Archive for June, 2013

That’s right, an addition to the Yellow Green Red family! The first Consumer Report post. Let me explain: see, I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling retail fatigue when it comes to new records (since when did over $20 become the norm for a full-length LP?). It just doesn’t seem right or fair! And just as that has been setting in, I’ve been spending an unhealthy amount of time on my new favorite website,, buying records and occasionally selling them and just getting a feel for the digital marketplace that exists. If you’ve been on there yourself, you’ve probably also noticed that A: 80% of all records currently reside in Europe, B: those European sellers expect top-dollar, and C: there is no limit to the human’s ability to be a nerd. In my recent online digging, I’ve come across some really great deals, and plan on sharing those here when the mood strikes me. This post is about hardcore/punk/garage from the ’90s, and I think the next will be techno! Why waste your time chasing the latest ‘manufactured rarity’ when you can grab five killer singles for under $25, right now? If you are reading this post, and these records are no longer available on Discogs for less than five dollars a piece, it means my work here is done.

Code 13 A Part Of America Died Today (Havoc, 1998)
You probably know Felix Von Havoc as the standard for what an American punk rock lifer is – self-made, never sold out even slightly (you won’t see him in a Scion), massive record collection in custom-made shelves, leather jacket, MRR column, was chased out of a window by cops while Gordon Solie Motherfuckers played, etc etc etc. His band Code 13 was always good, and always under-appreciated, but their last single A Part Of America Died Today is an absolute monster. In a subtly-conceptual presentation, one side is full of blasting thrash tracks, speed-core that rivals anything on Slap A Ham, and the other side is the “punk” side, raging just as hard but with a focus on memorable choruses and circle-pitting (“Give The Kids” sounds like a 7 Seconds song performed by Jerry’s Kids). You probably need their whole discography (it’s just three singles and a split), but this is the place to start.

Humpy Humpy (Beer City, 1996)
Make no mistake… yes, it’s that Beer City Records! I know people love to joke about this, well, joke-worthy label, but I bought some of my first 7″s from their Thrasher magazine ads, thank-you-very-much, and when it comes to suburban gutter-punk, there is no finer stamp of approval. Humpy kind of side-steps all of that though by just being a completely out-of-control, violent-sounding punk band, accidentally stepping into a d-beat puddle and flailing with drums that just don’t quit. There are eight songs here, one of which is called “America Online” (which you’ll probably have to explain to your children one day), and it rages too. Plus they are from god-damned Montana and called themselves “Humpy”. What else do you want?

Jellyroll Rockheads Intense And Mild EP (625 Productions, 2000)
Okay, so it’s from 2000, but I’m not gonna let this heat pass because of a technicality. There was a great little window of time where hardcore bands were still willing to try something new, just as wacky thrash was rearing it’s brim-flipped head and kids were starting to learn about the multitude of amazing ’80-’82 hardcore that was utterly obscure before the internet came to town. Jellyroll Rockheads were hyped at the time, and for good reason – their music is utterly manic, possessed and hyper-fast (in that way that only the Japanese can do), like they took the concept of Melt Banana and applied it strictly to hardcore-thrash. They’re the sound of hardcore suspended in mid-jump. Plus, the 625 Productions label (later dubbed 625 Thrashcore) is full of overlooked dollar-bin gems just waiting to be enjoyed (among a large assortment of stinkers, to be sure). And furthermore, there is currently a copy available for $1.55… skip your lunch-time Twix and grab this instead!

Sad Sack Heinous Bitch (ERL, 1991)
Out of the five records I mention today, this is my top pick. When the Killed By Death series finally catches up to the ’90s, “Heinous Bitch” is going to be the first track on side A. Imagine a recording of Bobby Soxx singing for Flipper and released on the Siltbreeze label, and I say that with very little hyperbole! Can’t tell if the drums are a human or a machine, it’s just so damn trebly and painful, and the vocalist absolutely slobbers all over these songs like he’s rabid and about to die and just doesn’t care. All this with a guitar solo that’d make Watery Love blush! ERL is a pretty cool and frequently overlooked noise-rock / punk label from the ’90s, and this is the finest piece of art they’ve ever bestowed upon us. Mandatory listening, I say!

Unholy Swill Tapeworm In My Head (Noiseville, 1990)
Unholy Swill have a thick and meaty discography, and while some of their records are valued in the double-digits, you can still get this killer slice of fuzz-crusted belligerence for cheap. Imagine if GG Allin never got famous, and instead got married and had a couple kids, restricting his utter contempt for humanity to the shack in the backyard where he keeps the lawnmower and a room-temperature case of beer, and you’re close to the miserably-masculine suffering of Unholy Swill. The vocals are so burly that it occasionally sounds like a Muppet-ized El Duce, but there’s just so much distortion and ugliness to the recording that it still sounds great today. They’re like the miserable security guard that would confiscate Drunks With Guns’ beer and drink it themselves, and I will forever love them for it.

Reviews – June 2013

Action Swingers Miserable Life / Losing My Cool 7″ (Total Punk)
Can you go wrong with Action Swingers? I don’t think it’s possible. Maybe you’ve seen one of their LPs with cheesy ’90s cover art and thought “not for me”, but you were wrong – this band is primitive nihilist punk rock at its finest. “Miserable Life” sounds like Brainbombs, if they weren’t a bunch of Swedish pretend-serial-killers but rather a bunch of American steelworkers sitting at home collecting meager disability checks. If Watery Love were in their 40s instead of their 30s, they’d probably sound like this too. “Losing My Cool” is slightly funkier in that Pussy Galore / Jon Spencer sort-of way, but still about as pissed-off and grizzled as any Cheater Slicks record. As far as I’m concerned, this Action Swingers 7″ sets the bar for a singles label billing itself as “Total Punk” – unless you deserve to share the same cigarette-burnt stage and smelly microphone as Action Swingers, you should not working with this fine record company.

Bad American Bruises 7″ (Eleven Twenty Four)
So there are like four different Black Flag reunions going on right now… can’t we just cancel all those and send out a band like Bad American instead? These guys are all pretty old (or getting there), and they do a fine job of slamming out ugly mid-paced hardcore punk. Four songs here, using riffs that bands like Crowbar or Prong could’ve metallicized, but Bad American insist on squeezing them into the form of moshworthy hardcore. Definitely more singular-minded than the somewhat-recent Bad American album, as Bruises has no interest in thrashing; it just wants to hurt. If Drunks With Guns were actually Laborers With Tempers, they’d surely sound like this. Not sure if this is just a slight aesthetic detour for Bad American or what, but you can’t go wrong with four tracks of heavy, dirge-like punk such as this.

Bad Noids Everything From Soup To Dessert LP (Katorga Works)
Bad Noids came on the scene with a 7″ limited to like 84 copies or something stupidly inaccessible like that, and I’m glad to say that with this follow-up LP, they’ve grown up without getting any smarter. The recording is a step up from the boombox or four-track they used for the single, still raw but with a thicker mid-range and greater sense of clarity. The songs are better, and I dug the 7″, so this is all quite good! For those unfamiliar, Bad Noids are youngsters from Clevo who certainly seem like the kid-brothers of Nine Shocks Terror and H-100s, although they play a very American form of punk rock (no Japanese hardcore worship here), like a mix of Necros, Bobby Soxx and Sick Pleasure. The singer has a nasally Arab On Radar-guy voice, but instead of talking through his lyrics he squeals like an unmedicated toddler, a pretty perfect fit for the ramshackle, flailing hardcore that the rest of the band has assembled. I was expecting to enjoy this record, but Everything From Soup To Dessert is really a top-notch slice of hardcore-punk – you don’t have to toss fireworks in the pit or obsessively collective Cleveland hardcore obscurities to dig into Bad Noids.

Big Boys Fun, Fun, Fun 12″ (540)
Let me tell you about a Texas punk group called Big Boys! Seriously, how are you supposed to “review” all-time-classic punk records? “Boy, these Dead Kennedys are really onto something with Holiday In Cambodia and I think they will have a prosperous career!” I don’t blame you if Big Boys aren’t in your weekly listening rotation (they sure aren’t in mine), but they are one of the true gems of early Texas punk, really personifying the “do what you want” creativity that defined punk rock to so many people decades ago. They wore mumus, had a horn section, skated before anyone cared about kickflips, and generally just shocked the hell out of the norms while playing with a level of skill usually reserved for kids in Rush and Yes cover bands. This six-song EP covers breakneck hardcore, goofy funk and riotous punk rock, and even if the idea of “funk punk” is unappealing in today’s vigorously unfunky hardcore scene, it’s certainly worth hearing. I keep thinking this is a double 12″ reissue, but that’s because there is a gigantic, beautiful booklet filled with lyrics, photos and ephemera that is practically worth the price of admission on its own, a real inspiring package of what artistic freedom can foster. And if you’re still unconvinced, just spend half an hour or so skimming Big Boys videos on YouTube and see if you don’t decide to skate (rather than die).

Bitter Fictions Bitter Fictions LP (Shaking Box)
If “Bitter Fictions” is a solo project, which it is, I’m thinking it should sound like Pedro the Lion or Bob Nanna, like some emo acoustic guitar-pop that covers your local coffee shop in flyers. I thought wrong! Bitter Fictions isn’t the all-ages indie show in the basement, it’s the loft space art-gallery with musical accompaniment on the top floor. It’s pretty good, too… Bitter Fictions roams from Thurston-y guitar stunt-work to Birchville Cat Motel sunburnt drone to Oren Ambarchi’s electro-acoustic pitter-patter to the slow, haunting expanse of late-period Earth. Even some finger-picking in there, too. Bitter Fictions kinda goes to every place a modern solo “experimental” guitar record can go, but it hops around without seeming jittery or uncomfortable. More like one guy (in this case, Devin Friesen) just working out a series of interesting compositions and letting the chips fall where they may. To quote Borat: “very nice!”

Boddika & Joy Orbison / Kassem Mosse Think & Change Album Sampler 1 12″ (Nonplus)
I got so excited by the prospect of a split 12″ featuring Boddika & Joy Orbison collaborating on one side (as a duo, they’re solid gold) and techno reductionist weirdo Kassem Mosse on the other that I didn’t notice this is actually just some sort of “sampler” for what will be a larger-scale, official release. I hate that stuff… give vinyl it’s proper due, it’s not supposed to be used in the same manner as buttons and stickers! Anyway, my anger at buying just part of what will be a larger release quickly subsided as I put this one on and let these three gents smack me with their beats. Boddika & Joy Orbison turn in a great remix of their own cut “Mercy”, letting the pulse simmer while still aiming for the dance-floor (and hitting the bulls-eye). I dig Kassem Mosse, but he’s never clicked for me like he does here with “Broken Patterns”; the title implies some sort of undanceable groove, but it’s actually quite groovy, sounding like classic rave-tech shot through a helicopter’s spinning blades. For such a mysterious, white-label kind of guy, Mosse seems to be having a blast with this one, and that vibe seamlessly translates to my legs and torso. I’ll admit, this 12″ sample has me salivating for more… it’s impossible to withstand a marketing strategy that sounds this good.

Caged Animal Caged Animal EP 7″ (Warthog Speak)
During the day, Tony Molina walks around getting his heart broken and picnics in the park, but at night, he does a dozen push-ups, zips his black hoodie up until all you can see is the whites of his eyes, and becomes the maniacal frontman of Caged Animal. I hope the entire band is under 5’5″, because everything else about Caged Animal is short – the thrashing lasts mere seconds before the mosh part kicks in, the vocals are brief indecipherable bursts of anger, and I can barely finish typing a sentence of this review before I have to flip the record over again (I only type with my left pinky finger). Caged Animal have a real knack for writing intense mosh build-ups and breakdowns, and that’s essentially what this EP is, peppered with the occasional blast to give us a chance to crawl out of the dogpile. If Painkiller isn’t knocking at their door right now, the world is no longer what it used to be.

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt The Raw And The Cooked LP (Palilalia)
I got kind of annoyed by those expensive and ultra-limited singles Bill Orcutt was dealing not too long ago, just seemed like the poor supply/demand ratio and high ticket price were meant to antagonize the fans, but this collaboration LP between Orcutt and drum-team captain Chris Corsano was too hard to pass up. And the KFC-based artwork! Even if you didn’t catch this duo live last year, I think we all knew what this one sounded like without ever hearing it – tangles of scalding hot blues-guitar with a free-jazz octopus seated on the drum stool. You can almost imagine these songs if you try hard enough, but even with that being the case, The Raw And The Cooked is a fantastic record and one worth hearing, not just imagining. It’s either tense or cathartic, and when Orcutt starts hollering like a wounded mutt, the thrill of the moment leaps from his body to yours. These guys could probably make this record while preparing breakfast, they’re both just such complete masters of freaking out on their respective instruments, but it still sounds amazing, no matter how easy it may come to them. Thankfully, this record exists, so the rest of us don’t even have to try.

Coyote Clean Up 2 Hot 2 Wait LP (100% Silk)
Coyote Clean Up is no longer just the worst job at the zoo, it’s a smoothed-out house project befitting of the 100% Silk namesake. If there’s anything vaguely “hipster house” about this one, I dare you to find it, as 2 Hot 2 Wait is like taking a night drive through Ibiza in a rented Mercedes, windows permanently down. Or during daylight hours, deep within the confines of the chill-out tent at a Cadenza party. It’s ethereal and precious, but with a comfortable, plush groove that can just as easily pull you out of your seat as it can tuck you under the sheets. There’s one voice throughout most of these tracks, and it’s a soothing coo that is frequently chopped (in the usual modern-day production technique) and occasionally given freedom to wander across the song, like an Anthropologie ad turned into a digital dance track. Same kinda look and feel as Sapphire Slows, but more refined, pop-friendly and glossy… could be some sort of relation? Either way, I’m more than willing to grab a scooper and join in with Coyote Clean Up.

Cuntz Aloha LP (Permanent)
Do we really need another band called some variation of “Cunts”, even if they mix it up with a Z instead of an S? There are at least five bands with this name already, and it’s a stupid one. These guys aren’t off to a good start with me, but their music isn’t bad… pretty standard low-IQ (but probably actually smart and just intentionally pretending to be dumb) noise-rock, like a mix of Degreaser and Running. These dudes are Australian, and the singer does kind of a “loud belligerent talking” vocal style, which puts him somewhere between Nick Cave and the guy from Feedtime. If you are absolutely enamored with this style (and go four out of four with the bands I just mentioned), you’ll probably dig on Cuntz just the same. I don’t fall into that camp though, as the music is good but not great, and with songs like “Meth” and their general “we are degenerate freaks, aren’t we, hmm, aren’t we?” vibe, I can’t say there is much about Cuntz that has me hankering for more. If the point of the band was simply to annoy their parents, however, I congratulate Cuntz on what is surely a mission accomplished.

Dangerous Boys Club Pris LP (Dais)
I think we’ve all read that entertaining interview that Aaron Montaigne recently did with Vice by now, chronicling his adventures from Heroin and Antioch Arrow to the US military and beyond. He’s a unique individual for sure (my one buddy swears Montaigne was the sole creator of the “white belt” trend), and his current musical offering comes in the form of Dangerous Boys Club, what one might call a “cold-wave” group. I suppose I might call them that too, but the music of Pris sounds nothing like the many punks-gone-synth with their fresh-out-the-box gear. I think there’s some sort of homemade electronic device at play here, and it gives the music this subtle-yet-constant layer of treble, like someone is playing a dog whistle and you are convinced you can kind of hear it. Or maybe like if you converted an electro-pop WAV to MP3, then back to WAV, then back to MP3 again, until the cymbals sound more like digital mist than intentional percussion. There’s not much to say about the songs themselves, there isn’t much in the songwriting department that moved me to dance or squeal or tense up, and the vocals are standard-issue, but their actual overall sound is unique enough that I keep listening in hopes that these songs will eventually ingrain themselves in my brain. It didn’t really happen on Pris, but I won’t be shocked if the next DBC record spins me for a loop.

Demdike Stare Testpressing #001 12″ (Modern Love)
Alright, time for another series of limited Demdike Stare 12″s that are released just far enough from each other that obsessive fans (such as myself) are forced to order them separately, lest we miss out entirely, and essentially causing us to pad our orders with other records in order to soften the import-shipping blow. I’d start to feel like I was being taken advantage of if all these records weren’t so damn good! The first cut on this “test pressing” (not sure I follow the aesthetic concept here either, but I am withholding full judgment) is a real treat – a wormy, slimy synth tone wiggles through narrow passageways as a dissected break-core beat tumbles around it, narrowly averting disaster. It’s so simple, but such a great pairing, that shifty synth pulse and a giant pile of confiscated jungle-drums. Flip it over and it’s another example of Demdike Stare’s rhythmic beauty, pulling percussion from places most English-speaking Caucasians have never ventured and building remarkably textured beats from their skin and bones. I have to admit, I may have had some slight Demdike fatigue when they were wrapping up the last couple 12″s in the Elemental series, but Testpressing #001 has me as thrilled as the first time I heard them. Get yours if it’s not already too late!

Deviation Social Tempus / Deathwatch “From End To Beginning” Vol. 2 LP (Dais)
Often when an artist or label releases a “Volume One”, the second volume fails to surface, but Dais has always been a label to live up to their promises. Really glad they are excavating these Deviation Social rarities, because this is great stuff, truly disturbed and outraged synth / musique-concrete / noise experiments from a man named Arshile Injeyan. This volume collects the Tempus Purgatio Part 7 7″ EP along with the Workforce / Deathwatch cassette, and they flow marvelously on 12″ vinyl. This material pushes further from standard song structure, instead flowing long-form with inaudible news samples, tidal synth pulls, echoed vocals, unsettling sound effects and various tones of unknown origin. It’s as if Nurse With Wound’s stream-of-consciousness approach was applied to the earliest dark-wave sonics and punk rock’s fiery anger (hence a song title like “F.O.P. (Fuck Off Prick)”). Deviation Social really nails something special, and even as these tracks casually morph into one another, Injeyan really has me captivated, like one of those grainy videos of terrorists sitting behind makeshift desks and barking out threats in languages I don’t understand. Pick up some Deviation Social today and say “yes” to Dais!

Dichroics Short Dirty Threads LP (no label)
Dichroics follow their self-released debut album with their self-released second album. Who needs a label anyway? In the case of Dichroics, unless they are just complete jerks as people, I’d imagine they had at least one record company sniffing around, as they combine a few easy-going indie-rock styles in their music, Short Dirty Threads being no exception. At times I’m reminded of the mathy yowl of At The Drive-In, the mental meandering of Modest Mouse, the artsy-cool of Talking Heads, and the slacker-y bumble of Pavement covering The Fall. Generally, this sort of cordial, talented indie-rock music isn’t something I want to listen to, and I suppose I don’t really have a desire to hear Dichroics when I’m out gassing up my car or at work or playing frisbee in the park or whatever, but in spinning Short Dirty Threads I am able to appreciate their talent. I guess no band wants to hear “I appreciate your talent”, like it’s a sneaky, politically-correct way of saying “you suck”, but I truly do appreciate that Dichroics are able to combine various influences into their own thing and perform it with gusto. If they were my kids, I’d be proud.

Ego Summit The Room Isn’t Big Enough LP (540)
540 continues to reissue most of your want-list with the Ego Summit LP, a late-’90s gem of Ohio’s finest dirtball indie-rock. There’s a beautifully detailed map inside the record documenting Ego Summit’s intertwined band member histories (linking Vertical Slit, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, Great Plains and roughly 25 other acts), and it certainly sounds like a bunch of capable and wildly talented men playing together solely for the sake of it. Everyone shares songwriting duties, which leads to the Neil Young-ish bent of “Beyond The Laws” being tailed by the downer indie-pop of “Illogical”, and the rest of the record unravels in a similarly disparate fashion. It all sounds like the same group though, even if the musical ideas pull at different tablecloths, as the recording is pretty steady and none of these guys seem particularly thrilled by life. I’m no Ohio freak, I mean Pennsylvania is bad enough, but The Room Isn’t Big Enough is an obscure session worth revisiting, even for those of us who don’t know all of Mike Rep’s Quotas by first name.

Elgato Dunkel Jam 12″ (no label)
Elgato is one of the lesser-repped Hessle Audio artists, real easy to miss, but he’s one of my favorites. Alongside Bandshell, Elgato is making music that ostensibly is part of the British post-dubstep scene, but I swear the music is so strange that it could easily fit into some M Squared or Vanity Records compilation from 1981 and no one would be the wiser. “Dunkel Jam” wouldn’t be so easily concealed, though: the constant hits of indiscernible diva-flash are thoroughly modern, even if the rest of the song seems to float in stasis, paralyzed by the constant hi-hat tics and frozen groove. “We Dream Electric” sounds like the name of some stupid major label indie-rock band, but Elgato uses it to guide another subtle house track into the cold night air. The vocal trick employed here is essentially the same as that of “Dunkel Jam”, but I find Elgato’s minimalism and continuity to be starkly alluring rather than annoying and cheap. These tracks have barely enough functioning parts to be called dance music, but they make for a lovely stack of bones.

Emptyset Material 12″ (Subtext)
At this point, I consider my commitment to Emptyset a permanent one. I’m most comfortable when their records are housed in black-and-white jackets that display spooky empty places, like a dusty old cathedral, or in the case of Material, a creepy bath-house and a well-lit bomb shelter. This one is a pretty nice midpoint between the bombastic shrapnel shards of Collapsed and the tentative, fearful murmurings of Medium. Just as it’s always been, Emptyset’s music hinges on how and when they detonate their bass blasts, and for most of this one, the blows come slow and deliberate, the perfect soundtrack for someone slowly being chased by a sentient robot through a sewer (the early part of the chase, when there’s still a slight change of escape). I find Emptyset’s music to be so incredibly satisfying; they just really nail it, and Material is another same-yet-different take on their signature grayscale post-musical industrial electronics. Those who are familiar will not be disappointed, and if you’re not familiar, time to get on board.

Fat History Month Bad History Month LP (Sophomore Lounge / Exploding In Sound)
The curiously-named Fat History Month are back with their sophomore album on, umm, Sophomore Lounge, and if you had any inclination to give their first one more than a customary spin, you’ll dig this one too. The music is still surprisingly delightful, optimistic and loose, very Pavement-y but with a touch of the Modest Mouse blues. Usually when I listen to this sort of band, I’m refreshing my email on my phone by the third song, but Fat History Month manage to keep my attention, if not because the music is mind-blowing, but because I’m curious to know what the singer is going to say. It feels like Fat History Month paid such close attention in school that they were contradicting the teachers over meaningless details and realizing what a sham the world is while their classmates were doing Beavis impressions and making plans to get drunk. I don’t necessarily “agree” with all their lyrics, but Fat History know how to turn a phrase or two, so the lyric booklet/comic that comes with Bad History Month is a smart and useful addition. The record ends with “I was born with a body that works and a mind that works to destroy it. It’s easy being alive, it’s hard to enjoy it”… if you can’t relate to that at least once in a while, please get off my planet.

Good Throb Culture Vulture 7″ (Muscle Horse)
Record of the month right here! Good Throb destroyed my life with their debut 7″, it was just too punk and too good and too nasty for me to do anything but feel wonderfully bad about myself, like I ate the perfect brownie sundae and then immediately had another. And dare I say it, but I think Culture Vulture is even better! “Culture Vulture” slowly wakes up into a plodding, sloppy march through a field of icons worth demolishing. “Headache” is ironically the sweetest sounding tune on this EP, almost like Eddy Current if they weren’t a band of delightful boys but a rotten crew of cynical women, and “Torture Garden” features the lyric “shall I put these golf balls up your behind?”, a question the rest of the world has never had the guts to ask. I’m going to be in the UK next month, and I’m gonna beg to carry Good Throb’s amps around, in hopes that the tiniest bit of their punkness rubs off on me. It’s worth a try!

Kremlin Drunk In The Gulag 12″ (Beach Impediment / Bad Vibrations)
Neos aside, three-piece hardcore-punk is always kinda tough to pull off… there’s just something about having a solo front-person that seems crucial to the hardcore lineup. Like how are you supposed to jump into the crowd and do a backflip off the PA if you’re wearing a guitar? Kremlin are such a trio, and while they are cool, I feel like today’s hardcore standards are so high that you’ve really gotta blow minds to stand out, which Kremlin do not. They’re a mean melange of classic ’81 hardcore (The Fix, maybe Jerry’s Kids), crusty protest-punk (Crucifix, Flux Of Pink Indians), ’90s political hardcore (Disrupt, State Of Fear) and just a hint of Black Flag’s penchant for metallic wanking. Sure sounds like a recipe for success to me, but Kremlin’s vocals quickly fade into the noise, the songs tumble forward without any significant hooks, and while the guitars have a killer sound, the recording is a little too muddy to make any significant impact. Definitely a good record, it’s just that hardcore is now a university where you need a 3.8 GPA to graduate, and these guys are getting Bs and B+s on their finals. Hope they don’t get crushed by student loans a couple years from now.

Alexander Lewis A Luminous Veil LP (Blackest Ever Black)
The name “Alexander Lewis” strikes fear into the heart of no man or woman, but a record like A Luminous Veil certainly aims in that direction. This one is very much of-the-day industrial synth abuse, each track drilling a single idea into the ground. Most of this record is rhythmic, but without any 4/4 pulse, just undulating soundwaves that occur when you tape the keys on your synth down instead of just playing them like a normal person. I’m reminded of a smoother Alberich, Subliminal’s last 7″ EP or Will Over Matter’s Lust For Knowledge were it less charismatic and more po-faced. Really, this sort of record is so deep in my wheelhouse that even though it might not be adding much to the genre, it’s a style of music I enjoy so much that I find myself continually throwing on A Luminous Veil at all hours of the day, eager to let these sawtoothed synths jab back and forth until I’m fully under their spell. You might like things black, but this is the blackest ever, baby.

Lossmaker Lossmaker 12″ (Lo-Bit Landscapes)
Lo-Bit Landscapes is quickly cornering the market on avant-emo-electronics as they welcome Lossmaker to the family. This is electronic music that I’d imagine the 1% would listen to – it’s demure, often beautiful, subtle and melancholy, and pretty much the perfect soundtrack for Downton Abbey – In Space (please BBC, make it happen). I’m reminded of B. Fleischmann, but without the mumbly German vocals, or maybe if Four Tet put out an album commissioned by an herbal sleepy-time tea company, or Boards Of Canada if they were Boards Of Dubai. Kind of Her Space Holiday-ish too, when the synths start weeping electronic tears in that ’90s sadtronica sort of way. I’d say it falls pretty squarely into “not my thing” territory, but the EP never drags. If I had the proper ornamental 18th century cabinet, I’d probably hold onto this one… it’s just too dignified to dwell amongst the plebeians on my Expedit shelves.

Miles Unsecured 12″ (Modern Love)
As if to remind everyone that the Demdike crew holds the industrial-techno game in their grip, Miles has been back in solo action with a new album and this 12″ of material that didn’t make it on there. I actually have yet to check out the album (there’s only so many goth-techno hours in a day), but Unsecured is totally killer. Seems like he went deep into auto factories and oil refineries for the source material on this one, using steam exhaust in place of hi-hats and steel-on-steel hammering for accent percussion, with degraded acid-bass hurrying beneath. It’s way faster than any Demdike material, or even Miles’ first EP, reminding me of Shed at his most aggressive or a filthier Rrose. Not quite dance-floor oriented, as most tracks lack an obvious 4/4 stability, but it’s that unsettling herky-jerkiness that adds to the “Robocop versus Terminator” feel, really hitting the industrial-techno sweet spot. I hate to say you need to spend the money on this expensive Modern Love import too, but…

Milk Music Cruise Your Illusion LP (no label / Perennial)
Just in time for backyard grilling season, here’s Milk Music’s Cruise Your Illusion, suitable for both gas and charcoal. I’ve listened to this album a bunch now, and listened to their debut EP plenty, and I’m still not sure how I feel about this group. On one hand, the guitar sounds cool, they look like Wayne’s World extras in the best possible way, and they seem like genuine Pacific Northwest party freaks that are fun to be around. On the other, the songs kinda just blend into each other, they rhyme “high” with “die” in the first five minutes, and the record feels way too long, like they’re trying to jam but don’t know where else to go. And then there’s the vocalist: I appreciate that he seems to lack any self-consciousness and just goes for it, but he’s also clearly kinda tone-deaf and straining himself way beyond his range. I guess it’s a good record, but I’ve had more fun thinking about this band and wondering why they are such prominent internet-discussion fodder than actually just kicking back and listening to the record. Definitely feels good hearing those guitars in the late afternoon heat though, so while I will probably forget about this record six months from now, at least we’ll have had the summer of 2013.

R. Stevie Moore I Missed July 7″ (Sweaters & Pearls)
Shameful admission: I’ve never heard R. Stevie Moore before. I understand that he is one of underground-pop’s sweetest gems, a veritable Santa Claus of off-beat guitar pop (and not just because he dons a big white beard). This single has one song from 1978 and another from 1993, so it seems like as good a place to start as any, and after giving it a few spins, I can understand why the name of R. Stevie Moore is revered among critics and musicians alike. “I Miss July” reminds me a lot of The Apples In Stereo circa Fun Trick Noisemaker, except this song was recorded a good ten years before the Apples ever were a band, and it shuffles in a way that they never quite did. I’ll keep it! “Traded My Heart For Your Parts” is the flip, and a delightfully drunken walk on the beach, like if The Eagles weren’t an evil right-wing corporation but a non-profit music group overseen by Bruce Vilanch. Pretty amazing to hear two songs of equal quality, presence and vibe and to know that they were recorded fifteen years apart. Those of you who already own a bunch of Moore’s records are probably “no duh”-ing this review all over the place, but just let me enjoy my new discovery, okay?

Negative Reinforcement Negative Reinforcement 7″ (Coffin Cut)
Eight more songs of crushing hardcore care of Australia’s Negative Reinforcement. It’s really heavy – I’m reminded of Strife and Hatebreed and Left For Dead, although it seems like Negative Reinforcement are writing songs more in tune with Mind Eraser or Iron Lung or some other modern-day grindcore champion. Will Killingsworth mixed this EP, and I’m not sure if he is due all the credit, but this is a pretty evil-sounding record in all the right ways. The vocals are a deep bark that displays no sign of Australian accent (when your bark gets deep enough, it doesn’t even matter what language you’re “singing” in), and they fade in a touch of foreboding noise to appropriately match the spooky minimalism of their design. I wish the song “Koro Anxiety” was about the stressful state of mind one enters after dropping $1,500 on a rare hardcore 7″, but instead it’s sadly about a woman “gagged and bound” with a “bloated condom” on the floor. I can only hope this is a song decrying that sort of behavior (the lyrics are vague enough that the intention isn’t totally clear), but the whole “violence against women as transgressive artistic statement for hardcore dudes to use” thing is so bunk that I wish they just avoided it entirely.

Negro Spirituals Black Garden / Ancient Trees 7″ (A Wicked Company)
Man, naming your indie-punk band “Negro Spirituals” is poorly considered at best and shamefully offensive at worst. You really want to tell your niece and cousin at Thanksgiving that you’re in a band called that? If you gave up on this review at the band’s title, I don’t blame you, but for the few who are still willing to give this band a chance, they are pretty decent, run-of-the-mill queasy post-punk, like Factums with a touch of Joy Division’s dour melodies, or Blank Dogs with a meatier rhythm section (and those same underwater vocals). If I pretend this band is actually called The Pineapple Eaters or Backyard Friends or any of the million other unused band names that are not as needlessly offensive (seriously, why can’t bands name themselves these days?), it’s a pretty decent single of modern-day smeary goth-punk (if you melted early records by Section 25 and 23 Skidoo together it might come across like this), but I keep coming back to the name and how I want nothing to do with this band.

Optional Body Surviving Avalanches / Inelastic 7″ (25 Diamonds)
Angel Hair and The VSS will never not be cool. I don’t care how many dorks co-opt the worst aspects of screamo or wear black outfits with Spock hair, both bands are impeachable, and both feature the vocals of one Sonny Kay, who sings in Optional Body. Or maybe he sang, because this was recorded in 2008, and he seems like a delightfully volatile person. This band certainly fits in with his oeuvre – frantic guitars with staccato drumming, discordant melodies and his not-quite-pitch-perfect howl over top. Optional Body sound like a post-Interpol version of The VSS or At The Drive-In, in that there is an awareness that dark, gothy post-hardcore can successfully go radio-pop if pushed hard enough. This certainly sounds like a band of seasoned players at work, smartly produced and tightly performed, and if they ever manage to write a truly catchy tune (presuming they still exist, which they probably don’t), who knows how many souls they might steal.

Paint It Black Invisible 7″ (No Idea)
Paint It Black are my favorite MTV Video Music Award-winning punk band (you know, from being on the soundtrack to Tony Hawk’s Underground… take that Blink 182!). They are more of an institution than a band at this point, converging when schedules allow and dishing out the same impassioned, melodic hardcore we’ve come to expect from Dan Yemin for the past ten (twenty?) years. This single might look all Youth Attack-y with it’s scary black-and-white cover, but it’s still true to the ‘core that made Kid Dynamite hoodies a certainty at any punk or hardcore show between the years of 1998 and 2002. It’s a speedy and nimble six-song EP, with plenty of melodic backing vocals and sing-along choruses, all with Yemin’s sharp and pointed musings on life and punk (and in the case of “Little Fists”, what must be a sincere love-song directed to his daughter). There aren’t many punks that can get away with a love song to their children, but if anyone can make it seem stupid not to scream words of passionate advice for their kids, it’s Yemin. Chances are most self-identifying punks over the age of 24 will quietly ignore this one, as Paint It Black seem to belong to the youth, but I have to wonder if it’s not just out of a fear of sincerity and the lack of sarcastic distance, forcing the listener to stop hiding in an ironically-ignorant cave. Or maybe they just don’t like the music, who knows.

Psychic Blood Drrrty / Bed Head 7″ (Nerve Hold)
The cover features a blurry live image of the guitarist rocking out in cut-off jean shorts. That’s a punk rock sin! Unless you’re NOFX, or Henry Rollins in his tiny soccer shorts, there’s no excuse for any band to wear shorts on stage. I guess this record is pretty okay, though – too fast for grunge, too groovy for punk, and certainly not hardcore, I could see this fitting in alongside Roomrunner or Milk Music or the rest of the ’90s alt-punk resurgence out there, although Psychic Blood are certainly messier, noisier and less focused than the other groups I mentioned. Might be that little taste of Mudhoney that’s lurking in “Bed Head” that has me feeling this way. Now if these guys could just put on a pair of pants, they might be going places.

Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement Black Magic Cannot Cross Water LP (Blackest Ever Black)
No specific person is taking credit for the Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement project, but it’s gotta be Dom Fernow, right? I mean it got started on Hospital Productions (and this album is actually the vinyl reissue of a Hospital cassette), and how many other people out there are nutty enough to come up with “Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement”? The project is premised on some Christian missionaries who went to the jungle in hopes of converting the locals and dying horrible jungle deaths instead, which sounds like a pretty good theme to me… it’s like if Herzog made a horror movie. Very cinematic indeed, and Black Magic Cannot Cross Water plays out like a soundtrack, slowly creeping through unsettling bass tones, sparse rhythms, plenty of rain and just a smidgen of jungle sound-effects. I can just picture some white guys in robes and pope hats trudging through vines and mud, slowly getting eaten by crocodiles and fatally stung by insects as monkeys and colorful birds cackle from up above. I probably don’t need more than one Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement record, but actually maybe I do, as this one just really nails the vibe without ever overdoing it, and it’s a concept most other evil post-industrial, dark-ambient folks would’ve never dreamed up. The perfect record for those who want to see Bear Grylls fall down a ravine or get swallowed by a whale but would never publicly admit it.

Savages Silence Yourself LP (Matador)
If you haven’t heard about Savages yet, I suggest you reset your modem – if there’s one thing this group has full command of, it’s the indie music press. I’m not gonna hold that against them though (okay, maybe a little bit), because I dug their first single, and any band that can make post-punk disco-beats and Joy Division revision come across as interesting in 2013 has my support. I put on Silence Yourself for the first time, heard the cool and weird little intro piece, and then quickly found myself surprised at how polished, shiny and professional this record is. I guess I was hoping for more of that “Siouxsie Sioux meets Ian Curtis at a Rapture show in 2001” vibe, but this record is radio-ready all the way through. Just listen to a song like “Strife” – if the singer was an elderly male narcissist instead of a youthful female narcissist, this would be U2’s new single. A few other tracks give me some pretty strong Killers vibes, and perhaps its the distinctive, suffocating-Sinead vocals of Jehnny Beth that make Savages sound like Savages, but if this group had some boring normal guy singing, they’d sound like anything else on your favorite cubicle-rock streaming internet radio station. I guess, good for them? I’d rather constantly read their ramblings and look at their posed photo sessions than that of Kings Of Leon or The Heavy or something. Maybe they’ll do something cool with the fifty grand they get for the Nissan Altima commercial that ends up licensing them.

Sic Bacchus Sic Bacchus 7″ (God Of Whine)
It kind of amazes me that kids ostensibly born in the ’90s are as taken with hoarsely-screamed melodic emo-core as those born a decade earlier. For me, that music is indelibly a ’90s art form, and for kids to be earnestly playing it now just seems weird. Not that that’s a bad thing… I mean it’s better than all the youth just being into Forever The Sickest Kids and Brokencyde, right? Sic Bacchus are definitely from the Hot Water Music school of rock, with multiple dudes yelling until they sweat through the pits of their thrift-store t-shirts. The lyrics of “Sweater Casual” are written in the form of a letter, they’re not afraid to have “whoa-oh” vocal parts, and one guitar gets to noodle around the riff while the other holds it down. If you’re a fan of the style, Sic Bacchus definitely do no wrong, although if you’re looking to be amazed or find the new band that could be your life, this debut 7″ single probably won’t be it. I’m sure that at the very least, their friends are stoked, and isn’t that probably how all the great emo bands started out anyway?

Sightings Terribly Well LP (Not Not Fun)
I don’t know about you, but after the recent Sightings interview, I sure wanted to listen to them. They’ve got such a deep, innovative discography, that it’s great to just pull out Arrived In Gold or City Of Straw and get locked into some weird musical moment you had forgotten about or never caught in the first place. It’s also great when they release new albums, like Terribly Well here. Not that I had any doubts, but it’s another killer addition to the Sightings family – they’re still forcing their instruments to behave badly, and taking routes that most bands don’t even know exist, let alone consider. The bass will trick me into thinking it’s drums, Mark Morgan will howl over torrents of scorched guitar, and I will comfortably soak it all in. Of note with Terribly Well is the occasional addition of Pat Murano on synth, but he fits in so seamlessly that I can hardly pull him out, particularly as Sightings frequently take delight in forcing their respective rock instruments to sound like synths. Some of these tracks are downright pummeling, “Mute’s Retreat” being a particularly exuberant cascade of industrial mechanics, and others just kind of tickle you in the dark. Nicely done!

Spent Flesh Spent Flesh 10″ (P. Trash / FDH / Sit & Spin)
The back cover of this 10″ reveals one band member in a Regulations shirt, another in a Jay Reatard shirt (and the third in a zipped-up hoodie, which isn’t quite as aesthetically revealing), so it’s not out of line to expect some sort of historically-reenacted punk rock with a dash of power-pop and maybe a nod to the first fifty Killed By Death volumes. Spent Flesh might sound like that, but played with such a frantic intensity that were they Japanese and were this 2001, 625 Productions would’ve signed them to a five seven-inch, two LP deal. Maybe if snotty, drunken ’90s punk like Filth and Assfactor 4 and I-Spy were played by Total Fury and Razor’s Edge, it’d be reminiscent of Spent Flesh. Although to be fair, Spent Flesh still maintain plenty of mess in their performance, even with the slightly unfulfilling lineup of vocalist / drummer / guitarist. (Is it really that hard to find a bassist? You don’t even have to be a musician to play it!) Regardless, Spent Flesh get it done nicely, screaming like maniacs and thrashing like there’s no school tomorrow. 10″s are a pretty hate-worthy format, but you’d have to be a real bigoted yuppie to try and diss this one.

Teenage Moods Grow LP (25 Diamonds)
I’ll never understand when bands that don’t consist of teenagers insist on referencing that age period. Have you hung out with any teenagers lately? They’re annoying babies, and if you can recall the time when you were a teenager, it was probably filled with uncertainty, acne and fear. I will hope for the best and just presume that Teenage Moods came up like the kids on Dawson’s Creek, highly educated and emotionally complex, because the music of Grow is pretty alright. They remind me of mid-’90s Bay Area punk with the addition of a healthy power-pop obsession, like Groovie Ghoulies or The Hi-Fives mixed with Milk & Cookies. Mostly all of the record is upbeat, fun, and sweetly innocent, like somehow none of Teenage Moods suffer from depression or unemployment or unsatisfying personal relationships. Definitely a fun record to have around, the sort of thing you want to play after a successful first-date or consuming a particularly delicious smoothie. Maybe being a teen isn’t so bad after all?

Uh Bones Only You 7″ (Randy)
Randy Records keeps the classic garage-rock flowing with four Uh Bones tracks on one 7″. “Only You” is pretty cool, reminding me of a straighter Los Cincos. Really, the whole EP is pretty tasteful, well-oiled garage rock, staying pretty far from punk or anything that may have occurred post-1974. The singer’s voice is well-coated in the usual modern-day reverb, but I can tell that he’s capable of singing this sort of music, which is somewhat refreshing when it comes to these semi-anonymous garage-rock singles I end up hearing. I might’ve gone for a brighter, bigger recording if I were Uh Bones, since it seems like they’ve got good-enough chops that they don’t need to hide behind a wall of quiet fuzz, but maybe this was the best they could afford, so I’m not holding it against them. Maybe it’s just that so much of Uh Bones’ competition is so mediocre, but I feel like Uh Bones did me right with this little single.