Ausmuteants / Housewives split 7″ (Total Punks)
Leave it to Total Punk to give the split 7″ format a worthy go, pulling it from certain obsolescence and placing it in the hands of these two bug-eyed Aussie punk bands. And of all things, these groups put a fresh spin on the split, with each band writing a song for the other to also perform, sharing the chords and lyrics. It’s like remixing the way nature originally intended! I don’t know which band wrote “Brown Out” and “I Wanna Sedate You”, but on Ausmuteants’ side, they rip some silly keys and pubescent male vocals into a frenzy, like Dow Jones & The Industrials if they acknowledged the Ramones. Housewives are notably heavier (come to think of it, does anyone play bass in Ausmuteants?) and slightly more generic because of it; pretty solid, but easily mistakable for Constant Mongrel or Bits Of Shit if you aren’t already a sharp-eared fan. Cool concept and execution all around, though, and I would like to extend the most impossible of challenges to Total Punk: release a great split 10″. I dare you!
Broken Talent Rules No One LP (Florida’s Dead)
Much like its general population, Florida’s punk rock contingent has always been uniquely strange. It’s like they figure out at an earlier age than the rest of us that life is full of despair and meaningless car crashes, either that or they inebriate themselves hard enough as to ignore this truth. Anyway, Broken Talent are a particularly peculiar chapter in Florida’s punk history, with only a couple tapes and a 7″ to their name until this retrospective vinyl LP. They’re dubbed “Florida’s answer to Flipper”, and while it may be more overt than most comparisons, seeing as they clearly acknowledge their love of Flipper in the detailed (and highly entertaining) liner notes, it’s a fitting one. So often, bands compared to Flipper get the noisy damage right, but ignore Flipper’s inherent pop core; Flipper were clearly trying to write sunshiney pop anthems, just in their own nihilistic way. These songs fall somewhere between Flipper and The Penetrators (it’s the hummable garage-based ineptitude), resulting in an authentic dose of outsider goofball-punk with spoken vocals, live show antagonism and a general disgust for their immediate surroundings. I had never heard of Broken Talent before this LP, and now I can’t picture life without them.
Chaos Echoes Transient 2xLP (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
Checked out Chaos Echoes on a whim, as you probably know that I’m not an ardent Nuclear War Now! subscriber (although I am a big fan of many of their releases). Anyway, this is some “experimental” French black-metal / death-metal group, and to my ears, it’s very nearly the best possible result of what such a genre designation could imply! It’s a sprawling album, but never dull, shifting coyly while maintaining a bleak atmosphere and oppressive sonic themes throughout. The guitars are almost constantly at full-throttle black-metal speed, but the drums are often not there at all, resulting in this feeling of heavy weightlessness, like floating a few hundred feet deep in the ocean. You’re impervious to gravity but your chest is about to cave in, you know? Anyway, they build it up for a while (the vocals don’t really show up until the third track!), transitioning into a meaty two-chord riff I’d expect out of Midnight or one of the simpler Pantera songs or something. It all spirals from there (excellent use of strings, drones, ambient horror, etc.), until the 4th side turns into what I’d imagine The Psychic Paramount would sound like if they tried their hands at death-metal (which absolutely annihilates, I should clarify). I don’t listen to enough experimental black-metal to confirm that Transient is a masterpiece, but I can confidently proclaim that it’s one of the best guitar-based albums I’ve heard this year.
Lucy Cliché Drain Down 12″ (Noise In My Head)
The name Lucy Cliché might ring a bell, as she was one of the two founders of Naked On The Vague, interviewed in these very pages some years ago. Like nearly every experimental punk person I know, she’s gone techno now too, operating under the Lucy Cliché moniker as the name “Lucy” is already in use by some Euro techno dude (as are most female first names these days). While Naked On The Vague initially reveled in their amateur musicality (they taped down Casio keys and awkwardly strummed guitars like no other), Cliché seems quite adept at making muscular and squirming acid-techno / electro from the very start. These four tracks thump with passion, like Profligate with sunglasses on, or perhaps something recent on the Diagonal label were it layered and calculated as opposed to live and free-flowing. I’m getting a lot of mileage out of these tracks, both in the kitchen and in the comfort of my personal lounge, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my enjoyment of Drain Down extends to the dance-floor someday. It’s a natural progression.
Drab Majesty Careless LP (Dais)
It’s about time that a sexy clown entered the gothy synth-pop foray, so here’s LA’s Drab Majesty. It’s the solo project of Andrew Clinco, of alt-rockers Marriages fame(?), but he goes by Deb Demure here, guitar strapped-on and folding table of gear neatly laid out. I have yet to see Drab Majesty perform, but unless the live show involves fire-dancers and a 3D video installation, it’s hard to hear this as anything but another good-not-great take on The Cure with Minimal Wave compilation overtones. Think of a more ethereal, guitar-based Cold Cave, or a calm and restrained John Maus giving you a guided tour of The Crow OST and you’re close to what Drab Majesty is serving. I generally like it, although I’m a handful of listens in and have yet to recall any particular track or musical motif a couple hours later (okay, “The Heiress” on the b-side is pretty catchy). The center stickers are some of the best-designed center stickers I’ve seen in a while, though, and while that is certainly admirable of Dais (I hope they won’t be pissed if I eventually steal their concept here), if your center stickers are more attention-grabbing than your music, it might be time to spend less time at Sephora and more time attempting to craft unforgettable goth-pop anthems.
Golden Pelicans Oldest Ride Longest Line LP (Total Punk)
Following last year’s self-titled debut album, Golden Pelicans are back with more beaten-up garage-punk paeans and cool hand-drawn, tattoo-style cover art. Essentially nothing has changed since Golden Pelicans checked in last, their songs still pumping like New Bomb Turks on cruise control or Dogs’ “Slash Your Face” after downing a sixer. Great tunes, but I think Golden Pelicans’ greatness comes from their vocalist Erik Grincewicz, who sounds like John Reis performing AC/DC karaoke (and winning the cash prize). Grincewicz could be reading off Fox News transcripts in lieu of actual lyrics and I’d still find him to be a charmingly mean authority figure, like your first boss at the feed mill who taught you what hard work was really all about. Have the rest of these garage-punk bands ever laid blacktop? Probably not.
Green Gums Black Tongue EP 12″ (Diagonal)
I always try to keep one eye on the Diagonal label at all times, as Powell’s taste aligns with mine more often than not and he’s always a few steps ahead of the pack. I dug the two Bronze Teeth 12″s that came out last year, and now here’s Green Gums, which is either the solo project of Bronze Teeth’s Dominic Butler or just another alias for Bronze Teeth entirely – I leave it up to you to unlock the mystery. Anyway, this one is pretty much in line with Bronze Teeth’s style, which is to say unrelenting acid-techno warm-ups full of sweaty-browed rigor and subtle manipulation. I dig this stuff for sure, but something about Black Tongue feels less like a well-planned sonic venture and more like someone messing around with cool synthesizers and drum machines in their basement while you sit and watch, waiting to take a turn yourself. If I’m not mistaken, opener “Zozomono” is just one acid arpeggio slowly and confidently tweaked – one could easily check their phone with one hand and twist a knob with the other to create a track like this, I have to assume. I prefer the oily pads and cracked-out flutter of “Dag”, and whereas “Cestoda’s Labyrinth” finds some percussive restraint around its central loop, it’s “Tap Dancing Goat Man” that comes out on top for me, some sort of electronic squid pumping digital ink in a way that recalls Actress’s earliest Honest Jon’s material (as if the title “Tap Dancing Goat Man” didn’t already solidify the track’s top-dog status). Cool stuff, but a highly casual affair, the sort of thing these Diagonal folks could knock out in an extended evening (and probably did). If I knew how, I probably would too.
Helm Olympic Mess 2xLP (Pan)
After chatting with Luke Younger (aka Helm) last month, I was quite excited to hear Olympic Mess, and now that I’ve grown accustomed to its strange fruit, I’d like to tell you about it. Younger has been using Helm to broadcast all sorts of painful, funny, inexplicable and irritating sounds, from power-electronics to the sound of wood crackling in a fire and everything in-between (both natural and supernatural). He’s always had a knack for storytelling with his avant noise, but on Olympic Mess he takes a step in a new direction, queuing up a variety of synthesized and near-pop sounds for a trip through his grinder. Most of the tracks are loop-based and progress subtly over time, calling to mind the most troubling Pop Ambient compilation there could ever be. Helm’s music soothes as it irritates, layering lush ambiance and disorienting hiss into a sweater that is fantastically warm yet madly itchy. The inclusion of “Strawberry Chapstick” is the biggest outlier, a whispered spoken-work track that feels like Graham Lambkin reading the diary of an obsessive Iceage fan. But all in all, it’s like Helm wants to make sure you get some sand in your sneakers while enjoying a beautiful day at the beach, and I for one and happy to take his holiday.
Institute Catharsis LP (Sacred Bones)
Had no idea that Institute’s debut album would be the record I listen to most this summer thus far, but I guess that’s also part of the reason some people are crazy about sports: you never know what’s going to happen. I thought this band had some cool singles, and I dug their name, as well as their crass attitude toward borrowing riffs off classic punk obscurities, but yeah, I just can’t stop spinning this one. It’s just got exactly what I want to hear: simplistic punk riffs that verge on kraut-rock if it weren’t for the fact that the last few notes are usually sour, unhinged vocal moaning that registers some Madonna-grade British accent, guitars that are loud but not too loud, and songs that seem to be held together by the same glue Mad Nanna use. I could put this on at a respectable house party and no one would notice that vocalist Moses Brown’s been groaning for the past twenty minutes, or that the song seems to be stuck in an infinite loop. It’s like a punker, nihilistic version of Eddy Current, if Eddy Current weren’t all such teddy-bears and instead took the teachings of Doc Dart seriously. Love it!
KAG//TFX Fugue 7 7″ (Perennial)
KAG stands for Katie Alice Greer (supreme vocalist of Priests, niece of David Allan Greer) and the TFX stands for TransFX, the electronic dance project of someone from Gag or the Perennial label itself (the mystery is almost alluring enough for me to properly research). Anyway, this is a weird one, a double A-sided single in that both sides have the exact same song, which is actually called “Trim”. It’s pretty cool – Greer leaves her bile acid in DC and sings softly and confidently, like a VHS tape that compiles Madonna and Deborah Harry’s Saturday morning cable-access dance show performances from 1982 mixed with Amy Dykes of the unfortunately-named I Am The World Trade Center. The music is suitably present-but-distant, like a song you vaguely remember hearing before, and Greer captivates along with it. Now if only they would’ve gone ahead and recorded more than one damn song.
Male Patterns Thinking Too Much EP 7″ (Shock To The System)
Sadly, the only pattern human males are famous for is baldness, but Male Patterns find some sort of solace in their defeat, even if their general outlook is fairly bleak. On this six-song EP, they request to be killed, question if they deserve to live, get annoyed by poseurs, feel tired, notice that other people don’t like them, and once again reflect on their exhaustion and general malaise. All in a day’s work! The music calls to mind early ’00s hardcore punk like Caustic Christ or Tear It Up, with essentially no mosh parts or breakdowns, just straight-forward speedy riffing, gruff-but-intelligible vocals and just a splash of guitar wankery (closer on the dial to Turbonegro’s leads than Greg Ginn’s). Ultimately a pretty forgettable record for a guy like me who lives states away and has heard this sort of thing done many times before, but it’s surely meaningful to grumbly old punks in Albany and its bordering suburbs, a fact that I have no interest in diminishing. Male Patterns are surely meaningful to some, I’m just not one of them.
The Minneapolis Uranium Club Band Human Exploration LP (Fashionable Idiots)
I’ll hand it to this band, as the simple act of looking at their record and playing it was more confusing than my first time navigating the subway alone. They’re called The Minneapolis Uranium Club Band (or maybe it’s just Minneapolis Uranium Club in reality), which doesn’t really seem like a real band name, what with various references to the Sunbelt Chemicals Corporation and center stickers for a band called Pencil and their album Not Pen!, which of course is an intentional mistake. And I thought navigating Fucked Up’s fictional universe was exhausting! Anyway, I’m sure they would delight in my exasperation, but I don’t really mind either, considering their music is pretty fantastic. They’re like a 50/50 split of Wire circa Pink Flag and Angry Samoans circa Inside My Brain. The guitars are taut and sharp, the songs straight-forward and simple, the vocals snotty and obtuse, and it works exceptionally well. They’ll cruise in an Eddy Current-esque holding pattern and then bust out a stompy groove like “The Misadventures Of Prissy Chrissie”, which might be my favorite track on the record. It’s a nice example of classic punk tropes with a modern scrubbing, and if I can ever figure out the secret handshake, you might catch me at the next Minneapolis Uranium Club tricky tray beef n’ brew.
Kassem Mosse & Simone White Three Versions 12″ (Honest Jon’s)
This collaboration between German techno purist Kassem Mosse and American blues/folk singer Simone White is not the sort of pairing you’d expect, but leave it to the good folks at Honest Jon’s to make it happen. White has a few releases on Honest Jon’s under her belt and I’m sure Mosse has at least a remix or two, and now here they are together for an intimate suite of elastic analog techno and soft, shadowy vocals. I’m reminded of the fractured electronic and spoken-word mashup of AGF, particular in the way White’s voice is so hushed and direct, like her lyrics are all secrets whispered in your ear. Unlike AGF, though, Mosse is eager to lock into a rhythm, be it the chill-out house of “Flowers In May” or the ethereal and percussive “In The Water Where The City Ends”. Unless I’m missing something, White is absent from “Long Moon”, in which jingle bells are peppered onto one of Mosse’s trademark stutter-step grooves, not unlike cocoa hitting hot milk. I get the impression this was a fleeting partnership, as though they are two strangers having a perfectly intimate conversation at a bar and never seeing each other again, but I can only hope this is merely the beginning and not also the end.
Move D & DJ Jus-Ed Brother’s EP 2×12″ (Underground Quality)
Feeling kinda foolish for not checking out Move D more often, as every time I do, I am reminded of his fascinating take on house – for music that can be entirely electronic, his always feels so vibrant and alive. Teamed up here with the underground legend DJ Jus-Ed, this EP offers four fantastic tracks of lively, party-patrolling dance music. Opener “Acid Grind” is almost like watching a DVD with the commentary on, as Jus-Ed and Move D discuss the origins of acid, pump each other up and talk shop over an infectious acid groove. “From Bridgeport To Heidelberg” is a first-class flight where you are seated between Theo Parrish and Guy Gerber with complimentary champagne, and then “Hustler Suite” brings back the color commentary over a nocturnal tech-house excursion. My favorite is “It’s A Struggle”, though, a track that has been kicking around for a few years and finally given the vinyl treatment. It utilizes a plaintive acoustic guitar loop and the title repeated like a mantra, like a beautiful blooming flower you can dance to. A lot of ground is covered on these four tracks, all of which I desperately need more of in my life. Not a cheap record (I think it’s over thirty dollars at any reputable American distro), but Brother’s is better than any dinner out you’ll have this week, I guarantee.
Mystic Inane Ode To Joy 7″ (Negative Jazz)
If you catch me on a bad day, I might bemoan the severe conformity that seems to have taken over hardcore-punk in 2015 – sure, bands are emulating classic 1982 hardcore and 1984 post-punk goth with stunning accuracy, but historical accuracy can be dreadfully boring! This is why I’m glad that bands like Mystic Inane exist, as they certainly could fit right in on P.E.A.C.E. or some other classic hardcore comp, but they have a unique style all their own, particularly due to their songwriting. Take “Ode To Joy” for instance – it kicks off with a Crazy Spirit / Dawn Of Humans pogo, sans vocals, and then after a minute or two cuts into this strangely moshable breakdown, where the vocalist repeats a word that sounds like “visa” over and over until it eventually disintegrates. Who came up with this? Oh to be a fly on the wall during a Mystic Inane songwriting session. “Pervert In Society” and “Grease Inna Hair” follow on the flip, sounding like Priests if they lived at ABC No Rio in 1986 (is that an actual tuneful guitar line I’m hearing in “Grease”?), each with unintuitive vocal flows and peculiar intent. I dunno about you, but I’m dying for a Mystic Inane album, because if there’s any band today who can really pull apart the “hardcore punk album” concept into something new and wonderfully unappealing, it’s these folks right here.
Nocht The Only Ghouls Zodiac Chord LP (Vwyrd Wurd)
Quite vwyrd indeed, Nocht The Only Ghouls are back with their second vinyl album, this one packaged in a color fold-out poster so giant it could conceal an entire Volkswagen Jetta. You probably didn’t catch their first album (limited to one hundred copies I believe, with most presumably residing in Pennsylvania), but it was a strange slice of dust-covered acoustic guitar music with the constant fear of black metal impending at any time – the musical equivalent of an early scene in a horror movie where a child is playing in the attic and a doll flings off an old rocking chair, but that’s all that happens. Same deal more or less for Zodiac Chord, comprised of fingerpicked acoustic guitar, occasional banjo and the inherent sound of the rooms they were recorded in. It’s simple enough, but something about the whole project seems disturbed on a level I can’t place… perhaps this is all a grave warning that I can’t decipher. Kind of Jandek-ian in that way, but then again, it’s really just guitar. Comes with a few strange typed-up stories too, one that starts with the line “It was Herman Ratzel who invented dentistry” and goes from there. I’d say this one is for true freaks only, but your parents actually might like it too. It’s that sinister.
Ravi Shavi Ravi Shavi LP (Almost Ready)
Throwback garage-rock isn’t often something I crave, but when it’s done right, it’s an undeniable testament to the perpetuity of the electric guitar, as is the case with Ravi Shavi and their debut LP. First, you need a strong vocalist, and they’ve got that in bandleader Rafay Rashid, who conjures both Arthur Brown and Ian Svenonius in his sassy, demented squeals, convincing not just the front row but the back of the house to fall in love with him. The band is quite good as well, tightly executing these fairly traditional garage-rock tunes, seemingly uninterested in the punk that followed a decade later and keeping it strictly for the sock-hop crowd, albeit the hottest, most sexually liberated sock-hop around. I dunno, I’m not reaching for Ravi Shavi too often, but each time I do I can’t help but remark at how skillful and enjoyable this group is, poodle skirts be damned.
Secret Lover Secret Lover LP (Sister Cylinder)
With an appealing skull painted on the cover, cool band name and cool shot of the band hanging out against a wall (they look like Monotonix cleaned up for a first date), Secret Lover already endeared themselves to me. A few listens into their self-titled album, though, and I’m still trying to figure out what happened. They look like rockers with plenty of hair to bang around, but they play these soft, slow-dance power-pop songs, although there doesn’t seem to be much power in the equation. It’s like a garage band that plays the prom, fronted by Screaming Females’ Marissa Paternoster, forced into only playing the slow jams. The lyrics have a cool brokenhearted distance that I enjoy (you can tell they are truly feeling the title “Sometimes My Wine Becomes My Lover”), but ultimately I don’t find much appeal in the songs themselves. They’re just too slow and somber, and built upon the same “Blue Moon” / “Heart And Soul” variety of hooks that I pretty much never need to hear again. I hate to insult a band with as many cool-looking slobs in it as this one, though, and can only wish them the best of luck as I slowly walk backward to the exit.
Sigha Techno Derivatives 12″ (Avian)
Okay, so Sigha was always one of those perfectly fine second- or third-tier avant-techno dudes in my book, the sort of producer that does a commendable job of fitting with the popular underground sound without really making any sort of unique statement, but I have to say, he’s winning me over big with Techno Derivatives. I mean, come on, that title! It’s making me want to do an album called Redundant Punk Rock or Grindcore Facsimiles. I assume he means it more in a way of stripping down techno to its basic necessities, like a car engine disembodied and running on cinderblocks, but I love the idea of calling one’s own music derivative right off the bat. Especially since it’s not necessarily true here… these tracks certainly fit in with the Downwards order of the day, but they are so limited, repetitive and inappropriate for dancing that I find myself slowly enamored, like I’m listening to the opening bars of a Female track from 2004 removed of any bass and trapped in a loop. “04” might be my favorite, as it reminds me of the run-out groove on a Test Dept record, short upward slaps of static that fluctuate in power and precision with a whooping alarm that never quite gets to belt out its siren. Thumbs up!
Sightings Amusers And Puzzlers LP (Dais)
When word came through of Sightings calling it quits, I can’t say I was surprised, but that doesn’t mean it lessened the blow. The past fifteen years or so have been made so much richer due to their existence, this NY band who took the no-wave ethos to previously unexplored territory, starting by imploding garage-rock on itself and quickly moving to more alien terrains. Just look at the various labels that released their records and it’s like a list of the best experimental-rock imprints of the current millennium. Anyway, Amusers And Puzzlers is their final album, recorded around the same time as 2013’s Terribly Well, and it’s a fine way to go out, sort of integrating all their various sonic avenues into one tidy album. Richard Hoffman fiercely transmits other-dimensional morse code via his bass, Jon Lockie triggers sonic booby-traps with his drumming and Mark Morgan scrapes the unnatural out of his guitar while howling, yowling and growling his abstract lyrics. No one does it like Sightings, before or since, and along with my memories of their live shows and previous albums, I will cherish Amusers And Puzzlers.
Small Wigs New Wig / Hangdog 7″ (Mock)
Small Wigs features the brothers Kuehn (Elvis and Max, sons of T.S.O.L. keyboardist Greg Kuehn), whose work in the group FIDLAR has caused many a parent grief over the past couple years. Judging from FIDLAR’s touring schedule, this is the side project, rounded out by Mikki Itzigsohn (talk about an easily-Googled name) on bass and “vox”. These two songs exemplify the good-time party-rock of the ’10s, the sort of thing you expect to hear at a Burger Records showcase while a pizza-eating contest rages on in the parking lot. Small Wigs avoid the lo-fi pitfall by offering a slick recording that aids these two tracks, proving you don’t always have to hide your sun-kissed garage-pop under a dark veil of GarageBand hiss. A little slide guitar tastefully sneaks its way onto “Hangdog” too, which is probably named after the food truck they all meet up at before going skating. Oh, to be young again!
Snäggletooth Snäggletooth 7″ (4490)
Punk has always celebrated physical traits that the mainstream tried to scrub clean, from GBH’s stellar acne to this modern British band called Snäggletooth. As the punk leather jacket on the cover seems to imply, they’re certainly interested in the classic ’77 punk style and how it crossed over into the hard rock of the ’80s. They open with a cock-rock instrumental intro, and go right into some solidly basic British-sounding hardcore-punk. I’m reminded of a more metallic Suicidal Supermarket Trolleys, particularly in the vocals. Lots of stadium-sized guitar ring-outs, punched-in solos and wild drumming, all of which helps provide Snäggletooth a nice swatch of denim to compliment their black leather and red tartan. They definitely carry the vibe where I’d expect to see their name on a flyer for a ten-band punk rock barbeque with a colorful cartoon punk-guy illustration yelling “punk’s not dead!” – you know the scene I’m talking about, but if I happened to hear Snäggletooth as I walked by, I might be tempted to stop in, and not just for the corn on the cob.
State Champion Fantasy Error LP (Sophomore Lounge)
The Sophomore Lounge label seems to have no defining aesthetic beyond what they happen to fancy at any given moment. It’s a business practice that I personally appreciate, but I can’t help but feel like State Champion is the Sophomore Lounge house band – at least one member of the band helps run the label, and they’ve done a number of records together, building up to Fantasy Error, the Champ’s third(?) full-length. Gotta say, they really nail what they’re going for here, an easy-listening, well-worn rock album with the heavy influences of country and slacker-indie coming to blows and leaving as friends. It squares off somewhere between Pavement, Wilco and Calexico, with a focus on personal and inventive lyricism (each song has enough lyrics to fill a chapter in a book) and comfortable hooks. Kind of crazy to realize that “No Pleasure” is over seven minutes long, the way it breezes in the room and drops its friendly hook on the couch. When I play this record, it’s like I’m walking into a bar and the whole band turns their heads and smiles at me simultaneously, calling me over to their table and picking up my first round. Time flies when State Champion are hanging out just shooting the shit, what can I say?
Terveet Kädet Lapin Helvetti LP (SPHC)
SPHC steps up for the North American pressing of Terveet Kädet’s fourteenth album, Lapin Helvetti. They might be the longest continually-running hardcore band at this point, pushing through every decade of the genre’s existence with thrashing speed and a firm belief in the “louder, faster, shorter” hardcore ethos. Kind of amazing, really, to witness this band rage forward with dreadlocks attached to their heads that are probably as old as some of you reading this right now. I’m no deeply informed historian of the group, but I’ve heard enough Kädet in my day to know that this new album leans a little closer to metal than previous outings, particularly in the guitar picking and overall production. There’s plenty of jud jud-ing on the guitars alongside the occasional Motörhead-ish chord progression and Läjä Äijälä’s rapid-fire vocal bursts. Definitely not one of the more exciting hardcore albums I’ve heard this year, but if you keep in mind that this group have probably written at least 500 hardcore songs in their day, it’s a boggling human achievement that may never be surpassed.
Tropical Trash UFO Rot LP (Load)
After a few singles displaying their slippery form of hardcore-punk, Tropical Trash are promoted to the Load Records camp, and for good reason. They demonstrate their style here with gusto, strutting through simplistic and monotonous punk that seems equally indebted to late ’70s no-wave and early ’90s noise-rock. This basically means that they’re a perfect fit for Load, recalling the label’s earliest days as a twisted strand of garage-punk, as many of the songs here recall the glory of Thee Hydrogen Terrors or the rock-based Six Finger Satellite records. While the drums seem to emanate from a windowless basement (maybe it’s just the constant open hi-hat that gives off this prisoner vibe), the recording’s clarity is on the right side of audible and you can even make out some lyrics here and there. Seven hefty and upbeat blasts await you on the a-side, and two deliberately extended pieces are lurking on the flip (think Crash Worship without the fire-dancing on “Knowing” and Landed without the fire-wearing on “Pink Sweat”). Cool!
Vaaska Todos Contra Todos LP (Beach Impediment)
A nice group of punk skeletons greets us on the cover here: one guy’s barfing while brandishing a hunting knife; another has a large pair of hedge clippers; someone’s got an automatic rifle and they all have impossibly-soft heads of spiky hair, perhaps the only freshly-shampooed punk skeletons in history. A different barfing skeleton in a leather jacket (this one has a mohawk) brings us the song titles on the back. I love punk. Anyway, Vaaska always seemed second-tier when it came to the vibrant and diverse Austin hardcore scene – solid stuff, but ultimately nothing too memorable. I still mostly feel that way, although Todos Contra Todos is my favorite thing I’ve heard from them yet. The recording is solid and powerful without coming across too clean, the vocals nicely set into the mix, and the riffs are simpler (and thus more effective). I wouldn’t hesitate to play “Policia Policia” if I was doing a hardcore-punk radio show somewhere, but as the entire album goes, it sounds great but kinda blends after a while and doesn’t stick to my ribs the way I’d like. Some damn fine punk skeletons they’ve got here, though. They should get their own show.
Violence Creeps On My Turf 7″ (Veecee)
I know, you’re probably expecting me to tell you about some new band featuring members of Warthog, Ajax and Ivy playing ’82 UKHC or something, but Violence Creeps are going to surprise you! Sure, they’re unflinchingly angry and ready to push you off a balcony, but they do so with these strangely post-punk-inflected hardcore tunes. Imagine The Door And The Window pretending to be Red Alert for Halloween, members of The Yah Mos and FYP forming a new band over a shared love of Madball, or Bad Daddies infatuated by the earliest Rough Trade singles and you’re somewhat near the amateurish majesty of Violence Creeps. Plus, something about the black and red cover art and the construction paper they’re printed on has me dreaming of Touch & Go releases #1 and #2. “On My Turf” is the slow-pitting standout on here, although all three tracks chomp flesh and spit gristle. If you disagree with me and decide to mess with a band called Violence Creeps, well, that’s on you.
The Warden The Warden 7″ (Lumpy)
Picked up this 7″ by The Warden from the Lumpy BigCartel last month without the slightest clue. From checking out the cover art and knowing Lumpy Records’ interest in bands who create and inhabit unique fictional worlds, I was hoping this was supposed to be a band based around an evil prison warden, with the songs written from his perspective. Would’ve been a cool idea, but instead, The Warden are a fairly regular (but good) thrashy hardcore band, making use of all the tempos faster than mid-paced – you’ll get a Lack Of Interest-y blast-beat or three, some hectic 97a / No Comment-ish time changes, a touch of Poison Idea’s steamroller rage and plenty of hard mosh territory, all with snarling vocals that reside in the middle of the mix. Eight songs on this EP, all of which seem ripe for a split with MK Ultra or Pretentious Assholes or some other gnarly Midwestern hardcore-grind band from the late ’90s. The Warden should be proud of themselves.
Zadig Kern Space Adventures Episode #2 12″ (Syncrophone Recordings)
Not sure how I stumbled upon Parisian DJ and producer Zadig, but I sure am glad I did. First of all, he looks like a real-life version of The Ghost Of Christmas Past (just Google him and be amazed by his ancient eyebrows), and secondly, his simplistic, repetitive techno continually hits my sweet spot. This recent 12″ in particular has proven to be something I can’t stop listening to, even if there’s nothing exceptional about it. It’s as though most other producers are at the ice rink, skating around the oval in a counterclockwise loop, but Zadig is a pro, gliding effortlessly and turning his body in such as way as though he seems to levitate. A-side “Quiet Orbit Around Gladia” unfolds like a Calathea flower, the way in which the music seems to progress without actually really changing at all. “Hunted By The Cosmic Assassin” has a little more of the Drexciyan flavor the title might imply, but it’s just as soothing and appreciated as an ice cube in your drink. Cheers, Zadig!