Wipers: Tour ’84 12” (Jackpot Records) You might have missed it because it came out this past Friday, the day before Record Store Day, but Jackpot just reissued the Wipers’ Tour ’84 album. These recordings originally came out as a very limited cassette on Greg Sage’s Trap Records, then were released as an LP on Enigma Records in 1985 (that version just features the Wipers’ logo on the cover, so sometimes this album is also referred to as self-titled). While Restless / Enigma released the Wipers’ next few albums, they had released none of the band’s previous three records, which most fans regard as the most essential Wipers records. Since Restless / Enigma was a bigger label, for a long time I saw copies of this record in used bins way more often than the Wipers’ actual first three albums. I wonder how many people picked up Tour ’84 as their first Wipers record, particularly after Kurt Cobain repped the band? I think this album is great, but it shows a different side of the band than the first three albums (which, thanks to various reissues and streaming, are now easily available). Those three albums have a sense of precision that isn’t as present here. The early recordings aren’t super polished, but they feel very locked in and precisely performed. By contrast, these live recordings find the band in a looser, more visceral mode. I love the albums, but I love this side of the band too. I think I’ve read that Greg Sage is a big Jimi Hendrix fan, and you hear that on these live versions. The fidelity is great (it says Greg Sage mixed them, so they must be multi-track recordings), and even better there are three songs that weren’t on any of the Wipers’ studio albums. They’re pretty cool and worth hearing, though, “Moon Rider” bears more than a passing resemblance to “Romeo.” This no-frills reissue doesn’t even have an insert, but it’s on pretty pink vinyl and it sounds great. You’ll want the first three Wipers albums before you pick this up, but if you’ve digested those, Tour ’84 is an essential piece of the Wipers puzzle.
Paranoid: Kind of Noise 12” (Viral Age Records) Paranoid’s Kind of Noise 7” came out as a tiny, 250-copy edition back in 2019. Of course that release sold out immediately, so Viral Age Records from the UK has stepped in and reissued it as a one-sided 12” with the two tracks from Paranoid’s Kaos flexi, which seems even harder to find. If you’re wondering what era of Paranoid this comes from, that’s a kind of complicated question. Kind of Noise came out in 2019, after Heavy Mental Fuck-up! and Cover of the Month found the band moving toward a metal / rock-influenced sound a la Venom. However, Kind of Noise was full-on d-beat, sounding like Paranoid was taking inspiration from noisy Japanese bands like Zyanose and D-Clone. I really liked Kind of Noise when it came out, and this expanded 12” version is even better. In addition to the extra songs, the packaging gets some nice upgrades including a beautiful obi, a glossy jacket, and a heavy PVC sleeve. If you’re missing these gems from deep in Paranoid’s discography, I’d jump on this release while you can.
Sublevacion: S/T 7” (Discos Enfermos) Discos Enfermos brings us the debut release from this Barcelona band. My first thought when I listened to this record was “man, this sounds old as hell.” I mean that in the best way possible. There is very little here to tip you off that this wasn’t recorded in the early 80s… no modern production touches, no straight edge-y breakdowns, no tips of the hat to bands that no one actually fucking knew about in the early 80s… just raw, furious hardcore punk. Like a lot of my favorite 80s hardcore, Sublevacion’s sound is rooted in Discharge and the Exploited. It’s easy to sound like a flattened-out version of what those bands did, but Sublevacion’s loose playing style and grainy, 4-track-style production give this record a lot of personality. I love the way the vocals clip on the loudest and most passionate parts, which gives the songs some extra dynamism. While I’m sure old hardcore nerds will love Sublevacion, the band’s direct and passionate sound doesn’t require a PhD in Hardcore Archaeology to appreciate.
Maladia: Sacred Fires 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Sacred Fires is the first vinyl release from this London band. There are several threads that run through La Vida Es Un Mus’s catalog, and Sacred Fires is of a piece with LVEUM alumni like Permission, No, Subdued, and maybe even Irreal and S.H.I.T. This is the dark shit, the nightmare music. The color is black, so what you look for are the textures and the shades. Maladia can be spooky, terrifying, eerie, sinister, and a bunch of other words that wouldn’t be out of place on a Facebook page promoting a goth night. But they’re also hardcore, meaning that they play with the heaviness and ferocity of bands like Rudimentary Peni and Crass. These five short tracks are a densely packed epic journey, long on detail but short on time to process it. I’m a sucker for these moves, and Maladia nails them.
Leopardo: Malcantone 12” (Feel It) Feel It Records digs into the worldwide underground again, sifting out Switzerland’s Leopardo from the silt. Aside from some Germanic accents, Leopardo doesn’t sync up with my limited knowledge of Swiss music (i.e. they don’t sound anything like Celtic Frost or Kleenex). Instead, they sound like they could have come straight from early 80s New Zealand. Like my favorite Kiwi pop, Malcantone seems grounded in the Velvet Underground’s subversive pop music, is aggressively eclectic (one track here is a solo banjo instrumental), heavily layered, and occasionally might get a little too saccharine for some tastes. Aside from the Velvets, I feel a noticeable Beatles influence coming through in parts of Malcantone, particularly the twee psych elements of Sgt. Pepper’s. It’s a similar mix of styles as the most 60s-influenced contemporary Australian bands, particularly Parsnip and Hierophants, and if you’re a fan of those records, you’ll love Leopardo. The packaging here is also up to Feel It’s usual high standard, with a beautiful gatefold jacket and detail-oriented design that provides enriching 3-dimensional accompaniment to Leopardo’s rich sonic world-building.
Sycophant: Innate Control cassette (self-released) Innate Control is the first release by this new hardcore band from Phoenix, Arizona. It sounds like Sycophant has spent plenty of time studying the Totalitär classics, but they don’t come off as a worship band, reaching further back to Discharge for influence (see “Black Smoke,” which they build around a “Protest and Survive” groove) or dropping in the odd wicked breakdown (“Warzone Mentality”). Sycophant draws from the same well of influences as recent Totalitär-inspired bands like Nervous SS, Scarecrow, and maybe even the Destruct and Lethal Means, and their song and riff-writing skills are top notch. Innate Control has a powerful recording, too, courtesy of J from Gay Kiss. With ten full tracks, this tape is longer and meatier than most 12”s these days, so if this is your style, jump on it!
Suurkaupungin Haitat: S/T 12" (Svart Records) Compilation of rare cassettes, originally released between 1979 and 1982, from this obscure Finnish punk band. I had never heard of Suurkaupungin Haitat before and (according to Discogs, at least), they didn’t have any vinyl releases before this new release on Svart Records, the chief archivists of Finnish music of many stripes. Suurkaupungin Haitat’s cassettes are so obscure they’re not even listed on Discogs, and I imagine were only distributed through small, local networks. Suurkaupungin Haitat isn’t the second coming of the Sex Pistols or anything, but I am loving this record and I’m stoked it exists. The songs are punky, but don’t stick to a particular style. Some sound like they’re grounded more in proto-punk (like the Velvet Underground’s more rockin’ songs or the early Stooges), while others have a poppier edge that puts them more in line with the Buzzcocks-influenced end of second-wave UK punk. Suurkaupungin Haitat reminds me of Swell Maps too, particularly given the fidelity; most of these tracks sound like single-mic room recordings. The recordings aren’t distractingly primitive, though; you can hear every instrument clearly and the drums and bass sound great. While I don’t think any of these tracks are masterpieces, all of them are enjoyable, and sometimes quite strong. The packaging is excellent too, including an insert with photos, ephemera, and an interview with the band (though it’s in Finnish so I can’t read any of it). This is a niche item, particularly given the import price tag, but I’m right in this target market.
Lost Sounds: Rats Brains and Microchips 12” (FDH Records) A few years ago FDH reissued Lost Sounds’s Black Wave album, and now they’ve done the same for Rats Brains and Microchips, my favorite Lost Sounds album. In case you’re unfamiliar, Lost Sounds featured Jay Reatard and Alicjia Trout from River City Tanlines. While those are reasons enough for the band to warrant your interest, they also had a schtick; they described themselves as “black wave,” which I took to mean they were combining new wave and black metal (I remember reading interviews with them where they talked about how they were into the 90s Norwegian black metal scene). One reason I always liked Rats Brains is because they lean into the concept harder on this record, and it sounds to me like they were self-consciously trying to incorporate influences from Norwegian black metal into their music. This was years before GG King seamlessly blended garage-punk and gloomy black metal, and the seams show more here. The songs that incorporate those elements sound choppy; the title track is a real odyssey that moves between several very different sections. This isn’t a complaint, by the way; those songs (the title track, “Tronic Graveyard,” “Dreaming of Bleeding”) are my favorites. They just sound fucking weird, and that’s accentuated by the grainy, abrasive production. The more straightforward, punkier songs are excellent too. This is Jay Reatard we’re talking about it here, and even though he was a few years from Blood Visions (one of the indisputably classic punk records of this millennium), the guy still had a knack for writing great hooks and songs. While FDH’s version is just a straight repress without the contextual information that accompanies many reissues these days, it adds an unreleased (instrumental) track.
The Smog: First Time Last Chance 7” (Episode Sounds) We last heard from Japan’s the Smog when they released a single on California’s Going Underground Records last year, now they’re back with a new single on the excellent Japanese label Episode Sounds. As I said when I wrote about their last single, I love the Smog’s sound. They’re like a Japanese version of the Marked Men, with a similar knack for alternating between jittery and melancholic modes that never skimp on big, melodic hooks. This single is a testament to how important design, packaging, and presentation can be to a record’s impact, though. When I listened to the digital version of this EP, I remember thinking that it was cool but kind of short. When I got the physical version, though, the packaging blew me away. It’s housed in a uniquely designed fold-out sleeve with beautiful two-color printing and liberal use of hand stamping on both the jacket and the center labels. It’s such a beautiful thing to look over that it made me listen to the songs more closely, and that made me appreciate them a lot more. They’re great songs, particularly the b-side. If you’re one of us who geeks out about the packaging on old UK punk singles that seemed so thought out and creatively executed, this scratches that same itch.
Chubby and the Gang: Lightning Don’t Strike Twice 7” (Partisan Records) Latest single from this UK band that seems to be blowing up. In case you haven’t been keeping up with Chubby’s gang, the group features familiar faces from London’s NWOBHC scene, but they’re not a hardcore band. They’re a pop band, but they play like a hardcore band. That’s but one way in which they remind me of Fucked Up; Chubby and the Gang sound to me like that period when Fucked Up seemed to have a real Undertones fixation, but if you swapped out the Undertones with Wilko Johnson and Dr. Feelgood. It’s anthemic shit. So much so that it’s started to catch on outside the hardcore scene. Pitchfork put the album on their Best of 2020 list and after starting out on Static Shock Records (a familiar name to Sorry State regulars) they’ve moved up to Partisan Records, home of Idles and Fontaines D.C., whose music I’m not familiar with but seem like proper indie bands to me. Anyway, you get an anthem in the band’s usual style on the a-side, but on the b-side we have a loungy track that isn’t punk at all. Here Chubby & the Gang don’t play like a hardcore band; they show a different side of the band, sort of like how the Buzzcocks’ “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” single showcased their more Can-informed material on the b-side. Will the hipsters appreciate it or is this just for the punk nerds?
Venganza: La Fiera 7” (Discos Enfermos) La Fiera is the latest 4-song EP by this long-running band from Saragossa, Spain. I’m not familiar with Venganza’s earlier material, but this is some ripping hardcore punk. Venganza isn’t too on the nose with any style. They remind me of Vaaska in that they have a fast, energetic sound that’s tough, but also integrates the anthemic quality of a lot of 80s Spanish punk. The production is full and clear without sounding too modern or too retro, and every song starts with a killer hardcore punk riff and builds to a catchy, chanted chorus. It’s a formula that’s as old as punk itself (older, really), but Venganza doesn’t feel like they’re rehashing a formula, but summoning the true punk spirit. I don’t see Venganza achieving flavor of the week status anytime soon, but those of you who are always down for solid international hardcore punk that hits all the right political and aesthetic notes will enjoy La Fiera.
Qlowski: Quale Futuro? 12” (Feel It Records) Quale Futuro? is the debut album from London’s Qlowski, and it’s a perfect fit with the thoughtful, progressive punk Feel It Records has been putting into the world. Qlowski’s sound is tough to pin down. They have two vocalists, each of whom has a distinctive texture and timbre, and the mix of instruments varies from track to track as well, with some songs centered on synth melodies, some around guitar, and some where the two instruments erupt simultaneously. While I’m sure there are several circa-1980 post-punk bands you could compare them to, they don’t sound like a post-punk revival band. Like their underrated London buddies Sauna Youth (whose Lindsay Corstorphine produced this album), Qlowski sounds impeccably modern, informed by the classics (how couldn’t you be in this age of information overload), but bent on pushing forward with fresh sounds and approaches. Another thing that strikes me about Quale Futuro? is how fully realized a record it is. It looks like Qlowski has been a band for at leave five years, and Quale Futuro? has a developed voice, but it also has a concept that ties together the music and packaging. The songs’ lyrics seem focused on the mundane struggles of modern metropolitan life, and the question in the record’s title contrasts this bleak existence with a future that is not only uncertain, but perhaps even worse than what we have now. This idea gets interrogated further in the zine that accompanies the record, which collects work from many artists and writers, all of which relates to that central theme. We live in a world where Bandcamp feeds and Spotify algorithms usher us onto the next thing, but Quale Futuro? is an album that rewards—even demands—your sustained attention.
Fugitive Bubble: No Outside cassette (Impotent Fetus) We carried a tape from Fugitive Bubble a while back and now they’re back with another, also on the Impotent Fetus label, which is an imprint of the Stucco Label that focuses on left-of-center punk rather than straightforward hardcore. While Fugitive Bubble isn’t as weird as the Pilgrim Screw tape we wrote about a few weeks ago, it’s a long way from straightforward hardcore. I hear similarities to the quirkier end of early west coast punk… bands like the Deadbeats and Suburban Lawns. Fugitive Bubble’s rhythms are fast and angular, the vocalists yelp out Devo-inspired melodies, and while it feels defiantly left of center, it’s also catchy as hell. I don’t think it would be inaccurate to label No Outside egg punk, but Fugitive Bubble sounds less like they’re obsessed with the Coneheads and more like they have a healthy appreciation for the weird punk classics. Fugitive Bubble seems like they’re full of ideas and they’ve developed a unique and interesting voice with No Outside, so I hope we hear more from them… maybe even on vinyl next time?
Asocial Terror Fabrication: Discography cassette (Doomed to Extinction Records) Just like the title says, this cassette collects the entire discography from this Japanese crust / grind band who started in 2005 and, as far as I know, is still going today. I’m not sure I’d heard of Asocial Terror Fabrication before, but that’s not surprising given that I don’t follow the grind or modern metallic crust scenes closely. This tape is pretty cool, though. Assuming the releases appear here in chronological order, Asocial Terror Fabrication started as a straightforward Doom / E.N.T.-style metallic crust band. Their take on the style is straightforward, but they have that Japanese way of taking the most distinctive elements and dialing them all to maximum intensity. After a few tracks, though, Asocial Terror Fabrication incorporates grind elements into their sound (without abandoning the crust), and this extra variety takes things up a notch. Grind can be a dirty word in some circles, but the grind elements ATF employs are lifted almost verbatim from From Enslavement to Obliteration. Both the blast beat parts and the sludgier breakdowns are very different rhythmically than the driving crust parts, and the way ATF bounces between those grooves keeps this exciting through a pretty hefty runtime.
Sarin Reaper: demo cassette (Dirtbag Distro Tapes) Four tracks of raw, noisy, and nasty metallic punk from Kansas City. There are a lot of things I like about this tape. First, it’s just disgusting. It has a particular ugliness that sounds to me like a cross-breeding of G.I.S.M. and an old Finnish death metal demo. The recording is super raw and the mix is a little odd (with a heavy emphasis on bass and vocals), but this works with Sarin Reaper’s style, which incorporates elements of hardcore, death metal, and raw thrash / porto-black metal a la early Sodom or Bathory. While aspects of these four songs are metallic, Sarin Reaper feels like a punk band through and through… they don’t have the commercialized sound of a lot of metal bands, nor does it seem like they’re being self-consciously “kvlt.” They just sound like a bunch of freaks ripping it and not giving a fuck.
Hounds of War: Rabid March 7” flexi (Chaotic Uprising Productions) You might remember Hounds of War’s tape from last year (also on Chaotic Uprising), and now they’re back with a 3-song flexi. As before, Hounds of War invites comparisons with Vice Squad thanks to the double-tracked vocals, the tempos they play at, and the riffing style. Rather than sounding like a rip-off or an homage, though, Hounds of War takes the best parts of Vice Squad’s sound (i.e. the aforementioned elements) and makes substantial improvements. They tighten up the songwriting (all three songs come in under two minutes), the riffs are more interesting, and the metallic yet melodic guitar leads add some spice whenever they pop up. The production choices—both in terms of the sound of the record and the artwork and packaging—are of a piece with the rest of the Chaotic Uprisings catalog, so if you’ve been paying attention to the label’s other releases (which you should!), you know whether you’re feeling their precisely executed aesthetic. These three tracks feel like they’re over as soon as they start, but that’s OK because this has already stood up to repeated plays on my turntable.
Heavenly Blue: demo cassette (Sewercide Records) Sewercide Records brings us more underground music from Canada’s Maritimes region. Given its regional focus (and a sparsely populated region, at that), Sewercide’s catalog is marked by stylistic diversity and a list of members that overlaps heavily between projects, and that pattern holds with Heavenly Blue. Heavenly Blue features members of Booji Boys (who also released a record on Sewercide) and they’re inspired by the big riffs, catchy choruses, and party vibes of 60s garage rock. It’s not as retro sounding as something like the Ar-Kaics, though; they sound more like the 60s-inspired / retro end of the 90s garage revival, and if they’d been a band 30 years ago, they’d be a shoe-in for a record on Sympathy for the Record Industry or Crypt. The recording is raw and nasty, the singer growls as much as he sings, and the songs are catchy and fun. Budget rockers, garage turkeys, and total punkers can all find something to like in Heavenly Blue.
Donor zine Issue 1 + The Shits 7” flexi (Donor) When I write about records for Sorry State I focus on the music, sometimes mentioning whether the artwork feels stylistically consonant or dissonant with the sound. I also try to mention when a release’s physical packaging is noteworthy since we love and care about physical media here. Much of the time, a release’s packaging can feel like an afterthought, at best providing appropriate window dressing for sounds that have received far more creative energy. This package, though, throws that dynamic on its head. If you look at this as an elaborately packaged one song flexi, it seems pretty silly. The Shits’ Brainbombs-esque track here is cool, but the zine that houses and accompanies the flexi feels much more labored over. It’s a 16-page, A4-sized zine that’s printed full bleed and looks stunning. While the zine incorporates live shots of the band, flyers for their gigs, and lyrics and artwork for the accompanying track, it devotes more space to collages and poetry (lyrics?) whose connection to the Shits (whose name, not coincidentally, isn’t even on the cover) is unclear. The zine is beautiful, and the song is cool, but what sticks with me here is the inventiveness of the entire concept.
Variolación: Frenetica 7 Tracks cassette (self-released) The description the band gave me along with this record says it all: “Very rudimentary hardcore, not reinventing the wheel, but making it roll at an alarming pace.” Variolación takes inspiration from Discharge’s riffing and drumming styles, but brings their own sense of passion to the style, with the primitive execution in the playing and recording bringing to mind the South American hardcore records that description also references. It sounds like something you’d hear on an old BCT tape, and as with those recordings, you’ll need to listen past the production if you want to let this get its hooks in you. If you like your hardcore raw and primitive, though, this is for you. Oh, and as far as I know the band hasn’t posted this recording to the internet, so you’ll have to jump in at the deep end if you’re curious.
Various: Molde Punx Go Marching Out: 1980-1983 12” (Diger Distro) Molde Punx was a tape compilation that came out in Norway in 1983, and here that rare document gets reshaped as a beautifully packaged double LP. Molde Punx captures the prehistory of the Norwegian hardcore scene, and while only two of the bands that appear here made records (Bannlyst and Anfall), according to the hype sticker, members of these bands eventually played in more widely known (though, in America, not by much) Norwegian hardcore bands like Kafka Prosess, Svart Framtid, and So Much Hate. Most of the bands on Molde Punx, though, count the compilation as their only formal release. All the groups here are punk, but there’s a wide range of styles, from nervy art punk to blistering hardcore and just about everything in between (or at least everything that existed at the time). As someone who appreciates the full stylistic spectrum of 70s and 80s punk and loves the minutiae of small regional scenes like the one documented here, I am fascinated by the whole thing and don’t feel compelled to skip a single track. Along with the wealth of music, the full-color, LP-sized booklet compiles photos, flyers, and other visual ephemera from the period, and it’s a joy to pore over even though I can’t read Norwegian at all. The execution is on the level of well-regarded reissue labels like Numero Group and Radio Raheem, and with a ton of killer bands you can’t hear anywhere else, this is an essential grip for me.
Joukkohauta: Joukkohauta 7” (Audacious Madness Records) First vinyl release from this band from Finland, and it is a no holds barred rager. I’m sure many people will be tempted to reference the Finnish classics given that Joukkohauta is from that country—and I’m certain bands like Kaoos and Destrucktions are inspirations—but Joukkohauta doesn’t seem concerned with recreating the past. The singer’s cadences remind me of Poffen from Totalitär and the all-out assault of the production is straight out of the Anti-Cimex playbook, but the riffing is more metallic with lots of palm muting and chaotic, Discharge-influenced lead guitar a la Disbones-era Disclose. Aside from a brief mid-paced section at the beginning of “Kello Käy,” this EP is a non-stop hardcore punk assault. This is limited to 300 copies and while it’s currently flying below the hype radar, I don’t see this one sticking around forever.
End Result: Hellfire 7” (Hardcore Survives) After a couple split 7”s and cassettes, Hellfire is the debut stand-alone vinyl from this crasher crust band from Los Angeles. End Result sounds like they’re from the D-Clone / Zyanose school of blistering raw punk noise, with some of Gauze’s twisty turn-y (maybe even choppy?) songwriting style thrown in for good measure. The sound is loud, raw, and blown out, but clear and present… piercing and biting rather than dull and muddy. Between the chaotic, overblown production style, the manic tempos, and the busy arrangements, I feel disoriented when I listen to Hellfire. It’s a record that doesn’t allow you to find your footing, throwing you off balance with unexpected changes in tempo and dynamics. You’d think it was just expressionistic gestalt until End Result stops on a dime and plunges into total silence at the end of “Control,” my favorite moment on the record. This is a fucking ripper.
Glitter Symphony: In Green Furs 12” (Meat House) This 6-song 12” from Glitter Symphony is my big surprise of the week. When I previewed it before I placed my order from Meat House it went in one ear and out the other, but after it arrived and I gave it an attentive listen or two, it sunk its teeth in HARD. I’ve already sold Jeff on this record and I’ve been singing its praises to anyone who will listen. The short story is that if you like Kim Wilde’s first album or similar early 80s new wave groups like Holly and the Italians and the Go-Go’s, you will flip out over this record. These six songs are all certified pop bangers that can sit alongside the strongest tracks on any of those releases, and if you like this style, you’ll play this record over and over. If you’re a history buff, the longer version of this record’s story is that it contains songs by two different projects: Sizon and Glitter Symphony, both of which were brainchildren of Susan Hyatt, who has had a long music career since. Sizon was a studio project that released a two-song single that got some local airplay in LA. Sizon featured session players (including the drummer from the Knack), so Hyatt formed a live band with some high school friends and called it Glitter Symphony. While the name and the players are different, the two Sizon songs and the four Glitter Symphony songs that appear here are indistinguishable from one another… they’re all pop bangers. The record’s insert reveals some other interesting music industry connections (Hyatt claims to have introduced Duff McKagan to Izzy Stradlin), but for me the brilliance of these songs is the selling point rather than some music history nerd shit. If you aren’t sold, listen to “Room of Flowers” or “Imagination” on Bandcamp, and when you find yourself humming it later, come back and buy this record.
Various: Welcome to Pittsburgh 12” (Cruel Noise) One of the—if not the single—best hardcore scenes in the country gets the monument it deserves with Welcome to Pittsburgh. Anyone who is paying attention knows that Sorry State has all the love for Pittsburgh punks… we’re always hyping bands from the city and we have (or are planning to) put out records by multiple bands on this compilation. So of course I love it! But I’d be saying that regardless of any personal connections because this thing just rips. I’m sure there are other things going on in Pittsburgh, but Welcome to Pittsburgh is composed entirely of fast hardcore bands playing fast hardcore songs. I wonder if they told every band to send in a short and fast ripper or if that’s just the way it worked out. You would think at least one band would have tried to shake things up; even This Is Boston Not LA has the Proletariat. Perhaps it’s just that everyone on the comp knew who they would be up against, because you get a-level tracks from all of my favorite current bands from Pittsburgh: Heavy Discipline, Living World, Loose Nukes, Speed Plans, Peace Talks, RAT-NIP, Necro Heads, Detainees, Invalid, De Rodillas, No Time, Chiller, White Stains, and S.L.I.P. Wrap things up in some rad Keith Caves artwork and throw in a zine where every band gets a page to put their visual stamp on the record and you have a 100% essential compilation record. Like This is Boston Not LA and Flex Your Head—the gold standards for regional compilations—Welcome to Pittsburgh works equally well if you don’t know much about this scene and you’re looking for a sampler or if you’re already a fan and you’re eager to hear new material from these bands. And as befitting a city that is punker than you, I don’t think it’s anywhere on the internet, so you have to buy the vinyl and get the entire experience… there’s no room for dabbling. Welcome to Pittsburgh is, without a doubt, one of the essential punk records of 2021.
Repeat Offender: Demo 7” (Mendeku Diskak) You can probably take one glance at the Nicky Rat layout on this 7” and know whether or not it’s for you, but I’ll expound a little further in case you want to confirm. Mendeku Diskak is a label from Basque Country that specializes in oi! music from that region, but they’ve stepped out of their normal lane to press this LA band’s demo to vinyl. It’s no surprise it appealed to them, because this is exactly the kind of hardcore you love if your tastes also include some oi! Repeat Offender reminds me of the oi!-tinged New Wave of British Hardcore and Boston Crew bands of a few years ago… bands like Violent Reaction, Boston Strangler, and the Flex. Their music encompasses bruising SOA-style bashers, more mid-paced knuckle-draggers, and a few songs with a rock and roll swing to them a la Negative Approach’s “Nothing” or the catchier early Blitz songs. Six tracks appear here, and everything is perfectly executed with the right mixture of power and grit. If you’re into this strain of purist hardcore, this record ticks every box.
Kolpeka: demo cassette (Mendeku Diskak) Five song demo from this young punk band from Basque Country. I could have stopped when I read in Mendeku Diskak’s description that Kolpeka is a bunch of 15- and 16-year-old skateboarders, because I knew I would love it. I’ve heard thousands of punk records in my 41 years on this planet, and I am confident I will never make anything as direct and as powerful as what a teenager does when they pick up a guitar after several hours spent hurling themselves at a curb over and over. Kolpeka’s music doesn’t sound like skate punk at all, though. It fits with the general oi! vibes of the Mendeku Diskak label, but there’s also a strong backbone of catchy, Clash-inspired punk I associate with the Iberian peninsula. Kolpeka’s major key riffs and chanted choruses remind me of the great Prision Postumo album that came out a few months back, but the playing is more primitive and tougher. In particular, I’m in love with the way Kolpeka’s drummer plays. He has a very minimal style, but seems to hit the kick so hard… it just drives you forward and makes you want to march into battle. Skateboarding, youth, punk… this one has it all.
Alien Nosejob: HC45-2 7” (Iron Lung Records) In an update full of ripping hardcore, Alien Nosejob’s new EP stands out as perhaps the most ripping of them all. To bring you up to speed, Alien Nosejob is a solo project by Jake Robertson of Ausmuteants, Leather Towel, Hierophants, and many others. If you’ve checked out Leather Towel’s killer album IV or the first of Alien Nosejob’s HC45 series, you know Robertson is no stranger to straightforward, ripping hardcore. However, HC45-2 is something else, even from the first record in the series. This record is just raging, full-on, pedal to the metal intensity. Robertson doesn’t have a clear precedent in the tradition of hardcore vocalists, and that means that even when his bands are playing at blazing tempos, they sound more like the Dickies than, say, the Neos. But on HC45-2 the vocals are lower in the mix and obliterated by chaotic guitar feedback, and Robertson takes a rougher and less nasal vocal approach. It still sounds like him, but it sounds like him after a couple of years getting bounced around juvenile detention centers. And the songs themselves are masterpieces of compositionally compressed, ultra-dynamic hardcore. This record leaps and lunges and plunges and explodes in all the right ways, an 8 minute thrill ride that holds nothing back.
Evil I: Official Bootleg 12” (Alonas Dream) Alonas Dream Records delivers another outta the ballpark hardcore punk reissue, this time an unheard 1983 ripper from suburban Chicago band Evil I. As far as I know, Evil I has never been reissued in any capacity, and if you knew Evil I before this reissue and you weren’t going to shows in Chicago in the 80s, I am seriously impressed at the depth of your knowledge. For me, they’re a totally new band, and I can’t believe something this killer has flown under the radar for so long. When I first listened to this record, I was blown away. While the recording is very raw, the band just fucking blazes. It’s not that they’re super tight—in fact, they’re pretty loosey goosey—but they are super fast and their songs are full of these changes that are quirky, tricky to execute, and extremely potent. The other standout aspect of Evil I is their vocalist, who sounds so fucking pissed. The singer reminds me of Julie Lanfeld from Sin 34, but with a maniacal, John Brannon-like level of anger. There isn’t much material here, which means I’m going to flipping this record a lot. Maybe I should buy two.
Silent Era: Rotate the Mirror 12” (Nervous Intent) California’s Silent Era has been around and releasing records for a while now—we’ve even carried most of them at Sorry State—but I feel like I’ve slept on them. I FUCKED UP! I cannot stop listening to Rotate the Mirror. I can see why Silent Era isn’t a hyped band, because their style of melodic hardcore is one that never caught on the US. They seem more in tune with a tradition of European bands who were rooted in the early 80s hardcore scene but, as that decade wore on, added more melody and complexity to their songwriting. I’m thinking of bands like Funeral Oration, HDQ, and particularly Norwegian bands like Kafka Prosess and So Much Hate (though Silent Era’s vocals are much more melodic than those bands). Not only did a scene for this style of music never catch on in the US, but also it lacks some immediacy because there’s so much going on. The riffs are dense and complex on their own and when you add equally complex vocal melodies and restless hardcore drumming (Silent Era’s drummer was the original drummer for fucking Vaaska!), it takes some time for your ear to make sense of everything Silent Era throws at you. Once you hear it, though, it makes other melodic punk bands sound flat and sterile by comparison. And for extra cool points, they end this blistering 20-minute record with an Upright Citizens cover, though not a fast one like “Swastika Rats…” instead they cover “Future Dreams,” one of Upright Citizens’ most melodic songs, and they nail it, possibly even improving on the original. I acknowledge this won’t be for everyone, but if it sounds like it might be for you, be sure to check out Rotate the Mirror.
The Serfs: S/T 7” (Market Square Records) You may remember a previous release, Sounds of Serfdom, by Ohio’s the Serfs; we carried a vinyl version on Germany’s Detriti Records and a cassette version on the domestic Wasted Tapes label. This time around they’re back with a three-song single on Market Square Records, who has brought us great releases from the Cool Greenhouse, Collate, and Suburban Homes. If you liked Sounds of Serfdom, you’ll want to check out this new single, but if you haven’t heard the band, they’re a little difficult to describe. While their songs revolve around a steady, metronomic pulse, some tracks (like the two songs on the a-side) have an organic, garage-y feel that sounds a little like the Oh Sees’ most Can-inspired moments, while others have an electronic groove that’s more in line with the bands on Detriti (including that label’s most famous band, Molchat Doma). That contrast worked well on Sounds of Serfdom, but the two sides of this single almost sound like different bands. The issue isn’t that one is better than the other, but that I want to hear more of both sounds and this single is frustratingly short. If you’re into punk singles, you’re probably OK with the tease, but hopefully this is just a snack to hold us over until the next Serfs release.
X-Intruder: Punished For The Crime Of Lacking In Judgement 12” Debut release from this UK solo project. If I’m reading the description correctly, the person who is X-Intruder is also the owner of the long-running UK punk label No Front Teeth. While No Front Teeth has released a few bands I know and like (like Sick Bags), I don’t know much about the label, so I’m coming in without too many preconceptions. The description mentions Lost Sounds and I can hear that in the snotty, heavily accented vocals and the catchiness of the songs, but X-Intruder is much more hardcore. It sounds like there’s a lot of Plastic Surgery Disasters-era Dead Kennedys in X-Intruder’s DNA, particularly the overall dramatic flair and the East Bay Ray-like ability to craft memorable guitar hooks. My only complaint—though many people would see this as a plus—is that Punished For The Crime Of Lacking In Judgement is a bit long. While 26 minutes is a short full-length by any normal person’s standards, my frame of reference has been ruined by far too many 7”s and short-ass 12” 45s. If you’re a glutton for fast and catchy hardcore punk, though, this is what you want.
Prison Affair: 2 7” (Erste Theke Tonträger) I don’t know much about Prison Affair except that they (if indeed it’s more than one person) are from Barcelona and this EP, 2, is their first vinyl release. It comes to us via Germany’s Erste Theke Tonträger and fits right in on the label that brought the Coneheads album to the masses. (Aside: it frustrates me that the style of punk Coneheads pioneered still doesn’t have a coherent, generally accepted name. I can’t fuck with “Devo-core.”) Prison Affair has the mutant Chuck Berry licks, direct-to-board guitar sound, fast closed hi-hat drumming, and over the top tape warble you want from this style, and if you buy genre records in this genre, I can’t see any reason you wouldn’t love it. I do, however, think Prison Affair brings something new to the style. I hear this most clearly on my favorite track, “Entre Barrotes,” which has a melancholy-sounding chord progression that reminds me of the Buzzcocks’ “Harmony in My Head.” The tension between that gloomy chord structure and the relentless cheer of the riffing style results in a spectacular track. While that song is the highlight, there are elements of that originality all over 2. If you like this style, this is a no brainer; and even if you don’t, there’s a lot of cool stuff going on here if you’re willing to hear beyond the surface level.