leg Records) Roach Leg Records skips the cassette stage and brings Boston’s Chainsaw straight to vinyl , which makes sense because the band is full of experienced musicians who know what the fuck they’re doing and they have a fully realized sound that rips. I’m sure there are plenty of Scandinavian and d-beat comparisons to throw out in relation to Chainsaw’s sound, but the one I’m going with is Totalitär. While When Will We Die? is nastier-sounding than all but Totalitär’s earliest records, Chainsaw has a similar way of weaving together straightforward Discharge-style bashing (see “Alcohol” or “Knife”) with songs that are no less raging, but are a hair more musically sophisticated, even slightly melodic (see “Emergency” and “Anti Police”). The rough production and gnarly, shouted vocals keep things intense, and I love the wild lead guitar overdubs that appear on most tracks, giving an unhinged, anything-can-happen sensibility to what is, otherwise, a very dialed-in record. It’s killer, and I’d particularly recommend it if you’re into bands that lean toward the hardcore (as opposed to metal, crust, or noise) end of the d-beat spectrum.
Special Branch: Lethal Force 7” (Roach Leg Records) Roach Leg Records takes the 2020 demo from this Dublin, Ireland project and puts it on vinyl. I’m thankful for Roach Leg’s service, because I didn’t hear about this the first time around, and there’s even a Sorry State connection since Eddie from the Number Ones is in the band. Special Branch’s songs are built on rock-solid mid-paced riffs that wouldn’t be out of place on a Warthog record (high praise!), and those riffs are so strong and memorable that I imagine you could put just about any kind of window dressing on them and they’d still sound good. Fortunately for us, I like the drapes Special Branch has chosen. The rough, 4-track-y production sounds great, and the songs are shot through with interesting flourishes of lead guitar, sometimes wild and dissonant and other times more structured yet still compelling (see the NWOBHM-esque intro for the title track). I also like the record’s short intro and outro, which mix droning guitar noise with traditional Irish singing, tying the music to the project’s geographical roots. Come for the fuckin’ epic riffs, stay for the art.
Stray Bullet: Factory 7” (Not for the Weak Records) If, like we’ve been encouraging you to do, you’ve been paying attention to what Virginia’s Not for the Weak Records has been putting out, you’ve figured out what they like in a hardcore record. High energy, fast as fuck, musically dense, virtuosically performed, and clearly and powerfully recorded. I think that description fits a good chunk of NFTW’s roster, Stray Bullet included. Stray Bullet is from Sheffield, England and shares members with Rat Cage, but the sound is a little different, taking less inspiration from d-beat hardcore and more from the straightforward pummel of US hardcore bands like Out Cold (though Stray Bullet’s music tends to be faster and more complex than Out Cold’s). While some hardcore bands string together a bunch of short, simple songs, each of the four tracks on Factory is like a mini-epic that flies by in fast-motion, squeezing a dizzying amount of twists and turns into compact, pressurized packages. The songs are so fast and so dense that they might be difficult to parse on the first listen, but once you lock into Stray Bullet’s groove, listening to Factory is like bombing a gnarly hill on a skateboard, feeling in control but just on the edge of danger and chaos. Isn’t that the feeling of exhilaration we’re all looking for in hardcore?
Rat Cage: In the Shadow of the Bomb 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) These two tracks from Sheffield, England’s Rat Cage originally appeared on a limited lathe cut record whose sale benefitted the band’s hometown punk-run club, the Lughole, but I’m glad La Vida Es Un Mus did a larger pressing because these tracks are straight FIRE. While Rat Cage works with a lot of the same influences as other contemporary hardcore bands, their songwriting and execution are just on another level. “In the Shadow of the Bomb” is a case in point. The song’s massive and memorable main riff and shout-along chorus would have, on their own, outclassed 90% of hardcore bands, but the song has this part in the middle with a subtle key change that takes it to a whole different level. It’s like a middle eight in a classic pop song… what other hardcore bands have songs with middle eights? Rat Cage changes things up a little on the second track, “Scared of the Truth,” though that song is built around a riff at least as memorable as “In the Shadow of the Bomb,” sounding like Diamond Head doing their own take on “State Violence, State Control.” This song also has a great middle section that employs some Adolescents-esque melodies in the upper octaves. Few hardcore bands can pull off the two-song single, but I’ll take two great tracks like this over eight shitty ones any day of the week.
GG King: Evoker 12” (State Laughter Records) Evoker originally appeared as a limited edition cassette that came as a freebie with some copies of GG King’s latest proper album, Remain Intact. The cassette garnered an enthusiastic reaction (including the offer of a future release on Total Punk experimental offshoot label Mind Meld Records), so State Laughter pressed up some copies on wax for us lucky GG King fanatics. On GG King’s main releases, they have a unique style I’d describe as classic punk stretched out with influences from black metal and krautrock, styles that provide a counterbalance to punk’s short and to-the-point songwriting style. Evoker, however, has an even more experimental and playful atmosphere. There are genre experiments like the pure second-wave black metal of “Evoker 2 (Circling Starmount)” and the hardcore punk of “Punxx Picnic Destinations,” a cover tune (the Television Personalities’ “Silly Girl,” which stretches that compact pop tune in drone-y and weird directions), and stylistic departures like “Leigh’s Castle,” a fuzz-drenched psych-pop song with a drum machine that sounds like it could have appeared on an early Guided by Voices record. There’s also more out-there experimental tracks like “Evoker 1,” an excellent atmospheric sound collage piece, and “Evoker 3 (Wotever Happens Next),” which channels the WTF qualities of Celtic Frost’s Into the Pandemonium, minus the self-seriousness. Perhaps there are people who like GG King’s albums but find this looser version of the group too weird, but given how quirky and unprecedented GG King’s sound is, I imagine that group is a pretty small subset of the band’s following. Thus, if you’ve followed our previous recommendations and gotten hip to GG King’s vibe, there’s no reason to pass over Evoker without a listen.
Featured Releases: December 1, 2022
Innocent: Architects of Despair 12” (Side Two Records) After dropping two highly regarded tapes in 2017/2018, Boston’s Innocent emerges from their slumber with Architects of Despair, their vinyl debut. It’s such a Boston thing for a band to lie dormant for years then emerge, with no hype or advance notice, with a record so killer that it makes you wonder if the band has been locked in a practice space for that entire time refining and honing every detail. That’s the impression I get with Architects of Despair, which is as airtight a hardcore punk record as you’ll find. Stylistically, Innocent’s sound is rooted in, but not constrained by, Discharge, taking that band’s musical motifs and refining them into something that’s more intricate but still has all the crushing power. Take a track like “Straw Men,” for instance, which starts with a riff straight out of the early Discharge songbook but, over the course of the song’s frantic minute and a half, pokes and prods that riff like a specimen on a dissecting table, manipulating its chords and rhythms until, as a listener, you feel like you’re trapped in a building that’s collapsing around you. The vocals are also very distinctive, a bit like Tam’s high-pitched yelp in Sacrilege, but (like the music), stretched to its extremes, rendered almost avant-garde by a long delay effect. While many noisy hardcore records in this vein cultivate a sense of wild abandon, Architects of Despair sustains a seething, simmering tension, its complexity and brutality dancing on the edge of collapse, a feeling that only slightly abates on the record’s two mid-paced tracks. If you follow the output of this universe of Boston hardcore punk bands—i.e. if names like Chain Rank, Lifeless Dark, Green Beret, and Exit Order mean anything to do—you’ll want to make time for this one.
Graven Image: Discography 12” (Beach Impediment Records) Beach Impediment Records compiles the complete studio recordings of 80s Richmond, Virginia hardcore band Graven Image. The two studio sessions collected here originally appeared on the Your Skull Is My Bowl split cassette with Honor Role (1982) and the Kicked Out of the Scene 7” EP (1983), and there are a few outtakes from each session as well. Having grown up in Virginia, Graven Image has been on my radar for a very long time. I’ve always enjoyed their two releases, but this collection presents the band in the best possible light and has given me a much deeper appreciation for them. Graven Image might not have had the chops of Minor Threat or the Bad Brains, but they had some great songs, including my favorite, “My World,” which the band contributed to the We Got Power: Party or Go Home compilation, and uses one of my favorite musical tricks, the guitar hook composed entirely of harmonics (see also the Fall’s “Who Makes the Nazis”). Graven Image sound focused for a young band who didn’t seem to aspire to (or at least didn’t reach) a national level, avoiding ill-considered stylistic experimentation in favor of full-bore US-style hardcore heavy on the straight beats, power chords, and shouted vocals. Rather than just dabblers, they were key participants in the hardcore subculture, and one reason Beach Impediment’s presentation of this material so powerful is because it emphasizes how embedded Graven Image was in this world, with its expansive booklet full of flyers, photos, and other artifacts from the era. As Beach Impediment’s description states, “For admirers of early American Hardcore and not much else.”
Horrid Peace: Agony Surrounds 7” flexi (Acute Noise Manufacture) Horrid Peace is the first release by the band and label, both headquartered in the mid-Atlantic punk hotbed of Richmond, Virginia. People in the area already know the Acute Noise name from presenting numerous noisy punk gigs over the past several years, and their first foray into physical media keeps with the theme they’ve established with their gig-booking operation. Horrid Peace features a bunch of familiar Richmond faces pounding out four tracks inspired by the late 80s UK crust scene, specifically Doom. Listening to Agony Surrounds makes me wonder if they brought in Doom’s Peel Sessions and told the engineer that’s exactly what they want to sound like. They fucking nail it too, with that heavy, metallic sound that’s less about frantic riffing or big chorus hooks and more about creating this pummeling, monochromatic wall of sound that beats you in the face without letting up. Horrid Peace stays in that fist-pumping d-beat mode until slowing things down for the stomping “Human Refuse,” whose pit-clearing chug bears some resemblance to Public Acid’s moshier moments. Besides the four hot tracks, I love the packaging on Agony Surrounds, which nails the aesthetic of cult 80s Japanese hardcore flexis. Oh, and it’s limited to 250 copies, so get it while you can.
Flex TMG: Whisper Swish 12” (Domestic Departure Records) Whisper Swish, the debut vinyl from the Bay Area’s Flex TMG, comes to us courtesy of Domestic Departure, the label run by Erika from Collate. I’m a huge fan of the label’s small but excellent discography, and Flex TMG continues the hot streak. Taking inspiration from the sounds coming out of early 80s New York, Flex TMG mines artists like Liquid Liquid, ESG, and Tom Tom Club for their dance floor friendly, repetitive punk-funk grooves. While that scene is brilliant in its own right, it’s perhaps more widely known as one of the instrumental backbones of early hip-hop… see, for instance, Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines,” which samples Liquid Liquid’s “Cavern.” That sound is so baked into American culture I can’t imagine not liking it… it would be like not liking classic Motown or something. Flex TMG isn’t just a throwback, though. They make this classic sound modern, dressing up that rock-solid rhythmic backbone with synth and vocal melodies that sound more contemporary… it’s easy to imagine a track like “Come on Over (Bebé)” playing when you walk into a hip boutique or coffee shop. That might sound like a kiss of death to your average Sorry State reader, but remember this comes to us on a super underground post-punk label with five releases under their belt, all of them brilliant and with small runs and distinctive packaging (Whisper Swish included… you need to hold any Domestic Departure release in your hands to fully appreciate it). Flex TMG might be a little outside Sorry State’s usual stylistic comfort zone, but it’s a brilliant record and I urge you to check it out if the above description sounds intriguing.
Ingrates: Don’t Wanna Work 7” (No Norms Records) While I think most people associate Sorry State with 80s-inspired hardcore, I am and have always been passionate about more melodic and song-oriented 70s-style punk, a predilection you can see in the corners of the label’s discography inhabited by groups like Rough Kids, Louder, and the Number Ones. Part of the reason that style of music doesn’t get featured as much in Sorry State’s newsletter is that I’m very picky about it. When a band hits with me I fucking love them, but when they don’t, it’s a hard pass. If things are too slick or lean too far toward pop-punk, I’m out, but if a more melodic band has super raw and noisy production, more often than not that is disguising a lack of good songs and hooks. It’s a delicate balance. California’s Ingrates hit the sweet spot for me, with a gritty yet hook-laden sound that is perfect for a two-song single with eye-catching graphics. The a-side, “Don’t Wanna Work,” is the anthem, an amphetamine-fueled singalong whose chorus hook goes for the jugular while the rhythm section hits you in the ribs with a series of lightning-fast jabs. The b-side is even better, laying back behind the beat and summoning some Steve Jones by way of Johnny Thunders riffing that sounds oh so 70s. The Boys are another good point of reference. I’m always happy to make space in the 7-inch bins for killer, classic-sounding (and classic looking!) punk singles like this.
Ervin Berlin: Junior’s Got Brain Damage 7” (Total Punk Records) Total Punk resurrects this super obscure Killed by Death-era punk single from their old stomping grounds of Florida. This is bound to whet the record collector’s appetite, since the original pressing was only 200 copies and it has never been reissued or comped as far as I can tell… it’s basically an unknown record. Both songs are strong and have everything I love about KBD punk, including bargain basement production (courtesy a local country and western studio) and a twinge of goofiness (see the a-side’s title, “Junior’s Got Brain Damage”). Ervin Berlin was an experienced musician in his late 20s who was dabbling in the punk world, and these two tracks have a punksploitation feel that reminds me of the corkers compiled on the great Who’s a Punk Compilation. The thing I love about punksploitation—experienced musicians doing cheap cash-in records to capitalize on the punk “trend”—is that it’s often capable musicians and songwriters working fast and loose, which gives those records a feel that’s different from the labored-over aesthetic of most studio recordings you hear, punk included. That’s on display in spades here, and I’m thankful Total Punk has brought this obscurity to a wider audience.
Featured Releases: November 17, 2022
Todd Killings & the Contracts: S/T 7” (Slow Death Records) Slow Death Records brings us this 3-song 7” from Todd Killings & the Contracts. From what I understand, Todd Killings is a project featuring some folks from the Bootlicker / Chain Whip / Neon Taste Records camp, and if you’re a fan of that crop of bands, you’ll want to check this out. Stylistically, Todd Killings is in line with the Neon Taste Records roster, which has one foot in early 80s hardcore and another in late 70s underground punk, the best bands on the roster combining the energy of the former with the memorable songwriting of the latter. If you’re a fan of bands like Career Suicide or the Carbonas who tread a similar path, it’s a scene you should follow. As for Todd Killings, from what I understand, these songs were composed and recorded quickly, and they have a loose and immediate quality that feels very 70s to me, in contrast to today when so many bands’ performances are airtight. Further, rather than building the songs around intricate riffing, Todd Killings’ songs all center on memorable lyrical / vocal hooks in the chorus, most memorably on the a-side smash, “(I’ve) Got Your Contract.” It reminds me of early Career Suicide hits like “Quarantine” and “Jonzo’s Leaking Radiation,” and that’s a high compliment coming from me. Throw in some period-appropriate artwork and you have yourself a pretty bangin’ punk single.
Curleys: S/T 12” (Total Punk Records) We loved Curleys’ debut 7” on Total Punk from a few years ago, and this new 12” picks up right where that one left off. Definitely on the more hardcore end of the Total Punk spectrum, Curleys play fast and hard without exception, their super short songs coming at you rapid-fire, without breaks, exceptions, slow parts, or anything that breaks their jittered flow. Even with such narrow parameters, Curleys imbue their music with so much personality. There’s the fucked beyond belief guitar sound, which is blown to shit but still conveys the weird, epileptic rhythms that give these songs so much of their distinctive character. Then there are the vocals, snotty yet garbled, an occasional slogan like “Florida Fights Back” or “We Say No” gurgling up from the primordial soup. While these songs are hardcore punk, they’re played with a sense of total abandon I associate with Hasil Adkins or Dexter Romweber, boiling primordial rock and roll down to its essence, stripping it of anything that doesn’t contribute to the explosive raw energy. By the time they get to the closing track, the strikingly named “Sewer Cuck,” they nearly hit the two-minute mark and even have a kinda melodic guitar line in there, which sounds like Rush next to the minimalistic self-flagellation that comprises the rest of this record.
Padkarosda: Sötét Végek 12” (World Gone Mad Records) World Gone Mad Records brings us another gem from outside punk’s usual geographic hotspots… you might remember Siberian band Crispy Newspaper they released a while back, and now they’ve brought us the new album from Padkarosda from Budapest, Hungary. One great thing about hearing music from different places is that people who come from different backgrounds and traditions approach familiar tropes with a fresh perspective, and that’s the case with Padkarosda, who imbue dark post-punk with a more straightforward and aggressive energy. The heavy chorus effect on the guitars and the foreboding melodies fit the death rock style, but Padkarosda has a way with a lead guitar hook, and songs like the record’s title track (which sounds a lot like Second Empire Justice-era Blitz) and “Gépszij” where the band shows off that skill are immediate highlights. If Padkarosda was fronted by someone with a melodic croon (like, say, the guy from Interpol) they’d be millionaires by now, but the vocal delivery is snotty and snarling. The barked vocals and the interesting rhythmic inflections to the vocal lines remind me of Dezerter, and as with Dezerter, those vocal rhythms often interact with the musical accompaniment in interesting ways. Anyone with an ear for punky death rock or a broader interest in Eastern European punk will find much to enjoy here.
Gen Pop: The Beat Sessions cassette (Shout Recordings) The latest volume in the illustrious Beat Sessions series captures Olympia’s Gen Pop live in the studio. I’ve loved Gen Pop from the start, which makes sense because they wear their Wire influence on their collective sleeve, and Wire is one of my favorite bands ever. As with early Wire, most of Gen Pop’s songs are energetic, minimal, and angular to the point of being spiky around the edges, even treading into hardcore, but without that genre’s more macho and aggro elements. Even in those aggressive songs, though, there are elements that feel artsy and beautiful, like the interesting guitar melodies in “Senseless Action” or the chiming, Paisley Underground vibes in “Rough Slough Triptych.” Of course the ultimate Wire move is dropping a pure pop banger in the middle of all that spiky angularity, a feat Gen Pop nailed on their debut LP and reprise here with the same centerpiece, the gentle and fluid pop song “Pixel Glow.” As is typical for the Beat Sessions series, Mike Kriebel’s recording captures the band in clear and striking detail, like they’re filmed in strong natural light, and that approach only serves to highlight what a great fucking band Gen Pop is. Oh, and since they rip through several tracks that haven’t been released elsewhere (at least as far as I can tell), this makes this volume of the Beat Sessions a mandatory purchase in my book.
Eteraz: Villain 12” (Iron Lung Records) Iron Lung Records brings us the debut vinyl from this hardcore band from Olympia, Washington. Villain is total Iron Lung Records hardcore… urgent, smart, heavy, noisy, and somehow traditionalist without being any kind of homage. Eteraz is a little metallic but not metal, Discharge-inspired but not d-beat, and they play with confident power without being ornately technical or self-consciously primitive. At the risk of rattling off a bunch of unconnected band names, they make me think of B.G.K., Christ on Parade, Terveet Kadet, Iconoclast… the shit Pushead liked in the 80s and released on his label. It’s lifer music, and while it might lack the accessibility and easy frames of reference of starter punk bands, it makes up for it with its commitment to hardcore’s musical ideals and its unexpected musical subtlety. Also, the lyrics are in Persian, which gives songs a unique character and allows the singer to show off a gnarly rasp. This is bruising, and continues to grow on me with each listen.
Deadless Muss: 5 Years Imprisonment 12” (Euro Import) Deadless Muss was an 80s Japanese hardcore band from Shizuoka. Deadless Muss was on my radar and I have a couple of their records, but I don’t think I’d ever heard this album before this reissue arrived. I was more familiar with Deadless Muss’s earlier material, their 8” flexi from 1984 and their I Will… 7” from 1985. Those records are more in line with the gruff and murky 80s Japanese hardcore sound that I can never seem to get enough of. However, when the band signed to the legendary Selfish label and released their 860 Seconds Cooking 7” in 1987, their sound changed. Besides the layout getting more colorful than their previous records, they got way faster, moving toward a skate-thrash style that reminds me of their label mates at Selfish, Systematic Death. While there are a few moments on 5 Years Imprisonment that sound like holdovers from the band’s earlier period (“Texas Chainsaw” in particular), the band I keep thinking of when I listen to 5 Years Imprisonment is the Stupids from the UK. Obviously the lyrics and vocals are different, but the music is similar, blistering fast skate-thrash with lots of gang vocals and a hint of melody in the guitar playing. If you’re into that late 80s / early 90s Japanese skate thrash thing—bands like Systematic Death, Chicken Bowels (who I wrote my staff pick about last week), early SOB—you can’t go wrong with this well-done Fan Club pressing.
Featured Releases: November 10, 2022
Lexicon: Devoid of Light 12” (Iron Lung Records) Way back in 2018 Iron Lung Records released a demo tape by Seattle’s Lexicon. Now they’re back with their vinyl debut. That demo tape was already head and shoulders above most hardcore records I hear, so Lexicon needed little refinement. Still, things seem a little more unified on Devoid of Light, which sees the band locking into a sound that takes the dense and chaotic production values of noise-punk bands like D-Clone, Zyanose, and Lebenden Toten, and applies it to a more rhythmically intricate and punkier songwriting style. I wonder if you took all the distortion off this if it would sound like Amde Petersen’s Arme or something? It’s hard to say, especially with this full-bore assault blasting in your ears. Lexicon reminds me a lot of the Richmond band Spore I also wrote about this week, and as with Spore, the moments on Devoid of Life that hit the hardest for me are the loosest and most chaotic passages. Lexicon is so locked-in that when a track like “Parasite” or “Electric Shock” flies off the rails, it’s thrilling. Records like this are why we love Iron Lung… it’s raging, interesting, and exciting in all the right ways.
CML: The Dirty Tape cassette (Rotten Apple) Most of what the new label Rotten Apple has released so far has fallen on the weirder and/or poppier end of the spectrum, but this tape from Indianapolis’s CML proves they know raging hardcore when they hear it too. The first track, “State of Mind,” starts off with a haunting intro that makes me think of Part 1, and even when the song erupts, there’s a haunting quality to the riffing and an off-kilter, anarcho vibe to the rhythms… like a more manic Rudimentary Peni or something. After that first track, though, things get down, dirty, and raw, with more straightforward, early 80s hardcore-style bash-you-over-the-head riffs and changes. The vocals are snotty and a little screechy, a dead ringer for Urban Waste in places, and the music has that raw and immediate early 80s New York Hardcore vibe too. Everything about this rules, right down to the perfectly shitty drawing on the cover.
Spore: Rabid Intent cassette (Not for the Weak Records) Not for the Weak Records brings us this gloriously noisy and crushing cassette from Richmond, Virginia’s Spore. I can hear a whole lineage of hardcore punk in Spore’s music… they sound like an American hardcore band influenced by noisy Japanese punk bands from the 2000s inspired by Swedish bands from the 80s who were stealing from the playbook Discharge first drafted. It’s fists-in-the-air, bruising shit, fast and heavy as fuck with no letup. My favorite parts are when the guitarist drops the riff and dissolves into a D-Clone-esque squall of inchoate distortion… most of Spore’s music winds me up, ratcheting up the intensity until I feel the anxiety in my body, then when the guitarist makes that move, it’s like being in the middle of a panic attack and screaming at the top of your lungs, shutting out the world and providing an essential moment of cathartic relief. As with everything on Not for the Weak, the sound is massive and bruising, and with eight tracks and eye-catching artwork, I don’t see anyone complaining they didn’t get their money’s worth out of this one. Totally killer.
The Apostles: Best Forgotten 12” (Horn of Plenty Records) The short history of 80s anarcho punks the Apostles on their Discogs page sums up the band’s unique approach very well: “The Apostles were an experimental post-punk band who developed within the confines of the 1980s Anarcho Punk scene in the UK, but did not necessarily adhere to the aesthetics of that movement.” While the Apostles eventually, once they moved from releasing cassettes to vinyl, evolved into a somewhat more conventional anarcho-punk band (I wrote about their excellent second single, Blow It Up Burn It Down Kick It Till It Breaks, in our Staff Picks section a while back), the tracks on Best Forgotten compile an earlier era for the project when they sound less like a band at all, and more like a container for a wide range of musical experiments. In that way, this era of the Apostles reminds me of groups like Alternative TV, Television Personalities, and Cleaners from Venus… all of them very different from one another, but united by the approach of following their curiosity and pushing at the edges of their respective sounds. Best Forgotten does a great job of documenting that approach, feeling less like an album and more like a documentary, and while it’s hard to imagine anyone saying that Best Forgotten contains a wealth of great songs, it is rich with vibe. It practically smells like a squat in early 80s London, cold and damp and desperate, but at least with the free time to get weird and creative (even if the means to document that creativity are of the make-do variety). I imagine this era of the Apostles’ music flies way over the heads of Conflict and Crass-loving crusties in both their time and ours, but this is tailor-made for punk intellectuals with a taste for the artistically confrontational music of groups like Alternative TV (particularly their second album, Vibing Up the Senile Man), Virgin Prunes, and early Cabaret Voltaire.
Churchgoers: demo cassette (11PM Records) 11PM Records brings us the demo cassette from London’s Churchgoers. Falling on the rawer, punker, and more early 80s-inspired end of the contemporary UK hardcore scene, it’s easy to imagine Churchgoers on a bill with bands like the Annihilated and Last Affront (who also released a record on 11PM)… I’d go to that gig! This is just a theory, but it seems to me that one of the distinguishing characteristics of contemporary UK hardcore is that many of the players grew up listening to New York hardcore, which comes out in their music in subtle ways, even when I think they’re trying self-consciously to do something different from that. I don’t know if that’s the case with Churchgoers, but I hear it on a track like “Hillsy’s,” which sounds like something that could have been on the New Breed compilation tape. Most of Churchgoers’ songs, though, are more in the fast and raw, early 80s vein, though the way the drummer lunges ahead of the beat on the fast parts also makes me think of Heresy (the super short track “M.S.P.” serves as further evidence for that line of thinking). Maybe you won’t hear any of that and Churchgoers will just sound like a ripping 80s-style hardcore band to you, but either way, it’s a win.
Alerta Roja: Punk Rock En Dictadura 7” (Esos Malditos Punks) Esos Malditos Punks brings us this 5-song 7” from early 80s Argentinian punk band Alerta Roja, which they bill as the first punk rock studio recordings made in that country. According to Discogs, two of these tracks came out on an extremely limited 7” (only 50 copies!) in 1982, but Punk Rock En Dictadura presents all five tracks Alerta Roja recorded at the session. While hardcore was in full swing in other parts of the world by 1982, Alerta Roja’s music here is still steeped in the music of the Damned, the Heartbreakers, and most of all the Sex Pistols (they even borrow the “no future for you” melody from the end of “God Save the Queen” for the chorus of “Desocupación”). While the compositions are in that riffy, rock-influenced punk mode, the recording is raw and nasty, giving this a feel closer to that of early European punk classics by bands like Tampax or Lost Kids. Alerta Roja’s singer also has a similar tone of voice to Eduardo Benavente from Paralisis Permanente. All five songs are killer, starting with the anthemic “Desocupación” and climaxing with the gloriously strange guitar solo at the end of “Robots.” If you’ve put in your time with your Killed by Death and Bloodstains compilations, this 7” is gonna be right up your alley.
Featured Releases: November 3, 2022
Dominant Patri: Heroes Glory 12” (Demo Tapes Records) Demo Tapes Records brings us a reissue of this obscure but worthwhile document, Dominant Patri’s 3-song 1982 demo Heroes Glory. Dominant Patri was only around for a short time, playing a handful of gigs with other punk/anarcho bands of the day and recording these three tracks. While it’s a slim legacy in terms of volume, Demo Tapes makes the most of it with incredible sound and a booklet collecting what must be every scrap of extant information about the short-lived band. As for the three songs themselves, they are gems. Stylistically, these are straight-down-the-middle anarcho-style punk, not as hardcore as the crustier bands and not as melodic as bands like Zounds, but bringing together both ends of the genre’s spectrum. It helps that these songs have a powerful recording, crystal clear and present in a way that you wouldn’t expect from a band so obscure. As the only audio document of Dominant Patri’s existence, I find myself listening to these tracks with a lot more focus and attention to detail than I otherwise would… it feels like this record is a keyhole to a wider world. That actually goes for the reissue as a whole. Some reissues can feel like a feast overwhelming you with music and visual ephemera, but Heroes Glory is like a miniature painting that you pore over and appreciate every detail. Dominant Patri might have been a blip on the radar, but they were a beautiful blip, and anyone with a taste for vintage UK anarcho will love these three tracks, even if every time we listen, we wish we could have more.
122 Hours of Fear zine This giant, ambitious, full-color, square-bound zine comes to us from Layla Gibbon, former Maximumrocknroll coordinator, member of Girlsperm, and all-around punk historian and aesthete. I was super stoked to devour this mag, and even with my high expectations, it blew them out of the water. Do you ever read Maggot Brain and wish there was something of similarly high quality that focused on hardcore punk? If so, 122 Hours of Fear is the fulfillment of all your wishes. Focusing (rather loosely, I’d say) on the live gig-going experience (Gibbon started work on the project during the pandemic, when there were no gigs), 122 Hours of Fear cuts a wide swath in pretty much every respect, from the contributors (young punks, old punks, and everyone in between), to the bands and music covered (everything from classic punk to the most obscure Japanese noise to mainstream rock), to the styles of writing (show reviews, text messages, journal entries, stream-of-consciousness essays, etc.), to the emotional register (hilarious, angry, wistful, irreverent, surreal, thoughtful), to the modes of presentation (standard written entries, visual art pieces, scans of vintage ephemera, photographs, and more than a few mixes of several of these). While there are highlights (Sam Ryser’s surreal account of a Dawn of Humans gig in Slovenia, Ambrose Nzams’ story of a wild night at Philly art school parties, Tobi Vail’s deep contextualization of the Wipers’ standing in the wider punk scene, and the numerous incredible photographs littered throughout the book), the entire publication is just riveting. There’s also probably a cool story about your favorite band (my favorite band is the Fall, and there’s a bonkers account of one of their most infamous New York gigs). I know this is expensive, but it’s beautiful and the amount of work that has gone into it is staggering. If you love punk and underground culture, it’s hard to imagine you won’t love this.
Class: Epoca de Los Vaqueros 12” (Feel It Records) In case you missed the memo when their excellent self-titled cassette came out (note: that cassette is now back in stock), Tucson, Arizona’s Class features Rik from Rik & the Pigs on vocals, but with a sound that’s more fleshed-out and ambitious than the Pigs’ grimy, Stones-descended punk. Class’s first cassette caught my ear right away, and while I’m surprised to hear the full-length follow so quickly (especially in today’s age of interminable vinyl production waits), I’m pleased to hear that it picks up right where those tracks left off. Class is one of the few American underground bands that sounds of a piece with the most interesting music coming out of Australia right now. Like Civic, Vintage Crop, the Shifters, or Delivery, Class makes pop music informed by the punk and post-punk traditions, and they take songcraft and production seriously in a way bands typically don’t in the American underground, where a tossed-off, slacker approach seems essential to make it clear you’re not with the capitalists. Not that Class has anything to do with capitalism (I bet no one has ever written that before!), but they are interested in making good music that people might want to listen to, and listen to in order to get a feeling of simple pleasure rather than some sort of complex emotional and political gestalt. Stylistically, they remind me of the fuzzy 70s space where the punk underground met the rock overground, with the Flamin’ Groovies trademark chime informing tracks like “Light Switch Tripper,” and others like “Left in the Sink” reminding me of 70s UK bands like the Skids or Elvis Costello & the Attractions who weren’t punks but whose music from that era soaked up the ambient energy. Pop tunes, punk energy, musical chops, rich and subtle production… Class’s debut album has it all.
Penetrode: S/T 12” (Alonas Dream Records) The last time we heard from Philadelphia’s Penetrode was back in 2017, when they released a split 7” with Chicago’s C.H.E.W. That was a great pairing, bringing together two intense and inventive bands with top-notch musicianship, and while C.H.E.W. is sadly no more, the intervening five years have apparently done little to soften Penetrode’s rough edges. The overall tone of this record is dark, murky, and uncomfortable, but the thing I focus on most is the playing. Penetrode is so locked in that they can execute the lunging rhythmic acrobatics I associate with Bl’ast! or Damaged-era Black Flag. You hear this on tracks like “Delusion” and “Past.Future.Present,” which sound a lot like Bl’ast!, but that locked-in way of playing also shapes songs like the dirge-y, mid-paced “Psychic Death” and the manic instrumental “Penetrode.” The riffing is great throughout the record, catchy, powerful, and inventive, often squeezing complex, dissonant chords into nimble runs. The grimy production and the muffled, low-in-the-mix vocals are straight out of the Bl’ast! playbook too, and as with that band it can make it a little tougher to wrap your ear around this record on the first listen. However, once you lock in, the murk perfectly encapsulates the music’s dark and desperate vibes. Highly recommended for those of you who like your hardcore dark, moody, and complex.
Flower City: Maggots Consume 7” (Esos Malditos Punks) Maggots Consume is the debut EP by this hardcore band from Austin, Texas. I’m not sure who is in Flower City, but based on Maggots Consume, it’s hard to imagine their sound isn’t informed by titans of Austin hardcore like Impalers and Criaturas. Flower City has a similar approach, building their songs around interesting and inventive riffing and playing with a head-down intensity that never lets up. As with those bands, it sounds like a relentless barrage on first listen, but a closer inspection reveals a subtlety in the arrangements that keeps the songs interesting all the way through… a noisy lead guitar passage here, an ever-so-subtle let-up in tempo there (only to come crashing back to full intensity, of course). The vocals are drenched in echo and buried way down in the mix, keeping the focus on those riffs, which just keep coming at you for the duration of these six tracks. While the lack of obvious dynamics and theatrics might make Flower City inscrutable to a dabbler in hardcore, those of us with an appreciation for this workmanlike approach to the genre will appreciate their power and precision.
Mosquito: The Originol Soundtrack cassette (Rotten Apple) Several times over the past few years, I’ve wondered, “what happened to Mark Winter?” It seemed like he was everywhere for a few years. His project Coneheads was a certified underground phenomenon, but there was also Big Zit, C.C.T.V., D.L.I.M.C., and plenty more, and they were all very good to fucking great. Then the releases just stopped with no fanfare. Maybe he was still putting out tapes you could only order via carrier pigeon to keep them safe from poseurs like me, but if that’s the case I didn’t so much as hear about them. So, Mosquito: The Originol Soundtrack marks, for me, the return of Mark Winter, and it is fucking awesome and a complete left turn. The fifteen-minute album is all instrumental (there are a few passages with spoken vocals) and the music, according to the description, follows the life cycle of a mosquito. Not being an entomologist, I can’t speak to the accuracy with which Winter has evoked the mosquito’s biology, but I can say the music is wide-screen cinematic, evoking a range of different moods that all seem mosquito-like, but from different directions. The way Mosquito slides between different moods and textures reminds me of the 70s German band Faust, as do the often bass-driven arrangements and the loose, quasi-jammy structure of the different movements. The bass-driven, funky feel also makes me think of cult 70s film soundtracks, particularly Alain Goraguer’s brilliant soundtrack to the 1973 animated film La Planète Sauvage. While the genre differs from anything I’ve heard Winter do before, you can still tell it’s him… the tones and textures of the instruments sound a lot like Coneheads and D.L.I.M.C., and a few of the movements (especially the first and last ones) feature some of his trademark mutant Chuck Berry lead guitar playing. While the potential audience of people who love both Coneheads and the kinds of weird soundtracks and library records unearthed on labels like Finders Keepers might be small, I am 100% in that demographic, and I fucking love this. Now, pardon me while I research how to train carrier pigeons so I don’t miss another note of music this person makes.
Featured Releases: October 27, 2022
L.O.T.I.O.N.: W.A.R. in the Digital Realm 12” (Toxic State Records) Without ever fundamentally changing their sound, every L.O.T.I.O.N. record has been better than the previous one, and the trend continues on their latest album, W.A.R. in the Digital Realm. L.O.T.I.O.N. has always sounded to me like an aesthetic marriage between the 90s Wax Trax scene in the gnarliest, darkest end of Japanese hardcore (bands like G.I.S.M. and Kuro), which might sound like a simple formula on the surface, but those sounds are so different and the territory is so uncharted there’s a lot of room for L.O.T.I.O.N. to do their thing. One thing that amazes me when I listen to W.A.R. in the Digital Realm is how catchy it is without compromising the fundamental ugliness and harshness of the music. One way they achieve this is by paring down the choruses to just a few repeated words. This gets you singing along to tracks like “Desert E” and “Cybernetic Super Soldier” the second time the chorus rolls around. My favorite track on W.A.R. in the Digital Realm, “Every Last One,” also takes takes this approach to the chorus: “decapitation—every last one” (it’s a song about cops). The song also features my favorite moment on the LP, the part in the bridge where they repeat the line “the only good cop is…” again and again, building anticipation until they let loose the big payoff line we’re all waiting for… “a dead cop.” W.A.R. in the Digital Realm feels short at only eight tracks, but all eight tracks are distinct (particularly the J-pop leaning final track, “Cybernetic Super Lover”) and none of it feels redundant or like filler. And it goes without saying that vocalist and renowned visual artist Alex Heir makes sure the packaging is as compelling as the music.
Mutated Void: Roses Forever 12” (Iron Lung Records) What a disgusting mess! Canada’s Mutated Void has one of the most original hardcore sounds I’ve heard in ages, but it is fucking nasty. The closest comparison I can think of is Septic Death in its warped darkness, but filtered through the aesthetics of the rawest underground black metal and… 80s skate rock? It’s a singular concoction that needs to be heard to be understood, but to say the least, this isn’t for everyone. That’s what I love about Mutated Void, though… you can hate on the incomprehensible, snarling vocals, the “so loose they’re barely there” song structures, the no-fi production values, or the bewildering visual aesthetic… or you could just say fuck it and choose to love this patently unlovable record. I choose love. Bold hold on, I think I gotta puke…
Ojo Por Ojo: Leprosario 12” (Cintas Pepe) Mexico City’s Ojo Por Ojo is back with a new album, and if you liked the direction they were headed on their recent 2-song flexi, Paroxismo, you’re gonna love it. Since the beginning, Ojo Por Ojo has been a relentlessly bleak band, exploring the depths of human cruelty, pain, and suffering in their music, lyrics, and artwork. Steve Albini recorded Paroxismo, which was clearer and denser than their previous album, and even though he didn’t have a part in Leprosario, the sound remains changed. Leprosario is huge, rich, and bright, but rather than feeling glossy, it’s like looking at vomit on the sidewalk in the clarity of a sunny summer day. While the subject is as dark and uncomfortable as ever, these songs are so rich with texture that you get lost in the detail. It’s like Ojo Por Ojo has married Amebix’s brutal chug with Slint’s delicate iridescence. The closing track, “Carne,” is the prime example, a gloomy march that will have you alternately reaching and recoiling. And, as we expect from this band and the Cintas Pepe label, the artwork is excellent, its detailed illustrations and collages embodying everything I love about the music. What a record.
Terveet Kädet: TK Pop 12” box set (Svart Records) This five-LP box set compiles everything the legendary Finnish hardcore band Terveet Kädet (translation: Healthy Hands) recorded between 1980 and 1989. Most people credit Terveet Kädet as the first hardcore band in Finland, and they continued to carry the hardcore torch when so many other early hardcore bands put it down in favor of being more melodic, commercial, and/or artistically adventurous. For me, their first three EPs are essential 80s hardcore punk records, and they’re still my favorite Terveet Kädet records. Those records have the same joy of discovery you hear in the early Dischord and Touch and Go records, and as with bands like Minor Threat and the Fix, they grew into their chops and became a great fucking band. For me, they peak with their 3rd EP, Ääretön Joulu. After that, their music takes a definitive turn away from snotty punk and more toward the Discharge-inspired hardcore of bands like Bastards and Rattus. That’s hardly a bad thing… if you like records like Bastards’ Järjetön Maailma and Rattus’s Uskonto On Vaara, it’s hard to imagine you wouldn’t like Terveet Kädet’s first album or The Horse too, and I do. I hadn’t listened to the late 80s EPs collected on the box set’s 4th LP, but it turns out I like those too, maybe even better than the first two albums. They’re still hardcore records, but they don’t feel as monochromatic as the first two albums, and they get back some of that spirit of discovery I liked on the early EPs. The fifth LP in the box features unreleased and rare tracks from the era of the first three EPs, and they are crucial, ranging from primitive rehearsal recordings to blistering live-on-the-radio sets to an entire unreleased EP that would have come out between TKII and Ääretön Joulu. The music collected here is excellent, but as I listened to TK Pop in its entirety twice over the last couple of weeks, I thought a lot about how I impressed I am with how TK Pop is put together. It’s a comprehensive collection, presenting the band’s discography during this period as a coherent body of work, much the same way many CD anthology releases did in the 90s and 00s. However, where I found so many of those CD anthologies exhausting to listen to, it’s clear the folks at Svart thought a lot about how people would experienceTK Pop. They cut each record loud at 45rpm and they sound great. Rather than proceeding strictly chronologically, they give care to making sure each record (or, with the EPs, each LP side) is a coherent and complete thought. And while you’re listening, you can look at the comprehensive insert book with a wealth of archival photos and fanzine interviews and a detailed discography. I just really enjoyed this box. It takes a bunch of records that are excellent in their own right and makes them work as something bigger, more impressive, more demanding, but ultimately more rewarding. If only every reissue could be this good.
Ä.I.D.S.: The Road to Nuclear Holocaust 12” (La Vida Es Un mus) It’s kind of weird that we’re looking at two industrial-tinged hardcore records by bands whose names are acronyms this week, but I guess sometimes Ä.I.D.S. and L.O.T.I.O.N. arrive in the same week and you just have to roll with it. I don’t want to get into too detailed of a comparison between the two records because they’re very different and don’t seem in dialog with one another in any substantial way, but one subtle yet noticeable difference is that while L.O.T.I.O.N. feels like a pop record with its chanted choruses and danceable beats, Ä.I.D.S. feels more like a rock record that’s built around riffs. A lot of the riffs remind me of Discharge songs like “State Violence, State Control,” elongated musical phrases that rely on chugging palm muting. We used to have this joke in one of my old bands that some riffs make you feel like you’re riding a chopper over the horizon at sunset, and that’s the case with a lot of these, giving them that badass “Motorcharged” feel so many bands aim for. Even better, while those longer riffs were a sign of Discharge’s imminent decline, Ä.I.D.S. is at pains to keep things maximally heavy and brutal. Everything is big and heavy, with the pounding drum machine rhythms and synth squelches pushing the vibe to something between Mad Max and cyberpunk. For something so gnarly and punishing, it’s a breezy listen… which makes sense because this is, at its core, a 6-song 45rpm hardcore EP, albeit one that elaborates on the form significantly.
Delivery: Forever Giving Handshakes 12” (Feel It Records) Hot off a string of excellent EPs, Melbourne, Australia’s Delivery brings us their debut album, arriving a mere 18 months into this ambitious band’s lifespan. The secret might be a healthier division of labor than most bands, because if I’m interpreting what I read correctly, Delivery boasts five songwriters and three lead vocalists in its ranks. Forever Giving Handshakes no doubt benefits from sharing creative responsibility, but it sounds cohesive… it’s apparent that Delivery has a clear idea of where they’re headed as a band. While their earlier releases were quirkier and more introverted-sounding, Forever Giving Handshakes sounds as joyous and alive as the photo on its cover, which features the band cresting the hill of a roller coaster. Much has been made of Delivery’s transition from a home recording project to a live band, and Forever Giving Handshakes sounds like a record made to be played in front of an audience… the first time I heard it, my mind drifted to a recently departed venue in our town, Neptune’s, a small basement bar and venue that would have been the perfect place to see Delivery in Raleigh. Fortunately, high-energy pop songs like this work just as well in headphones or on a car or home stereo as they do in a live set. Fans of contemporary Australian punk-inspired music—everything from UV Race to Alien Nosejob to Vintage Crop and back—will find this an essential listen, but the way Forever Giving Handshakes crackles with life and energy will win over anyone who loves to mix their pop with their punk.
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