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Record of the Week: Cosey Mueller: Irrational Habits LP

Cosey Mueller: Irrational Habits 12” (Static Age Musik) Originally presented as a self-released cassette, Static Age Music does the world a favor and commits this brilliant new full-length from Berlin’s Cosey Mueller to vinyl. Static Age has brought us a bunch of great contemporary German electronic music lately, and Irrational Habits fits that trend. The songs feel like dance music because they’re built around primitive boom-bap rhythms, crisp, powerful, and placed right at the front of the mix. On first listen, you might think the best thing about Irrational Habits is the seedy, Berlin night club vibe it lays down, but there’s more to it than that. It’s not pop music per se, but Cosey has a way with a hook. A lot of those hooks appear as guitar riffs, which stand out because they contrast so sharply with the rest of the music. The rhythms and synth textures are cold, dry, and mechanical, but the guitar lines are drenched in Jesus and Mary Chain-esque reverb and played junkie-cool, sagging way behind the beat like Thunders after a particularly potent dose. That move is executed most memorably on the highlight “Tu Mir Was,” but it’s all over the record. The vocals, while understated and often drenched in effects, also provide highlights, like in the aforementioned “Tu Mir Was,” but also in “Dog Salon,” which has a B-52’s-ish surreality I like. The propulsive EBM-ish foundation keeps me edging the volume knob ever higher when I listen to Irrational Habits, but the pop peaks really push it to the next level.

Record of the Week: Public Acid: Deadly Struggle LP

Public Acid: Deadly Struggle 12” (Beach Impediment Records) Public Acid returns with the much-anticipated follow-up to 2020’s Condemnation EP. Perhaps I don’t need to post a disclaimer, but I will anyway: two members of Public Acid have worked at Sorry State and I feel a close connection with the band and each of its members. So maybe I’m just gassing up my buddies, but ignore my praise for Public Acid at your peril, because I think they’re one of the best and most important bands in the current hardcore scene. The other night I was talking to a friend about how, when a band is on a hot streak, it’s important to recognize what’s happening so you can savor it. It’s a feeling I get once every few years, and often I’ll get into a band so heavily that they start to define that period of my life. Direct Control, Double Negative, and Government Warning were bands I felt that way about, and I feel that way about Public Acid right now. If you’ve seen them live in the past few years, you know they’ve matured into a total fucking wrecking ball. I’m not the only one who recognizes this. After the Sorry State 10th Anniversary Weekend last fall, several people independently commented to me that there was a palpable change in energy when they took the stage. Many people, myself among them, were expecting Public Acid to make a really great record sometime soon, which brings us to Deadly Struggle. You can listen to the record and decide for yourself, but for my money this thing is a fucking masterpiece. The fast songs are blinding, the slow parts are unholy, and it feels both timeless and appropriate to its moment in the way great art should. While Deadly Struggle is unmistakably hardcore punk, it doesn’t sound like anything else. Sure, there are reference points for certain things they do, and Public Acid is also part of a wave of bands like Tower 7 and Salvaje Punk making ugly fusions of raw international underground hardcore and metal, yet Public Acid stands alone. Like I said, I’ve been around the block a few times, and I think I know when a band is at the top of their game. Deadly Struggle is not a record you want to sleep on.

Record of the Week: Pura Manía: Extraños Casos De La Vida Real 7"

Pura Manía: Extraños Casos De La Vida Real 7” (Roachleg Records) Here at Sorry State, we were huge fans of Pura Manía’s first three records: the two 7”s they released in 2014 and their 2017 album, Cerebros Punk. When I heard Pura Manía was returning with a new record, I was excited, but also a little nervous. The world has changed in the ten years since Pura Manía’s first records came out, and more bands are mashing up post-punk and anthemic street punk / oi!… Home Front, for instance, has become one of the biggest bands in the underground with a sound based on a similar set of influences. After listening to Extraños Casos De La Vida Real, though, I realize I shouldn’t have worried. While a few people may have caught up to where Pura Manía was in 2014, they’re still several steps ahead of everyone else. And besides, it was never about the sound, it was about the songs, and god damn fucking hell does Pura Manía have songs. At the center of all four songs on Extraños Casos De La Vida Real is a powerful central vocal melody, always anthemic and sing-along-able… these melodies are the reasons Pura Manía’s music is so often compared to classic oi! and Spanish punk, but unlike the bare-bones arrangements favored by oi! bands, Pura Manía builds these songs out into tracks that are like punk symphonies. Besides the central vocal hooks, each song also has several memorable lead guitar and bass lines, and you can tell they put a ton of thought into how all these parts work in concert… take, for instance, the way the lead guitar gracefully steps to the side as the tension-building pre-chorus leads into the chorus payoff in “El Viaje Al Interior Del Cuerpo,” setting up the pins perfectly so the vocalist can knock them down. These are masterpieces of punk songwriting, and I love that this time around Pura Manía is less shy about it, employing clearer, sharper production than their earlier releases and doing clever-ass shit like the musical callback to one of their older songs on the grandiose, later-Damned-esque instrumental intro. Extraños Casos De La Vida Real is just a great fucking record, a phenomenal piece of craftsmanship that seems determined not just to imitate, but to equal (and perhaps even best) the life-changing records that influenced it. This is the reason we are punks, folks, because our scene can produce bands and records like this.

Record of the Week: Physique: Overcome by Pain 7"

Physique: Overcome by Pain 7” (Iron Lung Records) Physique quickly follow-up their killer recent LP, Again (which we named Record of the Week less than half a year ago), with six more scorchers. Physique is a veteran band and the years they’ve spent honing their sound shine through on Overcome by Pain. It’s such a brutal, powerful record. Physique has always paid a lot of attention to sculpting their sound; while their music sounds noisy and chaotic on the surface, it’s more of an intricately woven quilt than a haphazard jumble of tones. The sound they get here is beastly, with a crushing low end you feel in your gut when you blast it at the appropriate volume. Physique has only grown more adept at wielding their sound, too. As Usman pointed out in his staff pick, the playing is precise, with subtle rhythmic shifts and accents that are the mark of a great band. Just listen to the way the rhythm changes subtly halfway through “We Do What We Must…” so sick. As for the songs, while riffs tend toward the simple and brutal, they cohere as dynamic, thrilling songs. There are even a few curveballs, like the wild, over-the-top punches in the middle of “As Tradition Dictates,” my favorite moment on the record. If you’re one of the ignorant souls who dismiss Physique as unoriginal because they aren’t shy about nodding toward their influences, you must not be listening, because the power and vitality here are impossible to deny.

Record of the Week: Disfear: Everyday Slaughter LP

Disfear: Everyday Slaughter 12” (Havoc Records) Holy hot damn, Havoc Records brings a landmark Swedish d-beat record back into print. When I wrote about Havoc’s reissue of Disfear’s 1995 LP Soul Scars, I mentioned I became aware of Disfear through their more polished 2000s releases, not learning until years later about their furious early material. It’s tempting to see 1997’s Everyday Slaughter as the culmination of that early era, as the record after this one marked a change in drummer, vocalist, and style. Everyday Slaughter, though, is a total shredder. Disfear recorded the album with Thomas Skogsberg at Sunlight Studios, who also produced sonically renowned Swedish death metal classics like Entombed’s Left Hand Path and Clandestine, Dismember’s Like an Ever Flowing Stream, Carnage’s Dark Recollections, and many others. However, the bigger production on Everyday Slaughter is balanced out by a feral performance from the band, who lays into these songs like a hungry pack of wolves on a fresh kill. Disfear builds most of these songs around short, relatively simple riffs, and even though the clarity and beefiness of the tones might sound metal, the music here is pure hardcore punk. Check out the last track on the a-side, “Subsistence,” whose verse riff is literally just one chord played as hard and as fast as possible for four bars… it’s so fucking PUNK. I’d call it a highlight, but every moment of Everyday Slaughter crackles with energy and power. It’s just a great fucking record, a high-definition portrait of a band at the top of their game.

Record of the Week: Golpe: Aussuefazione Quotidiana 7"

Golpe: Aussuefazione Quotidiana 7” (Beach Impediment Records) Aussuefazione Quotidiana is the second record from Italy’s Golpe. Sorry State released their first record, La Colpa È Solo Tua, and we remain huge fans even though we didn’t put out this new EP. In fact, I think Aussuefazione Quotidiana is an incredible record, distilling everything that was great about La Colpa È Solo Tua into an even more potent concentration and adding a few new wrinkles to the sound. For my money, Golpe writes some of the most memorable songs in hardcore. Even putting aside the quality of the riffs, beats, vocal lines and other building blocks, Golpe’s songs are arranged so they seem like they’re always building in intensity. I don’t know how they do it, but every time you think the band has achieved an impossibly high climax, there’s an even bigger one around the corner. The riffs are just phenomenal, with a larger-than-life quality… I mean, listen to the (mostly) instrumental “Un Nuovo Inizio” and try not to imagine a giant room full of people going the fuck off. Another thing I love about Golpe is the playing. It still seems impossible to me that Golpe’s mastermind Tadzio records all the instruments himself because the ensemble playing sounds so natural and organic (I find a lot of other one-person projects robotic and one-dimensional). Some of the groovy parts are so slinky they almost sound funky, though rigidity and looseness is one of the many dynamics Golpe manipulates… they can certainly bash when they want to. I should also mention the lyrics, which sidestep punk cliches and self-referentiality to engage directly with the world’s most pressing problems with real thought and feeling, something the band actively encourages their listeners to do too. There’s so much to take in with this EP and I love it all. Bravo, Golpe!

Record of the Week: Tozcos: Infernal LP

Tozcos: Infernal 12” (Toxic State Records) I have to start by saying how much I love this record. I’ve been listening to it non-stop since it dropped in late November; it’s now mid-January and I’m still listening to it daily. Santa Ana, California’s Tozcos hadn’t put out a record since 2018, so I imagine Infernal took a lot of people by surprise. I kinda knew it was coming, though. Last summer Thrasher magazine flew Tozcos out to North Carolina to play, and by then I had heard through the grapevine their next LP would be on Toxic State. This felt particularly special and exciting because Tozcos would be the first band on Toxic State not from New York. So I had an inkling that Tozcos had something special in the cooker, and they confirmed that at the Thrasher gig, where their new songs blew me away. I feel like I had the riff from “El Vacio” stuck in my head for the entire three months between that set and when I finally got to listen to Infernal. When I sat down with the record, it was all I’d hoped it would be and more. Tozcos’ style is unique, their rhythm section rooted in UK82-style punk with its grooving, driving beats and hooky bass lines, but with harsher, more hardcore-style vocals, and while the guitarist can lock into the rhythm section’s groove, he also has these great-sounding lead parts that provide many of Tozcos’ most memorable hooks. While it’s not an obvious reference point for Tozcos’ sound, the guitar-playing reminds me of John Haggerty from Naked Raygun… huge-sounding, but with a leanness to it and a knack for crafting earworm lead lines. And while Infernal feels inspired, it also feels crafted, its exquisite production balancing power and immediacy, the songs intricate without feeling over-worked, and the packaging and presentation thought through in every detail (a meticulousness you can also see in the video for “Presos”). Honestly, though, just listen to it. Infernal is, as its cover hints, an electrifying record that will grab you from the first note and not let you go until the last.

Record of the Week: Secretors: Comparing Missile Size Vol 1 7"

Secretors: Comparing Missile Size 7” (Roachleg Records) We last heard from New York’s Secretors on 2019’s Antidote for Civilization flexi, but after seeing them last summer at Another Lost Weekend, I knew they were coming back in a big way. Secretors did not sound like a band that had been hibernating for four years… in fact, they might have played my favorite set of that entire weekend. Comparing Missile Size illustrates why. For me, it’s a consummate New York punk record, intense and raw, but developed and thought out in a way that makes it feel like a real statement rather than just a burst of inspiration caught on tape. Secretors recordedComparing Missile Size at D4MT Labs, and like all the recordings that come from that space, it sounds murky on the surface, yet it’s rich with the detail you need when the instruments’ tones and textures are a big part of the sound. Despite playing full-bore pretty much all the time, Secretors’ music goes to a lot of different places, from brutal, Shitlickers-inspired pounding to riffier moments like “Direct Order” and the rad, Randy Uchida-esque intro riff on the title track. The vocals play a huge part too, barked in a low register a la E.N.T., but rather than locking in rhythmically with the riffs, they tend to pull against the instrumental rhythms in compelling ways, creating this tension that makes the sound feel like it’s pulling apart at the seams. The artwork and lyrics are similarly compelling, with well-considered reactions to the new horrors of 21st-century warfare. Comparing Missile Size is one of those records that grabs you right away with its explosivity, but whose depth keeps you coming back for repeated listens.

Record of the Week: Crucified Class: S/T 7"

Crucified Class: S/T 7” (Whispers in Darkness Records) We named Crucified Class’s previous cassette Record of the Week, and now the band has returned with their debut vinyl. Guess what? We still love it. While it seems like an obvious comparison given Crucified Class is from Portland, there really is a lot of Poison Idea in their sound. Rather than the pared down, Pick Your King version of P.I., though, Crucified Class pulls more from the War All the Time / Feel the Darkness era that fused the earlier material’s intensity to longer, more well-developed songs with dynamic dual-guitar arrangements. I think there’s also a lot of Adolescents in Crucified Class’s sound: the insanely catchy guitar hooks, certainly, but also the darker chord progressions and the way the songs build tension in elegant, interesting ways (“System Sickness” reminds me of “Kids of the Black Hole” in that regard). While Crucified Class is 100% a hardcore punk band, their songwriting feels ambitious, which stands in stark contrast to the tossed-off feeling of a lot of contemporary DIY hardcore. That ambition pays off, with these four songs rising well above mere imitations of the classics.

Sorry, no streaming link for this record. You'll have to trust us that it rules!

Record of the Week: Quarantine: Exile LP

Quarantine: Exile 12” (Damage United Records) One of my favorite contemporary hardcore bands, Philadelphia’s Quarantine, returns with their second 12”. Quarantine emerged as such a fully formed beast that it shouldn’t be surprising that not much has changed between Agony and Exile. Quarantine’s music is still firmly rooted in blistering 80s hardcore like Negative Approach, Agnostic Front, and Jerry’s Kids, but played by musicians much more seasoned and technically capable than the ones who made those early 80s records. Quarantine takes the unpredictable lunges of Victim in Pain and hones them to samurai blade sharpness, the sound anchored by virtuoso drummer Chris Ulsh, whose playing has a downright supernatural combination of deftness and power. The main difference I hear between Exile and its predecessor is that, this time around, there are fewer of the psychedelic-sounding, United Mutation-esque lead guitar parts I loved on Agony, with the guitars joining the rhythm section in their single-minded pursuit of relentlessness. Jock also remains a larger-than-life frontperson on Exile, his bark creeping in and out of legibility, rendering his bleak lyrics even darker and stranger. The between-song instrumental interludes also return, ranging from maximalist industrial to a creepy and minimal electro-acoustic-style piece. If Agony and Exile are the first two installments in an Out Cold-style discography that keeps going and going with no letup, that would be fine by me.

Record of the Week: Yellowcake: Can You See the Future? 7"

Yellowcake: Can You See the Future? 7” (Not for the Weak Records) Virginia’s Not for the Weak Records brings us the vinyl debut from Arizonan d-beat powerhouse Yellowcake. Yellowcake features Mike from Extended Hell and Urchin on drums, and, frankly, if Mike is playing drums in your d-beat band, your d-beat band is really fucking good. Certainly the drumming is a highlight here, as Mike retains his ability to hold a rock-solid groove and kick the ever-loving hell out of that bass drum while keeping the fills fresh and just a little spicy. The rest of the band is killer too. Yellowcake’s guitarist does that thing where there’s one guitar track with a beefy sound and another that’s fried with noise, and that works really well. On the riffier, Totalitär-influenced parts, your ear gravitates towards the cleaner sound, while the Cimex / Framtid parts hit with the impact you want them to. The ensemble playing is great too… check out that perfect little hiccup pause before the breakdown in “Weaponized Mania…” a chill-inducing moment. The singer’s delay-drenched howl sounds desperate, as befitting the lyrics focusing on the horrors of war. Competition is stiff in this micro-genre of Swedish-influenced d-beat and there isn’t room for anything under-developed or half-assed. Even within a crowded field, though, Yellowcake is at the front of the pack.

Record of the Week: Powerplant: Grass 7"

Powerplant: Grass 7” (Static Shock Records) London’s Powerplant were eclectic and interesting from the drop, but their last release, 2022’s Stump Soup—an hour-long dungeon synth foray meant to soundtrack a Dungeons and Dragons module the group designed—proved the best approach to any new Powerplant record is to expect the unexpected. While Grass isn’t as out there as Stump Soup, the group remains eclectic and progressive here, returning to a more familiar synth-punk sound, but from moment to moment being as forward-thinking, exciting, and confounding as they’ve ever been. Grass is difficult to describe because it doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before, despite working with a familiar palette of guitar / bass / drums / synth / vocals. Much of that is because of the songwriting and arrangement; rather than traditional, repetitive pop arrangements, these tracks sound like they’re built on a shifting foundation, and even when a musical motif repeats, something above or below it has always shifted, casting it in a different light. That sense of instability is apparent not just from part to part, but from track to track as well, as the way the instruments fit together and harmonize with one another floats in unexpected directions, never changing dramatically, but shifting in ways that keep my ear interested, even if I’m often left wondering how we got from point A to point B. But while Powerplant’s music on Grass always sounds unfamiliar and novel, it’s still packed with appealing melodies, textures, and rhythms… they never seem self-consciously experimental, just stylistically nomadic. Grass feels like a puzzle, one I may never figure out, but that I’ll enjoy tinkering with forever.