Featured Release Roundup: October 24, 2019

Dumspell: S/T 12” (Erste Theke Tonträger) Debut vinyl from this band out of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. While Hattiesburg has developed a reputation as a town that produces an unlikely number of raging hardcore bands, Dumspell is more of a straightforward punk / post-punk band. Their sound is heavy and melodic with huge-sounding guitars that might remind you of anything from the Buzzcocks to the best and/or punkiest 90s grunge, alt-rock, and Brit-pop (think Supergrass, Ash, Elastica, and others that had a palpable punk influence). With a clear and powerful recording, songwriting chops, and dynamics for days, this feels like something that they would have plastered all over 120 Minutes back in the 90s, but in 2019 this is a band from a small town in Mississippi that has released a short-run LP on a tiny German punk label. What a time to be alive! Seriously, though, this LP is top-shelf stuff, so give it a whirl if it sounds like something you’d like to hear.

Sensual World: Feeling Wild 12” (Stupid Bag) After a handful of tapes, Feeling Wild is the debut vinyl from Richmond’s Sensual World. I spent a good chunk of my 20s obsessing about heavy, heart-on-sleeve punk rock by bands like Leatherface and Husker Du, and while that sound is no longer a big part of my listening diet, Feeling Wild reminds me why that sound sucked me in. Really, though, it doesn’t sound like those bands; while the sound is big, burly, and punk, the lyrics are vivid and literate, and the overall vibe is melancholy, Sensual World has a much wider palette, as befitting a band named after a Kate Bush album. In particular, Sensual World reminds me of the Chameleons in how they combine somber chord progressions with bright and melodic, Buzzcocks-esque guitar leads. They’ve also chosen to record Feeling Wild with a ton of gritty texture. While putting the vocals so low in the mix wasn’t an obvious choice given how powerful the lyrics and vocals are, I like the fact that they’re fighting for attention with this bubbling morass of feedback and distortion. The songs themselves are snappy and memorable, and the 8 songs on the 45rpm 12” fly by, begging for repeat listens. It’s tough to do a RIYL because Feeling Wild is a singular record, but if you like heavy, melodic punk and appreciate the gritty textures of noise music (and even raw black metal?), this one is for you.

Deletär: S/T 12” (Kick Rock) This French band has changed their sound a bit since their earlier 7”. While it’s still heavy on the Totalitär influence, this debut 12” ramps up the energy level with a clear and punchy recording and adds a dash of skinhead stomp to the mangel. The main riffs on tracks like “Panique” and “Oppression” could have appeared on any of Totalitär’s early records, but the d-beat behind it is sprightlier and the vocals channel the gruff but catchy sound of bands like the 4 Skins, 86 Mentality, and Bootlicker. Deletär also exhibits some versatility, like on the rocked-out intro to “A La Derive” and the ripping, Skitkids-esque lead guitar on tracks like “Plus Croire En Rien.” If you want to get both the skins and the crusties dancing, throw this on. A total ripper.

Patti: Good Big 12” (Erste Theke Tonträger) After an earlier 7” on Erste Theke Tonträger, Good Big is the debut 12” from this New-York-by-way-of-Oakland band. Their earlier EP reminded me of Uranium Club, and while Good Big has a similarly clear recording and locked-in rhythm section, it also finds Patti developing their own voice. Not that their voice is monochromatic; with 16 tracks averaging around two minutes each, Patti spreads out and explores a ton of different variations on their sound here. Most songs revolve around quirky rhythms, snaky bass lines, skronky and/or angular guitar, and deadpan vocals, but Patti adapts that framework to several ends. One one track they might remind me of Gang of Four, while on the next they can evoke an atmosphere that reminds me of C86 indie-pop, and then the next one wades into math rock levels of rhythmic complexity. If you’re a fan of the smart, punky post-punk bands of bands like Uranium Club, Parquet Courts, or Lithics, Patti treads a similar path.

Video Filth: Hypnosis 7” (Dark Raids) It’s been a minute since we heard from Boston’s Video Filth. You might remember their 2016 7”, but they’ve been a band at least since 2014, when they released their first demo. While veteran hardcore bands can often settle into a complacent groove, Hypnosis sounds hungry, like a band trying to prove they’re faster and meaner than any comparison you can throw at them. The opening track, “Follow Me,” lunges right for the throat with a dense sound, punishing vocals, and one of the most blisteringly fast guitar riffs that I’ve heard in some time. When Video Filth lets off the accelerator, you can hear catchy UK82 vibes peeking through, but the bulk of what you’ll find here is ferocious hardcore a la Shitlickers. The recording is also warm and gritty, and what it sacrifices in thickness and presence it more than makes up for with grainy atmosphere. This rips, but you’ll particularly love it if you revere the 80s classics.

Ligature: Plays: AA's "Suicide Fever" & Second Layer's “Court or Wars” cassette (Roach Leg) I have a lot of ignorance to own up to relating to this release. First, while I’m a big fan of the band Chris Hansell sings for, Warthog, I hadn’t heard of Ligature before I got tipped off about this cassette’s existence. Second, I’m not familiar with either of the two bands Ligature covers here, A.A. and Second Layer (though Discogs taught me that Second Layer is an offshoot of the Sound, whom I love). So, you may come  to this with more context than me, but I’ll share my n00b opinions anyway. I find both tracks interesting in how they combine rather sunny chord progressions with playing and production that are cold, mechanical, and distorted. I’m reminded of tracks like Public Image, Ltd.’s “Public Image” or the Chameleons’ “The Fan and the Bellows,” tracks that seem to ride that edge between darkness and light, like waking up in a great mood on a day that’s cool and gray. Ligature captures that vibe, but augments it with the crunchy drum machines and distorted textures of industrial and power electronics, adding an entirely new layer of affect. It’s like nothing I’ve heard before, and I love it. I don't know what Ligature, A.A., or Second Layer sound like outside this release, but for all its brevity, this two-track tape is brilliant.

Featured Release Roundup: October 17, 2019

Wipers: Land of the Lost 12” (Jackpot) Jackpot Records’ Wipers reissue campaign continues with Land of the Lost, the band’s 4th LP from 1986. My opinion on post-Over the Edge Wipers has always been that those records are enjoyable, but they’re missing the magic of those three essential albums. That’s probably a dilettante’s opinion as I know there are fans out there who ride hard for the later material, but revisiting Land of the Lost doesn’t drastically change my stance. There are a bunch of solid Wipers tracks here, some moments that seem a little questionable (like the punk blues of the title track), and one incredible song, the closer “Just Say.” While it’s an enjoyable album, it’s not the place I would start with the Wipers. However, if you’ve worn out the first three albums, Land of the Lost can provide you with a much-needed fix. 

Restless: S/T 12” (Perennial / K) Debut release from this Olympia band. The sound here is rootsy, rocked-out power pop a la the Real Kids, but with a lead guitar sound that’s heavily indebted to Thin Lizzy. Restless have the same retro rock flavor as early Sheer Mag, making me think of muscle cars, dirt ‘staches and seedy high school parties like the one in Dazed and Confused. You might prefer the more Thin Lizzy-inspired mid-paced songs (especially if you’re a fan of guitarmonies), but I think Restless is at their best when they up the tempo and get more into Exploding Hearts / Real Kids territory on tracks like “On the Boulevard” and “Telephone Lover.” 

Physique: The Rhythm of Brutality 10” (Distort Reality) New 10” record from these Olympia d-beaters, and given that it’s their third vinyl release (none of which are 7”s!), I think it’s fair to anoint them with veteran status. The Rhythm of Brutality is a focused, confident record, finding the band at the top of their game, i.e. total Disclose / Framtid worship (there’s even an unlisted Framtid cover at the end of the record). As I’ve said before, it's silly to spend too much time enumerating the subtleties of a record like this. You just need to answer one question: does it rip? The answer is, yes, this rips. The production is perfect, the songs are snappy and interesting, and Physique generate the earth-shaking atmosphere that made their influences so legendary. The Rhythm of Brutality is the best Physique record yet, so if you’ve enjoyed their previous releases I’d encourage you to upgrade to the latest model.

Klonns: Discography cassette (Sickhead) Discography cassette collecting two EPs and a single from this Japanese band. Before I heard Klonns I saw them described as “blackened crust.” On one level that description is perfect, and when you first listen you’ll say to yourself, “yes, that’s precisely what I expect blackened crust to sound like.” However, that pithy description sells the band short because they do way more than smash together two subgenres. The crust and black metal scenes are both home to some of the most painfully bland, generic, and imagination-less music out there, but Klonns’ music is punky and exciting, with an out-of-control energy that reminds me of Warhead at their very best. However, they combine that punky energy with gritty textures and brooding atmosphere, more like a scratched-up old 35mm print than a precise digital projection. If you like both Japanese hardcore and forward thinking, progressive hardcore and black metal, it’s likely you’ll enjoy this as much as I do.

Ojo Por Ojo: Parodixmo cassette (Discos Huayno Amargo) Latest release from this Mexican band who released an LP last year on La Vida Es Un Mus. If you didn’t hear that record, you might remember vocalist / guitarist Yecatl Peña from his previous band Inservibles, and Ojo Por Ojo carries forward that band’s mission of making gritty, grimy, left of center punk. You won’t find breakdowns, cover songs, or singalong parts here. Ojo Por Ojo’s brand of hardcore is raw, primal, and expressionistic. While some moments here have the sinister vibe of early death metal and others bring to mind 90s underground hardcore like His Hero Is Gone, I get the impression that Ojo Por Ojo isn’t trying to court favor with a particular audience or meticulously construct a perfect vision of what their band should be. Instead, it sounds like they’re just funneling raw, undiluted desperation into their music. It’s like a Jackson Pollock painting done only in thin, muddy washes of grey and brown. Highly recommended if you've been following the crop of excellent bands coming from Mexico over the past several years. 

False Ritual: Violence 7” (Whispers in Darkness) Ripping two-song 7” from this Portland band. While you can hear the Discharge influence that you might expect given the locale, the artwork, and the record label, False Ritual’s high-energy style reminds me just as much of 80s US hardcore as the UK / Swedish / Japanese studs and leather set. The riffing is super fast and slightly metallic, and the mile-a-minute vocals are aggressive shouts rather than grunted or gurgled. False Ritual reminds me a bit of Direct Control, albeit noisier, looser, and with a more pronounced Discharge influence. This is a short record, but there’s zero bullshit. I hope we get a more substantial release from these folks at some point.

Featured Release Roundup: October 10, 2019

Blitzkrieg: Buried Alive / Blitzkrieg 7” (Splattered!) Reissue of this legendary New Wave of British Heavy Metal single, whose b-side Metallica famously covered on the b-side to their Creeping Death single. This is an undisputed classic of the style, so if you're interested in the NWOBHM, this single is an essential grip. It’s fast, heavy, catchy as all get-out, packed with classic riffs, and has that warm and murky sound that you love if you’re an avid listener to British independent music of the late 70s. Splattered! Records has executed this reissue with all the care and attention to detail that we expect from them and the sound on the vinyl is excellent, so if this piques your interest, I can’t imagine it'll disappoint you.

Judge Schreber’s Avian Choir: Bleed 12” (Cort) This record is a little outside what I usually cover in these roundups, but I wanted to give it some attention because 1. releases like LBB’s Popped Music on Iron Lung have clarified that some hardcore punks can get down with experimental and avant-garde music and 2. I fucking love it and can’t stop listening to it. Judge Schreber's Avian Choir is a very large ensemble: according to the label’s description, “15 bowed string players, a heavy metal rhythm section … and … overdubs on reeds and guitar.” There are no vocals and the four tracks here aren’t pop songs, rock songs, or event avant-metal songs, but a hybrid of experimental orchestral / chamber music and heavier, metal-informed drone music. The only things I’ve heard that it resembles are the 70s Belgian group Univers Zero and the Japanese composer / playwright J.A. Seazer, but I’d be surprised if too many Sorry State readers are jamming those. Anyway, the music on Bleed is expansive, encompassing spacious drones, skittering, insect-like organic rhythms, mournful and moody microtonal harmonies, heavy rock riffing, and wide open, Ornette Coleman-meets-Darkthrone sonic catharsis. While it’s wildly creative, it never feels difficult or arcane. I think that’s because this record doesn’t trample over the boundaries between genres, but offers us a window into an alternate universe where those boundaries don’t exist. If you’re an adventurous listener with an ear for this kind of wide-angle, symphonic grandiosity, I encourage you to pick this up.

Slump: Flashbacks from Black Dust Country 12” (Feel It) Debut full-length from this Richmond band that combines heavy punk/grunge with Hawkwind’s acid-fried space rock. You won’t find catchy choruses or pop melodies on Flashbacks from Black Dust Country, but an M.C. Escher-esque maze of swampy riffs that woven through with layers of reverb and echo-drenched guitar and synth noise, punctuated by the occasional shouted vocal. Slump reminds me a lot of Destruction Unit; like that band, their sound has a density informed by 90s noise rock. Slump doesn’t make big, dramatic gestures, instead exploring the nuances of timbre and texture with a tinkerer’s patience and attention to detail. Flashbacks… is a slow burn, but with its big, clear sound and layered textures, it’s easy to get lost in it.

Skull Cult: New Mutilator 7” (Going Underground) Latest EP from these Indiana punks who have dropped a healthy grip of 7” vinyl over the past two years. Skull Cult is of a piece with bands like Coneheads, Liquids, and Erik Nervous but I wouldn’t write them off as also-rans. New Mutilator begins with my favorite track, “Braindead,” which feels like an epic even though it falls well short of two minutes long. Over its 105 seconds, you get a noisy intro, a big, melodic chorus, a post-chorus interlude of Dickies-esque organ, and a blistering James Williamson-style guitar lead, all filtered through hissy shit-fi production. It’s like Skull Cult tried to take every kind of big, climactic moment they could think of and cram it into one song, and the result is an orgy of awesomeness. The next three originals are more restrained, but Skull Cult still packs them with great melodies. The EP ends with a cover of “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads, which I find an odd choice given that Coneheads covered the same song and Skull Cult will probably garner comparisons to Coneheads until the end of time. Their version, however, differs  from Coneheads’; while the latter stressed the disaffected, robotic quality of Talking Heads’ original, Skull Cult restores the dirty groove that Talking Heads removed from their music.

Aviador Dro: Nuclear, Sí 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Reissue of this 1982 Spanish synth-punk EP. I wasn’t familiar with Aviador Dro before checking out this reissue, but I’m now learning that they were a very important band. Not only is their discography huge, but LVEUM’s description also credits this single with being the start of independent / DIY label culture in Spain. I’m excited to learn more about Aviador Dro and check out their many other records, but in the meantime Nuclear, Sí is great even without the weighty historical context. If you’re a fan of vintage minimal synth like the Normal, Grauzone, Cabaret Voltaire, the Human League, and Solid Space (or modern purveyors like the Detriti Records roster), it’s hard to imagine you wouldn’t love these four songs. While they’re minimal, there are enough layers to the sound to give the tracks a sense of harmonic complexity, and the great vocals remind me of Paralisis Permanente in how they’re both aggressive and catchy. Fans of classic Spanish punk and/or vintage minimal synth will both find a lot to love here.

Overdose: Hit the Road 7” (Splattered!) Second single from this Motorcharged band from New York. “Hit the Road” comes out of the gate with fire, opening with a blistering lead that walks the (thin) line between prime-era Motorhead and Scandinavian Jawbreaker-era Anti-Cimex. There are a lot of bands who have done this Motorhead-inspired sound over the years, but Overdose is a standout, capturing the punk energy that you want, packing their songs with exciting part after exciting part (there’s even a SECOND guitar solo in “Hit the Road”!), and delivering the whole thing with a thick layer of grime that makes you feel like you’re watching them bash it out in a damp basement at 1AM when everyone is bleary-eyed, drunk, and raging. The b-side is more mid-paced but just as raging, and slacker pace gives the guitarist room to deliver a more melodic lead. This record is a total ripper.

Chubby & the Gang: All Along the Uxbridge Road 7” (Goner) US pressing of this single that came out on the UK’s impeccable Static Shock a few months ago, albeit upgraded to come with a proper picture sleeve rather than a company-style sleeve. If you don’t know Chubby Charles’ name, you know his work from bands like Crown Court, Arms Race, Violent Reaction, Boss, and others I’m sure. While Chubby & the Gang’s sped-up rock-and-roll riffs will please the ear of any Crown Court fan, this project wades even deeper into pub rock, as you might tell from the Chiswick rip-off labels. In particular, Wilko Johnson from Dr. Feelgood’s manic, agitated guitar style seems to be a big inspiration for the riffing style here. The vocals are double-tracked in a swirling, loopy manner that reminds me of Booji Boys, and as with that band there are some cool melodies once your ear adjusts.

Power: The Fool 7” (Feel It) Between this new single from Australia’s Power and the latest one from New York’s Overdose it’s a good week if you love gritty, Motorhead-inspired rock-and-roll. Like Overdose, Power drags these two tracks through a bog of filth and grime; while “The Fool” is indebted to Motorhead, the production is more befitting Venom or even the sub-Venom filth of classics like Bathory or NME. “The Fool” stays at a slow boil the entire time, the vocals low in the mix like the singer is trying to escape from quicksand. It sounds like he makes it out for the b-side, “Give It All to Me,” which speeds things up a hair and brings the vocals out front for a more melodic, NWOBHM-style chorus. A real fist-pumper.

G.U.N.: demo cassette (Sikfuk Reckidz) Demo cassette from this hardcore band out of Nashville that sees two members of No Way Records’ Life Trap returning to their hardcore roots. G.U.N. recorded these tracks live to analog tape, and the audible hiss and live-in-the-room feel bring to mind Don Zientara’s classic recordings at the original Inner Ear studios, particularly Bad Brains’ Black Dots. G.U.N. has a lot more stylistic range than your typical early Dischord band, though, as you might expect given the fact that at least a few of the members have been playing hardcore for nearly two decades. The opener, “High Horse,” reminds me of early Articles of Faith; it’s wicked fast and pure hardcore, but its gloomy, slightly melodic vibe is more complex and mature than your typical rage-out. “Streetbait” is punkier, reminding me of Sick Pleasure, while the tape finishes out with “Killing Spree,” which adapts the groove from Black Flag’s “Slip It In” and makes me think of Bl’ast! at their most furious. G.U.N.’s demo is raw and aggressive enough that USHC heads will love it, but there’s enough maturity and sophistication lurking in the background to make this of interest to more than just the HC die-hards. Highly recommended.

Ubik: Next Phase 12” (Iron Lung) I was a big fan of Ubik’s previous releases (all of which were on demos and 7”s), so I got excited when Iron Lung announced this debut full-length. Their earlier releases reminded me of Crisis’s catchy anarcho punk, and while there’s still a lot of that in their sound, Next Phase finds Ubik getting harder, faster, and punker. That’s the case for tracks like “New Disease” and “You Make Me Sick,” the latter of which is a pure hardcore rage-out with a ripping, noisy guitar solo. “Peter Dutton Is a Terrorist” starts out with the drummer on the toms and an eerie, goth-punk vibe, then segues into a Rubella Ballet-style catchy punk part, while the dark, catchy, and sophisticated “Shocking New Vision” sounds like something off one of those underrated later Subhumans albums. While there’s a good amount of stylistic breadth on Next Phase, the through-lines that connect every track are the catchy and aggressive shouted vocals and the always-interesting interplay between the guitarist and bassist, whose dynamic is riveting. I’ll be getting a lot of play out of this one over the next few months.

Featured Release Roundup: October 3, 2019

Clang!: Whac-a-mole 12” (self-released) Debut release from this band out of Tampa, Florida whose sound lies somewhere at the intersection of post-punk, no wave, and noise rock. More than a stylistic hodgepodge though, Clang! reminds me of those styles because of their heavy emphasis on rhythm. While some bands write songs around melodic progressions, others write songs around riffs, and still others might write around tempo changes, textures, or any number of other characteristics, Clang!’s music centers on groove. Each of Whac-a-mole’s twelve tracks takes a particular rhythmic motif and explores it inside out, altering and augmenting it and scraping out its insides. About half of the tracks are only around a minute and a half long, but on others (most noticeably on the nine-minute closer, “Gomorrah”), they stretch out and go deeper. When you hear a band like this that is adept at inventing and embodying rhythms, it makes you realize how monotonous most bands’ grooves are. Recommended for fans of the Slits, the World, Preening, the Ruts, Public Image Limited, and other rhythmically inventive punk music.

The Middle Ages: S/T 12” (Ripe) Debut release from this punk band out of Seattle. The members have a heavy resume, but I wasn’t familiar with any of their previous projects, so I went in to the Middle Ages fresh. What I found was unpretentious punk rock that sounds like it walked straight out of the mid-70s. While it’s not self-consciously retro, it still captures the classic sound of first-generation, pre-hardcore punk. In particular I’m reminded of bands like the Saints, the Stranglers, X, Generation X, the Jam, and the Replacements. These are bands who only had a negligible attachment to punk as a subculture, but found a natural affinity with it thanks to their appreciation of the fast, the loud, and the raw. Further, these bands had top-notch pop songwriting chops, which made their best material feel like instant classics. The Middle Ages shares those characteristics. I can’t think of any other current bands that sound this direct and effortless. If you’re a fan of the aforementioned classic groups, this is well worth checking out.

Distort #54 zine Latest issue of this long-running Australian zine. Cleveland punk has always preoccupied Distort, and this issue goes whole-hog, with 116 dense pages devoted to the topic. There are lots of reproductions of Cleveland punk ephemera, a healthy number of reprints of Clevo-centric material from earlier issues of Distort, and a few new additions like a lengthy interview with Craig Bell of Mirrors and Rocket from the Tombs. Rather than being formatted like a conventional punk book or other straightforward archival project, the issue examines Cleveland through what feels like a cracked and distorted lens, placing a kind of translucent psychedelic curtain between the reader and the source material. Much of the original writingtakes the form of faux YouTube comments written from dozens of different perspectives, some of them insightful and many of them dumb (mostly in a funny way). It’s a heavy-handed choice, but I think it was a great one, and I enjoyed reading this far more than I would have another dry oral history or faux-academic analysis (like, say, the one you’re reading right now). Over the years Distort has transformed from a well-done, albeit conventional punk zine to something more like high art, and it seems like that vision has culminated here.

Populists AKA Yan Wagner: Belgian Trip 12” (Detriti) More top-notch European electro from the Detriti label. Like most of the other stuff on Detriti, this has a heavy dance floor groove with the boom bap right in the foreground to get you moving. The Populists’ angle, though, is simple and minimal with 80s-sounding drum machines and synths, reminding me of being a kid in the mid-80s, rolling around in a circle at the skating rink while early hip hop like Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash pumped in the background. Like pretty much everything I’ve heard from Detriti, this is excellent.

Liquid Assets: demo cassette (self-released) Demo cassette from this new band out of Ottawa, Canada. With a sound that brings together aspects of slime punk, hardcore, and catchier garage punk, Liquid Assets reminds me a lot of Menthol, one of my favorite bands of the past several years. These eight tracks are dripping with grit and grime, yet there’s a fun, sunny counterpoint there to give it balance. The riffs are straightforward, mid-paced, and in major keys, but they’re banged out with an "I don’t give a fuck" attitude that reminds me of the New Bomb Turks at their loosest and most punk. Sometimes when I hear a record like this, it feels like it’ll fall in the cracks between genres, but this seems like one that could bring sub-scenes together. It just rocks that hard. Bonus points for gorgeous artwork courtesy of Josh Feigert (Uniform ATL). 

Chain Whip: 14 Lashes 12” (self-released) Latest release from these Canadian punks, and while I liked their 7”, this one blows it out of the water. While the word “hardcore” refers to a narrow band of heavy, metallic music these days, Chain Whip is a throwback to a time when hardcore meant playing snotty punk as fast as possible. Their approach reminds me of the FU’s in that Chain Whip isn’t afraid of melody, but a big melody or hook isn’t a requirement for every song. Thus, you get anthemic songs like “Amber Alert” and moody and melodic punkers like the Dead Kennedys-esque “Turner Street Ghost Motel,” but when Chain Whip wants to lay into a fast hardcore song, they don’t pull any punches, approaching these tracks with the ferocity of bands like Loose Nukes and Blood Pressure. Every once in a while there’s a record like the Zero Boys’ Vicious Circle, Career Suicide’s Attempted Suicide, or the Carbonas’ second album that seems to have everything that you want from both punk and hardcore. 14 Lashes is accomplished enough to stand alongside those monumental records.

Prolix Destruct: Shoreline 12” (self-released) Debut vinyl from this band out of Portland with a catchy, anthemic crust sound. Prolix Destruct has a member that played in the Minneapolis band Destroy, which is funny because when I checked out Shoreline I thought it had a very 90s vibe. I lived in Richmond, Virginia from the late 90s through the early 2000s, and Prolix Destruct sound like a band that could have played Richmond during that time. There were a handful of kids you’d see at, say, both an Avail show and a Tragedy show, and I could imagine those types of kids creating something like Shoreline. While it has all the forward momentum and heaviness of crust, the melodic lead guitar lines (which have a Chelsea vibe, but aren’t a million miles away from the classic Fat Wreck bands), dark chord progressions, and desperately shouted vocals also remind me of Strike Anywhere and bands of that ilk. Fans of Signal Lost and Burning Kitchen are also likely to enjoy Shoreline

Adderall: Versus Big Pharma 7” (11PM) Debut 7” from this Asheville, North Carolina band with a big and catchy sound. While Adderall has the 1-2 beats and catchy, snaky bass lines that I associate with pogo-punk, they’re so much bigger, tougher, and meaner than most bands of that ilk that you aren’t likely to see anyone comparing them to Asta Kask or the Swankys. Instead, they have the heavy-handed crunch of modern bands like Blazing Eye or Warthog that trade in big, pit-clearing riffs. The vocals are also a standout, a Sakevi-inspired inhuman snarl. I know Asheville, North Carolina is not the most hyped scene, but don’t let that stop you from checking this out. This band and this record are explosive.

Ill Globo: Check the Odds 7” (Aarght) Another week, another killer record from Australia. When will the deluge stop? Melbourne’s Ill Globo play amped-up, hardcore-leaning punk rock that reminds me of the Angry Samoans or Sub Pop-era Dwarves. While they have all the big, dramatic punches and snappy snare fills you want from a hardcore band, between those climaxes they squeeze in a ton of furious, Ramones-inspired downstrokes. While a lot of bands of this ilk go for a tight and precise sound, Ill Globo is looser and meaner, with squeals of feedback frequently interrupting the charge. Fans of the more hardcore-leaning Total Punk bands like Foster Care, Beta Boys, and Patsy should take note. In fact, if Total Punk hasn’t already contacted this band and asked them to do a record, they’re fucking up.

Featured Release Roundup: September 26, 2019

The Mind: Edge of the Planet 12” (Drunken Sailor) Debut record from this project band featuring members of heaps of bands, some of the most relevant of them being Homostupids, Dry Rot, Pleasure Leftists, and Cosmic Sand Dollars. The members’ resumes are relevant not so much because the Mind sounds like any of those projects, but rather because it sets the bar of quality high and raises our expectations that this will combine cerebral experimentation and punk-derived visceral power similarly to the above projects. The Mind is one of those bands you can’t pin a genre on; they occasionally (but not always) use danceable drum machine rhythms, catchy post-punk bass lines, dissonant guitar freakouts, breathy vocals, and electronic bleeps and bloops. The songs are catchy and often melodic, but I wouldn’t call them pop songs. Instead, I’m reminded more of groups like Portishead and Exploded View that bring the trappings of pop music into a krautrock / Velvet Underground-inspired / experimental format. However, those are analogies and not one to one correspondences. The Mind is its own thing, and Edge of the Planet is a gripping balance of experimental dissonance, sonic texture, and melodic sophistication.

Mick Trouble: It’s the Mick Trouble EP 7” (Emotional Response) Man, untangling the web of deceit around this record gave me a headache. The back of the record’s sleeve says it was recorded in 1983 and features Jowe Head of Swell Maps / Television Personalities on bass. The record sounds vintage (not fake vintage, but real vintage), but 1. these songs are so good that it’s hard to believe no one released them already, and 2. it’s such a blatant homage to the first Television Personalities album that it must be a product of the past-obsessed twenty oughts. Eventually I found this article that explains it all (TL;DR version: it was recorded in 2015), but I have to admit that I went down the Discogs rabbit hole looking for any mentions of one Mick Trouble in relation to Television Personalities, Swell Maps, and the associated universe of bands. So yeah, if you love early Television Personalities (and god knows I do!) this is about as perfect an homage / recreation as you will ever find. Some of it teeters into “rip-off” territory (the first track, “Second Offense,” for instance, incorporates a bit of the TVP’s “The Angry Silence”), but my attitude has always been that originality is of little to no concern when enjoying a pop song. It’s all about the hooks, those transcendental moments of pop bliss, and these four tracks are lousy with them. Yeah, it’s an imitation, but hardly a pale one.

Haircut: Sensation 7” (Beach Impediment) Latest EP from this Richmond, Virginia band who has moved to the hardcore big leagues and secured a spot on the great Beach Impediment Records. While Sensation is very much of a piece with their previous EP Shutting Down, there’s more 80s-style grit in the production and tighter, more powerful playing that can stand toe to toe with anything on their new label. Haircut’s not so secret weapon remains their vocalist Juliana, whose distinctive style gives these tracks a sense of liveliness that they might lack with a more typical hardcore barker.

Nosferatu: A Field of Hope 12” (Neck Chop) A Field of Hope is a “The First Two Years” compilation from these Koro-worshipping Texans, bringing together their debut EP on Lumpy with the very limited demo and rehearsal recording releases that they’ve put out over that time. There are several recording sessions compiled here so the sound can change from track to track, but it’s uniformly raw with the focus on the catchy guitars and frantic drums, with the vocals and bass always fighting for your attention. Even with such primitive-sounding recordings, Nosferatu sound explosive. Like Koro, they pack so much drama into their short songs, each one its own maze of dramatic punches, stops and starts, tempo changes, clipped leads, and off-balance lunges. With so much material crammed onto the record it blends together into a monumental, punishing whole, but you can drop the needle anywhere and find nothing but raw, face-shredding hardcore. Dabblers might want to opt for their proper debut LP (for which the US press is, frustratingly, still on the way), but if you follow fast, 80s-inspired hardcore in the year 2019 this record should be in your collection.

Ascending: Earthlings 12” (Detriti) 4-song 12” EP of killer, dance floor-ready instrumental darkwave. Detriti is a mysterious label (most famous for the YouTube sensation Molchat Doma) that presents little info for most of their releases, but this record from Ascending is enigmatic even by their standards. What I can tell you is that this is a quick blast with the emphasis on the pounding boom-bap rhythms, mastered loud enough that you can picture it rattling speakers in Eastern European squats. Like the Normal’s “Warm Leatherette” or Total Control’s “Paranoid Video,” the production is stark with not a lot of layers, the musical equivalent of a high-contrast photocopied collage rather than a detailed illustration. It’s simple and brutal, grabbing you by the hips and forcing you to dance.

Larma: S/T 12” (Beach Impediment) When this self-titled 12” from Sweden’s Larma dropped on the internet earlier this year it turned the head of pretty much anyone interested in classic-sounding Swedish hardcore of the Totalitär ilk. With the music composed by the mastermind behind Herätys and the vocalist from the almighty Skitkids the members’ pedigree is impeccable, but no one here is resting on their laurels. While the music is modeled on the classic Totalitär sound, it takes that sound even further with more complex, inventive riffing, masterful songwriting and arrangement, and a production style that strikes the perfect balance between gritty, raw, heavy, and clear. I’m tempted to say that this 12” is even better than any of Totalitär’s actual LPs. It seems to take every one of that band’s key ideas and take it to its logical endpoint. It’s like a beautifully shot slasher flick; the aim is brutality, but it’s brutality executed with elegance and attention to detail. One of the year’s best hardcore records for sure.

Trampoline Team: Kill You 7” (Neck Chop) Latest 7” from this prolific New Orleans band. If you haven’t heard Trampoline Team yet, they play lightning-fast punk that’s seems a little too catchy and Ramones-informed to qualify as pure hardcore, but with a velocity that would put all but a handful of hardcore bands to shame. Stripped-down, catchy punk songs delivered at seizure-inducing tempos… what’s not to love, right? You get four tracks here and they’re all burners. There are only a handful of lyrics to each song, so it’ll be easy to shout along with them the next time this hard-touring band hits your town. And make it a point to see them, because their shows are exactly the adrenaline rush you’d hope they would be.

Featured Release Roundup: September 12, 2019

Sudor: Causa General 12” (Beat Generation) Well, this was a nice surprise since I hadn’t heard new music from Spain's Sudor since their 2015 LP Enamorado De La Muerte Juvenil. From 2011 (when they released their brilliant debut LP, Ganas de Vomitar), through 2015 (when they seemed to become much less active touring and releasing records) Sudor were one of my favorite active bands. At that time, hardcore punk was even more enmeshed in retromania than it is now, and Sudor’s raw, visceral, and passionate punk stood out. They build most of their songs around  simple riffs, but Sudor has a knack for arranging their songs for maximum dramatic impact, traits that always make me think of classic Finnish hardcore bands like Kaaos, Appendix, and Lama. While it’s been a long time since the last Sudor record, Causa General sounds like the rest of the band’s discography. The recording is a little rawer, but everything else about the record is the Sudor that you (hopefully) know and love. Given that all of the records in their discography sound more or less the same, it’s tough to recommend one Sudor record over any of the others, but as someone hooked on the band’s sound I’m happy that there’s more to hear.

Sorry, no streaming link for this one!

Minima: S/T 12” (Static Shock) Debut record from yet another killer band from Barcelona. Minima features musicians from No, Una Bestia Incontrolable, and Barcelona, and while all of those bands have a loose and noisy sound, Minima has a precise, lock-step playing style. That style, combined with the 1-2 drumbeats, clean bass sound, and simple riffing, gives this LP a UK82 vibe in places, but I'm sure that’s a coincidence rather than Minima trying to ape a particular style. Minima sounds to me like the opposite of record collector punk bands that try to recreate a particular sound or era. Their songs are all hard and fast, but they’re different from one another. This isn’t d-beat or UK82 or mangel or USHC… it’s just PUNK. And while it has all of the explosive energy of, say, the Obsessio record that everyone is raving about at the moment, it doesn’t feel as boxed in stylistically. In that way, this record reminds me of buying my first Exploited record as a teenager, feeling like it (and I) was the punkest thing in the world while simultaneously having only a loose grasp of what I considered punk to be. If you’re looking for pure UK82 revival this won’t be on the nose enough for you, but if you’re after something more immediate and organic, this is a real sleeper hit.

Sheer Mag: A Distant Call 12” (Wilsuns) A Distant Call is the second proper full-length from  Sheer Mag, and if you don’t know them by now, you will never never never know them. Well, maybe you will, but if you’re reading this you’re well aware of Sheer Mag. So, what’s up with the new record? While their debut album, Need to Feel Your Love, felt like a conscious attempt to expand their sound after their well-received run of singles, A Distant Call is more focused. Tracks like “Blood from a Stone” and “Unfound Manifest” have the twangy mainstream rock sound that has garnered the band comparisons to Fleetwood Mac, while “Steel Sharpens Steel” and “The Killer” sound like what Jeff calls “cowboy boot metal,” i.e. those post-Appetite for Destruction bands like Bullet Boys and Junkyard that injected some Skynyrd-inspired southern rock riffs into the hair metal formula. While hard rock has always been part of Sheer Mag’s sound (see “Meet Me in the Streets” from the previous album), except for the closing track, “Keep on Runnin,” A Distant Call is leaner, tougher, and harder rocking than any other Sheer Mag record. The thing is, though, my favorite Sheer Mag songs are their most delicate tracks, i.e. songs like “Fan the Flames,” “Pure Desire,” and the title track from Need to Feel Your Love. The fluid lead playing and ethereal vocals make “Keep on Runnin” my favorite track on the record, but I wish that A Distant Call was tilted more toward these poppier moments than the big hard rock riffs. Still, no one can deny Sheer Mag’s ability to write a riff, a song, or a vocal hook, and those skills show no evidence of diminishing here.

Dernier Futur: S/T 12” (Cool Marriage) Debut release from this French band. Lately it seems like most of of the French music that we carry has an oi! vibe, and Dernier Futur fit that pattern. However, rather than sounding like classic minimalistic, anthemic French oi!, Dernier Futur has a more complex, melodic, and rather melancholy sound. While Dernier Futur sounds very French in some respects, they also remind me a lot of late 80s English bands like HDQ, Dan, Exit Condition, and early  (i.e. pre-Mush) Leatherface. I imagine the people who make this music wear old pea coats that smell like cigarettes, that they might have been skinheads when they were younger and while they still like their music loud and fast, these days they prefer a little more meat on the bone. One might also say that it sounds like a meaner, heavier, and punkier version of mid-period Husker Du, but that doesn’t get at how grey, industrial, and European this sounds.

U.R.S.A.: L'Esprit de la Teuf 12” (Cool Marriage)Debut release from this band from Lyon, France. U.R.S.A. is a bass, drums, synth, and vocal group that makes bubbly, high-energy punk songs that remind me of a modern version of Suburban Lawns or early B-52’s. The synth lines are very melodic—even approaching syrupy—but the high-energy drums and the rapid-fire vocals (that remind me a lot of Fay Fife from the Rezillos) provide the perfect counterpoint. If you’re into the weirdo party vibes of anything from Downtown Boys to BB Eye, I encourage you to give the album a shot.

Irreal: Fi Del Mon 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) At this point I have to assume that a significant portion of Barcelona’s population plays in a killer hardcore punk band. Here we have yet another one, Irreal, who play the type of heavy, raging, yet progressive hardcore that we love here at Sorry State. While their labelmates Obsessio are as lithe as an assassin, Irreal is more like a heavily armed mercenary. They deal in blunt force, but dole it out with an ease and confidence that belies their experience. This is clear on the longer tracks like “Ens Venen A Salvar.” That tack centers on a crunchy riff broadly in the Discharge tradition, but rather than just laying into it, Irreal dances across it, poking and prodding, finding different ways to accent and embellish it over the track’s two minutes and fifteen seconds. If you come to each new La Vida Es Un Mus release looking for something as smart as it is raging, this will get you amped.

Featured Release Roundup: September 5, 2019

Taiwan Housing Project: Sub-Language Trustees 12” (Ever/Never) Second album from this group from Philadelphia. I heard their previous one a few times, but I’m excited to sit down with Sub-Language Trustees, particularly since THP has made the jump to Ever/Never Records. I’ve been following Ever/Never for a few years now, and they are adept at finding bands who sit in the sweet spot on the continuum between weird / experimental and more straightforward and pop-oriented. Taiwan Housing Project is a perfect fit for the label as they have elements that remind me of musical experimenters of yore (Butthole Surfers in particular), but seem determined to push forward and make something their own. Sub-Language Trustees opens with “Charitable Fiend,” the record’s most avant-garde moment. The pounding, headache-inducing groove (if one can even call it that) is like early Swans with caterwauling vocals and skronking sax spewing ecstatic noise over top. A full album this abrasive would be an interesting (albeit tiring) experience, but by the third track, “Buy Buy Buy,” things are downright accessible. The track is bluesy with its wah-wah guitar, in-the-pocket rhythm, and Janis Joplin-like vocals, but like Fun House-era Stooges, this is dark, psychedelic blues, the music stretched to its breaking point. The rest of Sub-Language Trustees is full of surprises, and for all the out-there sounds and experimentation, there’s memorable music at the core, not unlike early Royal Trux in that respect. Recommended if you’re looking for something that challenges your brain while still gratifying your baser impulses.

Violent Party: Signals from Outer Space 12” (self-released) Latest record from this Portland noise-punk band who has been releasing records since 2011. Violent Party don’t seem to have much connection to the more well-known crust / hardcore scene in Portland despite having a lot in common with some of those bands, particularly Lebenden Toten, who push at the edges of the noise-punk style in similar ways. Rather than injecting noise-punk with psychedelic space rock like LT’s most recent record, though, Violent Party seem to be moving in a noise / power electronics direction, jettisoning the guitar for this recording. While that sounds like a radical decision for a noise-punk band, it doesn’t make a ton of difference to their sound, as they still follow the standard noise-punk format of having 3/4 of the band (drums, bass, and vocals) sound like a ripping hardcore band while the remaining 1/4 makes screeching, high-pitched noise over top. The noises here feel more interesting, presumably because they’re made with more appropriate tools than a guitar. I hear some feedback-drenched samples and what sounds like manual manipulation of phaser effects, which gives Signals from Outer Space more texture than your typical noise-punk record. It’s still a “deep heads only” type of thing, though it's worth checking out if you are more progressive and open minded rather than a purist.

Brain Tourniquet: S/T 7” (Painkiller) Debut 7” from this DC project featuring some familiar faces from that prolific scene, notably Connor and Robin from Protester (and a ton of other bands). This EP’s layout nods to the Crossed Out 7”, and if you come to Brain Tourniquet expecting tight (but not triggered or mechanical) blast beats, short songs, and unexpected and dramatic tempo changes you won’t be disappointed. However, this is far from a tribute record. In particular, I hear the members’ deep knowledge of hardcore coming through in subtle but unique ways, like the Cro-Mags vibes on “No Solution” or the Dwid-esque vocals on “Fate.” I think I saw the word “grind” mentioned in a description of this record, but Brain Tourniquet is pure hardcore to me, though like Heresy or Ripcord Brain Tourniquet pushes the tempos to the limit. I also love the clear but organic recording courtesy of CC. I don’t follow contemporary power violence, but this is worth a listen even for a dabbler like me.

Blood Loss: S/T 7” (Convulse Records) Debut 7” from this band out of Denver. I hear elements of SSD’s powerful and crunchy, Discharge-influenced sound, a little NYHC, and some Blazing Eye-esque pogo hardcore on one track (“Double Life”), all wrapped up in a bleak and gritty aesthetic. Blood Loss is hardly reinventing the wheel, but they have some memorable parts, particularly on the closing “Spineless / Relentless,” on which they work in some cool Negative Approach-style stops and starts and a burst of lead guitar. A ripping EP for those of you who love fast and tough, no-nonsense hardcore. 

Heavy Discipline: S/T 7” (Painkiller) Demo-on-vinyl from this Pittsburgh group featuring a bunch of familiar faces. You might think Heavy Discipline was from Boston, though, as they sound like an all-star jam session with Negative FX, SS Decontrol, and DYS. They have SSD’s crushing sound down pat, the catchy Choke-style vocals nailed, and DYS’s earworm riffs locked down. While some tracks hew pretty closely to their source material, I don’t see any reason Heavy Discipline shouldn’t wear their influences on their sleeve. Great songs, explosive performances, and a gritty recording from the Braddock Hit Factory. 

Featured Release Roundup: August 29, 2019

Inepsy: Lost Tracks 12” (Feral Ward) So, it turns out Beyonce isn’t the only one who can pull off a surprise album drop, as Lost Tracks marks the unexpected return of both Inepsy and Feral Ward Records. It’s unclear how active either entity will be going forward, but for now I’m happy to count my blessings. We last heard from Inepsy on 2007’s No Speed Limit for Destruction. While that album’s clearer production and emphasis on hard rock riffing over punk energy garnered it a mixed reception, history has been kind to it, and most people now regard it as an essential piece of the Inepsy canon. Inepsy did basic tracking for Lost Tracks in 2009, so it’s unsurprising that this sounds more like No Speed Limit than the grittier first two LPs. All seven tracks sound like classic Inepsy, which is to say they sound like prime-era Motorhead with a slightly different vocal delivery and a more political lyrical bent. “Fuck the Power and Glory” and “Horror on the Greyhound” are the fastest / punkest tracks on the record, but my favorite is the closing “Nuclear Nightmare” (which is a nice callback to an earlier lyric). This track has the slowest tempo on the record, but it also has its meatiest, most fist-pumping riff. We've sold a ton of copies already, so you probably don’t need my encouragement to pick this up. However, if you had any doubt, I’m happy to confirm that Inepsy is still Inepsy.

Booji Boys: Tube Reducer 12” (Drunken Sailor) Latest LP from this prolific band from Halifax, Nova Scotia. If you haven’t been paying attention, since 2016 Booji Boys has released three LPs, a slew of tapes and 7”s, and been hyped up by Iggy Fucking Pop. Their catchy lead guitar lines bear an undeniable resemblance to the Undertones, they record everything in true shit-fi(delity), and when you first hear it, it sounds like someone playing an AM radio in a loud factory. However, the songs reward your continued attention with criss-crossing earworm melodies. That’s Booji Boys in a nutshell. If you’re already a fan, I can confirm that the Booji Boys deliver more of the goods on this LP, though I sense some creative restlessness, particularly on Tube Reducer’s B side. It all still sounds like Booji Boys, but the songs are shot through with more quirky rhythms, tempo changes, and chaotic forays from which they’re always able to reel themselves back in the nick of time. You probably already made up your mind about Booji Boys and I don’t think Tube Reducer will change that, but if you’re a fan, it’s hard to imagine you won’t think this is the band’s most accomplished record.

Nightmare_ Thirsty and Wander_ 12” (540) Japanese hardcore legends Nightmare dropped this new full-length earlier this year as a CD on Japan’s long-running Blood Sucker Records, and now we have a North American vinyl pressing courtesy of 540 Records. Those of you who follow Japanese hardcore should already know Nightmare, but sketching out the band’s history and relationship to more familiar strands of Japanese hardcore music would take quite a while and would require someone who is deeper head than I am. To hit some highlights, though, Nightmare came to the world’s attention after releasing two truly great records on the legendary Selfish label (1988’s self-titled 7” and the landmark 1990 LP Give Notice of Nightmare), continued to release a series of excellent EPs throughout the 90s, went through a weird period where they incorporated a screeching, Albert Ayler-esque saxophone into their lineup (controversial for sure, but recommended listening for true freax), and now they’re back with this new album that sounds more like their classic record (Give Notice) than anything they’ve done since. Even at their best, Nightmare is something of an acquired taste as they aren’t as anthemic as the more well-known Burning Spirits bands and they don’t follow the Discharge template as closely as the most well-known Japanese crust bands. Instead, the key element of their sound (for me, at least) is a spiky, fractured sense of rhythm that reminds me of late 80s Italian hardcore like CCM’s Into the Void or Indigesti’s Osservati Dall'Inganno, or perhaps Gauze’s 4th and 5th albums. It’s heady, complex music that takes work to unpack, but it's some of the realest shit out there. Now, to get to Thirsty and Wander… it fucking rules! As I noted above, Nightmare hasn’t been afraid to mess with their sound over the years, but this record is no experiment. It’s the sound of a band at the top of their game playing the most complex, explosive music they can conjure and recording it clearly and powerfully. It is the old heads showing the young folks how it’s done, and a typically unpretentious rebuff to the bands who get it wrong. If you’ve gone deeper than the Death Side / Bastard / Framtid level of Japanese hardcore and you like what you heard, you need to get Thirsty and Wander.

Pronto: Pop Y Basura cassette (Desechable) You may recognize the vocalist of Mexico’s Pronto as Rafael from Canada’s Pura Mania, but you won’t find any of PM’s brilliant, anthemic punk here. Instead, Pronto draws from various threads of post-punk and electronic music, fusing mechanical and industrial-sounding dance rhythms with the power and menace of underground hardcore punk. The first four tracks feature a pounding, blown out drum machine and frantic synth rhythms, both recorded way in the red. The vocals carry little melody, instead channeling the desperation that I associate with 80s South American hardcore. It’s not unlike the Screamers’ best stuff, but not in a rip-off (or even a conscious influence) kind of way… both just have an overwhelming vibe of post-industrial, electronic menace. The fifth track eases the rhythm toward something more danceable and the vocals also back away from your jugular, sounding like a nastier, more underground version of Boy Harsher. The tape’s b-side weaves between field recordings that remind me of my travels in Mexico (though I’m not sure if that’s where they were recorded or not) and instrumental tracks similar to the more club-ready 5th track. I won't lie, Pop Y Basura is a weird little document that doesn’t fit into a ready-made scene (at least not one that I’m aware of), but the music is killer, and if my description set off any alarm bells for your particular tastes, I’d recommend checking this out.

Crucifixion: The Fox 7” (Splattered!) Reissue of this 1980 NWOBHM gem, spicing up the sleeveless original with a period-appropriate picture sleeve and and a big ‘ol poster insert. If you’re someone who has built your collection of New Wave of British Heavy Metal reissues by picking them up from hardcore punk distros like Sorry State, this single is tailor made for you. Crucifixion have that classic NWOBHM sound that everyone loves, but they’re one of the punkiest sounding bands from that scene I’ve heard. Like you’d expect, both “The Fox” and it’s b-side “Death Sentence” feature classic riffs and anthemic choruses, but the raw production and gritty, growly vocal delivery are perfect for me. Diamond Head or Def Leppard this ain’t, but if you’re also picking up the new Inepsy LP, throw this into your cart for an appropriate chaser.

Under Attack: Through the Blade 7” (Iron Lung) Debut 6-song EP from this new Richmond, Virginia band featuring Dave Witte from Municipal Waste and Discordance Axis on drums. This isn’t metal, though, but pure hardcore punk with an “80s by way of the 90s” sensibility to it. The playing is tight (which we might expect… these folks are pros!) and the riffing combines the straightforward catchiness of something like Minor Threat with the beefier sound of more metallic hardcore. I’m reminded of the 80s-sounding bands from Portland-via-Memphis scene (particularly Deathreat) or several of the bands that Brian Stern has played in (Look Back and Laugh, Needles, Shit Coffins). You won't find any trend-hopping here, just no-frills hardcore punk for people who have been around the block a few times.

Featured Release Roundup: August 22, 2019

Civic: Selling Sucking 7” (Total Punk) These Aussies show you how to do a Total Punk single on their latest! The a-side is a total ripper, basically a hardcore tune with a little rock-and-roll lead guitar that pops up here and there and nasty vocals recorded way in the red. Fans of peak-era New Bomb Turks will love this, but it’s even meaner and more ripping. Civic slow things down one wispy hair on the b-side, just enough for them to dig deeper into the pocket and add more heft. Like the best Total Punk singles it’s over before you know what hit you, but they don't waste a second. If you’re a fan of what Total Punk does, pick this up… I’d place it in their top tier of releases.

Benny and the Roids: S/T 7” (Discos MMM) Demo-on-vinyl from this Los Angeles group. This came out in 2015 as a demo and I don’t believe they’ve released anything since, so this one has been percolating for quite a while. This is some raw and nasty punk rock that sounds straight out of the UK circa 1979. While the gang vocals on the choruses are a clear nod to classic oi!, the riffs have a traditional punk rock sound and there’s more than a sprinkling of Heartbreakers / Dead Boys-style R’n’R swagger to spice things up. If you go to underground shows in Los Angeles, these songs are already anthems to you, but I’m glad they gave those of us who don’t live in perpetual sunshine a chance to catch on.

Frenzy: S/T 12” (Distort Reality) It’s been several years since we’ve heard from Portland’s Frenzy, but they’re back with their debut LP. As before, their aesthetic is silly and over the top (my favorite part is the track listing on the back cover, where they cover every letter in meticulously drawn studs, chains, and zippers), but the music is original and hardly a joke. Yes, they use pogo beats, but more often than not they’re played at blazing tempos that can sound more like Scum-era Napalm Death than Asta Kask or the Swankys. Further, their vocalist doesn’t grunt, scream, or squeal, but has a hardcore-style bark that reminds me of Pat Dubar from Uniform Choice. Or maybe if you can imagine a jam session featuring members of Straight Ahead (in particular the drummer) and Gai it might sound like this. I doubt Uniform Choice or Straight Ahead are influences, but getting at why Frenzy sounds so different from your typical noise-punk band requires a bit of creativity with your analogies. Beyond the sound, these songs build and release tension in the way only a talented veteran band like this can. Sure, there is a lot of mediocre noise-punk out there, but there are also plenty of records like this that are innovative, exciting, and a blast to listen to.

Powerplant: People in the Sun 12” (Erste Theke Tonträger) Second album (and the first to appear on vinyl) from this London group, and the only bad thing I can say about it is that every time I see the cover I get the song “People of the Sun” by Rage Against the Machine stuck in my head. Fortunately, the vinyl is always at the ready to purge that tune from my head. Erste Theke’s description of People in the Sun calls it a synth-punk record, but I think it’s a lot more than that. Sure, there’s a synthesizer on every track here, but these twelve songs run a wide gamut. “Hey Mr. Dogman!” and “In White” might deserve the synth-punk tag (and fans of Lost Sounds, Ausmuteants, or Nots will love them), but the sunny guitar riff in “True Love” reminds me of DLIMC, “Take My Money!” is like a lost Tubeway Army track, and the title track brings in some Ian Curtis-esque crooning baritone vocals. While I’m sure fans will have their favorites, the whole record is uniform in quality, which is particularly impressive given its stylistic breadth. With twelve tracks, this also feels more like an album than just a 12” EP, which is refreshing when records seem to get shorter and shorter as the years go by. Highly recommended if you like gritty underground pop music.

Future Shock: In Three Dimensional Space cassette (self-released) Demo cassette from this Chicago-area band that plays catchy, mean hardcore with a whirring synth bulking up the sound. The riffs are catchy, burly, and mean, reminding me of bands like Glue or C.H.E.W. in how they maximize intensity without sacrificing an ounce of catchiness. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention their fellow Chicagoans Droid’s Blood, as Future Shock sound quite a lot like Broken Prayer / Droid’s Blood’s most vicious moments (though Future Shock don’t have any of the darkwave / post-punk trappings). The recording is loud and powerful (it causes everything on my coffee table to rattle around even at a moderate volume) and may well inspire you to break something. If that sounds like a good thing to you, I recommend picking this up.

Maladia: demo cassette (Cold Comfort)  Demo cassette from this UK band that splits their time between pogo-fueled hardcore and brooding death rock. After a short intro, “Gelded Eyes” draws you in with its seasick guitar and Rozz Williams-esque vocals, but as soon as you’re comfortable Maladia drops into hardcore gear for the next two tracks, whose catchy riffs and wide-open pogo beats remind me of the almighty S.H.I.T. Maladia is a talented hardcore band, but they’re even better when they brood, which they do brilliantly on the last two tracks. The indisputable climax is the closing track, “All Your Dead,” whose lumbering, later Black Flag rhythm gets broken up with seemingly random bursts of chaotic semi-blast beats while the lead guitarist weaves through like Greg Ginn on a strong hit of acid. The way Maladia combines catchiness with a strong avant-garde sensibility on this track reminds me of one of my all-time favorite songs, “A Human Certainty,” the closing track on Saccharine Trust’s Paganicons. If you’re a fan of older death rock like Christian Death or UK Decay or gloomy newer bands like Subdued, Maladia is well worth a listen.

Featured Release Roundup: August 8, 2019

Lost Sounds: Black Wave 12” (FDH) This notable part of Jay Reatard's discography is now back in print thanks to FDH Records (the label who released it back in 2001, Empty Records, ceased operations some time ago). Lost Sounds is Jay Reatard’s third most famous project (after his solo work and the Reatards), and with the band receiving a lot of his creative energy through a big chunk of the early 00s, the project is an essential piece of the puzzle for anyone hoping to understand his music. If you’re a fan of Jay’s other work, there are several songs here that will do it for you: “Plastic Skin,” “Do You Wanna Kill Me,” and “Dark Shadows” (among others) are all great tracks that, while not achieving the heights of Blood Visions, are great punk songs. Lost Sounds is best appreciated, however, not as a prequel to Jay Reatard’s solo work, but as their own thing. Not only are the other players’ contributions substantial (particularly Alicja Trout), but also Lost Sounds had a particular framework they were working in, combining synth bleeps and bloops (long before you saw a Moog or a Korg at every basement show) with garage-punk hooks, stadium rock dynamics, and a bit of black metal vibe. Critics tend to overstate the black metal thing, but it comes out strong on “I See Everything,” and it’s a sound that I wish the band had played with more. Black Wave is an ambitious double album with a lot of material on it, and while it’s probably only the super fans who will love every second, there’s a ton of great material here.

Grauzone: Live at Gaskessel 12” (Winterschatten) Just last week I was raving about Grauzone’s Eisbär in the newsletter, and then we get this excellent reissue of a 1980 live gig in the band’s native Switzerland. While “Eisbär” is a minimal synth masterpiece, this live recording captures a different side of the band, relying on more familiar rock band instrumentation and a grittier post-punk vibe that reminds me of early recordings by Warsaw and Joy Division. The sound here is excellent—better than a lot of bands’ studio recordings, even nowadays—and while some songs are stronger than others, anyone with more than a passing interest in the post-punk era will enjoy this front to back. Interestingly, while the scratched out matrices indicate this is a bootleg, it comes with a 20-page booklet full of archival material about the band (which is, sadly for me, all in German). Post-punk deep heads should jump on this one quickly before it’s gone.

No streaming link for this one, sorry!

Mower: S/T 12” (Japanese Edition) (Splattered! Records) Mower is a d-beat rock-and-roll band from Pittsburgh, and this is a reissue of their self-released debut 12” from last year. You don’t see many reissues of year-old records, but this one makes sense; the original version didn't get around much, the reissue adds much improved packaging and two extra tracks, and the new label is a perfect fit for the band. Speaking of which, Splattered! Records has been making a name for themselves reissuing classic NWOBHM singles, and while that’s not exactly Mower’s style, the band’s amped up, Discharge-inflected Motorhead-isms will appeal to the folks who picked up those reissues. To me, Mower sound like a mix of Annihilation Time’s rock riffing, Inepsy’s hard-charging rhythms, and Midnight’s grittiness; if you drew a Venn diagram of those bands’ styles, Mower would live in the little spot where they all overlap. If you’re a fan of that style, this is a top-notch take on it you’ll no doubt enjoy.

Rakta / Deaf Kids: European Tour 7” (Nada Nada Discos) Released for their recent joint European tour, I believe that this isn’t a split 7”, but a collaboration featuring two tracks with members of both Brazilian groups playing on each. However, I’m not positive about that. I can tell you that each of these two tracks are as brilliant as Rakta’s incredible recent LP, Falha Comum, though they take the echo-drenched dreamscapes on that album and add a ton of percussion and (on the b-side) a bit of industrial-sounding guitar; presumably these contributions come from Deaf Kids as they aren’t a typical part of Rakta’s sound. Like Falha Comum, the vibe is similar to Public Image, Ltd. at their very peak, though these two songs are even more layered. The packaging is minimal—I thought the sleeve and labels were blank until I noticed the band names and track titles printed on the inside of the sleeve—and while it’s a shame that it doesn’t have striking artwork a la Falha Comum, the music is more than great enough to stand on its own.

Mentira: S/T 7” / Flexi (Nada Nada Discos) Second EP from this minimal synth project featuring former members of Gattopardo and Rakta. This is on the minimal end of minimal synth, with a Casio keyboard, drum machine, bass, and vocals. The music is mechanical and monochromatic a la a lot of early minimal synth, but like the best groups the vocals carry the tracks. Nowhere is this truer than on “História Sem Graça,” the track on the bonus flexi that accompanies this single. Here, the vocals latch onto a memorable melody and the synths let in a little sunshine. A low-key record, for sure, but recommended for fans of minimal synth.

Pleather: S/T 7” (Feral Kid) Debut single from this band out of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. While that city is the unlikely locale of a fertile hardcore scene, Pleather are more of a punky, jangly, and home-spun power-pop group. The two songs here are the opposite of flashy: the drummer holds a steady beat, the guitarist bangs out the chords with an occasional single-string lead, and the bassist follows the same rhythm and progression. However, the minimalism only serves to highlight how great and catchy these two tracks are. Pleather reminds me of Australia’s Parsnip in that their overall vibe is sweet and sunny, but there’s enough grit there to keep things from becoming twee. If you love simple, well-constructed pop tunes, these two tracks will find a loving home in your collection.

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Tom Bonauro: Polaroids book (Vague Absolutes) Vague Absolutes is a division of Warthog Speak Records focusing on small-run editions of items of niche interest, and this is their first non-record project. This is a beautiful little art book collecting 27 Polaroid photographs taken by Tom Bonauro in the late 70s and early 80s. While the book doesn’t include much info—its stark, minimal design places the emphasis squarely on the photos themselves—you’ll recognize several famous faces like Darby Crash, Joan Jett, Tomata Du Plenty, Penelope Houston, and Patti Smith. More important than who the photos depict, though, is how they’re depicted. These snapshots aren’t publicity shots, but candid photos of friends hanging out. They capture a surprising amount of historical detail given the technical limitations of Polaroids, but I find myself paying more attention to how beautiful the photos themselves are. This is a slim volume, and it’s expensive, but it’s beautifully executed, feeling more like something you’d pick up in a museum gift shop than a rough-hewn punk zine.

You can't stream a book, dummy!

Featured Release Roundup: August 1, 2019

Various: Complete Death Live 12” (Euro Import) Another month goes by and we get another Japanese hardcore bootleg from some obscure corner of the world. This one is interesting as it goes a little further than the typical “press the officially reissued CD to vinyl” theme. Complete Death was a VHS release featuring live sets by several legendary Japanese hardcore bands at one of the most exciting times for the scene. No doubt you’ve seen the amazing Death Side footage, which I believe comes from this show. The video stuff is amazing—pro-shot with good lighting and multiple cameras—but the audio sounds great too. This LP collects the audio from Sqwad, Outo, S.O.B., and Poison Arts. While it’s not a studio recording, the audio quality is top-notch and well worth hearing if you’re a fan. The only one I wasn’t familiar with was Sqwad. They were a band featuring ex-members of Ghoul, whose song “Oi!” they do here, and their two originals also sound like a Burning Spirits-ified Ghoul. Outo, S.O.B., and Poison Arts are all at the top of their game, and Outo in particular delivers a ripping set of tracks. This is well worth your time if you’re a Japanese hardcore head, and here’s hoping we see a second volume with the Tetsu Arrey, Death Side, Final Bombs, and Systematic Death tracks also on the original video.

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The Natural Man Band: Living in a Chemical World 12” (Lumpy) After a tape and a 7” on Neck Chop (billed as “Natural Man and the Flamin’ Hot Band” on both), we get the debut 12” from this Kansas City group featuring Ian Teeple from Warm Bodies on vocals and synth. Living in a Chemical World reminds me of bands like the B-52’s and the Suburban Lawns (and contemporary bands like the World) in that they sound joyous and alive, partaking in the amped-up energy levels of punk rock with none of the heaviness or macho posturing of hardcore. While it’s super melodic, there’s so much going on in the music that it never sounds poppy… the vocals are way down in the mix and catchy melodic lines often cross-cross and buzz past one another faster than you can process them. While the band makes a big sound, the saxophone is often the focal point, and I like when the other instruments harmonize with the saxophone lines, which happens often. The Natural Man Band is doing their own thing, and if you like your punk out there, original, and high energy, this is a solid grip. Great artwork, too!

Sorry, no streaming link for this one either!

Cement Shoes: Too 12” (Feel It!) Debut 12” from this Richmond band featuring members of Fried Egg, Brown Sugar, and heaps of others. I could be brief and say that Cement Shoes sound like a band influenced equally by 80s hardcore and hard rocking US proto-punk, but that isn’t the full picture. There’s some intangible quality of Cement Shoes’ music that I can’t seem to put my finger on… a slithery, seedy weirdness that sounds like no other band. The riff-tastic, anthemic “Mine Mine Mine” is the record’s highlight for me, but even when Cement Shoes are laying into some straightforward 80s hardcore bashing they sound totally singular. I don’t think I can do any better than the label’s description of their sound: “a sonic rendezvous where the ’83 LA cast of punkers from “Suburbia”, “Funhouse” era Stooges, Alice Cooper Band, Totalitär, and Cider are all invited.” Too also has a warm sound befitting its 70s rock influences (they recorded it at the same place as the Fried Egg LP, live to analog tape) and artwork that’s as head-scratching as the music. Cement Shoes are a band that’s too weird for this world, but if you live on the fringe, this might be your soundtrack.

Rat Nip: demo cassette (self-released) It’s been a gnarly month for Pittsburgh hardcore releases, but I hope you haven’t reached your listening limit because Rat Nip are just as much worth your time as Loose Nukes, Drug Lust, or Detainees. While all of those bands clearly take a lot of influence from 80s US punk and hardcore, they each have their own take on the sound. Rat Nip is a little heavier and slightly metallic, and when you combine that with the gritty recording on this demo you have something that reminds me a lot of early material by New York hardcore bands like the Abused, the Mob, and Agnostic Front (though other heavier, meaner hardcore bands like SS Decontrol or DC’s Youth Brigade could also serve as references). Five songs, six minutes, and a complete absence of bullshit. Highly recommended if you like hardcore.

Grauzone: Eisbaer 12” (WRWTFWW) Perfectly-executed reissue of the 1981 debut EP by this German post-punk / minimal synth band. “Eisbaer” is a minimal synth masterpiece, and if you like records like the Normal’s “Warm Leatherette,” Solid Space’s Space Museum, or Visage’s “Fade to Grey,” you need this song in your collection. Like Visage’s “Fade to Grey,” it’s a glossy take on the sound, with loud, thumping drums that will dominate any dance floor. And over that pounding beat you’ll hear synth lines as straightforward and as memorable as any foundational rock and roll riff. While the two tracks on the b-side don’t quite reach the heights of “Eisbaer,” they’re well worth your time. Like I said, this is an all-time classic, so if you have a minimal synth collection, this needs to be in it as much as the Sex Pistols or the Bad Brains need to be in your punk collection.

Featured Release Roundup: July 25, 2019

Pleasure Leftists: The Gate 12” (Feel It) Fourth 12” release from this Cleveland post-punk band, coming a full four years after their last one, The Woods of Heaven, on Deranged Records in 2015. If you are familiar with Pleasure Leftists’ previous records, you know they have a well-developed style: a melodic take on post-punk with powerful, Siouxsie-esque vocals, heavy chorus on the guitar, and memorable bass lines over a steady drumbeat. A lot of bands have copped this style, but Pleasure Leftists were way ahead of the curve when their first record came out in 2011. The Gate continues to explore that framework, with the band finding new wrinkles without changing their style. The opening track, “In Dreams,” is one of the most melodic the band has ever done, with a sound fit for mainstream radio, while tracks like “Try the Door” and “Phenomenon” feature complex, almost math-y interplay between the guitar and bass. Pleasure Leftists are very Rust Belt in their approach, continuing to ply their trade and hone their craft despite the prevailing winds of larger musical trends. Pleasure Leftists fans will certainly want to check out The Gate, but even if you’re new to the band this is as good a place as any to dip into their discography.

Asid: Pathetic Flesh 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Debut vinyl from this UK hardcore band. Asid is a 5-piece with a big and burly sound, and while they scatter a few interesting lead guitar parts across Pathetic Flesh (like the dive bombs on “Cave to Pressure” or the more metallic lead on the title track), they use the extra heft to make their simple and brutal riffs sound even burlier rather than adding rhythmic or harmonic complexity. This bulldozer approach gives moments of Pathetic Flesh an early death metal vibe, which I imagine isn’t an influence so much as a common approach of making music as primitive, brutal, and punishing as possible. More obvious influences are early Agnostic Front (particularly on the first track) and S.H.I.T.’s catchy pogo-hardcore (“Bootlicker”). For me, the highlights are the off-kilter main riff on “Paranoia Puremania” and the cacophonous closing track “Riastrad,” which reminds me of the reprise of the title track at the end of Discharge’s Why?. While Asid doesn’t reinvent the wheel, Pathetic Flesh maintains the standard of quality we expect from La Vida Es Un Mus.

Pscience: S/T 12” (Space Taker) Debut LP from this New Orleans band featuring a bunch of familiar faces from the city’s fertile garage-punk scene. The sound here is punky new wave with a raw, late 70s-sounding recording. While some synth lines sound like something Ausmuteants might come up with, Pscience has a grimier sound closer to bands like the Units, Nervous Gender, or Metal Urbain’s catchier moments. Any song might contain a memorable guitar, synth, or vocal line, with all three often competing for your attention. I love when bands have a layered sound like this; every time you listen you discover something your ear hadn’t caught before. The vocals and lyrics are also great, spitting out witty critiques of modern consumer culture from what appears to be a scientist’s perspective. If you follow the current New Orleans punk scene and / or if you like a lot of the catchy new wave-influenced punk coming out of Australia over the past few years, I recommend checking this out.

Anemic Boyfriends: Fake ID 7” (HoZac) Reissue from this early 80s Alaskan punk band… in fact, Anemic Boyfriends might be the only punk band I’ve ever heard from Alaska. While this single borrows the front cover artwork from the band’s “Fake ID” single from 1981, it collects the a-side from that single and the b-side from the band’s first single from 1980, presumably because these were the band’s two strongest tracks. “Fake ID” is a ripper for sure, a Runaways / Dolls / Stones-influenced proto-punk (in sound, not chronology) track with a catchy riff, memorable vocals, and seedy lyrics that, even being sung by a woman, sound a little creepy in 2019. Still… hot track. The b-side is similar (right down to the lyrics) and while not as strong is still well worth flipping the record over for. Whether you’re checking this out because you like Detroit-influenced proto-punk like the Dogs or Destroy All Monsters, because you’re interesting hearing early punk made by women, or because you want to hear what an Alaskan punk record sounds like, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Constant Mongrel: Experts in Skin 7” (Upset the Rhythm) After lighting up the DIY punk scene with their recent LP on La Vida Es Un Mus, here’s the follow-up single from this Australian post-punk band. The a-side is a brooding post-punker with a Crisis-type catchy lead guitar line repeated for the entire length of the track. While the guitar doesn’t modulate at all, the song gradually builds in intensity, climaxing with a burst of saxophone in the final section. The b-side is more pop-oriented, with a punkier guitar sound balancing out the more melodic vocals. It’s a brief single, but worth your while if you’re a fan. Oh, and it’s limited to only 400 copies so don’t sleep.

Pobreza Mental: Ya No Me Pertenezco 7” (Toxic State) After an excellent demo back in 2017, we get the debut vinyl from New York’s Pobreza Mental. I’m glad this one stayed in the percolator for a while, because it displays a notable amount of range across its five tracks. I hear some of the off-kilter rhythms of contemporary Spanish punk bands like Una Bestia Incontrolable, a lot of the wild sounds of early South American hardcore, and some catchy UK82-style riffs. While some moments sound primitive, others like the inventive drumbeat in “Tormenta” and the ripping guitar solo starting “Nowhere to Go” are more ambitious. While Ya No Me Pertenezco is unpretentious in its delivery, this is a record packed with surprising twists and turns. And, as per usual with Toxic State, the gritty recording, beautiful artwork, and handmade packaging are all 100% on point.

Detainees: S/T 7” (Double Man) More killer 80s-style hardcore punk from Pittsburgh. While Loose Nukes are more raging and Drug Lust are a little heavier, Detainees work the catchier end of the 80s punk angle. The five songs here bop along at a pace that’s sprightly but not harried, the riffs have a classic 80s punk feel, and the vocals are raw but melodic, often following the same melody as the guitar riffs. It reminds me of the catchier bands of the early to mid 00s hardcore scene: Regulations, Social Circkle, Acid Reflux, etc. 5 songs with the no-bullshit presentation you expect from this style.

End Result: The Seven Year Locust Returns 12” (Alona’s Dream) Vinyl reissue of this 1982 cassette, which the band only circulated among their friends in the Chicago area. While I’ve seen End Result’s name crop up in discussions of early Chicago punk, they sound nothing like the big names I associate with that scene: Naked Raygun, Effigies, Article of Faith, Big Black, etc. The label’s description pegs End Result as a no wave style band, but they don’t sound like the Contortions or DNA. Instead The Seven Year Locust Returns sounds like a total deconstruction of music. The tracks appear chronologically, the first from September 1980, and the last track coming from July 1982. This running order emphasizes their process of deconstruction; while the first track, “Children Die in Pain,” reminds me of the bleakest moments of early Joy Division, it’s by far the most conventional track on the record. While you’ll hear guitar, bass, and drums (as well as some trumpet and more ambiguous noises), there’s nothing here that sounds like a conventional rock band. Sometimes it’s formless, like the Velvets-esque jam “Let Them Eat Cake,” while other tracks hang around a minimal structure reminding me of minimal synth music. It’s clear End Result were trying to go as far out as they could, and each successive journey took them further and further away from whatever rock-isms they may have began with. The one constant is the menacing, often frightening, vocals, which remind me of Tomata Du Plenty from the Screamers or Bruce Loose from Flipper. The only catch is the recording is very primitive. While I’m not positive, these sound like primitive rehearsal room recordings, which blunts the impact somewhat. Still, historians of Chicago punk and/or the wider no wave / outsider punk scene will find value here.

Sorry, no streaming link for this one!