Record of the Week: Brain Tourniquet: An Expression in Pain LP

Brain Tourniquet: An Expression in Pain 12” (Iron Lung Records) While I don’t listen to too much contemporary power violence, I was a big fan of Brain Tourniquet’s first two EPs. Their debut 12”, though, is something else, a record so distinctive and powerful that it transcends that microgenre. An Expression of Pain has a gritty recording that might remind you of the OG power violence classics and the songs feature blastbeats and sludgy slow parts, but everything about the way Brain Tourniquet deploys those elements is inventive and electric. That’s true from the record’s first seconds, when the leadoff track, “Little Children Working,” sounds like hell opening up and demons escaping, reminding me of early Swans with its relentless industrial rhythm. Much of An Expression of Pain recalls Black Flag when they were at their slowest and most musically adventurous, bending Sabbath’s lumbering rhythms against the fulcrum of free jazz’s deliberate evaporation of tonality. It is music that will make your skin crawl. Even when Brain Tourniquet indulges in power violence’s familiar tempo dynamics, they subvert convention, and there isn’t a moment on this record that feels cliche. That’s certainly true on the expansive, album-closing title track, whose 11 minutes feel like an aimless, sun-blistered stumble through the desert… it may leave you wondering whether you hallucinated that bass solo or it really happened. A real masterpiece, and exactly the forward-thinking yet brutal hardcore we want from Iron Lung Records.

Record of the Week: Crucified Class: Promo 2023 cassette

Crucified Class: Promo 2023 cassette (Fresh Squeezed) Four songs of catchy hardcore punk from this new band from Portland. On first listen, Crucified Class reminded me of another double C band, Caustic Christ, and that’s high praise from me! Like Caustic Christ, Crucified Class’s sound rides a line between US-style hardcore and UK82 punk, with the latter’s bouncy rhythms and hooky riffs delivered with the former’s heaviness and brisk tempos. It reminds me of North American bands like Toxic Reasons that kind of sounded like UK bands, or UK bands like Ultra Violent that had US hardcore-style elements. I also hear lots of Poison Idea, which comes out both in the straightforward hardcore parts and the more rock and roll-ish riffing that pops up here and there. All four songs are a little different from one another, which I like, and the slightly hazy production is exactly what I want hardcore punk to sound like. Just listen to “Message from a War Cult…” what a track! It goes from this kind of Killing Joke-meets oi! verse to a huge, anthemic chorus that reminds me of Direct Control fist-pumpers like “Plea for Peace,” and even makes room for a wah-wah guitar solo. It doesn’t get much better than this, folks. Whatever this tape is promoting, count me in.

Record of the Week: Nag: Human Coward Coyote LP

Nag: Human Coward Coyote 12” (Convulse Records) We’ve been carrying records from Atlanta’s Nag since they released their first single in 2017, and over the years they have blossomed into a unique and compelling band. I’ve enjoyed every Nag record I’ve heard, but Human Coward Coyote feels like something new and special. While you can hear traces of the sound that landed them a coveted Total Punk single on tracks like “Camoflage,” Human Coward Coyote sounds unbound by genre. The chunky yet crystalline guitars make me think of 90s alternative rock, and the opener “Phangs” is a semi-dirge that sounds like it could have come from the weirder fringes of the early 90s post-Nirvana underground. “Q Laz” takes the menacing rattle of Wire and early Devo and bathes it in industrial gunk, arriving at something akin to the A Frames’ arty clatter, while the guitar lead at the end of “Repulsion” sounds like a psychedelic come-down. There are also even more experimental tracks like “Kismet,” an instrumental meditation centered on a menacing electronic pulse. So much punk rock gets by on speed, power, and energy, but Nag emphasizes atmosphere here, with delay-drenched guitars and disaffected, robotic vocals setting a scene fit for a 60s dystopian sci-fi novel. Human Coward Coyote’s avoidance of big pop hooks might make it a grower, but the variety and richness of texture here keep your ears wanting more.

Record of the Week: Primitive Fucking Ballers: You Gotta Do Somethin' cassette

Primitive Fucking Ballers: You Gotta Do Somethin’ cassette (Earth Girl Tapes) Just last week I was writing about the Big, Big Wave compilation that documented the unlikely yet captivating punk scene in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and now that fertile scene gives us another Record of the Week. Presumably Primitive Fucking Ballers hadn’t formed when they recorded the Big, Big Wave compilation, which is a testament to how Hattiesburg continues to kill it. The vibes on this Primitive Fucking Ballers tape remind me of the Fried E/M LP we all loved here at Sorry State… hardcore punk with a heavy Circle Jerks influence and a loose and nihilistic delivery that’s drenched in swagger. That was enough to sell me right off the bat, but the more I listen to You Gotta Do Somethin’, the more I’m knocked out by the music, and the rhythm section in particular. The drumming here is nuts. The best way I can describe it is that it’s like Lucky Lehrer from the Circle Jerks filling in for Gauze. Like Gauze, the different parts of Primitive Fucking Ballers’ songs are often based on different grooves, but the drummer switches between them like they’re changing channels on a TV, each section of the song locked in but very distinct from one another. And like Lucky’s drumming in the Circle Jerks, it’s lightning fast but bursting with intricate rhythmic accents. The bass playing is also great, a dry sound with lots of pluck to it, the deft picking finding tiny pockets of interesting rhythm even within the drums’ relentless torrent. You Gotta Do Somethin’ is raw and vital, its unique mix of intricate conception and unfussy production as volatile and exciting as cold water splashed into hot oil.

Record of the Week: The Drin: Today My Friend You Drunk the Venom LP

The Drin: Today My Friend You Drunk the Venom 12” (Feel It Records) We named the Drin’s first album, Engines Sing for the Pale Moon, Record of the Week in March 2022, and now, less than a year later, their follow-up gets the same honor. The Drin’s first album had such an original voice I was worried some of its charm might have come from an idiosyncratic recording or some other chance confluence of factors. Turns out that wasn’t the case, because Today My Friend You Drunk the Venom carries forward everything I liked about the debut. The Drin’s music still uniquely combines punk, dub reggae, and motorik rhythms filtered through the hazy, lo-fi aesthetics of early Guided by Voices. I’m tempted to draw comparisons to PiL’s first two albums or Joy Division’s more droned-out, Neu!-inspired moments like “No Love Lost” or “Incubation,” but the lo-fi quality and the American-ness of the Drin’s music means those comparisons only go so far. But like those aforementioned bands, as well as the avant-punk/pop music Rough Trade Records released in their early years, pop isn’t a huge part of the equation, yet the songs are catchy and hooky in their way… it’s just those hooks reside in the beefy bass lines and interesting drum rhythms. I also love how much stylistic ground the Drin covers on this record, from the straight up reggae of “Eyes Only for Space” to the motorik punk of “Stonewallin’” (which sounds a lot like Joy Division’s “Transmission”) to “That Day (Azoic),” the poppiest and most vocal-forward song on the album. Today My Friend You Drunk the Venom is a gripping record from start to finish, and an essential listen for anyone whose tastes veer into the experimental fringes of the punk diaspora.

Record of the Week: Speed Plans: Statues of God LP

Speed Plans: Statues of God 12” (Iron Lung Records) We’ve carried several releases from Pittsburgh’s Speed Plans over the past few years, but if you haven’t checked them out until now, you’ve arrived to the party just in time. Statues of God is the record you want. I keep seeing the Repos’ name thrown around in relation to this record. Admittedly, that didn’t occur to me right off the bat… instead, I heard similarities to 80s bands like Negative FX, early Agnostic Front, and Youth of Today. But now that I think about it, this sounds a lot like the Repos. Which is to say they sound like the 80s bands I mentioned, but touches like the harmonized guitar leads in “Cleveland” could be deliberate homages to the Repos. I fucking love the Repos (I think I have every single one of their records, which is no mean feat) and I love this, but I don’t think you need to love the Repos in order to love Speed Plans. It’s just a raw, rampaging, nihilistic hardcore punk record, and even though I’ve been listening to this stuff for decades, it still sounds fresh and urgent to me. Maybe that’s because I’m boring or that my tastes aren’t that adventurous, but I prefer to think it’s because Speed Plans is just that good.

Record of the Week: The Cool Greenhouse: Sod's Toastie LP

The Cool Greenhouse: Sod’s Toastie 12” (Melodic Records) While I try to keep my writing for the Sorry State newsletter snappy, writing about the new album from the Cool Greenhouse, one of my favorite bands in the world, feels like an appropriate time to surrender to my natural tendency toward verbosity. If you haven’t heard the Cool Greenhouse before, their songs are very witty and lyrically dense, often analyzing the absurdities of today’s world and frequently causing me to literally LOL. Their music covers a wide stylistic swath, but they are followers of the Fall who have absorbed the three Rs, and their emphasis on repetition keeps the focus on the lyrics, which are the star of the show. The Cool Greenhouse is quirky and isn’t for everyone (especially if you don’t have a taste for things that are very British), but if you want to check them out, I encourage you to do so. This album, Sod’s Toastie, is a fine starting point, though their single “Alexa” is my favorite track, and I also rate the Crap Cardboard Pet EP highly. If you’re already a fan of TCG, as I am, the question is: how does Sod’s Toastie stack up against their discography so far? My first impression was that it’s quite dark. While TCG hasn’t shied away from the bleaker corners of reality on their previous releases (see, for instance, “4chan” from their first album), Sod’s Toastie lingers on downer vibes that make me wonder, “Tom, are you OK?” The title track is super depressing (though also hilarious), and “Y.O.L.H.” and “I Lost My Head” are also palpably bleak. After spending some time digesting Sod’s Toastie, though, I hear a lot of variation. “Musicians” and “Get Unjaded” are both musically (if not lyrically) joyous, and “The Next Stage of Destiny” and “The Neoprene Ravine” are so acid-fried that it’s hard to figure out where they fall on the emotional register. Another thing that sticks out about Sod’s Toastie is its mix of home-recorded and full-band tracks. Who knows if this pattern will hold, but so far the Cool Greenhouse’s singles and EPs have been home productions that relied heavily on synths and drum machines, while their first album from 2020 featured a full-band lineup. Sod’s Toastie mixes the two approaches, and it works. I think the first album missed Tom’s home recording style, which has just as much character as his lyrics, but I also think the band has come into their own on Sod’s Toastie. “Get Unjaded” and “The Neoprene Ravine” are brilliant, the band on fire. While there are scores of bands who take inspiration from the Fall, the Cool Greenhouse seems to have cracked the code on how they wrote and arranged songs, sounding like the Fall without sounding like they’re imitating them, if that makes sense. I dare say “Get Unjaded” could hold its own on This Nation’s Saving Grace, and “The Neoprene Ravine” would fit onto Dragnet. While those are the big patterns I noticed on Sod’s Toastie, in my mind, the big picture gets overshadowed by the relentless barrage of memorable moments. For me, those include: the Wizard of Oz moment in “Musicians” when the song transitions from the spare home recording of its first section to the lush, Fela Kuti-inspired full band section; the bit about cello tape that starts “Sod’s Toastie;” when Tom shouts “guitar solo!” in “Get Unjaded” and then launches into a keyboard solo; the backwards guitar effects in “Sod’s Toastie;” the whole of the vinyl-only bonus track “The Next Stage of Destiny,” a surreal drone whose lyrics are a nonsensical string of cliches delivered by the guy who voices movie trailers; the way Tom hangs on the line “too busy sucking on my little green ding dong” in “The Neoprene Ravine;” the end of “Sod’s Toastie,” when the song seems like it’s going to go on forever, but ends abruptly; the following line from “Get Unjaded:” “I think I can still see joy in people / the way you can still see the ghosts of dinosaurs in birds.” Listing these moments makes me realize that, while most of the hardcore and punk I listen to is geared toward creating albums and EPs that carry a stable vibe through multiple tracks, The Cool Greenhouse feeds my love of the song. There are plenty of my favorite records where I couldn’t tell you the titles of the songs, but I don’t have that problem with TCG… every song is its own universe, with a unique central conceit—a raison d'être—and a wealth of details that make it come alive, like a musical version of speculative fiction. In summation, Sod’s Toastie is another brilliant record by a brilliant group. Here’s hoping the Cool Greenhouse follows the Fall’s lead and has a long career with a sprawling discography packed with stunners like Sod’s Toastie.

Record of the Week: Inferno Personale: In Ira Veritas

Inferno Personale: In Ira Veritas 12" (Symphony of Destruction Records) In Ira Veritas is the debut record from this band based in Bremen, Germany, but featuring punk expatriates from all over the world, including Italy, Colombia, Germany, and Argentina. Scarecrow played with Inferno Personale on the first night of our European tour last summer, and they peeled back our collective faces… they were so raw, intense, and explosive. Thus, I had an idea of what was coming with In Ira Veritas, but even having seen the band, it did not prepare me for how stunning this record is. Inferno Personale features a member of Muro, and they have that way of maintaining an overwhelming level of intensity I associate with Muro and other contemporary Colombian punk bands like Uzi, Systema, and Primer Regimen. I’m not sure how all these bands pull it off, but their music sounds like it’s being wrenched from deep within them, a primal howl that reaches the primitive parts of my brain. I’ve seen Inferno Personale described as a crasher crust band, and while some moments (like, for instance, the album-closer, “Monologue”) summon that subgenre’s blur of intensity, what keeps me coming back to In Ira Veritas is how much compelling music Inferno Personale squeezes in amongst the constant bashing. The album’s cover art is an obvious nod to Wretched’s second album, La Tua Morte Non Aspetta, and it fuses that record’s subtle musicality with the raw intensity of Wretched’s earlier recordings. In Ira Veritas is littered with memorable licks and riffs, dramatic rhythmic shifts, and throat-ripping howls. Like D-Clone’s Creation and Destroy or Confuse’s Indignation, it’s one of those rare records that grabs you by the throat with its intensity, but has the depth, subtlety, and originality to keep you flipping it over. Throw it in a beautifully illustrated, screen-printed jacket that will make the print nerds drool, and you have an irresistible package.

Record of the Week: The Massacred: Post-Mortem 7"

The Massacred: Post-Mortem 7” (Active-8 Records) Active-8 Records brings us the debut EP from this UK82-style band from Boston. While Post-Mortem is the first Massacred recording to get wide distribution and the band has no online presence, I’ve had the sense they’ve been bubbling up for a while now. I saw them in New York last summer and they were shockingly good, playing with the power and confidence you typically only see from well-seasoned bands. Their vinyl debut continues the pattern, confidently executing a fully formed vision. As I mentioned, the Massacred plays UK82-style punk, and while it would be appropriate to compare them with the Partisans, Skeptix, or Ultra Violent, the band the Massacred makes me think of is the Exploited, but without the goofy shit and if every single track was as good as their best ones. The band is on fire, and while their songs might have a straightforward and traditional framework, they’re executed in a way that maintains the highest level of intensity without wavering for a fraction of a second. In particular, I can’t get over the guitar playing. There’s nothing flashy about it, but it’s a relentless barrage of lightning-fast picking that’s flawless without sounding robotic… though they don’t sound like them, the way the Massacred approaches playing their music makes me think of the almighty Out Cold. The Massacred has put as much care and attention to detail into the design and presentation of Post-Mortem as they put into the music, too. I love that, rather than the 2 and 3-song singles that were de rigueur in the UK82 world, Post-Mortem features 8 tracks at 33rpm, and like the early Dischord and Touch and Go 7”s it seems to be modeled on, it feels more like an album than a single. The packaging design is also perfect. As with the Public Trust record Active-8 released a few years ago, holding Post-Mortem in your hands conjures a similar excitement to many of my favorite early 80s punk artifacts. This just rules in every way.

Record of the Week: The Annihilated: Submission to Annihilation LP

The Annihilated: Submission to Annihilation 12” (self-released) We’ve been eagerly anticipating new music from London’s the Annihilated ever since we heard their demo tape in early 2020. That was one of our favorite releases of that year, and Submission to Annihilationis exactly the follow-up we’ve been waiting for. The Annihilated’s sound is fast and jagged, with a dark and desperate vibe that reminds me of Black Flag’s Damaged. Bobby, the Annihilated’s singer, has an early Rollins-esque bark, but the music is mega-fast Koro-influenced US-style hardcore that might remind you of killer recent Texas bands like Nosferatu and Save Our Children. As with Koro, the Annihilated has a way of taking hooks (particularly catchy guitar riffs, but vocals, bass, and drums each have plenty of time in the spotlight too) and compressing them into dangerously unstable, hyper-dense cores of sound, this instability further emphasized by the band’s loose and swingy playing style. If any of the above references pique your interest, check this out right away… it’s scorching, not an ounce of fat in its svelte but substantial 19-minute running length. And kudos for putting together packaging for the physical version that stands out from the crowd, with a fold-out poster sleeve on yellow paper that’s packed with EC Comics-influenced pen-and-ink illustrations, ransom note lettering (the real stuff, not a font), and high-contrast photo collages. Yes, it’s on the nose, but nothing about Submission to Annihilation feels cliche. It’s as urgent and invigorating as the best hardcore from any era.

Record of the Week: Silence: End of This Flesh cassette

Silence: End of This Flesh cassette (self-released) Demo tape from this new d-beat band from Los Angeles. The Anti-Cimex influence is potent here, and when Silence keeps the songwriting super straightforward and the singer goes full Jonsson, they sound almost exactly like them. Cimex worship isn’t the only trick in Silence’s book, though, as other songs are more complex, both in terms of the metallic riffing (a little more on the Broken Bones / English Dogs end of the spectrum) and the nimble rhythmic changes, which is something I associate with bands on Totalitär’s branch of the family tree. A couple of real nerds could have an in-depth conversation about whether this is mangel, käng, d-takt, råpunk, or some combination thereof. The playing is super tight, but the recording is raw, sounding (as so many of my favorite records do), like a great band recorded in a minimal but functional way. Every song is unique, but powerful. A killer hardcore punk demo.

Record of the Week: Nightfeeder: Cut All of Your Face Off LP

Nightfeeder: Cut All of Your Face Off 12” (self-released) The debut LP from Seattle’s Nightfeeder, the enigmatically titled Cut All of Your Face Off, came out back in August, but the first edition disappeared so quickly that it was gone before we told you how much it fucking rules. Now it’s back in stock, and I won’t let this second chance pass me by: this record fucking rules! For the past week I’ve been reflecting on what makes Cut All of Your Face Off such a great record, and the comparison that keeps coming to mind is Tragedy. Not so much because Nightfeeder sounds like Tragedy, but rather it’s how the record hits against the background of other stuff I’ve been listening to. Before Tragedy got popular, there was this steady background hum of post-Discharge hardcore bands that was fine, but the scene seemed like it was in a rut. Then the first Tragedy LP came out gave everything a shot in the arm, bringing in some different influences, more dynamics, and more ambitious and interesting songwriting. People latched on, and not only did Tragedy get big, but the entire scene got a shot in the arm. I feel a similar way about Cut All of Your Face Off. There are so many d-beat-type hardcore bands out there right now, and while I love the sound and style, many of the bands are fairly one-dimensional, at least compared to something like this record. Nightfeeder can rip with the best of them (see “Amoral Minority” or “And Now We Die”), but there’s so much more here, from the epic riffing of tracks like “Asylum” and “Burial” (seriously… these are fucking RIFFS!) to the Inepsy-style charge of “The Reaper’s Yield” to the anthemic street punkiness of “I’m a Letdown.” I remember listening to this record for the first time and being thrilled by each track as it appeared, each one adding new wrinkles to Nightfeeder’s rich yet uncompromising sound. Cut All of Your Face Off is one of the best punk records of 2022, so if you didn’t get it the first time, don’t miss your second chance.