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Reviews – September 2013

Alberich Machine Gun Nest: Cassette Works Volume 0 LP (Hospital Productions)
Alberich is probably my favorite current Hospital artist – when it comes to decaying industrial electronics, he just knows how to work it. And as I’m not one to hunt down cassettes, this LP collection is just what I needed. Machine Gun Nest is top-shelf material, and it offers a deeper clarity to that which Alberich has previously built; these songs sound like songs with noise built into them, not a giant buzzing cloud of noise that might reveal the shape of a song over time. It’s varied enough, too – Alberich easily slips through Silent Servant-style dungeon-techno, Haus Arafna’s morbid sexuality and the militant noise of Genocide Organ, and it all totally works. Even the ambient tracks provide a nice level of eerie calm, like the weather right before a hurricane hits, and I can’t get enough of the frequently-used warbly vocal effect (also well-utilized on Pharmakon’s recent album). I kinda wish that Hospital didn’t suddenly become an import label (can’t you leave the few good American electronic labels alone, Boomkat?), but between you and me, I’m willing to pay double for a record like this one.

Back To Back Flesh & Bone 7″ (Lockin’ Out)
From the first few seconds of “Flesh & Bone”, it’s clear that this is another modern hardcore group to have fallen under Hoax’s spell – from the mean-mugging riff to the way the singer grunts right along with the first full-band note, the only thing this record’s missing is a welted forehead. I love Hoax though, and I’m certainly not complaining about Back To Back either – indebted they are, for sure, but they make good use of the constant and evenly downpicked riffs, the tom-heavy mosh parts, the brief song lengths and a tasteful amount of echo on the vocals. It’s not as heavy as Hoax, and Back To Back’s scale tips closer to punk than metal, which is generally how I prefer it (“Society Scar” is a speedy rager than puts a little distance to the Hoax comparison). Kinda cool that this came out on Lockin’ Out, a label I have always admired aesthetically but never wanted to really listen to (except for RZL DZL of course), as this sort of rigid, Ildjarn-flavored hardcore-punk can apparently inspire kids in Supreme gear as much as kids in Death In June necklaces. Although come to think of it, those two sects have probably combined at this point anyway.

Bassholes Boogieman Stew LP (Columbus Discount)
Putting out any record is a labor of love these days, but putting out a record that comes in a stamped and stickered manilla envelope that’s just barely big enough to squeeze the actual LP into (and nearly impossible for a layman like myself to put back in easily)… that’s a real labor of love right there, probably verging on a labor of hate after the first dozen stuffings. Bassholes are another Columbus rock band with multiple albums spanning many years that I have never heard, and while most recent Columbus Discount releases have been hitting a real sweet spot for me, one where beer and bitterness and stormy guitar-rock interect, this Bassholes album is just kinda okay. It’s a pretty rough recording, rougher than your average Cheater Slicks live album even, but just as surly, and twice as saucy. At times, an image of Lamps playing at one of those crappy “cowboy” bars with a mechanical bull comes to mind, and at others, I get the distinction impression that Boogieman Stew is what would happen if Guinea Worms decided to mock honky-tonk blues via imitation and record it inside a small tin can. It’s decent, just not something I’m going to think about in a couple weeks, and even if I had the urge to listen to it two weeks from now, I’d have to contend with that skin-tight envelope all over again… Bassholes are probably delighted that they don’t make it easy for me, of that I have no doubt.

Bits Of Shit Meat Thump / W. W. Me 7″ (Total Punk)
The Bits Of Shit album came in an extra-glossy jacket with a cartoon dog-man on the cover, a package that always seemed a little too cutesy-clean for this group. Thank goodness they’re finally in one of these cheap and crumply Total Punk sleeves, right where this music belongs. “Meat Thump” has to acknowledge the group of the same name in some way, there’s no way it’s a coincidence, but I cannot detect any affiliation – it’s just a sneering slice of negative punk vibes. Did the vocalist always sound this much like Doc Dart? “W. W. Me” is meaner than the a-side, kind of a Child Molesters vibe but with the vocalist’s same helium squeak irritating everyone in sight. I feel like any Total Punk single is a safe bet at this point, I mean at the very least it’s gonna be decent, but this Bits Of Shit single surprised me with its bad attitude and raw delivery. The name still grosses me out too, so I’d say Bits Of Shit were successful on all fronts.

Chevalier Avant Garde Hilary / Those Who Suffer 7″ (Beko)
Had no idea what to expect from this single, which looks like some sort of textbook you have to buy for community college art class, plus the whole having “avant garde” in your band name thing, which just seems improper. Whatever though, this record is cool, dare I say it’s cool-wave even, since it’s not quite cold enough for cold-wave, but brisk just the same. “Hilary” has a vibe somewhere between Automelodi and Asylum Party, real dreary and melancholy synth stylings, the sort of song that should be shown with an alternate version of the “Take On Me” video where the comic book boy doesn’t get the girl and just slits his wrist, bleeding out black ink until he fades from the page. “Those Who Suffer” is a little less morose, as the bass-line gets downright funky while Mr. Chevalier bounces his vocal down a hallway of mirrors. If Tin Man played Dance Party USA in 1988, maybe he would’ve done a track like this? Aesthestically-speaking, Chevalier Avant Garde seems incredibly out of step with today’s Wierd / Sacred Bones synth-style, which may be why I find it so appealing, like they are just outsiders who happened to make a good single of music that is very much en vogue at the moment and have no idea what their records are supposed to look like – or maybe the songs are just nice enough that it doesn’t matter either way.

Chinese Burns Got Lost 7″ (Swashbuckling Hobo)
Swashbuckling Hobo finally shows us a little mercy and gets significantly less goofy with this short n’ simple single by Chinese Burns. The ‘Burns play a pretty generic form of garage-rock in its most basic form, with two notes on the guitar, a drummer that doesn’t need four limbs to play his kit, and a singer whose leather jacket probably smells like a convenience store. If you’re heard The Devil Dogs or The Mummies or The Candy Snatchers or The Oblivians, you’ve heard this style done better, but some people don’t demand the very best, they’ll enjoy any group of slobby drunks with bad attitudes and rude lyrics. I think I fall somewhere in-between, so while I have no beef with Got Lost and its three cuts of heard-it-before garage-punk, it’s already fading out of my memory, much like that fourth slice of pizza I ate last night when I really only wanted two.

Cured Pink Body Body Body 7″ (Black Petal)
I remember Cured Pink from their wonderfully unsettling split 7″ with Penguins, and while I can’t quite remember which group they were, both sides were pretty great, so I looked forward to this one. It’s not what I was expecting (angry noise-ambient with one guy just beating up an inanimate object), but it might actually be better than that! “Body Body Body I Need It I Need It I Need It” unfortunately reminds me of So So Many White White Tigers by title, but it’s actually a really cool take on Public Image dub-provocation with the behavior of an experimental DIY provocateur. Lots of kitchen-sink percussion clanking along to a muddy bass-line and a vocalist who slowly spirals down the drain. “Amnesia (As Answer)” is killer too; it comes with a mutant Jah Wobble vibe that quickly calls to mind the greatest Australian group to ever exist, Slugfuckers, in a way that seems entirely casual and cool and without the slightest bit of the most deadly artistic sin, “trying hard to be weird”. I liked Body Body Body at first, but I’m listening to it again now for the nth time and I think I might be crazy about it.

Dads Invisible Blouse 7″ (Wharf Cat)
Wharf Cat seems like a label that is nothing if not dedicated to Dads, but even still, I didn’t see this one coming – a reissue of Dads’ 2009 debut single. Are there really no other new records to be released? Can’t Dads just churn out another new one? I mean, it’s decent enough, when it comes to lo-fi fuzz-pop with barked nonsense vocals and fall-apart post-screamo improv, but neither song is really much of a song, so much as truncated jams that were probably fun to play and are kinda fun to listen to. These songs really demand little more documentation than to simply pass through the ears of whoever was walking by the garage at the time of recording, so I’m just kinda scratching my head. The b-side in particular sounds like a rudimentary take on what Neon Blud later improved upon, and Dads themselves have gone on to make better records than this. There is one thing that is undoubtedly certain, though, and I can comfortably pronounce without any reservation: this record exists.

Dream Decay NVNVNV LP (Iron Lung)
I appreciate how dedicated to the ‘core Iron Lung is, while still being able to comfortably branch out a bit. Like Dream Decay, for example: this group would never be confused for hardcore (well except maybe by my grandma), but they fit right into Iron Lung’s stable with their big ugly guitars and distorted vocals. The obvious reference point for their sound is Swans – they are definitely going after a great Filth moment of their own, but in a world where Sonic Youth have like thirty years under their belt, screamo came and went, and it’s not uncommon for hardcore kids to have noise side-projects. Besides its Swansiness, NVNVNV mostly hits me like the direct midpoint between Walls’ basement-dwelling post-hardcore and Sword Heaven’s bearded guy dragging a chain covered in cymbals across the floor – very heavy and nearly falling apart, but actually quite coordinated and thoughtful once you let it seep in. Dream Decay even get kind of melodic on the b-side, like Qui if they were actually heavy, but I mostly just want them to flatten the land in front of them with slow-mo drum smashes and detuned guitars. It’s all pretty cool, though!

Earthen Sea / Insect Factory split 12″ (Earthen Zone / Insectfields)
I swear Earthen Sea and Insect Factory just scrubbed the word “GAS” off the cover of this 12″, as those foggy, amber-colored tree limbs are as Zauberberg as you can get. While not exactly a tribute in sound, the vibe of this EP sure fits with Gas’s black-forest ambient, the sort of record that takes you to the middle of the forest and sits you on a stump, with nary a crumb to find your way back home. The Earthen Sea side ebbs and flows like a calm beach, some sort of low-end churning beneath a few crisscrossing sine-waves of higher register. Once things are in motion, they keep swaying until the groove runs out. Insect Factory is a little more diverse in his approach, and willing to poke you a little bit, starting the track with a fire-alarm tone and various scratchy electronics, buzzing like an invisible fly around your head. Reminds me more than a little of Fennesz, in the way the guitar is tickled until it eventually changes colors. This EP makes for a complimentary pairing of dark and light drone, no doubt.

Eastlink Wild Dog / Blood Money 7″ (Aarght!)
Aarght! was one of the first Australian labels in the post-Eddy Current landscape to put out a bunch of cool stuff – they’re always worth a spin. I never heard of Eastlink before, but I could smell the Mikey Young mastering job a mile away, that’s for sure – the guitar sound (and riff) of “Wild Dog” is pure Mikey. Maybe new Australian bands are forming solely for the hope of gaining this great man’s approval? Anyway, that guitar riff is really all this song has going for it, and it never quits (toward the end, another guitar joins in on the fun too), plodding like Brainbombs but with the sonic vibe of The Scientists. “Blood Money” has a garage-y Urinals vibe, although nearly everything is drowned out by all those guitars (is it just one, or is it seven?), although the singer does a good job of staying alive through the turbulence. I’ll admit, if this one wasn’t on Aarght!, I probably would’ve listened a couple times out of respect and then quickly get rid of it, but since it came out on the label that it did, I listened a little harder, in hopes that there was some secret waiting to be unlocked. If there is, I haven’t found it yet, because all I’m really getting out of Eastlink is more store-brand garage-rock that tastes fine, like everything else.

Exiles From Clowntown (No) Original Thort / Into The Light 7″ (Ever/Never)
Starting your record business with an Exiles From Clowntown release seems like a genius move – your musical roster is instantly great, and you can file for bankruptcy in less than a year! Honestly, I wish I was the one releasing Exiles From Clowntown records, as this group is just so slovenly and barely there, they make Cheater Slicks sound like Rush. “(No) Original Thort” rides a slowed-down, narcotized Spin Doctors beat while one guitarist puts on a wig and pretends he’s Thurston Moore and the rest of the band behaves as if they are playing charades and their word is “lugubrious”. “Into The Light” is a bit more plaintive, a Sunday morning confessional by the Exiles’ unwieldy standards, and it might be my favorite track they’ve done thus far. Only 150 copies, so I apologize in advance to all of Yellow Green Red’s 150 readers out there – one copy is already spoken for. Rumor has it that “select editions” of this record were taped and stapled to various walls in New York, which seems like an appropriately foolish measure to me. I hope the entirety of the next Exiles In Clowntown record pressing is just buried in some dude’s backyard, and the label just tells people about it. Fuck it!

Framtid Consuming Shit And Mind Pollution: The Early Demos 1997-2001 LP (540 / Crust War)
In large, near-Cyrillic lettering, the back cover of this record states “By Any Reason War Is Unnecessary”, and I feel like the same could be said about LP collections of demo tapes. But of course, a band like Framtid is an except to many rules, the hardcore-crust lifers that they are. This lavish gatefold release contains four separate demos, starting in 2001 and working its way back to 1997. It sounds great, I mean it’s certainly Framtid, but the recordings are just slightly less heavy than their albums, and by the time we’ve hit 1997, I can clearly hear the improvement and refinement they have undergone in the past sixteen years. Amazingly, they don’t repeat any tracks across any of these demos, so it’s certainly a nice little compendium for the vinyl snob Framtid completist (of which there are plenty). You’ve probably decided if you are going to buy this long before you read this review, but I’d be remiss to not mention the killer booklet that comes along with it. You can play “Where’s Waldo?” with shoelace headbands!

Gasmask Terrör 17101961 7″ (SPHC / Solar Funeral)
This new single is my first exposure to Gasmask Terrör, a name I recognize from years of thumbing through crusty distros, ones where the cardboard box is held together with duct tape and there’s a sleeping (I hope?) dog leashed to it. I never thought twice about them before, maybe I’m just prejudiced against French crust, but this single is okay. Gruff vocals, speedy riffing, Discharge-inspired guitar work, all that stuff. I’d say that 17101961 is recorded a little too clean for my liking though, which could also lead to my second issue – the drums sound more like something off Fat Wreck Chords than Crust War. I can never get into d-beat or crust groups that just sound like a heavier Good Riddance with a different singer, and Gasmask Terrör are certainly guilty of that here – just imagine the guy from Blink 182 singing instead of the Gasmask Terrör guy and see what it does to your listening experience. If there were only a handful of bands doing this sort of thing, I’d probably be more into this single, but when I can easily reach for Skitkids or Totalitär or Anti-Cimex or dozens of other ragers, why wouldn’t I just do that?

Gino And The Goons Play Loud LP (Total Punk)
This Gino And The Goons LP doesn’t look particularly appealing, with its “tourist interpretation of Mexico” artwork and wacky rock ‘n roll names like T-Love and Young Ulf Mandelbass listed in the band member credits. Total Punk isn’t exactly known for a careful artistic touch when it comes to design, though, I mean you are lucky if the stamp on the back cover of their singles didn’t partially miss, and so many of these Total Punk albums have been kicking my behind lately that I learned to ignore warning signs like this. Turns out, Gino And The Goons are pretty good after all, but probably my least favorite of the recent Total Punk crop. Their unsophisticated garage-punk is knee-deep in wild-west honky-tonks, kind of a Clint Eastwood take on guns and saloons rather than Cormac McCarthy. Lots of tambourine backing up the drums, classic blues-punk riffs hammered down like Jack and Cokes, and buzzy vocals that have actually hammered down those Jack and Cokes. Definitely a good record, but I’m just not a big fan of this campy, rootin’ tootin’ style of pretend-outlaw blues punk, it just doesn’t resonate with me in the same way as Gary Wrong Group’s “Heroin Beach Serpents Attack” or The Sleaze’s “Conor Start”. If you’re going for the total Total Punk experience though, you’ll need to spend at least a little time with Gino and his goons.

Xander Harris The New Dark Age Of Love LP (Not Not Fun)
According to Xander Harris, the New Dark Age of Love consists of… Wingdings! Did he borrow James Ferraro’s copy of The Kama Sutra or something when working on this album art? It’s a bold claim to make, but I dig it, even if the music doesn’t compel me to have sex in an undersea cave or whatever. This is my first Xander Harris musical experience, and it’s the kind of straightforward electro-house production I’d expect to see 100% Silk repping, not Not Not Fun. There’s really nothing skewed or tainted here, nothing that you could say “it’s like ____… on acid!” about, except for maybe the title. The music reminds me of Mental Overdrive, a few of those Speicher series 12″s on Kompakt I have kicking around, maybe even a touch of Prins Thomas and Omar S… more of the same, really, but if you like the same, I see no reason you why you’d turn your nose up at Xander Harris. I got a little bored a few songs in, and found myself singing made-up lyrics in the style of that deep-throated Silk Flowers guy – maybe that guy is looking for work, and these two could hook up?

Highway Cross Run Dry 7″ (Toxic Pop)
Could’ve sworn this was Cross Dry by Highway Run when I first took a look, but it was just the damn cover art design that had me tricked. Upon listening, this isn’t the type of band that puts two random words together in an attempt at artsiness, that’s for sure – Highway Cross play their energetic rock music by the books, without any flair or affectation, just four dudes who’d rather spend their Tuesday night at a smelly practice space than on the couch watching the game. It’s a noble endeavor, and while I celebrate the act of being in a rock band, I can’t say that these songs do a whole lot for me – everything is in place, in a “Drive Like Jehu meets Fucked Up” sort of way, it’s just that you really need something special to grab my attention if you’re gonna do a band like this, and I’m not sure that they have anything special in these four songs. If you wanna like this though, you can – I won’t stop you!

Humanbeast Venus Ejaculates Into The Banquet LP (Load)
Back in my day, if there was a band called Humanbeast on a label called Load, it was gonna be a bunch of dudes in hand-glued costumes smashing their homemade distortion boxes and no-input mixers together while whistling through contact mics… not a cold-wave pop group! The times have changed, but Load is still a fine label, and this Humanbeast LP, while not as tantalizing as the title may lead you to believe, is a pretty cool addition to the black in your wardrobe. I guess the premise here is that a young married couple (Humanbeast themselves) are into mysterious bondage and Eyes Wide Shut sex, so they both wear fishnet stockings and creep around in the night while playing their down-tempo, minimal synth-pop. The vocalist Maralie (no last name provided) has a better voice than most, and she’s not afraid to belt out a pitch-perfect howl among the expected “deeper than one’s natural voice” speak-singing. Her vocals can add such a normalcy to the songs that I am reminded of mainstream disco at times, even if Humanbeast aren’t doing the hustle at all, and it’s a cool and slight change of pace for this style. None of the songs really stick out, but their look is cool, and it’s been a fun one to spin. I even heard that they both used to be in one of the worst potluck-hippie crust punk bands (complete with puppet show!) of the past decade, and I still liked this album anyway!

Ich Bin Ein Esel Ich Bin Ein Esel 7″ (Swashbuckling Hobo)
Here’s another Photoshop disaster from Swashbuckling Hobo Records, a label that laughs in the face of good taste and is probably still giggling at the phrase “I can haz cheeseburger”. I understand that Mad Macka is in Ich Bin Ein Esel, in case that’s a selling point to anyone, and I can’t say I’m surprised, as this EP features more of the usual high-octane, guitar-solo’d garage rock that Swashbuckling Hobo is setting their reputation on. Maybe like a non-threatening Rose Tattoo mixed with a blue-collar Mooney Suzuki, or a less-silly Turbonegro, something like that? This single is less annoying than other Swashbuckling releases I’ve recently come in contact with, toning down most of the zaniness (at least musically), but none of these songs are really doing anything besides filling up the air with guitars, drums and vocals… even after a night of relatively minor partying, you’re not going to remember any of these songs in the morning. I have to wonder who is actually buying these records… maybe all these bands just have a lot of friends?

Infest Days Turn Black 7″ (Draw Blank)
If you waited in a hardcore fest merch-line for more than thirty minutes earlier this year, there’s a good chance you own this tantalizing “new” Infest 7″. They’re certainly the reunion of the year, one of those fantasies that somehow came true, and while it’s kind of sad to see Joe Denunzio turned into an internet meme by young dorks, Infest are one of hardcore’s true classics and forever will be. This one-sided 7″ features three previously unreleased songs (recorded in the mid-’90s as part of the No Man’s Slave sessions) and a Negative Approach cover, and while I don’t think anyone will argue that this is Infest’s weakest offering to date, it’s still undoubtedly Infest. I can see why these songs didn’t make the album cut, some of the riffs are just a little silly or not quite as developed, but I enjoyed hearing them, as I would feel a deep sense of discontent if there were unreleased Infest songs I didn’t get to hear at least once. Completists are already out waging eBay war for this one, I mean it’s even on Draw Blank which is cool, but those who merely dabble in the hardcore arts can rest assured they aren’t missing too much. Are you ready for Infest to do another full-length and lay waste to the youthful competition once more? I am!

It Hurts 33 Tears 7″ (Soft Abuse)
This single was recorded by Stefan Neille, who certain maladjusted readers will recognize as Pumice. It certainly has plenty of Pumice’s stink all over it, as much like Pumice, this single tries so hard to contain actual songs but the sheer grotesqueness of the artist outweighs any chance at leading a normal life. “33 Tears” is some sort of sob story that hinges on whatever key is being held down until an echoed floor tom is struck and the note shifts, all while someone sings through a handful of fabric samples. “Earth, Moon, Sun, Us” sounds like it should be made entirely of flax seed and granola, but it’s more like an errant transmission from another galaxy, where Mad Nanna was worshiped like David Bowie and every president looked like one of the Lexie Mountain Boys. I’m not complaining, though! It Hurts so good.

Keluar Ennoea 12″ (Desire)
Linea Aspera were just another entry in the modern minimal-synth space race, or so I initially thought. Their songs really stuck with me, and months after I reviewed their debut album, I found myself reaching for Linea Aspera at all times of the night – they really wrote some great songs that I can see standing the test of time. Naturally, it was a bummer to hear about their hasty breakup, but a relief to hear that vocalist Alison Lewis already has a new project going, Keluar, to the point where I set aside reason and went right to Desire for a copy, international shipping and Euro conversion rates be damned. It’s a bit different than Linea Aspera, but nearly as great – Keluar go for more of a cold-wave electro-dance vibe with these songs, possibly relying on a laptop or two instead of rigidly sticking to complex webs of vintage synth arpeggios ala Xeno & Oaklander. At times, it’s almost like a gothy, dour La Roux, which is a vibe I find highly appealing. And just like Linea Aspera‘s multiple allusions to the ocean, Ennoea seems to gaze into the sea and space for its inspiration, another endlessly black void where Lewis’s emotions go to die. I already love this 12″, and hope Keluar find a kinder, longer-lasting fate than Linea Aspera.

Lantern Rock N’ Roll Rorschach LP (Sophomore Lounge)
Here’s some true-blue American rock, currently residing in Philadelphia and originally hailing from… Canada? How can that be possible – don’t you need a full horn section and three guitarists to be a Canadian band these days? Anyway, don’t let the haunted-house cover scene fool you, there’s nothing gothy or spooky about Lantern, as they play a very traditional style of bluesy garage-punk, with simple melodies, repetitive riffing and the attitude of someone who put their cigarette out in your beer. They like to keep it slow and dirgey, like Jack White strumming along to a skipping Sandy Bull record, or upbeat and groovy, like X-Ray Spex dressing up as The Rolling Stones for Halloween. Time-tested rock moves are at play here, from the riffs to the lyrics (“Evil Eye”, “She’s A Rebel”, you see what I mean?), and if you ever tried to get the exact same pose as Iggy on the cover of Raw Power while standing in front of a mirror right after you got out of the shower, you might end up tapping a boot to Rock N’ Roll Rorschach.

Literature Arab Spring LP (Square Of Opposition / Austin Town Hall)
Literature are doing it all nice and proper, following their Square Of Opposition single with a 45 RPM full-length. I recognize some of these guys from the Lehigh Valley, my home stomping grounds, and while I generally like to shake a fist and yell “they don’t make bands in the Lehigh Valley like they used to! I remember Weston blah blah”, Literature is an example I’d proudly offer to a tourist. Except I think they up and moved to Austin, TX, music capital of the etc etc, but whatever, good for them! Anyway, this album is nice and sweet. I’m getting serious Shins vibes here, catchy and poppy and constantly shifting without ever becoming difficult to follow. It’s indie-pop, for sure, but they really fill out the songs nicely, and the vocalist reminds me of the Shins guy too in his ability to sound both engaged and disinterested at the same time. I don’t really pay a lot of attention to this style of music, but I certainly enjoy it when “done right”, and Literature have me wishing I had a pair of wingtips, so that I could properly shuffle across the floor to Arab Spring.

Dan Melchior K-85 LP (Homeless)
Some people just have lots of songs to share, and Dan Melchior is certainly one of them. A hundred years from now if the world isn’t blown up, some academics are going to excavate his discography and come to some startling conclusions about millennial life, but until then the rest of us can check in with Melchior more routinely than we do our own aunts and uncles. Can’t really blame anyone for putting in lots of Melchior time, as his records are frequently great, and pretty good at worst, and I’d put K-85 somewhere in the middle of the pack. It’s a fairly mellow record, filled with acoustic guitars strumming weird little melodies, softly sung vocals and a variety of alien transmissions floating through the dusty air. More than one of these songs has popped into my head when I wasn’t listening, which is cool considering how relaxed and nonchalant this album tends to play out. It is an Australian import, which means it’s probably gonna cost us Americans more than usual, so if you choose to sit this one out and wait for next month’s installment, I won’t hold it against you. Maybe it’s time we started farming out Melchior records to every different country out there – there’s plenty of him to go around.

Möbius Strip Step Down 7″ (Left Out)
The cover art of this Möbius Strip single had me on high alert before I even put it on, as so much about the layout and design screams “bad Fearless Records band from the late ’90s”, from the label’s cheesy logo to the high school art-show image of a chess piece on its side. I’ll give it to Möbius Strip that they don’t sound like Blount and Glue Gun (look them up if you dare!), but they pretty much suck just the same. They do kind of a “melodic emo-rock with screamed vocals” thing, with a very direct and bothersome bass sound, even though I get the impression they’d love to be the next At The Drive-In (who, come to think about it, were on Fearless!). Only problem is the singer isn’t good at singing and is just okay at screaming, and the songs are mostly boring and performed with the passion of a Driver’s Education final exam. This 7″ bums me out on music more than any Brighter Death Now or Corrupted record ever did, so maybe if you want to look at this as an oblique art provocation, it’s a success. Otherwise, well…

Mounds Mounds Of Earth LP (Symbolic Capital)
Really, you’re gonna name yourself after the worst candy bar? To my knowledge, there is still no band called Snickers, and why no one has jumped all over that, I’ll never know. Anyway, this one comes in a plain white LP jacket, screened with at least five different colors and put together with the care of a Black Pus CD-r, and I can see Mounds fitting into the dayglo Providence noise-duo scene, even if their sound is drastically different. They’re a drummer/keyboard duo (from what I can gather), and they sound like a meditative Soft Machine pared down to the basics, or Silver Apples if they were meant to be listened to in the daytime, rather than in the center of a crushed-velvet opium den. The singer has the same cadence as the Om guy, and seems to focus on the same sort of “smoke weed and play chess with God” approach to life that I find appealing but entirely unrelatable. Definitely one for the new-age prog heads who just want to peel an onion to admire the beautiful natural geometry. You in?

No Sir, I Won’t The Door LP (Framework)
Seems like the right time for a peace-punk resurgence, based on what a swirling toilet bowl the first-world has become, and the fact that it’s one of the few micro-genres of hardcore-punk that hasn’t already been dissected and replicated by today’s punks. That’s what Boston’s No Sir, I Won’t are all about, or at least going for. The lyrics are certainly there, with each band member ranting or screaming long lines of resistance, and somehow they all avoid singing in fake British accents, which I personally feel like would be impossible to resist. Whereas many of the original Crass-associated groups managed to make music that was as anarchic and unrestrained as their politics, No Sir, I Won’t keep it pretty straightforward, like Conflict or Subhumans with an updated hardcore sound. There’s plenty of spoken-word samples to add to the “I’m listening to a peace-punk art statement” feeling, rather than just a regular punk record, but ultimately the music is pretty standard fare, just with thoughtful, intelligible lyrics and the passion of a thousand Ebullition catalogs. Definitely a good start from a good band, I just hope they feel less shackled to a standard hardcore-punk musical template on the next go around, and really let their protest flags fly. Either that or change their name to No Siri Won’t and write a bunch of anti-iPhone songs.

Octo Octa Between Two Selves 2xLP (100% Silk)
Somewhere along the line, 100% Silk went from a scruffy experiment in traditional dance music to a normal, legit techno label. Part of me will always love hipster first-attempts at techno, sometimes they’re so wrong that it’s right, but I also love a well-oiled dance machine, such as Octo Octa’s Between Two Selves. It’s a moody and seductive collection of dark n’ sensual tech-house, the sort of thing I’d expect to see on Cocoon or Dial, or nestled inside a Resident Advisor mix by Cassy or Gerry Read. Very modern sound in its approach (yes, there are plenty of vocal snippets morphed to wordless mush), with a slight Detroit feel that is sanded down and finished to a glossy chrome. Combined with Octo Octa’s considered selection of evening melodies, Between Two Selves is just slightly cool and avant-sounding enough that it probably won’t end up in a Mitsubishi commercial anytime soon, but just as slick. Although who knows, Scion listens to Bastard Noise… cars are getting so hip these days.

Places We Slept Peeled 12″ (Lagerville)
The first Places We Slept record was a one-sided 12″, and so is this one. I swear, for the sake of the Earth’s natural resources, someone oughta tell this band that both sides of a record can support grooves without sacrificing playability… plus, the consumer value instantly goes up! The first 12″ came inside a soggy thrift-store record with their name taped over top, and this one comes in a sturdy, pro-printed sleeve, so at least they have stepped their game up in that regard. The music ultimately remains the same, and that’s not a complaint – Places We Slept jangle their cozy, lo-fi indie-rock with the swing of Times New Viking and the sway of Elf Power. Very much by-the-books, as in a chemistry textbook on which you drew new logos for the 1994 Matador roster instead of taking notes. It sounds like multiple people sing (although only one is credited), and both voices register in that androgynous yelp that works well with slacker indie-pop such as this. Probably a little too cutesy and not catchy enough for me to truly love, but I’m sure Places We Slept have a number of soulmates out there.

Quttinirpaaq No Visitors LP (Rural Isolation Project)
My hopes were admittedly low for this one upon initial perusal – I always get annoyed at band names I can’t pronounce, and the random abstract art on the glossy cover just wasn’t impressing me… good thing I listened to the record though, because it quickly became a favorite! Seriously, No Visitors is where it’s at – this is murky, primitive, volcanic “rock”, as in it’s just as likely to sound like a rock band as the sound of a boulder tumbling down a mountain. Think Rusted Shut if Keiji Haino ran their rehab facility, Black Mayonnaise if they were secretly a nasty punk band, or Air Conditioning if it was broken on a hundred-degree heatwave. I swear there’s even some Purling Hiss buried deep enough in here, for those who care to look for it. If No Visitors was a liquid, you’d be pouring it down your tub drain, melting your pipes while destroying the clog. Every track is a winner, to the point where I sincerely wish this was a double LP – whoever this band is, they’ve stumbled upon a golden formula. I just hope that when I yell at my friends to go check out “Quit-tinny-pack”, there’s some shred of a chance that they understand what I’m carrying on about.

Segwei Soul Deep LP (Revolution Winter / Fellow Travelers)
A real nice first impression here with Segwei’s Soul Deep – it comes with a big, well-designed booklet filled with beautiful travelogue photos (among the cringeworthy lyrics, but I’ll overlook that for now), the nature and city scenes mingling together with the emotional resonance of an iPod commercial (you know, the one where various ethnicities are seen dancing to nothing in particular). I was ready to like Segwei, but then I heard their music – it stinks! They’re coming from that super-serious, heart-on-sleeve Fugazi frame of mind, but with a naive “let’s just all try and the future will be bright for everyone” stance. And even that wouldn’t be the end of the world, if their music didn’t sound like a crappy, clunky mix of major-label pop-punk, At The Drive-In and ’90s emo-core. The singer’s voice is awkward and out of tune, the songs take too long and are musically uninspired. I actually really kind of hate Soul Deep, come to think of it. Oh well!

Sickoids No Home EP 12″ (Grave Mistake / Sorry State)
Even after hearing from nearly everyone on Earth that Sickoids’ debut LP was one of the best hardcore records of its respective year, I still had my doubts… I mean how can any ex-Witch Hunt group, from Philadelphia of all cities, be a top-shelf hardcore monster? Well, I’m not sure how they did it, but I’m glad they did, as this new six-song EP is a rager in every sense of the word. Musically, I’m picking up a visceral mix of Tragedy, Jerry’s Kids and maybe a slight hint of Spazm 151 (why don’t more people rave about that band?). It’s heavy enough that the black-denim crusters will clink their 40s in unison, fast enough that the Government Warning fans will slam back and forth, politically-charged enough for whatever’s left of Aus Rotten’s fan base, and so aesthetically refined and punk that a pretentious nerd like myself will furiously bob his head and consider skateboarding again. I still haven’t heard that LP, and now I’m really starting to feel like a fool about it, but No Home numbs that sting with its incessant hardcore squall.

Sun Children Sun Demo 7″ (SPHC / More Noise)
The cutesy Anime vibe of this Sun Children Sun demo 7″, along with its simple song titles, reminds me of Romantic Gorilla or Senseless Apocalypse, and while it sounds nothing like either group, I feel as though the spirit remains the same, as all these groups warped hardcore’s definition to their own bizarre ends. Sun Children Sun, for example, sounds like Jellyroll Rockheads or some other Y2K thrash group, except the guitar is frequently acoustic (or at least completely distortion-free) and the drums are bongos. Yes, this is like the Sublime of thrash-core, a ridiculous campfire jam of manic hardcore thrash. If that wasn’t silly enough, they do a Chain Of Strength piss-take, offer various moments of ska, bleat a saxophone all over the place, and one song is called “Anti Pizza Price”, which I don’t understand but agree with entirely. Most would agree that it’s a novelty record, but I have no problem with novelty if it’s as stupid and endearing as Sun Children Sun. I appreciate that good taste has never gotten in the way of SPHC’s mission, and hope that this continues to be the case far into the future. Imagine if everyone was too scared to ever release Sockeye back in the day? Is that the kind of world you want to live in?

Teenage Strange Eerie Energy / Zeitgeist 7″ (Gloryhole)
“Teenage Strange” on “Gloryhole” Records with a gross monster smoking a joint on the cover… throw in an alien in a Led Zeppelin t-shirt and you’ve created a virtual Spencer’s Gifts. That becomes even more apparent when you throw it on and “Eerie Energy” delivers stoner-rock akin to Nebula and early Queens Of The Stone Age, just with geeky vocals and an unconvincing swagger. Very “Stoner Rock 101”. The exact same can be said for “Zeitgeist”, although the vocals are slightly cooler and the riff is more rocking than grooving (at least until they drag the tempo down to a beer-hoisting speed). I feel like the best stoner riffs are the ones that have already been written years ago and played by a hundred different bands, but even so, Teenage Strange don’t quite do it for me. They cause these riffs no harm, but I’m just not feeling the passion or commitment. Maybe I’d feel a little better if it was Frank Kozik who designed the 4:20 demon on the cover.

TV Ghost Atomic Rain 7″ (Gloryhole)
Bet you didn’t expect a reissue of TV Ghost’s first single from 2007 – I sure didn’t! Kind of bizarre, really… I mean you can still pick it up used pretty easily, and this band is still plugging away and mostly getting better as time moves forward. Go figure. Anyway, TV Ghost were younger than Iceage when Atomic Rain was recorded (I think the big drummer kid was like 14?), and as I haven’t revisited my original copy in a while, it was nice to be reminded that even in their earliest days, TV Ghost were pretty great at emulating the Cramps’ schlock-rock madness, even down to the sweaty-lipped vocals and Salvation Army keyboard. These songs are charmingly sloppy, I mean some of those drum-rolls sound like first attempts (I love it), so if you haven’t heard this one, I certainly recommend it. Although if Gloryhole is trying to peddle this one for more than five bucks, you may just want to hit up Discogs for one of the many $4.50 original copies that are still sitting there…

Uranium Orchard Unchurched Shithead 7″ (Cold Vomit)
I miss Dry Rot dearly, but I’m glad most of those gentlemen are doing Uranium Orchard now, as well as continuing the Cold Vomit label. I dare you to order something from them – not only will your records arrive in fine condition, you’ll also find a handwritten note on the back of a Pizza Hut menu, a photo of the guitarist meeting Hulk Hogan when he was seven, and some other peculiar piece of ephemera that is probably more bizarre than whatever I could make up. I missed the Uranium Orchard LP that some people were really digging, so maybe Unchurched Shithead is more disorienting for me than it should be, like watching a gripping drama even though I missed the first two seasons. This band is damn weird, that’s for sure – somehow, they evoke the spirit of Sun City Girls in many ways (goofy group singalongs, Eastern instrumentation put through a blender, even the EP title), which I can’t say many bands have managed to do. They’ll sound like Sonic Youth covering Pavement for like twenty seconds, then burst into a brief wave of static and change the channel to VH1: Classic Albums… it’s chaos. I’m not sure I enjoyed the actual music on this record, but thinking about Uranium Orchard’s thought process, along with their genuinely unique take on how music is written, has kept me entertained for a while now.

Vacation Club Daydream / Forest Babe 7″ (Randy)
The Maxim-style cover photo on this Vacation Club single is so bro-ish I could almost smell the Axe body spray wafting off it. No matter what the reality of Vacation Club is, I can’t help but picture the group hanging out of a jeep, harassing women at the beach, and it’s an unpleasant starting point to have with any band. Musically, they are unexcitingly-decent garage-pop, like a neutered Ty Segall or The Incredible Kidda Band if they weren’t incredible. They are clearly musically talented, as the bassist will glide around the main riff, the guitars have a shimmery jangle while still frollicking in lo-fi, and both of these tracks stand slightly above the rest of the pack because of it, but I’m not really feeling it. If you love this style, you will find no fault with Vacation Club, but part of me still feels like I’m secretly enjoying Sugar Ray while this record spins – it’s just that frat-guy cover sensibility. At least I finally figured out who the people are that actually go on those Black Lips cruise-ship things – it’s gotta be these guys, right?

Virus Live In Lourdes 7″ (Depression House)
Sorry Casualties fans, not that Virus – this is a synth/guitar/drums duo (go ahead and figure that one out, I can’t) from Italy. Either that or the b-side cut “I Live In Italy” is a total lie. Anyway, this group is pretty good, putting on their dunce caps and bashing out caveman riffs and erroneous synth-crunch with the pizzazz of The Anals and the bad attitude of Drunks With Guns. The vocalist seems like he’s faking being drunk, it’s just a little too over the top, but I find myself unbothered by it. Like if you’re in this band, you’re already feeling kinda lousy and ready to destroy things for no good reason, you know? I appreciate that their songs are almost entirely tuneless, with no allusions to garage rock (or even much punk rock either), just the first notes your fingers find on a guitar and the urge to beat them into the cement. I hope I am not coming across like this record is great, because it isn’t, but I could still listen to it every day for a month and not feel any fatigue. I love this sort of crap.

White Murder Arteries Are Flexible / Shutter Speed 7″ (no label)
This is the third White Murder single to pass through Yellow Green Red’s hallowed halls, all of which have been self-released and housed in thematically-continuous screened sleeves. Bill Bondsmen are doing a very similar thing, as far as the “self-released and screen-printed sleeves” thing goes, and I can see the appeal of being a band that handles all aspects of their art. And musically, White Murder don’t stray too far from their prior formula with these songs either, performing in a slightly gothed-out, dual-vocaled, Dangerhouse-y punk style. “Arteries Are Flexible” is probably their post-punkest song yet, heavier on the tension than garage ferocity, and “Shutter Speed” picks it up a bit, with hints of Red Aunts and Subtonix in the song’s short duration. Can’t say this single is any better than their others, nor is it worse; these songs do the trick without flooring or boring me. At the very least, the music of White Murder is doing its part to unify nerdy record collectors and the hot-rods n’ creepers crowd.

Wooden Wand 3 Songs 7″ (25 Diamonds)
When I close my eyes and quietly chant “second-tier mid-’00s freak-folk”, I swear I can feel a wooden wand start to materialize in my hands. I don’t think the “freak-folk” tag is entirely fair, but Wooden Wand’s got it, along with their multitude of albums and singles. Apparently the group (either James Jackson Toth solo or accompanied by friends) is still going strong, and I guess why not, because it’s fun to sit there and play guitar and sing to pass the time. This 7″ features three songs, recorded in 2013, 2009 and 2010, and it’s pretty good, even if it kinda comes off as a “oh, you wanna do a 7″? I think I’ve got some tracks lying around” sort of deal. The first two tracks actually kind of remind me of Pedro The Lion, if he was less emo and more old-timey. Calm, inoffensive, pleasant and just a pinch of silliness (which a song like “When Your Stepfather Dies” rightfully requires). The last track has more of an acoustic Neil Young vibe, and it’s just as pleasant as the first two. Really can’t complain about this record at all, and if you’re looking for a man with a guitar and two capable hands, this might be a decent way to spend eight minutes (although I’ll admit, I didn’t count).

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Reviews – April 2012

Balaclavas Second Sight EP 12″ (Dull Knife)
Some bands print up t-shirts when they hit the road, but Balaclavas aren’t the type to take things so casually – on this current tour, they come equipped with a new 12″ EP, attractively silk-screened and ready for consumption. The title track starts it off, and it’s about as energetic as goth-rock can get, real punchy with some menacing bass/drums interplay. The perfect melody for dancing in place, waving your wrists back and forth as the black nail polish slowly dries. All of Second Sight is pretty upbeat like that, nearly recalling fellow Texans At The Drive-In on a song like “Call The Law”, where the vocals cannot hide their cowboy locale. They wrap it up with “Moon Roof”, a nice electro-dub featuring a sultry robot voice that does to me what Axe body-spray does to women on TV. Pretty sure this one can be mailordered, or it might even be sold out by now – if you are bored at the office and need to pick a record up off Discogs to make it feel like you actually accomplished something, keep an eye out for this one.

Boddika & Joy Orbison Froth / Mercy 12″ (SunkLo)
Would’ve never guessed that this would be the techno tag-team to rock my world in 2012, but that’s part of the fun of music – you never know when it will rule. The first 12″ collaboration between Boddika and Joy Orbison was killer, and while this new one isn’t quite as infectious, it’s still just about all I spend my time listening to. “Froth” propels a short, stuttered arpeggio through six minutes of hedonism, turning the power up and down at exactly the right moments. It’s as if you can feel the song getting excited and calming back down, like it’s some sort of sentient being and not merely a .wav file. “Mercy” has a similar feel, structured around a simple 4/4 beat, but this time Joy O and Boddika focus on a tongue-tied vocal loop for the track’s main fuel source (that is until the whole vibe gets tweaked in the dungeon like prime Audion). Think I prefer “Froth”, but I’ve never not listened to these cuts back to back, which has gotta be the best way to do it. Very modern tech-house, yet it’s obvious that this won’t just reek of “early 2012” when I come back to it in a year or two. Keep ’em coming, guys!

Boston Strangler Primitive LP (Fun With Smack)
Unless you’re a Boston-area hardcore enthusiast or one of the fastest Internet jockeys (I suppose the latter’s dubious honor belongs to me), there’s a good chance that Primitive has been emptied from your cart before you could click “place order”. It’s a shame, because while “most hyped hardcore record of the month” and “quality music” don’t always correlate, The debut LP by Boston Strangler lives up to the frantic distro scramble it has generated. These eleven meaty tracks of Boston hardcore waste no time, and are essentially an artisanal distillation of all that is great about Boston hardcore – Negative FX’s anger management, SSD’s impenetrable breakdowns and DYS’s “More Than Fashion” drumbeat (used in two separate songs). It’s like these guys studied hardcore for years, eventually reaching doctorate level, and this is the final thesis project. The vocalist, while probably of direct bloodline to Choke, has sort of a Paul Bearer sneer at times, which leads to intelligible lyrics (and they are often kind of great, particularly by hardcore standards) and a catchiness that other ’80s hardcore replicants lack. It really stands to be said that anyone who enjoys hardcore music would celebrate Primitive – it’s just universally great. Hopefully these “best MP3s of 2011” can find the proper distribution sooner rather than later so it’s something everyone can not just read about but experience as well.

The Bums Do It All Night 7″ (Big Nose)
Ever wonder who actually buys and uses those old-timey chrome-plated microphones besides Green Day and Social Distortion cover bands? The Bums do, and judging from these three basic garage-punk tunes, I’d say it suits them well. Adjust your fuzzy dice dangling from the rear-view and listen to these grown men having fun being drunk. It’s not bad, really – the singer has a good growl, and while they probably think they sound like The Stooges more than they actually do, these songs hit the spot just fine. They’re probably one of the few bands out there today with a full-time saxophone player that would make for a suitable opener for Easy Action, for what that’s worth. There’s really no reason for anyone outside of The Bums’ Atlantan home-base to own this record, but that said, I wish these guys were from my town. Can never have too many bands like The Bums being goofs and getting rowdy – it can be nice to know they’re there.

Demdike Stare Elemental: Iris 12″ (Modern Love)
And so the Elemental saga concludes with Iris, perhaps the spookiest Goo Goo Dolls song ever written. I have yet to listen to all four Elemental installments in a single sitting (it’s staying bright out too late nowadays), but Iris was clearly meant to close out this chapter of Demdike Stare – these three tracks are true funeral dirges, post-post-apocalypse style. Even the vinyl’s creepy on this one, with the actual music starting about two inches in from the edge in some sort of strange intended mutation. “Dauerlinie” places some weepy blips and jarring klangs over a heavy violin (maybe actually a cello?), no real beat or notion of techno to be found. “Daesin” has even less motion, like a windless cavern where dark clouds open up to release soot instead of rain. Only on closer “Ishmael’s Intent” does it feel like anything in the Demdike universe is awake at all, and the track features a nice, Burial-style “sharpening of knives” percussion-loop among the black and grey detritus. Probably the least essential of the four Elemental EPs, but at the same time, the most essential, because what, you were going to leave that last sleeve empty? Demdike Stare are coming back to the US in April – I’ll see you there.

Demdike Stare / Hype Williams Shangaan Electro 12″ (Honest Jon’s)
Finally our wallets can exhale – here’s some non-essential Demdike Stare! Honest Jon’s has been pumping out a number of these 12″s where high-class modern electronic/techno artists remix Shangaan electro music, and while I probably need to hear the Actress one, this is my first dip into the field. It’s good, but the type of good you can hear once, enjoy, and forget about. Demdike Stare are less intimidating than usual on these tracks, tip-toeing around a sparse electro beat while seagulls and a disembodied vocal-clip circle above, as if they just took a few different parts of the original, pressed down hard on the “Demdike” setting and let it rip. Their second version even withholds the beat entirely, leaving just you and those persistent gulls. Never heard Hype Williams before; they just seemed too impossibly hipster for me to mess with, and my suspicions were right – they are a Wire-heralded group to be avoided if the rest of their output is anything like the two cuts here. Generic dub with sleep-pitched vocals and a stark lack of effort. I understand that it can be considered cool to not try hard at making music, and I’d definitely be down to hang with Hype Williams at some super-exclusive art-opening somewhere, but when I sit down and listen to these tracks, the joke is on me. Of course, now I’m even more curious to know what Actress’s take on Shangaan electro is…

Drunk Elk Under Neon Lights LP (Wormwood Grasshopper)
Nice full-length outing for Drunk Elk, perhaps the loneliest-sounding band out there today. They’re from Tasmania, which has got to be pretty isolating as is, but these songs really do sound like they were recorded a million miles away, off on some small tuft of land with nary a shopping center or coffee shop. I dug their 7″, but Under Neon Lights is even better, borrowing “I Want To Be Your Pet” off the single along with seven new ones, all incredibly delicate, strangely beautiful and occasionally unnerving. It’s kind of as if Pink Reason met up with The American Analog Set in an awkward first date – there’s angst and pain behind the sweetness. It’s almost kinda “emo”, too, although they clearly have a much closer geographical distance to the Xpressway label than they do to Bright Eyes or Indian Summer. Makes for great nighttime listening, particularly after enduring a stressful day… Drunk Elk are built for commiseration.

Evening Meetings Forgotten In Seconds / Hello Mr. Evening 7″ (Dirty Knobby)
New project from one of the A Frames folks and some Factums friends, but knowing them, this could mean anything… lucky for me, Evening Meetings are supremely-lopsided Messthetics-y clonk. It’s a 33 rpm single, which gives “Forgotten In Seconds” plenty of time to loaf its way around the room, like Mad Nanna covering a Crisis tune that they only practiced once. Seems like a couple different people pass around a guitar while a simple rhythm refuses to die, even after being stomped on. Makes me think of one of those hard-to-obtain Homosexuals side-projects in the best possible sense. Same goes for “Hello Mr. Evening”, although this one swipes a pre-set Cabaret Voltaire beat as the table-setting for their various piles of slop, slowly making it all into some sort of sense. Evening Meetings have none of A Frames’ robotic professionalism, and only a touch of Factums’ rusty lurch, but they’re pretty much exactly what I want to hear right now.

Insect Factory Melodies From A Dead Radio LP (Insectfields / Fabrica)
New full-length outing for the Maryland-based Insect Factory, and as sure as you can expect someone to get chokeslammed on Monday Night Raw, you can count on a heaping helping of guitar-based drone from Insect Factory’s Jeff Barsky. These four sprawling pieces make Insect Factory’s recent split 7″ with RST feel like a ringtone by comparison, providing a much more expansive experience (even though that 7″ is a fine time itself). Been a while since I heard anything besides the split, and I was a little surprised at how thin Melodies From A Dead Radio is – it’s all very melodic, sparse and airy, without any real bass or even much mid-range to speak of, just high tones that float and twirl like dandelion seeds in an allergy commercial. This music wouldn’t hurt a fly, it would carefully record and sample its buzzing wings instead. It’s almost a bit too light to really sustain my focus (or maintain any audibility over a pot of boiling pasta), but if you’re lulling a small child to sleep (as more and more of us are these days), you may want to keep Melodies From A Dead Radio near baby’s first turntable.

Italian Horn The Bells Of Spring 12″ (Dais)
Italian Horn is the work of Anthony Pappalardo, who anyone who was straight-edge in the ’90s will recall from his time in In My Eyes, probably the least-good band to ever have Pushead draw their cover art (yes, I’ve heard Cocobat). I loved youth-crew hardcore, but never really liked In My Eyes, but I’m not gonna hold it against Pappalardo; let’s see how sophisticated he’s gotten with Italian Horn instead. A few spins through The Bells Of Spring and I’m not really feeling it either – Pappalardo goes the Captured Tracks route of musical maturity, looking back to the hazy mid-’80s where New Romantic guys bumped into shoegazers at the same bar. These six tracks are unassuming and polite pop-rock that fans of The Church would probably get into, but I’m really not feeling the muffled, Blank-Dogged vocals, and none of the songs really deliver the melodrama (or memorable hooks) I’ve come to want out of something like this. I swear he even sings like Wes Eisold circa-Cherish The Light Years on “Beating The Shell Game”, but he doesn’t sound nearly as cool or on-key. They do use that same generic Cold Cave font for all the back cover info, after all. I don’t know, it’s a pleasant record, even if I plan never to return to it. How long ’til an ex-Fastbreak chillwave record?

Keep On Dancin’s The End Of Everything LP (Merenoise)
I don’t expect to see anyone do the popcorn, the hustle or pick up change to Keep On Dancin’s – this is music for swaying, preferably in an open field on the first day of spring or the last day of summer. Very sweet, soft and syrupy indie here, as if Hope Sandoval joined Dum Dum Girls and instantly took over the singing and songwriting. Maybe a touch of Chan Marshall at her most pleasantly pop, too. Not bad stuff, particularly if you’re the type of person who hears a Jesus & Mary Chain drum-beat in your head while developing a crush on the new barista at your favorite coffee shop. Certainly not my usual cup of tea (or coffee, I suppose), but I’ve been enjoying The End Of Everything for the sweet pleasures it provides – the pretty singing, simple arrangements and Quentin Tarrantino-approved mood might get boring after a while, but it’s all still pretty hard to deny.

Kelvox1 Grazed Red 12″ (Aagoo)
No, it’s not your old AOL screen-name, Kelvox1 is a Cambridge-based post-indie trio and this is their debut 12″ EP. It’s not half-bad – big, roomy drums set the stage for the various droning instruments (guitars, basses, Abletons) that drift in and out, creating vague, long-form, inoffensive songs. Definitely not dance music, but you can tell these guys probably picked up on Burial after Thom Yorke started showing interest. Someone sings through these songs, but it seems like he must’ve received the assignment after drawing the shortest straw, as the vocals are placed below the hi-hat in the mix and sung with the passion of a tenured librarian. The music reminds me of Gang Gang Dance in a way, before they started trying to write Bollywood hits and were just kinda loosely jamming over tight percussive rhythms. I had this record playing while I was on the phone with a friend, and I’ll admit, I felt like what I had to say was a little bit cooler with Grazed Red as my background music. Think I’m gonna listen to Kelvox1 the next time I check my email and see if they don’t spice that up too.

Felix Kubin TXRF 2xLP (It’s)
One of the true unique personalities to exist in today’s minimal-synth landscape (or maybe it’s more of a 2D grid), I’ve always admired Felix Kubin’s style. He looks more like an alien impersonating a human than a real human, right down to the Star Trek uniform he wears around the house, and that’s no easy feat. I’ve spent a lot of time enjoying the reissue of his teenage group Die Egozentrischen Zwei’s early recordings (sounds like robots having orgasms), but it was high time I heard what Kubin is up to today, so I dove into TXRF headfirst. It’s great – there are four sides of crazy electronic sequencing, verging on minimal techno, cold-wave and experimental electronics without ever comfortably fitting into any of those slots. Kubin twists his sine-waves into all sorts of poses but never to the point of no return; he always leaves room for my brain to actually process what’s happening. I can’t help but feel like I’m listening in on a genius when I pick a side of TXRF and let it whirl… it seems about as natural and unforced as electronic synth experimentation can get. Fans of Dopplereffekt, Haus Arafna, Suicide and Absolute Body Control, grab your forks: dinner is served.

The Larchmont Trash I Spent The Summer With… 10″ (Shdwply)
The number of people who play in trashy, garage-y punk bands could easily rival the population of Rhode Island at this point – I swear I hear like five of these records every month. This one’s from The Larchmont Trash, a three-piece from Virginia, and if being in these bands was akin to competing in the Presidential fitness challenge, I’d rank them somewhere around the 70th percentile. The guitars have that vintage (Aussie) Victims snarl, the riffs aim for an Angry Samoans-ish puddingheadedness, and the band members themselves seems to follow the adult-idiot aesthetic of The Spits. Three great artists to mention, for sure, and while The Larchmont Trash don’t pack quite the same punch as any of them, I’ve got no qualms spending at least one of my summer weekends with them. Bold move getting started with a 10″, too: the awkward uncle of vinyl formats.

Yva Las Vegass I Was Born In A Place Of Sunshine And The Smell Of Mangoes LP (Moniker)
You think that title is annoying? Try listening to this record! Moniker has a track record of working with eccentric solo artists (Kraus, Jealousy and Stacian, to name a few), and I usually end up enjoying them. Not so for Yva Las Vegass. She plays a mix of super-fast cuatro/guitar tangos and open-mic-storyteller acoustic jams, and I’m not sure which approach I enjoy less. It’s not that she’s technically bad (she has a good voice and is a talented guitarist), it’s just her personality that I can’t stand – imagine if Courtney Love ended up at a vegan co-op’s “local jam night” instead of in a world famous rock band, making sure to be a self-proclaimed “motherfucker” at any possible chance. I’m actually kind of impressed by how much I dislike this album – I haven’t felt this strongly against a piece of music in a while. I just immediately think of how horribly uncomfortable it would be for Yva Las Vegass to corner me at some bar, ranting about how crazy her life is while she puffs her cigarette in my face, unable to breathe or get a word in edgewise – this record has given me nearly the same sensation. If you’ve got Johnny Cash and “Mean People Suck” stickers on your acoustic guitar, you very well might feel differently.

The Lonesome Savages All Outta Love 7″ (Kind Turkey)
Real Cramps-ified punk blues from two names I recognize (Max Elliott and Dead Luke) and a couple of their chums. Four songs here, as if the spirit of Link Wray was reincarnated into that pigeon that roosts above your car, plastering the windshield while you’re at work. The Lonesome Savages are about as retro as it gets, but that’s why All Outta Love works for me – they don’t try to add any weird modern noise, or speed it up to hardcore’s standards, they just beat out the classic angry blues-punk as if they were hammering out train-track all day. One band member on the back cover seems to be wearing his pants over his belly button and looks natural doing so – these guys mean it. Seriously, nothing remotely new here, but to criticize The Lonesome Savages would be akin to criticizing an old pair of blue jeans and a white t-shirt – you just can’t.

Mad Nanna If I Don’t Sleep Tonight 7″ (Wormwood Grasshopper)
More Mad Nanna, this time brought to us by the fine folks at Wormwood Grasshopper Records. “If I Don’t Sleep Tonight” might be my favorite Mad Nanna track thus far – the main guy repeats the title and is all thumbs on the guitar while some other band member recreates the sounds my stomach makes when I’m having trouble sleeping at night. Although it’s constantly on the verge of devolving into a Menstruation Sisters-style compost heap, Mad Nanna always hold the song together by one thin hair, capped off by a celebratory whooping of the crowd (looks like this was a live cut). The ostensibly untitled b-side is less to my liking – sounds like the group pared down to an acoustic guitar duo, strumming their basic chords like they just missed the bus and had an unexpected three hours to kill. Had I heard this track first, I may very well have never ventured further into the world of Mad Nanna, so thank God that’s not the case. On the strength of the a-side, and with acknowledgement of the b-side’s subtle charm, this one’s worth keeping too.

Mind Over Mirrors Near Your Dwelling 7″ (Dirty Knobby)
If you like to take your bleeps with a side of bloops, this Mind Over Mirrors single is a fine way to start your day. The project belongs to Jaime Fennelly, whom I remember from Peeesseye (not sure if he was the crazy throat-noise guy or the one who controlled the drone box or what). Mind Over Mirrors is a much simpler, less-heady affair than his prior group – both tracks just kinda chug along on their own internal melodies, like a dolphin whose fin you can just grab onto if you want to catch a ride. The b-side in particular kicks up a nice little electronic tornado as it gathers steam. Even so, I’m not sure I could really explain what makes Near Your Dwelling special, and maybe it’s not (colorful electronic loops start, shift and eventually stop, that’s really all there is to it), but it’s a subtly entrancing single if you give it the time of day.

Morphosis The TEPCO Report 12″ (Morphine)
Couldn’t hardly wait for this new Morphosis 12″ after last year’s What Have We Learned opened my third eye wide and clear. Rabih Beaini, the man behind the moniker, has never been one to stay in one place for too long, so understandably The TEPCO Report shifts gears once again. A-side “Exposure” is the sound of a space-ambulance cutting across galaxies to save a life – it’s not techno, more like kraut-inspired electronic composition. Definitely a shift towards the esoteric and atmospheric. “Postatomicpoetry” falls back into Morphosis’ “psychedelic techno” format though, working a repetitive groove over a booming bass-kick and frantic hi-hat slashes. This one could’ve easily been tacked onto What Have We Learned, promising a similar state of enlightenment through locked grooves and druggy improvisation. Gonna be a while before anyone catches up to Morphosis – I’m a huge fan and still feel like I’m incapable of fully processing his vision.

Mount Carmel Real Women LP (Siltbreeze)
Goddamn… how can I properly convey how good Real Women is without making it sound like any other quality rock record? How can I accurately describe their essence, so that you, dear reader, will know that I am discussing a band that has truly captured the magic that exists deep inside the electric guitar? I loved Mount Carmel’s debut, a real blast-from-the-past treasure of Cream-y riffing and hard rock perfection, but Real Women streamlines that approach, growing from the debut’s seven tracks to nine and just knocking each one out of the park. A large amount of credit is due directly to the voice of guitarist Matthew Reed, who sings like a buttery-soft Tom Fogerty, ending each line with a diva-inflected “yeah” that would make the stars of The Voice hop out of their seats. He sings like he’s got nothing to prove, as though all of his coolness and talent is so obviously implied that it needs no mention from anyone, and he’s right. I knew he had a great voice on the debut, but the vocals come through so perfectly on Real Women that it’s somehow an entire step up. The riffs are just as workmanlike and sturdy, like those 1970s Levi’s people pay hundreds of dollars to own because of their softness and indestructibility. You’ll get into this one from the very start and only grow to love it more as time wears on – I get excited just knowing I’m about to listen to Real Women, particularly as the weather has started to warm up a bit. If some random college intern at Rolling Stone accidentally downloads this, and plays it while one of those soulpatched, ponytailed editors walks by the computer while it’s playing, who knows where things could go for these three Ohio boys…

Napolian Rejoice 12″ (Software)
I don’t expect everyone to feel the same way, but Ford & Lopatin’s Channel Pressure was such a big, fun album for me that I checked out Napolian solely on the basis that his record has been released by Ford & Lopatin’s vanity label, Software. Rejoice looks like it could be a Ford & Lopatin record too, or at least something James Ferraro-approved, from the cheesy “road of keyboards leading to a city between Roman columns” artwork (which I guess comes standard these days). I’ve spun it a bit, and while Napolian is good, Napolian is no Ford & Lopatin, that’s for sure – these six songs mine a similar ’80s / ’90s pop-music nostalgia trip, but they don’t come with any strong compulsion to listen to them again and again. I’m reminded of classic Prince and Michael Jackson productions in the specific sounds Napolian tosses around, but he wields them like a less-skillful Rustie, bonking the listener over the head with big colorful swells of music like a cartoon mallet. Vocals come in and out, but they’re only ever backing vocals, used to increase the mood rather than actually form a sentence. Maybe if Napolian found a great singer to work with (or hooked up a Game Genie), he could soar off to new heights, but for now we can only rejoice that another slice of electro-nostalgia has been added to the pile. Why do so many electronic artists insist on reliving my childhood?

Pangea Killer Dreams EP 7″ (Lauren / Ghostbot)
No, not the post-dubstep act Pangaea, this is Pangea, short a vowel and possibly as far from electronic dance music as you can get. They grabbed my attention right away with “Plasma (Outofyourmind)”, a crazy, Dickies-ish punked-out power-pop irritant. It’s a great song that demands a level of appreciation I doubt it will ever fully receive. They follow that hit with a country-bumpkin acoustic jam, like something I’d expect Sub Pop to release and sell 60,000 copies of without me personally knowing anyone who’s ever said they’ve listened to it. It’s a strange switch, but it’s grown on me. “River” kicks off the b-side and is revved up like the opener, almost reminding me of The Hated if they existed on Stiff Records in 1981 instead of Vermin Scum in 1989. The last track is the weakest, some mutant strain of ’90s alt-grunge (I’m thinking Roomrunner, or Space Hog). Strange, right? I’m kinda fascinated by this band, as it doesn’t seem they’ve settled on a direction but have all these great options to choose from. I say put out an album filled with cuts like “Plasma (Outofyourmind)” and grab the reigns that Jay Reatard left hanging.

The Pharmacy Dig Your Grave 7″ (Kind Turkey)
“The Pharmacy” sounds like it should be a Spiritualized side-project or something, but nope, it’s another garage-rock band wearing multiple pairs of sunglasses. The hair on these guys is too good for them to go for the “hot rods and BBQ sauce” aesthetic, though, so they mix in a ’60s psychedelic melodiousness with their tuneful riffs, adding bells and piano and other tasteful flavorings to the two a-side tracks. They tone it down a bit on the b-side, calling to mind Beachwood Sparks, or some other modern-retro hippie group that likes to stare at paintings for hours on end while stoned. I prefer their more catchy a-side tracks, “Dig Your Grave” in particular, but The Pharmacy on the whole isn’t something I’m really going to remember come morning, honestly. Maybe if I drive by a CVS tomorrow, I’ll recall my time spent with Dig Your Grave.

Pig Heart Transplant Weapon / Gut Pleasures 7″ (Iron Lung)
I’ve always been kinda jealous of Pig Heart Transplant – I wish I had five or six friends willing and able to get together every now and then and churn out a pile of heavy, distorted frustration. I can’t imagine it takes these guys very long to write their songs… one of them sits behind the drums, pounds them at a snail’s pace, and the rest of the guys grab whatever instrument is closest, turn the pegs until the strings droop, and fire away. It’s an easy formula, but I can’t imagine it ever not working, especially in the capable hands of folks who do time in Walls, Iron Lung, Society Nurse and probably a half-dozen other great hardcore bands. This 7″ is particularly gruesome (“Gut Pleasures” erupts like a volcano), and while “I Videotape Your Diet” off their album Hope You Enjoy Heaven is still my favorite song title of all time, this single has found in me a happy owner.

Protomartyr Dreads 85 84 7″ (Urinal Cake)
I liked the looks of this Protomartyr single right off the bat: you get a well-detailed dope with his dog celebrating baseball on the cover, a cool band name, a funny title… what’s not to like? The music is ace too – it’s worth noting that Tyvek ringleader Kevin Boyer plays guitar (and offers his critical praise on the promo sheet) on Dreads 85 84, because there’s kind of a Tyvek vibe to these songs. It’s not nearly as messy and spastic, though – Protomartyr sounds like Tyvek if they acted like adults and stopped shopping at the Salvation Army for their winter coats. The singer has a deeper, drunker voice, but he can easily hold a melody when it’s expected of him. Really all three songs are about as close to superb as I’d hope for a swaggery, Wire-y / Fall-y bar-band to sound. See if you’re not singing along to “Cartier E.G.s” before it’s over. What kind of fool wouldn’t love this?

Redshape Throw In Dirt / The Land 12″ (3024)
Can’t get enough of Martyn’s 3024 label lately, so I figured I should check out this new Redshape 12″, appropriately adorned with various red shapes on the sleeve. It’s fun stuff – “Throw In Dirt” kicks a lazy electro-house beat to the curb with a wild vocal hook that plays the role of the angry, unpaid landlord. It works a lot of angles, jittery enough to entertain those of us at home while still offering an ample groove for the breakdancing contingent. “The Land” is a little less accessible; the track still operates under house rules, but Redshape finds various loopholes to exploit, be it a weird vocal hiccup or mood-changing synth-line. It’s a strange little single, by no means experimental or hard to follow, but it doesn’t easily fit into any modern sub-genre either. While not this month’s crucial dance 12″, it’s further proof that I can’t allow any new 3024 releases to pass me by unlistened.

SFV Acid Grown 12″ (100% Silk)
This SFV Acid 12″ on 100% Silk is pretty much the textbook definition of “hipster-house”. Six tracks of uninspired bin-filler that is just talented enough to squeak past Soundcloud and onto a vinyl record, but why? Because the guy behind the music is cool and lives in the same town as the label and they all hang at the same bars and show spaces together? If someone asked me what was so great about electro/techno/dance music and played me this record, I could not come up with a good answer – there’s no emotion, no personality, no inventiveness, no flashy moves, no technical prowess, just a variety of loops, arpeggios and beats put together with the loving hand of an iPod factory worker. If it sucked, that’d be one thing, and it might be kinda fun to hear the unquantized errors and foolish flubs, but instead it’s just so mediocre and fleeting that I can’t even have that sort of fun. How dare this guy call himself anything “Acid”, you know? I’m not inspired to dance, or root for the artist, or wonder what he was thinking, or wish I came up with one of these beats first – I’m inspired to stand smugly, arms folded, thinking to myself how cool I am for liking techno without actually really liking techno, and I hate that.

Shed The Praetorian / RQ-170 12″ (50 Weapons)
I always thought Shed was the weak link in the Ostgut Ton chain. Not sure what it was that drew me to check out The Praetorian / RQ-170, then – maybe the weird title? Whatever the case, I’m glad I did, as this is some head-scratching electro that makes me feel much happier than it should. “The Praetorian” opens with a farty 4/4 beat punctuated by what sounds like a cymbal crash, were the cymbal made out of ice… real gnarly slow stuff, like it’s a lost dog who ran away from its master, Galakthorrö. Shed takes the opportunity to spritz it clean with weightless new-age synths, making what could’ve been a dungeon beater into something soothing and fresh – the perfect soundtrack to a Turkish bath house, let’s say. “RQ-170” is a strange number, too – echoed beats whiz past each other, and before long, a wood-shop buzzsaw starts turning trees into a new desk. Very tense atmosphere, and often quite crusty, as if to suggest that Shed’s been spending his time in the company of Emptyset. Just barely dance music, and so uniquely weird that I find myself replaying it over and over. Much like Andy Stott, Shed seems to have wandered off the generic genre-path with fantastic results.

Slices Still Cruising LP (Iron Lung)
Fresh from the oven, here’s the newest platter of Slices we’ve all been awaiting. The title would imply some sort of continuity with their debut, but it seems more like its own singular work. It certainly sounds different than Cruising – there’s less static-laden crunch to Still Cruising, and as they tend to employ some more garage-y riffs, it’s an appropriate shift. I say “garage-y”, but this is still very much a hardcore record, just one that knows how to swing… it’s not all rapid-fire oom-pah beats. They come across more humorous and less creepy than on their debut, and knowing what I know about these guys, it is a perfect and true representation. Almost makes me think of what Fucked Up would sound like if they continued to improve after their first few singles but moved in a deliberately raw and hardcore direction, rather than becoming an operatic indie theater project. The songs are great and varied, making for one of the most compelling hardcore records I’ve heard in a while. I don’t mean that like every other indie critic means it though, ie. “they have given new life to hardcore by no longer sounding like hardcore” – this is as raging as ever, and surely one of the best hardcore albums that will be released this year.

Sros Lords Evil Spawn / The End 7″ (Urinal Cake)
This, the second Urinal Cake release, doesn’t look nearly as appealing as the first, with a barfing, bloody, cartoon praying mantis on the cover. Looks like a ’90s skateboard deck graphic, and not in a cool way. Musically, Sros Lords pick up the slack – these two songs are pretty short and simple, but they do the trick. Both tracks makes me think of Human Eye covering Chain Gang with the vocals provided by someone’s younger brother, certainly an appealing thought in my book. The synth bleating is just right, and they stomp through a couple basic hooks nicely. The comic book-y art makes more sense with the music, going for that sort of pulpy sci-fi aesthetic. Anyone who collects old Mad magazines will dig right into Sros Lords, and many of the rest of us will too.

Stag Get Used To It 7″ (Disembraining Machine)
Imagine if Carcass used cookbooks instead of medical journals for their Reek Of Putrefaction cover collage – that’s what you get with Stag’s Get Used To It 7″. I could’ve gone for some gastronomy-based death metal, but Stag’s sound is equally cool – danceable, early-’00s post-punk that sounds like the best parts of Hot Hot Heat and Sleater Kinney collaged together in an attempt to resemble Kleenex. Powerful, pep-rally vocals lead disco-drum beats and needle-y guitars to a pretty nice result. Not sure if everyone is ready for “indie dance parties” all over again (we’re all too busy getting our “goth nights” started), but Stag make a pretty good case why certain styles will always work when performed by a select few. Don’t worry, Stag – I’m used to it, and I dig it.

Terrible Truths Terrible Truths 7″ (Small Town City Living)
Terrific post-punk from Terrible Truths, yet another cool new Aussie group. Four songs here, but I could go for an album right off the bat – they’ve got a vibe similar in spirit to The Slits and The Raincoats, but Terrible Truths seem a bit more subdued, like they probably don’t jump around on stage and wouldn’t be out of place opening for The xx. Kinda funky, but just because the bass lines are so moist and thick… it makes for pretty much the only funkiness I would want out of my post-punk. The two singers seem to sing most of the lyrics at the exact same time, and it really sounds great that way. I don’t know, Terrible Truths are doing a pretty specific thing, but they seem to have gotten it perfectly right, straight out of the gate. Did a little Googling, and apparently Bedroom Suck will be next to bring us some new Terrible Truths… I can’t wait.

Voices From The Lake Voices From The Lake CD (Prologue)
Just as he promised, Donato Dozzy comes through with his Voices From The Lake project with co-conspirator Neel (not to be confused with his other frequent collaborator, Nuel). Doesn’t really matter who’s responsible for Voices From The Lake, though, as it’s a subtle, anonymous-sounding album that requires little back-story to be enjoyed. It’s broken into eleven tracks, but it flows like one long (I’m talking long) track, morphing from one loop to the next at such a slow rate of change that it becomes easy to forget exactly how you wound up in your current location. The beat is constant, and often locks into tight little patterns, but it’s never something I could imagine dancefloors erupting over – this is thoughtful, humble techno that sounds like the work of people who put in weeks of twelve-hour days, composing and conducting this giant sprawling soundtrack without ever getting sick of it. The sounds are inclusive but intriguing, and the groove is never interrupted (at least until Ricardo Villalobos eventually steps in and remixes it). It’s a tasteful record, one that could easily slip right by you, but those willing to take a dip will leave feeling invigorated and refreshed.

Walls The Future Is Wide Open LP (Iron Lung)
The folks at Iron Lung are pumping out the killer hardcore-punk at a furious face, this new Walls album not the slightest of the bunch. Is it possible they’ve gotten even angrier? The singer screams “you’re just a fucking piece of shit” within the first couple minutes, and I’ll admit, I took it a little personally. I guess that’s how it goes with Walls though – no fun, no hope, no pleasure, just anguish, annoyance and frustration. The music backs their torment well, quickly shifting from blood-soaked dirges to tech-y hardcore and brooding punk rock, bordering on a variety of hardcore’s sub-genres. If City Of Caterpillar had at least two guys wearing Swans t-shirts and another in a Void shirt, they probably would’ve come to sound like this. Screamo as any meaningful form of music is deader than dead, but Walls seem like its next proper iteration, taking some of those spastic, heavy influences and melding them to standard-issue hardcore/grind. These guys just know how to make ugly music and they really take joy in their plight.

War At War For Youth 7″ (Sacred Bones)
Sorry Eric Burdon fans, wrong War – this one is comprised of the vocalists of Sexdrome and Iceage in a Danish punk super-group of sorts. One could call it a consolation prize for those anticipating new material from either group, but I’d be digging this single even if the band was a couple of nobodies from Tacoma. Three songs here, all of which follow a similar aesthetic (murky, disorienting basement fog) but work different styles: “At War For Youth” is a slogging punk number that sounds like a cross between an Iron Cross bootleg and Raspberry Bulbs, and it’s followed by “Kains Marke”, a synth-led marching song, like something you’d expect schoolchildren in Yugoslavia would be forced to listen to as part of their morning exercises if Mark McCoy was their principal. Real good stuff, but the b-side is my favorite – “Brodermordet” sounds like a crude, amateurish take on Andy Stott, or maybe an ecstasy-fueled Vatican Shadow, and while anyone could probably “do it”, I really like the way War did it. Figure this’ll get written off as a gratuitous side-project for those already at war with the popularity of Iceage, but screw it – this is a great 7″, and I hope At War For Youth isn’t where War ends.

White Car Everyday Grace LP (Hippos In Tanks)
Imagine this: you’re planning your dream wedding and decide to book Matthew Dear as the musical entertainment. Costs are adding up, so against your better judgment, a pushy cousin convinces you that he knows a group that’s just as good but will do the gig for a quarter of the price – lo and behold, White Car are playing your wedding. Sorry, but I really can’t help but think of what a budget Matthew Dear White Car is while spinning Everyday Grace. It’s very similar in style (bumping house/electro meets modern EBM weirdness with rubbery vocals), although shades of Autre Ne Veut’s wacky amateurism shine through this album frequently. White Car doesn’t quite have the voice, or the musical prowess, so they try to make up for it by adding another distorted vocal track or crowding the mix with another synth. It’s not bad by any means, though, and I’ve had a good time spinning White Car – there are some highly enjoyable tracks here. I like the Sex Pistols and I like half-assed attempts at the Sex Pistols too, you know?

White Load Wayne’s World III b/w Godfather IV LP (Load)
Twenty six songs of dirty rotten hardcore-punk from White Load on this ambitiously-titled debut LP. Sounds like Rusted Shut trying to write a Dwarves record, or Rupture before pornography completely melted their brains, just mercilessly bashing through what might as well be the same riff without any consideration toward anything. They kinda lose momentum halfway through the second side (aka Godfather IV), like they got into some inter-band argument or the drummer broke his sticks, but they finish up pretty strong. Even a band of crazies like Homostupids will take a moment to gather their thoughts or grab a drink, whereas White Load are utterly relentless – there’s little doubt that these guys are true maniacs. Great LP, and further proof that Load Records is less a record label and more of a teenage delinquent babysitting service these days. Can you imagine coming into the office with voice messages from FNU Ronnies and White Load waiting for you?