Archive for September, 2013


If underground musical success was based on quality and greatness and not just a giant lottery determined by hype and tweets, I’d tell you right now that Priests are going to be really big! They’re a four-piece punk band from DC, and if you know anything about DC punk bands, you know that very few are good, but when they are good, they are really good. I’m reminded of Avengers, Instant Automatons, Fatal Microbes and The Make Up in their music, but that’s not to say that this is a record-collector band – take any dope in a Rancid t-shirt and see if he doesn’t skank along to their manic and fiery punk rock. Their 7″ is great, the tape is even better, but seriously, you gotta see them live, that’s where their songs truly explode! Go on, do it, but before you leave, check out how vocalist and sometimes-drummer Katie Alice Greer indulged some of my questions below.

Priests have existed as a band for about a year and a half, is that right? Does it feel like a new band, like you’re just getting started?
Yes. Daniele, G.L. and I started the band a year and a half ago; Taylor joined at the end of 2012. Our first show as a four-piece was December 15th, 2012. And it does feel like we are just getting started, yes! We didn’t grow up playing together or anything, the musical conversation (so-to-speak) is very new. In fact, I wanna take this opportunity to dedicate The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun” to my bandmates. The Carpenters are a huge musical influence on all of us.

Do you consider yourself a DC band? Is it hard to be a punk band there nowadays?
Yes, we are a DC band! It’s funny, there were multiple occasions on tour this summer where we met people who seemed very concerned about us claiming DC as home (this seems like a very outdated concern to me at this point). They were very concerned with how authentic this claim is. One guy was like, “So who in your band actually grew up in DC?” For the record, Taylor and G.L. did, Daniele and I did not. But, more importantly, how silly! I ignored that guy’s question and left the room, but I wish I had taken the opportunity to have a conversation about the relationship between individual and environment. There was a YACHT song a few years ago called “It’s Boring / You Can Live Anywhere You Want,” and that is true, but it is easy to move, and move often. To build a relationship with the people around you, around the resources you do and don’t have, that takes time. Is it hard to be a punk band in DC right now? Yes and no! Yes, everything is expensive and apparently we are experiencing a “gilded age” in DC right now. A council member who kicked off his mayoral campaign in front of this new swanky restaurant on 14th street made this claim; I hope he understands what that term means! Whenever I leave town and come home, there is always a new dreadful looking bar or restaurant that has opened and seems to cater to a very wealthy clientele. One less space that can be put to better community use! This year a number of public schools were closed, disproportionately affecting low-income families and people of color, furthering this country’s effort to privatize education. Very little was reported on this matter, while at the same time, city billboards and buses were plastered with “#SAVE OUR FOOD TRUCKS”, which was a big campaign concerned with entrepreneurs rights and liberties, etc. There was extensive PR and news coverage for the food truck campaign, but besides the grassroots community activism around the school closure issue, very few media platforms were taking the opportunity to wonder if our city and its grand expansion is really a good thing for everyone. This is a very long way of saying Yes, it is hard to be a punk band in a city where living costs are skyrocketing, we have very little of what you might call “DIY infrastructure”, and I think we are constantly wondering, “Is this the best way for me personally to question and resist what’s going on? This stuff happening that benefits the few, the rich and usually white, and sends everyone else packing? How am I part of this problem?” But, I read this really great Grass Widow interview last year where they said something like, “We have a friend who quit playing music recently. He said he wanted to do something more important with his life. And we thought to ourselves, why don’t you make your music more important?” So, on that hand, No, it is not hard to be a punk band here. We have our work cut out for us. It is really audacious and perhaps narcissistic of us to decide that we are going to make important music. And, ultimately, we don’t get to decide whether or not our music is or will be important to other people. But we can make work that is important and meaningful to us, and that in and of itself is a victory against “the capitalist system”, as Barbara Dane would call it. This is a system that discourages us, and makes it incredibly difficult for us, to create meaningful work. People will laugh or roll their eyes if you talk about the capitalist system too long, and that’s fine, it makes a lot of people uncomfortable because it doesn’t seem sexy, in the same way that feminism was derided by conservatives in the ’90s (and nearly every decade, really) to a place where it seemed really scary and uncool, generally unappealing to a lot of women (let alone men!). Priests is a band, we’re really just performers in one sense. Our job is just doing whatever will make you entertained for as long as possible. But I think we can entertain and communicate. We can use our music as a tool and a weapon and a celebration all at the same time. And we can try to use it as a relationship between us and our community, which is Washington, DC, geographically speaking, but much larger in a different sense.

I notice you seem to play mostly all ages shows… is that an intentional thing that matters to you? You’re all over 21, right?
We do, yes! And it is our intention! We are not really interested in contributing to the dearth of culture available to young people, or old people, humans in general; we are not really interested in excluding people interested in participating. I think the tag “All-Ages” is limiting, the real struggle is to create and maintain a larger network of alternatives for people to connect with one another. I think I’ve spent a lot of the time I’ve been alive so far navigating my way through different communities I’ve encountered, tried to associate with, and subsequently felt alienated from. This is probably not an uncommon experience. Even the word “community”, it can sound very hokey! It is a word I would have glossed over until recently, like something that has always been around but you can’t really relate. Anyway, in thinking about why we don’t like to play age-restricted shows I was thinking, “Eh, it just doesn’t seem to contribute to a larger sense of things, it doesn’t seem to promote… community? Is that really the word I’m looking for?” Haha, but it is a word I think I am using a lot more recently and trying to understand. I think for all of us, playing shows that are open to all-ages and all people just feels like the “natural” response (natural, what is natural even), but everyone has their own tactics for relating to the larger group or something. Like I know some bands have a policy that leans towards all-ages shows, but makes exceptions in certain towns that do not have an all-ages scene. I can dig that, for sure. But, Daniele brought up an excellent illustration to this point, relating to coffee shops (they are everywhere now, surely we can all relate even if we do not drink coffee): I guess “fair trade” coffee beans were not a popular thing for a coffee shop to carry until word spread about this idea, that one could purchase coffee that came from beans that were, um, traded fairly (I know nothing about this stuff, pardon me). So then, coffee shop patrons started demanding that their coffee came from fair trade beans! And slowly but surely, this is now a very popular option for coffee purchase in the USA! So, I guess what I would like to say is that sticking to non-age-restricted shows and making an effort to play in broader spaces that are more inclusive can be very hard and seemingly irreconcilable with booking a tour, particularly in certain regions. But, I think this idea has been catching on for a long time, and when people are encouraged to think creatively they come up with a lot of interesting ideas. Even this summer, when booking our full US tour, we actually had a lot less trouble than we thought making this kind of stuff happen. And got to play in some really cool unusual venues as a result!

Rank these in order of importance for Priests, and yell at me if any of them have nothing to do with the group whatsoever: queer punk, riot grrrl, no wave.
Uhh, this question. I do not know how to answer. Right now I am into music that makes me feel stuff. It is hard ’cause everyone knows so much about music now – you can immediately look it up on a search engine and know the context and keep your imagination from running wild. Easy to think about, but hard to “feel” anything for anything. But I like music that is scary. Have you every listened to something that felt super visceral and not known what you were listening to exactly, or where it came from? Like, I was napping in the back of the van in Providence while everyone was at the grocery store. And I woke up finally because we were moving again, and it was very dark outside but I could see these little lights as we were going over a bridge, and this music that was coming out of one side of the stereo (our speakers are a little faulty so sometimes you only hear stuff come out of one side), the music was so insane! I will reveal that it was “Auto Modown” from the Devo demos reissue (I think it is called Hardcore Devo), but I am only revealing this information in hopes that someone can re-create this experience I had for someone else. I think it is so great to listen to music totally out of context whenever you can, for the sake of your own stimulation. This syrupy gothic music started playing while I was eating breakfast the other day and it took me to such a strange place, it was wonderful. I demanded to know what the song was (it was “My Ship’s Coming In” by The Walker Brothers) but that was a mistake. Why not just wallow in my weird feelings for a minute, why do I have to demand the name and date and all this other extraneous information? Am I pinning this song in a butterfly case? Is this a dead bug collection? When you aren’t thinking about names or contextualizing information, you are just letting yourself be moved by whatever you are hearing or seeing, you are letting art and things people make touch your senses in a way that modern life seems to discourage. Art is powerful, music is powerful, people are powerful. You can be moved if you let them in.
Would it be OK for us to not talk about or mention Riot-Grrrl? We are not against it, those bands are totally great, but it doesn’t really have much to do with what we are doing right now. I mean all music has something to do with what we are doing, but there is so much popular nostalgia for that scene right now, it is a very large shadow being cast over the whole conversation (which is probably antithetical to what its originators intended, I am sure….). Every time it gets brought up, subsequent descriptions of our band are just tied to Riot-Grrrl and it is super boring and limiting.

Do you all come from varied musical backgrounds, or did you find you had a similar musical wavelength from the start?
Taylor and G.L have been playing in bands since their ye olden teenage days. I think Taylor comes from playing guitar in rock ‘n’ roll and punk stuff. G.L. comes from that background, too, but he was definitely taking a break from punk-land when we started Priests. Working on more open, free-form stuff. Daniele had been playing drums in a few different projects, the main being kind of melodic-pop Smiths-influenced stuff. I think sometimes Daniele is sad we don’t sound more like The Go-Betweens. I made music for pretty much only myself for a few years before starting Priests, I was a longtime obsessive-music-appreciating type person but it took a long time for me to realize I could just make it myself; no one ever told me. Which is a weird thing to say, “I didn’t know because no one told me,” but I was thinking recently about how so many things in life can be hard to just “realize” on your own – it is nice when you are made aware of options. Anyway, I was involved in musical theater as a kid. Also I used to know how to play “Everywhere” by Michelle Branch on guitar when I was like thirteen.

What do you think is a larger cultural loss – like you mentioned, the lack of mystery, or the decline of people making mixtapes (hell, even mix CD-rs) for each other?
I really like to make tapes for people! And the lack of mystery, jeez, there are a lot of mysteries in the world for me. But I know what you mean. I love the Susan Sontag essay, “Against Interpretation”. She says, “The mystery of the world is the visible” (although I think she was quoting Oscar Wilde). She also says, at some point, “the pure, untranslatable, sensuous immediacy of its images” — I really don’t have more context on that quote because I just wrote it inside the front page of my notebook without any sort of explanation (a-ha, mysteries of life! You can just create them for yourself!), but I think she was talking about film. Anyway, the exchange of music is very important, it is a language in and of itself, and mystery, where would we be without it? I don’t think I could get up in the morning. I like to make my life as intriguing, difficult and uncertain as possible just so I’ll get out of bed.

It’s safe to say that Priests is a hobby, and not your sole means of employment, right? Could you conceive of a time where that would change?
Trick question! No and no. Priests is not a hobby. Priests is not any sort of employment, either. This very question has been a hot topic of band discussion as of late. So far, we have not been able to pay ourselves to be in the band. We do all the work for the band, as most people in bands do, we book the shows and we make the flyers and write the songs and practice the music and make the records and print the sleeves and blah blah blah, we do all this stuff, we like doing it a lot, but it is very time-consuming and time is money and we are all running out of money. We all have jobs (Taylor is still in school), but they are the sort of jobs you choose because you want to have the flexibility and time to make the other stuff you don’t make any money for. I think it would be nice to be paid for what we are doing, I don’t know if that is or will be feasible. People scoff at the idea that an artist should be able to make a living off what they are creating, and as a result we have a culture that disrespects the arts, that creates things carelessly, that discourages really “out-there” intense stuff that makes people think and is meaningful to a lot of people because no one can really focus on their “vision” or whatever. We have a creative class that is forced to look to alliances with commerce and people and organizations they may otherwise want little or nothing to do with in order to sustain themselves and continue their work. They end up making things they don’t even like, no one is moved to tears or to riot by their work, everything stays the same and we are still bored by an onslaught of ever-changing, colorful, mind-numbingly fresh content on the internet and everywhere else in real life, and completely forget about it the next day.

You’re on tour right now. Did you book it yourselves? Playing DIY spaces and low-key punk spots, do you make enough money to fill the gas tank, or are you paying for some of this tour out of pocket? Gas prices are killer.
Okay, so here is how it works for us: since the beginning of Priests, we didn’t split up the money after shows. We just kept saving it, and when we were first a band before Taylor joined, we just played shows all the time. Like we didn’t even have enough songs to be playing so much around DC, we had no business doing this kind of thing, but we just kept doing it! We liked it! We also used the money to make our first cassette, that doesn’t cost much, and then we sold those and kept that money. And we saved the money from the shows and the tapes to start our label, Sister Polygon, and put out our first single. We sold the records and the tapes and kept playing shows and all the money from this stuff we saved to be able to go on tour this summer, to make some stuff to sell on the road and pay for gas. And much to our surprise we actually didn’t lose money this summer! I mean, we didn’t make much, but we didn’t lose any. This current tour is a little different, we are on tour with two other bands, so our three bands split the profit every night; we aren’t making much but we can at least pay for gas I think. And if not, we are using the money we brought with us from the last tour. So we haven’t really had to pay “out of pocket” yet, but like I said before, we haven’t been able to pay ourselves yet. That same Grass Widow interview I mentioned earlier, I think about it a lot! Another thing they said was, people always feel uncomfortable talking about money, but why is this? We all need it, use it every day, it is very important to learn to talk about money and not make it this weird thing you are whispering about in back rooms because it seems impolite.

How has it been touring with Downtown Boys and Neonates? Neither groups are from DC or anywhere nearby, how’d you put it together?
We also got to play a few shows with Tomboy at the beginning! They are so lovely. And, playing these very cool, very dark-intensity new songs in their set right now. I heard some recordings, very top notch. But touring with Downtown Boys and Neonates for a week was such a four-star experience! I can’t speak highly enough of all of the people involved, both as musicians and on a personal level. I thought of good movie comparisons: Downtown Boys are sort of like a cooler, less annoying version of The Royal Tenenbaums, like everyone in the band is a genius whale-watching scientist or public defender or community organizer in addition to the band. Neonates are sort of like a trio from a John Hughes movie. Good style, good ideas, cool stuff. I already knew Downtown Boys before this tour, but when we were first hanging out with Neonates I was thinking “shit they are so much cooler than me” – like all of them are so culturally sophisticated with their reference points and are into cool shit that I like. Max had MP3s of Screamers recordings, which I didn’t even know existed, and Mary loaned me Despatches From The Frontiers of the Female Mind (I don’t know why “Despatches” is spelled like that), which is collection of sci-fi written by women. Anna also recognizes “Waiting Room” by No Doubt as perhaps the greatest song by that band and perhaps the greatest song by that name (Like yes, okay, Fugazi’s is great, but is it their greatest? Hardly). Anyway so Neonates are all very hi-brow and culturally sophisticated but will still have cereal fights with us, or play “Flick Off The Baby”, which is a game we play a lot on tour.
Downtown Boys and Priests met when we booked a show for them at Asefu’s, an Ethiopian restaurant in DC last summer, and it was like band-love at first sight. I kinda couldn’t believe my luck that they were as into us as we were into them. So for Neonates, I had been a big fan of Mary’s podcast for a while (TV Dinner) and I think through that discovered her band and was totally crossing my fingers this wasn’t just someone’s bedroom project they’d put on Bandcamp and forgotten about. I wrote her about playing this San Francisco show with my other band, Chain & The Gang, and it was so great! That is my favorite thing about being on tour, setting up shows with bands I really wanna see. I think Mary is one of the most interesting pop lyricists right now. Every single Neonates song gets stuck in my head for days and I wonder and wonder what it’s about.
Anyway, the tour came together because Anna was touring on this side of the country with their other wonderful project, Olivia Neutron-John, and I think Mary and Max were just thinking they might as well come out this way too, so we were like cool, let’s put out a Neonates cassette on Sister Polygon! We had already planned to release a Downtown Boys record, and I think they originally agreed to this tour because they thought we’d have their record done by now, and naturally it wasn’t done in time because whenever you say “Oh let’s plan the tour because the record will surely be done by then” it is like a sure-fire law-of-physics way to make certain the record isn’t done by then. But yeah, that record should be out soon. It is being mastered and fuck, it is so good. I’m so excited about it, very honored to release music by both of these bands.

What’s next for Priests, record-wise?
We have four songs that I would like to see released together because one of my favorite records is Paranoid Time and I always envisioned these four songs being kind of like that, just this really succinct, self-contained thing, but I think everyone else is wanting to just do an LP. A lot of stuff is recorded, we’re just not sure yet what to do about it. But anyway we aren’t gonna exclusively release music on cassette forever, for all of the three people who were even wondering about that. That was a decision that I don’t think any of us regret though, it was a choice that served its function. We will probably keep releasing our own music through Sister Polygon, but are talking about some co- or split release ideas. Something coming soon!

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).