Reviews – May 2015

Joey Anderson 1974 12″ (Dekmantel)
Been on the hunt for more Joey Anderson ever since his Head Down Arms Buddha Position 12″ ruffled my feathers earlier this year, and this new one on Dekmantel is a delight all its own. Gotta say, I’m absolutely infatuated with the cover art for no good reason – it looks like some weird Happy Hardcore bootleg CD, really a nice visual, and it suits these three tracks nicely. The title track is over ten minutes of methodical electronics: heavy Manuel Göttsching E2-E4 vibes but with the jilted techno acumen of Kassem Mosse. “Under Water” is like watching an 8-bit sunset slowly consumed by darkness, with a warm layer of fuzz touching all synths and a Morphosis-esque improv solo toward the end. “Back Draft” finishes off the 12″ with poison spears of various sizes aiming straight for flesh, all while a basic clap and hi-hat give the green light to the dancers waiting on the sidelines. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do with the many records this fine producer has under his belt, and I’m jubilant just thinking about it.

Asda Three Tracks 10″ (FuckPunk)
Is anyone else paying attention to the fantastic FuckPunk label? This new one is a 10″ (in what appears to be an 11″ bag, although I didn’t have a ruler handy), with a couple random pieces of paper stashed inside the it. No paper sleeve for the vinyl, but it comes with some info hand-taped to the b-side center sticker and ferocious post-techno, post-grime nonsense music within the grooves. Asda (whose name comes from what I believe is the English equivalent to Walmart) is Seb Gainsborough (Vessel himself) and his chum Chester Giles. The a-side features two crusty, melody-free beats, somewhere between industrial and drum n’ bass, with Giles calmly ranting about consumption and the anomie of modern life, like an alternate version of Sleaford Mods who only ever released a tape on Hospital Productions. The b-side track comparatively floats, a few corroded hi-hats clipping through a mournfully descending melody and Giles reciting a brief and glum homily. The music is great, feeling kind of tossed-off but in a way that still seems potent and crucial. Top that off with the purposely-horrible packaging (and another limited pressing – 325 copies of this one, or so I’ve read), and I will continue to proudly ride the FuckPunk train.

Blaxxx For No Apparent Reason 12″ (12XU)
As if he wasn’t busy enough with Obnox (and the semi-functioning Bassholes and This Moment In Black History), Lamont Thomas has put together Blaxxx, teamed up with the esteemed Orville Bateman Neeley III (of OBN IIIs fame) and Tom Triplett (I don’t know his deal). I’d imagine Blaxxx is more of an occasional deal, though, as Neeley and Thomas live states away (if my stalking skills are accurate). It certainly feels like a side-project, but not in a bad way, as this trio lets loose on some in-the-red rock damage, like High Rise courting a Third Man Records contract. The guitar sounds like a rocket taking off, an echoed vocal cuts through the smoke, and the bass and drums remain permanently locked in chastity together, all build and no release. Some sweet soloing on the part of Thomas too, even more impressive assuming that they probably just talked about these songs for a few minutes before letting it rip onto tape. It’s only a matter of time before Dave Grohl steps down as American Ambassador of Rock and Lamont Thomas is rightfully appointed.

Chris Brokaw The Periscope Twins 2xLP (12XU)
Chris Brokaw has as respectable of an indie-rock guitarist’s career as one can have, playing with Come and Codeine among other groups that probably would’ve reunited at an All Tomorrow’s Parties festival were that company still in working order. This lengthy double-album is taken from a friends-only cassette of the same title, two uninterrupted sides of a 90-minute tape edited down into four sides of vinyl. The first two sides consist of “The Periscope Kids Are Out On the Skids, My Love”, which is basically an extended fuzzy ripple, like a fart capable of circular breathing or a distorted kazoo left to wander into outer space. I kept waiting for something to happen, and at one point on the second side it sputters out for a second – a move that normally wouldn’t be noteworthy but felt like a shock in this context. Reminds me a bit of the strange drone minimalists Nmperign, as far as content, delivery and lengthy song titles are concerned. The second LP is a bit more musical: the two tracks on sides C and D (whose combined titles would be as long as most of my reviews) are fragile and intimate sessions of chords, finger-pickings, musical phrases and wanderings, Brokaw’s guitar smouldering like an ancient candle that refuses to burn out entirely. Honestly, nothing really ever happens on the last two sides either (the extended title track is a real patience-tester), so this is one to be enjoyed in the way you might go through a sketchbook in an artist’s home studio rather than view their finished work on a gallery wall. I’m more of a gallery guy myself, but I can still appreciate this glimpse into Brokaw’s artistic process and use of spare time.

Broken Prayer Misanthropocentric A.K.A. Droid’s Blood LP (Sorry State)
For as much as I love Chicago as a city (I’ll even go to bat for deep-dish, and I say that as a born New Yorker), I’ve only truly loved a couple dozen or so of the hardcore bands to have come out of it. Broken Prayer are a newer group, and while I appreciate that they put effort into their records (this one comes with a nice book of mostly-legible lyrics) and poke little holes in the somewhat regimented hardcore aesthetic, I dunno… it’s just okay. They remind me of a cleanly-recorded Brown Sugar with synths instead of horns – stumbling, time-changing hardcore with a vocalist who pays no mind to the beat, ranting and raving as his mood dictates. I usually like when hardcore bands are total messes, but this isn’t that – Broken Prayer clearly spent time writing these songs, organizing parts, penning lyrics and deciding which synth settings to flatulate, but none of it really congeals into anything with lasting appeal. Probably fun live though, so maybe one day I’ll catch them and it’ll make perfect sense. Or, just as likely, not.

CCR Headcleaner Cokesmoker LP (Pollen Season / Stale Heat)
I’ve enjoyed the music of CCR Headcleaner since first checking out their 7″ on Caesar Cuts, where I knew them as an unhinged, acid-fried hardcore group. They’ve moved into a new realm on the subtly-titled Cokesmoker, essentially splitting the difference between two of my favorite Californian ex-punk bands, Los Cincos and (early) Comets On Fire. Through this record, they bash through classic garage tropes like a drunken chaperone at the high school dance, viciously shred their guitars as though trying to start a forest fire, and generally cause a self-righteous ruckus of which I wish I could’ve taken part. Things get a little more chaotic on the b-side, venturing into improvisation, extended audio samples and even a little acid squelch, and I honestly love every minute of it. There’s something about CCR Headcleaner’s delivery that makes it feel as though every member of the band is fully on-board with what they’re delivering, that there is zero hesitation or concern that what they’re doing might be a little too out-there or unlistenable, so I applaud these folks for finding each other and releasing this cosmic gem.

Davidians Night Terrors 7″ (Sorry State)
This Davidians 7″ is part of the Sorry State Records “North Carolina Singles Series”, which of course means uniform/generic 45 sleeves/center stickers. Not sure a singles club really suits hardcore, particularly with such a limited focus (no offense to North Carolina, as I can’t think of many states that could really sustain a hardcore 7″ singles series), but this Davidians record is cool enough for what it is. “Night Terrors” goes through a number of different parts, all of which are pretty frantic. The bass-line jabs all over the place, the guitar winds through a few different effects and the singer manages to make sense of it all. The b-side song is named “Gimme All Yo’ Dope” and it has the same general sound as the a-side, although it slithers more than skanks. The vocalist reminds me of some ’90s pop-punk band I can’t recall (30 Foot Fall, maybe? Falling Sickness?), and while that might be a red flag for most of the hardcore intelligentsia, it fits Davidians nicely.

Dogs On Acid Dogs On Acid 7″ (Ranch)
Dogs On Acid sounds like it should be some new anonymous techno release on L.I.E.S., but it’s actually a poppy, punky Philadelphian group, its members fresh from time in Algernon Cadwallader and Snowing (both also poppy and punky). Clearly, these folks know what they’re doing when it comes to good-time, post-collegiate indie-punk, as these two songs are both expertly crafted and easy to enjoy. “Make It Easy” has traces of later Pavement, hints of earlier Whatever Brains and the ghosts of Dogs On Acid’s previous bands wandering the halls, and “Waiting For You To Come Home” comes across like a punk band pretending to be Better Than Ezra for a Halloween basement gig. I’m impressed at how good it all sounds – Dogs On Acid borrow from all sorts of historical alt-rock articles and breezily spin it into something I want to hear all over again. The simple-yet-attractive packaging has me hoping people still buy 7″s and not just Bandcamp downloads these days, as this is one you won’t be shy to leave around the house.

Future Punx I’m So Inspired EP 12″ (Dull Tools)
Perhaps appropriately so, I’ve been hearing about Future Punx via the internet, and while photos of their live show never look quite as 2029 as I’d hope (I’d give their personal style a 2017 at best), lots of people seem to be sincerely enjoying this Brooklyn indie-punk group, which isn’t always the case with Brooklyn indie-punk groups. The “Ford & Lopatin trapped in the Matrix” cover art had me expecting Future Punx to sound like the Svedka vodka robot doing Blondie covers, and while I suppose I can still see it, this record mostly just sounds like classic 99 Records worship care of DFA and its affiliates circa 2002. I’m picturing Thomas Dolby fronting Liquid Liquid, The Stick Men on sedatives, The Faint if they never tried to hide their dorkiness (particularly in the lead vocal), or DEVO with a New York groove – live dance music to nerd out to, if not necessarily something worthy of the self-proclaimed “Punx” moniker. There’s at least one Ferris Bueller chase scene on here (I’ll give it to “Plus Side”), some funk guitar to round it out, and a vibe as fun as it is retro, like when you’re absolutely craving an Oreo milkshake for no good reason and end up parking next to a Johnny Rocket’s. If they work hard enough at it and tour, I could see Future Punx becoming the !!! of their generation, and there are far worse things to be.

Gay Kiss Preservation Measures LP (Sorry State)
Last autumn, I saw Gay Kiss perform in their hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. They came out, wearing mostly black and looking supremely pissed, and after the singer announced “we are The Gay Kiss” into the mic, a lone voice in the back of the crowd let out a “Ha-ha!”, Nelson-style, injecting their tense and negative demeanor with a splash of idiotic levity. There’s no knuckleheaded humor to be found within Preservation Measures, however, as the cover-art, resembling one of Mark McCoy’s fever dreams, ushers in a dark, menacing album. The riffs are ugly, the vocalist never goes below a full-on scream (or gurgle), and the liberal use of noise/samples/guitar effects goes a long way in distinguishing Gay Kiss from the pack. At times, it feels like Hoax if they intended to be artsy, or perhaps one of Will Dandy’s hardcore groups (Ritual Mess? Bucket Full Of Teeth?) after a particularly nasty breakup. Elements of Gravity-style screamo, Swans worship and the Youth Attack aesthetic all rear their heads at times, but it’s a sturdy and practical hardcore album through and through, the sort of record where blood, sweat and tears mix into one clear pink liquid (you can only hope it comes out in the wash).

Helmer Roccale 12″ (Valcrond Video)
Helmer’s debut EP shook me with its savagely fudgy bass-lines and sophisticated grit, and my enthusiasm continues through his second EP, this one for the upstanding Valcrond Video label (owned and operated by Mr. Torn Hawk himself). “You Say I For Me” is the a-side track, and the bass revs like an engine, calling to mind a patient, seductive Blawan mix, although this track swings through different peaks and valleys far more than an original Blawan production ever would. It’s like you can tell Helmer would love to make some crazy Aphex Twin-inspired soundwork but he loves a solid 4/4 too much, and as a sometimes-DJ myself, I love that I could just let this track play and stand there doing nothing but looking cool, knowing that Helmer already did all the work. “Corrib Chun Mask” opens the flip-side with the Knight Rider theme caught in Helmer’s helicopter blades, like a car chase across the Al-Jafr desert between two sexy cybernetic beings. “spry->Env” has the most Autechre-y name and wraps things up in a slightly different fashion, with warped Middle Eastern strings giving way to a muffled beat that could have as easily been born in Vessel’s laboratory as Black Rain’s dungeon. Bravo!

Home Blitz Foremost + Fair LP (Richie)
Daniel DiMaggio’s Home Blitz seems to be the last-man-standing from the mid-’00s weird-punk explosion, and on Foremost + Fair, he’s not standing around with his hands in his pockets so much as striding in on an armored stallion fresh from slaying a dragon or two. I don’t know how he does it, but there has been a continual and constant rate of improvement among Home Blitz records, consistently getting stranger and more unique. This one is particularly crazy (and decidedly hi-fi) – DiMaggio injects his pop-rock with a healthy dose of keyboards (pianos, synths, it seems like anything with black and white keys was played here) and an unexpected Medieval Renaissance vibe, like he’s been kicking around New York City with both Tom Verlaine and Robin Hood. Some of these tracks (“I’m That Key” in particular) almost have an emo-pop vibe, calling to mind The Anniversary and the first-wave of Vagrant Records-styled emo-punk, whereas others feel like they were written by John Renbourn after a Monty Python binge. Crazy, right? And through all this (and another minute-too-long field recording track), Foremost + Fair is his most enjoyable, complex and user-friendly record yet, mastered loud as hell to boot. I love it and you’d be crazy not to.

The Insults Stiff Love 7″ (Last Laugh)
Last Laugh already provided us with a faithful reissue of The Insults’ Population Zero EP, and they’re back again with Stiff Love, the other 7″ The Insults released back in 1979. I feel like I am just following a script with these reviews of obscure-classic punk 7″s, as the band hasn’t existed in decades and these songs (like the vast majority of Last Laugh’s reissues) are unassailable punk rock stupidity. The other Insults 7″ had a song about loving zombies, and on this one the love they describe is far more X-rated (I’ll leave it to your imagination). Speedy, jangly guitars, vocals that must’ve been recorded with a clothespin attached to the singer’s nose (no voice is that naturally nasal), safety pins and razor blades, it’s all here for your proto-pogo-punk enjoyment, forever and ever amen. These reissues might feel like a formality at times, but it doesn’t take away from The Insults’ appeal.

Jam City Dream A Garden LP (Night Slugs)
Jack Latham gave his project Jam City a pretty generic name, almost impossibly generic, and it knowingly betrayed the sheer outlandishness of Classical Curves, the debut album under this moniker. I absolutely love that record – it’s like it was composed purely out of sounds other producers discarded (dribbled basketballs, Polaroid cameras, asthmatic breathing), those unloved ingredients alchemized into a music so futuristic and singular it still sounds fresh if I put it on today. Not one to duplicate himself, Latham has changed his style dramatically for Dream A Garden, an album that leans heavily on ’80s roller-rink pop and prominently features his singing voice. I’ve listened to it a bunch, and while there still are plenty of unexpected, discordant moments, it does two things I’m not crazy about. One, it looks to the past in a way that countless other chill-wave / retro-futuristic / trendy artists have been doing for a few years now, and two, his voice (which has sort of a passive Toro Y Moi / Washed Out sheen) reminds me that this is music made by some indoor-dwelling nerd guy, rather than a sentient malware program making music as an ironic joke before it destroys society’s infrastructure (which is what I assume was responsible for Classical Curves). I want to like Lathan crooning on “Black Friday”, and I do, but I can’t help but think about how much I’d rather be listening to Classical Curves, again and again.

Kappa Chow Jump / SBTD 7″ (Kiss The World)
Look at Kappa Chow, all bundled up and ready to shovel some snow on the cover of this, their second 7″. Just like the first, it comes in a slightly-oversized sleeve with cool hand-drawn art, but musically, Kappa Chow seem to have calmed their hyperactivity, preferring a reserved cool over manic carousing. “Jump” is a gutsy title to roll with, standing in Van Halen’s shadow and all, but it’s a pretty nice tune, pairing a sassy bass-line with pop-ambient horns, scraggly guitar and a confident vocal (all leading to a solid hook, where they yell, you guessed it, “Jump!”). “SBTD” stands for “Something Better To Do”, and it’s another fun slice of peppy indie-punk, taking cues from Tyvek, The Clean and Protomartyr without losing any sincerity or naiveté in the process. If something feels slightly off when you are listening to Kappa Chow, allow me to remind you that they’re Canadian and it’ll all make sense.

Mad Virgins I Am A Computer 7″ (No Good)
The obsession with classic Killed By Death / Bloodstains 7″ reissues isn’t exclusively an American one, as the No Good label is reissuing a few choice cuts from Belgium’s Romantik Records, arguably that country’s first foray into punk rock. It’s not always the case with reissues like this one, but I am already deeply versed in the glory of this Mad Virgins 7″, as they aren’t just another quality punk band, but rather an entity that exists without contemporaries. The drummer is entirely foreign to the idea of modern rhythm, and it somehow propels the two-note riff of “I Am A Computer” and Crackerjack’s barely-post-pubescent vocal sneer, like Sid Vicious fresh out of the 6th grade. It’s easily one of the best rock songs I’ve ever heard, and I mean that sincerely. “Fuck & Suck” is the b-side and it’s a beaut as well, although it mostly just makes me sad that these are the only two studio-recorded songs that exist from Mad Virgins’ punkest moment (by 1981 they sounded like a polished mix of Bay City Rollers and The Undertones). I’m not one to promote reissue vinyl, but we all need Mad Virgins in our homes, one way or another.

Melchior Productions Meditations 4-6 12″ (Perlon)
I missed Meditations 1-3, and while I have no valid excuse, allow me to divert by saying that I’m digging hard on four through six, collected here. “Meditation 4″ is the long one, a solid twelve minutes of an extended vocal moan and Thomas Melchior’s trademarked percussion: snares and hats and claps that sound like tiny air puffs, delicate and crunchy. The twists and turns are subtle, but each rapidly-echoed vocal clip is like a fresh fluffing of my pillow. “Meditation 5″ had me thinking it was gonna be full-on ambient until the scissor-y hi-hats kicked in and I realized I was actually at an after-hours club in Barcelona where whiskey sodas are fifteen Euro. “Meditation 6″ mixes random radio-scanned vocals much like certain tracks on Ricardo Villalobos’ Sei Es Drum, all with the incessant minimal-techno snap that puts my body into motion. Probably not a game-changing EP for me or you, but Melchior Productions has provided me with so many great moments (No Disco Future was a game-changer for me and “Different Places” is a personal top-ten dance track) that I’m happy to settle into this one like a leather couch still warm from the body of its previous inhabitant.

Mystic Inane Eggs Onna Plate 7″ (Lumpy)
Mystic Inane’s name has been popping up on my radar over the past year or two, but through a variety of errors this 7″ is the first time I’m hearing them. And I couldn’t be happier! This is exactly the sort of slimed-out sludge-punk I need in my diet, operating from the Flipper / Bobby Soxx axis with just the right amount of Mutha Records-informed suburban angst. “Eggs Onna Plate” is the a-side for good reason, a simple and effective mosh part dosed in bacteria and left out in the sun, with the singer ranting off-time about eggs (on a plate, as it were). “Polite Society” is a mid-tempo punk banger, somewhere between Bad Noids, early TSOL and The Mad, complete with a grunt-based chorus, and “Manhood” continues to increase the tempo over the shortest cut on the EP. “Eggs Onna Plate” is the clear and present anthem, the sort of song I hope is played while my casket (or decorative urn) is carried to my final resting place, but the b-side cuts don’t slouch around either. Thanks a lot, Mystic Inane – it’s late, but now I’m hungry!

No Love Dogs//Wolves / Bad Things 7″ (Sorry State)
This No Love 7″ comes care of Sorry State’s “North Carolina Singles Series”, and while I was hoping to find out that they’re a So Much Hate tribute band, I was reasonably pleased with their actual aesthetic, a tuneful and speedy, rock-oriented punk sound. “Dogs//Wolves” feels like the halfway point between the classic-punk infatuation of No Hope For The Kids or The Vicious and the modern streamlined poppy-punk of Big Eyes. “Bad Things” reminds me of White Lung, the drums running overtime while cascading riffs and a disinterested vocal snarl hurry by. No Love certainly put effort into writing these songs, with multiple guitar parts, at least ten changes per track and some form of soloing. It goes down noticeably smooth, perfect for the easy-going hardcore-punk fan who may not sport an Off! hat but likes them just the same.

OD / MB Shplittin’ The Shtones LP (no label)
Record of the month right here! This one pits my new favorite Morgan Buckley alongside his friend Olmo Devin, hence the OD and MB in the title (these folks don’t make it easy for us, do they). According to some credits I’ve found, Buckley plays on at least one of Devin’s tracks, so I’m not sure if this is a traditional split or a collaborative effort or what, but I’m going to stop worrying about how to categorize this record and allow its utter beauty to wash over me. Both sides carry the essence of Morgan Buckley’s 12″ debut, as they casually blend Arthur Russell, Deodato, Blues Control and La Düsseldorf into something entirely new, relevant and stunning. OD’s side tends toward the glossier, groove-based side of their spectrum, dropping rocks (or shall we say “shtones”) into Brian Eno’s pond and letting them ripple in beautiful rings, both controlled and wild, whereas MB’s side leans experimental, chopping up a spoken vocal, teasing various noises over a stoic beat or vibing out on backwards loops. Something about Shplittin’ The Stones is just so perfect for me, as it manages to be calm and hypnotic and brash and weird all at the same time, all effortlessly so. I’m crazy about it!

Person Of Interest Person Of Interest 12″ (L.I.E.S.)
Stepping up from the L.I.E.S. minor-leagues of Russian Torrent Versions and L.I.E.S. white-label editions, Person Of Interest steps it up with an official L.I.E.S. 12″, replete with actual cover art (and it’s cool – a blurry image of a dude somehow performing a fade-away dunk). The music has a decent dose of character too: “What You Think You Want” isn’t just another anonymous basement-techno jam, as it rides a wiggly arpeggio over a well-worn house beat and a Beau Wanzer-esque vocal (is that a Yak Bak he’s using?). “Keep It Moving” kicks off the flip with a similar punchy vibe, presided by a seasick theremin and a swinging low-end. I’d guess that “My 97′s” refers to sneakers (as opposed to the Old variety), and it’s the slowest of the three, sounding nicely tweaked as it pairs a stern string section with an 8-bit squeak, like Actress sneaking onto the set of Dr. Who. A keeper for sure, and while I enjoy the plain uniformity of L.I.E.S.’s black DJ sleeves, this Person Of Interest 12″ makes me want to hit the courts and vigorously box people out.

Pinkwash Cancer Money 7″ (Sister Polygon)
Pinkwash are a mighty new Philadelphia duo, sporting drums, guitar through a big mess of amps and vocals with just the right layer of spittle. I hadn’t really heard them before, but I trust Sister Polygon to place only the sweetest sounds on vinyl, and there’s no disappointment here. “Cancer Money” is so revved-up, beefy and KARP-like that I swear the singer Joey was going to go into that “ding dong I’m fucking with your head” line from KARP’s “Bastard Of Disguise”, but instead he repeats a couple of his own angry lines over steamroller drums and methodical two-note riffing. “Skin” opens with a soothing tone-poem before entering a slowed form of rock catharsis, summoning a rhythmic progression somewhere between Rush and Sleep before riding out on a couple thick notes ala the title track. Both tracks showcase a nice confluence of beauty and brawn, and with a Pinkwash album in the planning stages (or so I hope), I plan on enthusiastically enjoying Cancer Money while waiting on more.

Quttinirpaaq Dead September LP (Rural Isolation Project)
Upon opening this one up, my first thought was, “I love the first two Quttinirpaag LPs, but do I really need a third one, particularly so quickly?” I hate to admit that now, as all it took was two seconds of listening to Dead September to realize that I need as much Quttinirpaaq in my life as possible. It opens with a killer Nine Inch Nails / Guns N’ Roses “You Could Be Mine” drumbeat and doesn’t quit, even as layers of guitar feedback and sonic irritants are splattered all over it. And then the next track feels like Suicide trapped inside Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, which should make your brows perk up upon reading if you are at all a fan of this website. The rest of the record is just as heavy, relentless and captivating, veering into Vatican Shadow-esque techno, Ramleh-esque noise guitar and Con-Dom-esque power-electronics with equal amounts of dedication and glee. I’ve never had the urge to carve anyone’s name into my body, but I’m starting to think a “Quttinirpaaq” logo in Old English lettering across my stomach might be an attractive first tattoo.

Sex Snobs Lonely LP (no label)
Was hoping for a Sex/Vid collaboration with The Snobs here, but sadly the chances of that happening are slim. Rather, this is an Oklahoma City-based group (someone cool’s gotta live there, right?), and while I was expecting hardcore of some sort (they even go the Old English band-name-font route), this is chugging, groovy, heavy rock music. I’m quickly reminded of Halo Of Flies, Drive Like Jehu, or any band that once played a show with Big Drill Car. They’re really pushing the negative vibes here, with songs like “Sick As A Dog”, “Pissin’ The Bed” and “The Idiot Room”, which boasts the lyrics “I am a professional at making people frown”. Definitely the type of band with guys who say stuff like “we bummed everyone out, it was so great” as though it were some sort of accomplishment. I for one am not bummed out by Lonely, though, as Sex Snobs have proved to be quite capable with their driving, beefy rock songs, favoring tuneful mean-spirited rock over hissing feedback and distortion.

Soft Shoulder Fabric 7″ (Alien Summer)
Holy Moses, Gilgongo continues to run up their credit card bill with three new Soft Shoulder 7″s, each released on hilarious fake-label names (this being an Alien Summer release). I’m a Soft Shoulder fan, so I liked checking these out, although the superfluousness of multiple short 7″s released at once by the same artist does seem a little silly, even to a fan of the format like me. “Fabric” is a good way to kick things off, chugging along like Black Time or Tyvek trying out for a Troubleman Unlimited contract. There are two tracks and an interlude on the flip, sounding like a paper-thin A Frames (“Set It Down”), a quiet jazz practice tune-up (the aforementioned interlude) and then another tom-heavy lo-fi punk stomp (“Set It Down”). Good band for sure, and I hope at least someone out there is filing these Soft Shoulder 7″s next to that Rancid forty-six 7″ box-set.

Soft Shoulder Stair 7″ (Weird Machine)
Here’s the second of the three Soft Shoulder 7″s that just came out, and I’m not gonna write about the third one (it’s cool too) simply because no band deserves three reviews in a single month. This one is also really good, some more tuneless punk crunch on the a-side, flowing into an even crunchier “interlude” and then a slowed-down version with horns (“Stair” appears twice on the a-side). It’s a gnarly enough riff that I’m down to hear it at two different speeds, so why not? Flip it for “Wyld Parrots” which is a Wounded Lion cover (remember them?) but through sonic texturalization it sounds like any other Soft Shoulder track, and the EP wraps up with “Happy Birthday, Iggy”, a personalized tune that is dear to my heart as I also know a delightful young boy named Iggy. Clearly Soft Shoulder had some tracks in the basement that needed clearing out, and it’s been one yard sale I’m glad I stopped by.

The Spirit Of The Beehive The Spirit Of The Beehive LP (Ice Age / Ranch)
The Spirit Of The Beehive’s self-titled debut album is covered in adorable childhood photos, images of cute trick-or-treaters and birthday-cake-eaters who presumably make up some of the membership of this group. Throw on the record and these images are quickly framed in a nostalgic gloom, care of the layered guitar tracks, stacked effects and despondent melodies that fill it up. Generally, modern shoegaze-pop isn’t my bag, but something about The Spirit Of The Beehive seems so carefully considered that I fall into its dusty beanbag chair quite easily. Occasional moments of Weezer and Radiohead (especially Radiohead) fandom pop up, but the album’s flow is orchestrated in such a way that the falsetto-vocal woe-is-me moments crop up right when they have the most impact, just as the occasional power-chord hooks do. I’m not sure if The Spirit Of The Beehive is depressed or delighted when they look back at these old photos, but it’s been fun trying to figure it out.

Talker Talker LP (Downwards)
The mysterious Talker is back, following his/her/its/their debut 12″ with a full-length on the formidable Downwards label. It’s more of the same, but in a good way, as this self-titled album (also called “Hari” in some locales) is a solid mix of techno-derived industrial music. Demdike’s endlessly rippling ride cymbal is present, alongside Raime’s glacial pacing and Concrete Fence’s penchant for noise, leading to a decidedly modern and referential industrial-techno record. One of my favorite tracks is the Kerridge-produced “Meniscus” (which also features his now-trademarked rusty-bullhorn vocals), not just because it’s simple, spacious and monotonously heavy, but because I like to imagine that all these foreboding, shadowy producers hang out together, showing off new runes they found near the river’s mouth and discussing cryptic hand tattoos they’re thinking about getting. The beautiful packaging sets this one off too, and while I may be a sucker at some point, I’m too busy enjoying the world of Talker to care.

Timeghost Cellular LP (Load)
I can’t help but associate Providence, RI (and Load Records in particular) with crazy hand-made artwork – besides the Wolf Eyes crew, this is the town that gave birth to the “CD-r packaged in six different hand-screened paper inserts” vibe that left such a mark on the ’00s underground. Anyway, this Timeghost LP really ups the ante with some of the most attractive LP packaging I’ve seen in a while, a screened and die-cut outer sleeve with bizarre printed insert beneath, and it’s the perfect home for this set of outside-the-box electronic experiments. It’s a hard record to place, which I dig – the music is often frantic in nature, what sounds like homemade noise-boxes and modified VCRs transmitting gobbledegook and alien morse code. I’m reminded of Irr. App. (Ext.), Panicsville and Ultra, but you could just as easily file this one under “IDM” or “Dark Ambient” (as evident on Cellular‘s Discogs page) and I would have little room to argue. While listening, I often feel like I’m inside a busy bus terminal, although the terminal is actually just the magnified inside of a microchip, and then Timeghost starts up with his unhurried whisper of a vocal (it’s as if he’s right over your shoulder) and the discomfort suddenly becomes all too real. Load’s still got it, no doubt about that!

The Zoltars The Zoltars LP (Happenin)
Third Zoltars album in four years, and while statistically my interest should decline in this mellow, wounded indie-rock band (the uniformly drab cover art doesn’t exactly shock the senses), they just keep getting better (and I enjoyed them from the start). On this self-titled record, they pick up the pace a bit, as if vocalist Jared Leibowich finally changed out of the clothes he slept in and ventured outside, even if it’s just to sit at a coffee shop for a few hours. Leibowich still sounds like he’s calling out from the inside of a locker some jock just stuffed him in, and it provides his simplistic-yet-thoughtful lyrics with a depth some normal-voiced guy would be unable to attain. It works well with the simplistic garage-rock tropes on display here (light-hearted Monks riffs, 13th Floor Elevators progressions, that sort of thing), pushing The Zoltars into a more listener-friendly direction without compromising their eccentricity. It’s like they finally got a date, resulting in an artistically-appealing cocktail of confidence and awkwardness.

Hardcore: Gimme Some More compilation 7″ (Beach Impediment)
Gotta give it up for Beach Impediment going with a 7″ compilation EP release, the likes of which are pushed further and further into obsolescence due to the internet making any/all music instantly available for listening (not to mention the slow death of the 7″ as a format people are actually willing to purchase). I was raised on hardcore compilations, so the very concept touches my heart, not to mention the funny title and fittingly prerequisite “random photo of destruction” cover art. There are six bands on this one, probably all Chaos In Tejas alumni: S.H.I.T., Peacebreakers, Mercenary, Impalers, Violent End and Ajax. Great lineup for this EP, as none of the bands turn in throwaways (and you may already know I’ve got much love for Impalers and Ajax in particular), and aesthetically it’s a winner, as all six bands have a very similar mindset for what works in hardcore and what doesn’t. If it wasn’t for the vocalists, this could be the work of one single band, and for raging modern hardcore, it works perfectly.

Impalers

To a fan trying to wade through the hundreds of bands and fests and labels, hardcore in 2015 can be as exhausting as it is exciting. Dozens of bands working with the same no-longer-obscure influences and an acute awareness of what everyone else is doing can lead to stagnation, so it’s up to us to celebrate bands like Impalers while they’re still among us. This Austin-based five-piece unit takes from hardcore’s various pasts (’83 Finland, ’81 New York, ’82 Japan, ’81 Detroit, ’84 UK are all represented) and mashes it up into something so smooth and powerful, you’ll wonder why no one else has melded Motörhead’s riffs and Gauze’s execution in such a flawless way. All of their records are great, but their latest 12″ EP Psychedelic Snutskallar pushes the band into uncharted territory, performing the near-impossible feat of “growing” beyond hardcore while firmly planted within the music’s timeless tradition (this isn’t another case of a hardcore band maturing by no longer playing hardcore). I spoke with singer Chris Ulsh, and while there was more I wanted to ask, I’ll gladly take what I can get.

What was the time and process like from Impalers’ inception as a band to your first vinyl release? Was it short or did it take a while?
The idea behind Impalers started when Mike, our drummer, and I were on tour with another band we played in. I think we were avoiding a particularly grim house party and listening to music in the van instead. We decided that when that band got home from tour we would work on some ideas while everyone else was on their way to rehearse. Once the songs began to take form we started scheduling our own practices every couple of days and then it took off from there. We had no plans past recording the first batch of songs, and actually almost scrapped the project entirely after we tracked the demo for the first time. The guy did such a piss-poor job recording us that we were convinced our band sucked, but the second time around it sounded much better and that’s what ended up being the demo.
As for the timeline, the earliest rehearsal recording I have was from 2009 and Beach Impediment / No Way didn’t get around to releasing the demo on vinyl until 2011, so the process was pretty slow at the beginning. Todo Destruido and W-Tapes split the first cassette pressing somewhere in the middle of all that and that’s when we decided to add three more people so we could play live. It was my first time playing a show only doing vocals without an instrument to hide behind and I was miserable.

Why were you miserable just singing, without an instrument? How different is it for you?
Until our first show I had only played drums or guitar in bands, so during the first instrumental part of the set it just hit me, a “what am I supposed to do right now?” kind of thing. I had never thought about it before. I imagine our first couple of shows were probably sort of awkward but it’s fine because no one was there.

You’re a five-piece hardcore band, which is kind of rare for the sort of no-frills, to-the-point style you play. Are there any five-piece hardcore bands that inspired you or your sound?
Initially when we were writing the demo as a two-piece there were a couple parts that didn’t really sound right with just one guitar and drums, so we had a few “just trust me” moments. After the songs were done it was obvious that in a live setting we would need to have two guitars, and I was bent on only singing to be more aesthetically appealing but also to try something new. Then the lineup filled out around that. But now that I think about it, most of the bands that inspired Impalers were all four-pieces. We wanted to do a tripped out later-era Anti Cimex sort of thing but with more focus on the vibe we could create by doing certain key changes and using some effects, rather than the more metallic Discharge sound those records have – if that makes any sense. The song “Mower” from the most recent record is where I feel like we finally nailed it on the head.

Do you think it helped for Impalers to have that incubation period as a ‘studio’ project, and a few years to figure out what you wanted to do? Would it be the same if you started off as a fully-functioning live band?
I think it would be completely different but I’m not sure how. Every band I was in before that was always rushed. We had to have this out by tour, this had to be ready for this show, etc… Having no real plans was perfect to make sure we got what we wanted out of the recording. Also being able to just scrap it and just walk away like we wanted to for a couple weeks with no pressure from anywhere – I think that provided a good environment initially for the creative process.

Does the standard hardcore-punk model still feel exciting in 2015? Write songs, put out a record, go on a tour? Do you think more bands should think more critically about what they are doing to promote and market themselves (or un-promote and un-market themselves, as the case may be)?
I don’t really feel like there is a lot of room for marketing but I completely understand un-promoting and un-marketing. It all depends on the goals you set when you start a band and that dictates what you say no or yes to, I guess. I am a fan of the hardcore-punk model because it gives you exactly what you put into it. Let’s say you are an active participant and you’ve been spending a lot of time with your records at home and you decide to put some effort into writing songs, then put out your own record or give it to someone you trust, then the tours come easy. But if you don’t contribute anything and put some derivative band together, why would you expect any return from it? You get what you put in. We all know this. If you are excited, punk is exciting. For example, we go to the pyramids in Mexico City before we’re about to go play, and that experience is the manifestation of our band’s work. I am literally living inside it, it’s very real to me and I like that about it. The bullshit will always be there and I might be romanticizing a little bit but I do appreciate the functionality of “write-record-tour”.

Do you think that’s generally the case, that great hardcore bands get noticed no matter how much effort they put into self-promotion? Do you think the internet has sort of leveled the playing field, in that regard?
I think there’s a few different factors at play but the internet’s effect on underground music is undeniable to me. You hear people say things like “There are no good ____ bands anymore”, but really all that says to me is “I am too lazy to try to find current music on the internet”, because it’s so easy, it just takes a little time and effort. Think about the hours we’ve all logged on Discogs over the years, or even Metal Archives – the amount of available resources is so much bigger than when I first started seeking out punk bands. And then because of these resources, the spreading of information almost effortless. So in that sense I don’t think it requires much effort, social media will do that for you. If your band decides not to play live often then the word-of-mouth factor is not in your favor. But in 2015 bands that don’t tour because they have office jobs can fly across the country for a weekend and have a crazy reaction, so god bless the internet I guess.

I have to ask: what is your practice schedule like? Both your records and the live footage I’ve seen display a tightness that most hardcore bands seem to lack.
This may sound corny but all of us are pretty close and spend a lot of time together regardless if we are practicing or not, so the chemistry is already there before we pick up any instruments, and I think that has a lot to do with it. If practice is enjoyable and the drive is there, then that sort of tightness live is the most obvious result in my experience. We also played in some other bands together previously and they are all great musicians so that doesn’t hurt either. I think we like being creative within the company of our band and it makes the level of stress very low, at least on that front. We can be really neurotic about practice so maybe sometimes we will rehearse up to three times a week, but the frequency of practice really depends on what’s on our plate. I specifically remember practicing every day for a week before we went on our first tour, but if we don’t have much coming up we won’t force anything.

Does the band feel like a democratic five-piece at this point, or is it still you and Mike writing the songs, and just telling the other guys what to play?
It was up until the very last song we wrote. We did a track for the Hardcore: Gimme Some More compilation on Beach Impediment that started with Mike and I doing our usual thing, but everyone else was there and added their own flavor. Juan helped me out with the lyrics and played the bass on the recording. That song ended up being one of everyone’s favorites so we will probably start writing more democratically from now on since we know it works well. Mike and I wrote that way for so long that I think we really needed that extra push from somewhere outside.

I get the impression that Impalers had time early on for live awkwardness and generally figuring things out, without being in the hyped spotlight or whatever. Is that the case? Are you glad that Impalers took its time to blossom, so to speak?
It was sort of a combination of things. This was before the sort of resurgence that Austin just had, even Texas on a bigger level. There weren’t as many out of town bands coming through, or bands starting up here, or shows to play as there are now. Plus we were all younger, had other bands, school, jobs… It just didn’t make sense to try to do more than what was really possible at the time. Impalers was kind of an experiment in the sense that everyone’s spot in the band wasn’t their first nature, so it was pretty convenient being able to work out the kinks before a lot of heads started filling the room.

How do you feel about Austin becoming such a hardcore hub in the past couple years? Are there any downsides to it?
It has always been a hub but now is a particularly exciting time to be there. Timmy consistently spoiled our city with Chaos fest and bands I never thought I’d see but the main difference now is that a lot of other people are stepping up too. The younger group of kids down here really breathed new life into the scene and I think we needed that. Starting bands and booking shows, mainly at all-ages spots which made it easy to pack heads in. Since the age range is a pretty big spread, that is also the downside – trying to keep a consistent all-ages venue that won’t get shut down. We’ve gotten pretty good at sneaking kids in when we need to but the attendance at those shows isn’t the same.

Was there a specific concept behind the Psychedelic Snutskallar record, or did it just kinda randomly happen? Did you try to write a track to fit the title, or did the title come about afterward?
Mike and I had a short lived project called Sick Plot that recorded two songs during the same session as the Impalers 7″. The Sick Plot songs were more drawn out, each string was layered as its own track with tons of effects. The idea was similar to Impalers but more dense and jarring. I sent Todo Destruido all of the songs together after the 7″ was done and then Eddie coined the phrase “Psychedelic Snutskallar”. I guess it floated around in our heads for a couple years, then fast forward to right before New York’s Alright 2014. We wanted to throw something together on the fly to have a new tape for sale at the fest, so we decided to rework those two Sick Plot songs as Impalers songs and maybe come up with a couple new ones. I’m not sure which we decided on first, calling it Psychedelic Snutskallar or writing an eleven-minute-long d-beat song. We tried to make it as literal as possible lyrically and aesthetically, so the record is essentially about dosing a cop.


Is Impalers the best band you’ve ever been in?

It’s the best band anyone has ever been in.