Asda McDonald’s Prayer 12″ (No Corner)
Much in the way that many people around the world crave McDonald’s, I crave the music of Asda, the British spoken-word / rhythmic-electronics duo whose 12″ EP was high on my 2016 best-of list. This new one is quite cheeky indeed, as the a-side exclusively contains “McDonald’s Prayer”, another great cut of their distinct lyricism and tweaked electronics. The catch here is that it’s under a minute long! Shades of Napalm Death’s “You Suffer” on split 7″, for sure. The b-side features two standard-length remixes, one from Japan Blues that fills in the empty grime framework of the original with some stylish 808 beats and chops the vocal into a dance-friendly sample. The other comes from Ossia, who retains a bit more of the vocal and continues to avoid any form of 4/4 thump, allowing the electronic buzzers and bells to flap in the dirty evening breeze. Very strong cut, but I want to hear more Asda material that comes direct from the source, unedited and undubbed. For the time being, I’ll carry around this nearly-empty 12″ like a fool, but a smiling fool!

As Longitude Blauer Part 12″ (Knekelhuis)
Strongly feeling this 12″ EP from Berlin’s As Longitude on the fantastic Knekelhuis label, whose releases I’ve been scurrying to gather. As Longitude deliver a very potent form of left-field synth-wave here, five tracks of flexible bass, barely-coherent sampling and sickly grooves, all delivered at a most leisurely pace. I’m reminded of Esplendor Geometrico’s mid-’80s work, when their industrial harshness gave way to tangy hyper-color, as well as BGM’s Back Ground Music album in the unhurried rhythms and bizarre choice of sounds. It’s like a food-poisoned form of instrumental electronic pop, music that snaps and grooves with the best of ’em as it tries to hide the illness beneath. Each track is great (and they all work exceptionally well together), but I’ll give the personal recommendation to “Kalte Fusse”, which feels like Yellow Magic Orchestra trying to cover a Tangerine Dream soundtrack theme with their toes. Actually, the menacing wobble of the title track might be my favorite, like Kraftwerk undergoing chemotherapy, if I can continue the health metaphor. Regardless of personal faves, this EP is a big winner!

Michael Beach Gravity/Repulsion LP (Spectacular Commodity)
Melbourne’s Michael Beach is back with a new album, just in time for the Australian summer! I liked his previous album from 2014, although it’s probably been that long since I last listened to it, and Gravity/Repulsion is quite similar to what I can recall. Reminds me of the strong lineage of American rock troubadours, combining the sound of various decades the way that many artists do these days (’60s folk rock, ’70s proto-punk, ’80s power-pop and ’90s indie sliced thinly and wrapped in brown paper). For much of the record, Beach’s voice reminds me of Steve Gunn, although the music is far more indebted to the first-wave CBGBs rock scene than, say, The Grateful Dead. Although I’m sure there’s some Deadspiration in Beach’s songbook, too! Drummer Utrillo Kushner (of the late great Comets On Fire) pushes things to a more frenzied atmosphere, charging through his rolls and fills as if he could transform these laid-back rock songs into hardcore thrash by sheer will. Very pleasant, stately music, about as respectable as you can be while still being a rocker. Is this what The National sounds like? I’m curious, but still not curious enough to actually check out The National.

Blank Veins A Guest / Taken Out 7″ (UNC)
Blank Veins continue their reign as Greece’s preeminent noise-punk group, issuing limited singles with the frequency of the Olympic games. One might think the presumed lack of local competition would allow them to rest on their laurels a bit, but the songs here stack up against any international challenger. “A Guest” has the locomotive pace of Mayyors with the addition of a squawking saxophone. It’s essentially one part, and I would be perfectly content if they played the track two or three times as long – they found a natural and noisy groove, so they’ve earned the right to sit in it as long as they want. “Taken Out” is a bit more relaxed, a grungy Brainbombs-esque riff with indiscriminate shouting over top. And of course, the sax player can’t resist getting in on the action here as well, wiling out over the perpetual riff. Not a lot of flair here, just two rugged cuts, a-side fast and b-side slow, ready to tear a chunk out of your stereo if you crank it appropriately.

Burial Rodent 10″ (Hyperdub)
Somehow missed talking about Burial’s other recent-ish 10″, Subtemple – could it be that I’m taking him for granted? It’s probably more that I thought it was a little boring, comparatively, but this new one, Rodent, is great. I love when Burial aims for the ‘floor, and there’s no denying the club appeal of “Rodent”. It’s like he’s gone Paul Oakenfold or something, with a softened tech-house beat that’s surprisingly direct. Even the disembodied vocal hook, a move that Burial essentially originated, is less ghostly and more corporeal here – I can actually picture a person singing it, as opposed to a violet-colored mist sweetly emanating it. It’s barely four minutes long, and Kode9 remixes it for the b-side (just as Burial’s career began), hard-panning a shredded version of the melody until it sounds like Ripatti remixing JJ Fad. Could’ve fit on a 7″, but Burial’s crowd would’ve probably been turned off by such a small format, and the much-maligned 10″ seems more in line with Burial’s aesthetic, refusing to fit neatly in any box.

Cobra Man New Driveway Soundtrack LP (Goner / Danger Collective)
Can someone seriously go check on the Goner folks, and make sure they’re okay? This is the second retro-schlock synth project they’ve released in the past few months, and I’m starting to get concerned. Has the tried and true garage-rock sound stopped fulfilling their hearts and desires? Or is this some doctor-prescribed cheese-centric diet? I don’t get it. Anyway, Cobra Man is a Los Angelean duo, and while I know that Sarah Rayne comes from a Barsuk recording artist called Babes, I don’t know Andy Harry’s punk lineage, although I get the feeling he was probably playing music that sounded more like Carbonas than ABBA a few years ago. But here we are, with an intentionally corny romp through ’70s roller-disco and ’80s Italo. I suppose the songs are alright for an obvious genre LARP, even if Harry’s vocal range is more suited to a Spits cover band than The Erotic Drum Band, but I can’t get over the feeling that the group is constantly giggling “can you believe we actually play music like this?” as I listen. It’s more Har Mar Superstar than Golden Teacher, that’s for sure, and compared to the last M83 album that mines essentially the same territory (and completely rules), the disparity of talent is evident. There are a couple punk-ish tunes that bridge the gap between the rest of the album and their presumably punk background pretty decently, but they’re the minority. In a world of costumes, Cobra Man is pure “Disco Stud” – is that really what you wanna be for Halloween this year?

Depressor Depressor LP (Fuck Yoga)
I’ve always had a personal affinity for the genre of “stench-core”. I’m not entirely sure what it describes, or how its parameters are set, but c’mon, stench-core, you must know it when you hear it, right? I’m thinking Depressor, whose 1995 self-titled album is finally seeing the light of day care of Fuck Yoga, must fit the bill. They land somewhere near the collision of industrial, metal and hardcore, and seeing as this album was recorded in 1995, that’s no retrofit, they were there. Strong vibes of Neurosis, Deviated Instinct and Unsane are present, with programmed drums in lieu of a live drummer, sludgy guitars and gruff death-metal vocals. It sure sounds like it reeks! I’m picturing lots of dreads, black t-shirts with the sleeves cut off eons ago and the shirts themselves faded to some sort of taupe, a background in Profane Existence’s catalog and inner-city squatting. It’s a solid style all around, and Depressor certainly do right by it. Turns out they did a split 7″ with Agathocles a while back – I guess I could’ve cut right to the chase and told you that immediately. If there’s a greater sign of stench-core approval I have yet to find it.

Ellen & The Degenerates Herb Alert 7″ (What’s For Breakfast?)
This pun-based band-name is an easy layup… I’m surprised it took someone this long! Nicely done. They’re a Brooklyn group, but don’t expect aloof coolness or obscure retro specificity, these fools are content to play time-tested speed-punk, directly descending from The Ramones, The Spits, The Donnas, Screeching Weasel ad infinitum. I can’t say that Ellen & The Degenerates significantly stand out from the faceless horde of pop-minded punk groups over the past forty years (holy crap it’s really been that long now), but they do have that name, and their songs are well-recorded (it’s got a solid low-end that many bands lack). As well, vocalist Elena Barrio (the titular “Ellen”) conveys a lot of personality in these songs, most notably in the rapid-fire delivery of “Fair To Me”, which feels like a forgotten ’90s alterna-hit (in a good way). Actually, the more I listen, the more these songs are sticking with me, if not due to specific hooks but the energy of the group and the fun they seem to be having. Makes me wish I was moonlighting in a pop-punk band to open for them… anyone have any good Dr. Phil puns?

Glands Of External Secretion Backlist Colander With Holes Shaped Like Numbers / Bok Choy Festival 7″ (I Dischi Del Barone)
The Glands are back in town! The long-running duo of Seymour Glass and Barbara Manning is an expert fit for I Dischi Del Barone, bringing their decades of weirdness experience to this young and impressive 7″ label. They haven’t lost a step here, either, as both tracks are fascinating dips into the unknown. “Backlit Colander With Holes Shaped Like Numbers” is a glorious number – small bubbles pop as a guitar softly reverberates and various snippets of humans casually saying outrageous things (“you walk around with melted butter in your hand”) lead the mix. It eventually twiddles off into a hazy pink fog, as if you just imagined the people you were hearing. “Bok Choy Festival” pushes further out, with high-pitched tweaks and muffled voices coming from under the floorboards as an ancient typewriter drafts your final will and testament, capped off by a braying donkey. It’s inspiring to think that these two freaks have been birthing bizarre audio-collage nonsense psychedelia for over two decades and are clearly as inspired today as they were back then.

Goli Deca Mania LP (Fuck Yoga)
Goli Deca are a Macedonian metal trio, and whatever image that conjures in your head, I am certain they both surpass and conflict it. I love speed metal myself (what kinda fool doesn’t?), but there is something that can be supremely satisfying about glacially-paced metal, particularly when it doesn’t get fancy or proud of itself but instead wallows in the misery and pain that such heaviness can exacerbate. That’s what Goli Deca are delivering here! Think of Swans’ Children Of God with any sense of gothic fancy or tunefulness sucked out, Corrupted’s infinite dirge philosophy cut into edible chunks, or Chaos Echoes’ heightened sense of tension through anti-gravity black-metal riffs. Goli Deca have a good thing going for sure, as the riffs (or lack thereof) are perfectly primitive, with drums acting more as heavy-duty punctuation than any sort of rhythmic element. No fun seems to be had here – Mania is a conjuring of dark forces, not in any sort of Satanic or religious way but more primal and inexplicable. It feels like what you’d expect an occult dungeon ceremony to sound like, and as two of the three members of Goli Deca are sporting facial piercings that do not correlate to their nose, brow or lips, I have to wonder if they haven’t undergone some sort of dark-arts piercing ritual themselves. Maybe if I show them my belly ring, they’ll let me drink some of their home-brewed vodka before we stalk the forest after dark?

Philippe Hallais An American Hero LP (Modern Love)
Responsible for some of my favorite weirdly-aggressive modern techno records under the aliases Low Jack and B-Ball Joints, Philippe Hallais decided to step out under his birth name for this album on the distinguished Modern Love imprint. I was psyched to hear it, being such a big fan of his other work, and while it’s perfectly fine, I won’t be returning to it very often. An American Hero fits in with artists like Arca, Lanark Artefax, Lee Gamble, Mana – post-modern sonic architects who are strongly invested in obscure digital wreckage and the furthest limits of one’s laptop memory. I totally get the excitement in going deep into an intricate mess of sound files, where new-age ambiance is bit-crushed by the weight of a million digital elephants or a pair of synth tones are mapped onto an image of Justin Bieber (and the resulting raw data compressed back into FLAC format), but as a listener, this sort of thing is compelling once, twice, maybe three times, and that’s kind of it. And I think recording under his own name, in a move that seems to imply gravitas or a personal self-reflection, is a little annoying, because this seems like the least personal music of all to me – the psychotic pill-tongued raves of Low Jack, the BattleBot insanity of B-Ball Joints, that’s where Hallais’s personality is fully on display! Now that everyone can buy a Macbook with a petabyte of memory, I assume projects like this will continue to flood Boomkat’s new arrivals… I just hope the artists I love can resist the temptation of mouse-clicking deep into their own navels.

Katastrof Katastrof 7″ (Beach Impediment)
Katastrof is the newest project from a couple of Swedish d-beat lifers, namely Totalitär’s Poffen on vocals and Martin Lindqvist of Herätys responsible for everything else (which in this case is the standard lineup of guitar, bass and drums). These four songs are unsurprisingly true to the form: galloping beats, down-tuned heavy guitars, screamed vocals and just a tasteful touch of Motörhead-esque guitar leads. I dunno, this is probably hardcore heresy (or more accurately, kätteri), but this specific form of Swedish hardcore never did much for me. Something about the riff-rock tendencies that underpin it, or the drums’ 95% DNA match to any given Strung Out or No Use For A Name song, or the fairly clean recording, or the fine-but-generic vocals just leaves me wanting to hear something else. Probably a combination of all of the above. I love this style when it is either fiercely amateurish and rotten (see Discharge, Shitlickers, etc.) or overworked to the brink of explosion (see Framtid, Kriegshög, etc.), but Katastrof dwells in the middle ground between the various hardcore extremes, and while I applaud them for their mastery of the style, I’ll leave records like this for someone else to enjoy.

Lone Taxidermist Trifle LP (Memetune)
Fascinating debut here from London’s Lone Taxidermist, an artist utilizing every form of media (audio, video, print, baked goods) to her own nefarious ends. I’ll talk about the music first: Lone Taxidermist are a four-piece group in the studio, more or less fusing synth-pop, post-punk and electro. Imagine some sort of midpoint between Björk, Maximum Joy, Kid Creole and The Residents… music built for impish dancing, the soundtrack for scampering off after a devilish prank. Vocalist / band-leader Natalie Sharp’s voice really pushes these tunes to a heightened enthusiasm, recalling Ari Up’s playful range, as likely to charm you as destroy your bedroom with a lawn edger. These songs are great fun, catchy and queer, but it’s the full Lone Taxidermist aesthetic that really makes this a can’t-miss happening. Trifle is also a famous British custard dessert (I had to Google it, which is shameful considering my deep appreciation of dessert), and Lone Taxidermist views gluttonous, sugary, slimy dessert treats through the lens of a perverse fetishist. It fits in with all those other YouTube videos of G-rated fetishes, like balloon popping or stepping on figurines, where decadent food is rendered sexual and grotesque (or tantalizing, depending on your point of view). Perhaps if Gazelle Twin fully adopted the snack-rock aesthetic of The Go-Nuts, her music would come out like Lone Taxidermist? Or Peaches, with lots and lots of cream. All I know is I’m ready for a thick slice, either to gracefully consume or abruptly face-plant into.

Gabi Losoncy Security Besides Love LP (Recital)
Took a chance on this LP by Gabi Losoncy for a few reasons: she’s a Philadelphia resident, she was a part of the hyper-obscure duo Good Area who did an album on Kye, and Security Besides Love comes to us from Recital, Ian William Craig’s label, and he seems pretty cool. I’ve run through Security Besides Love a couple times now, and that’s probably all I’ll need for a good while, but it’s a journey I’m glad to have taken. Losoncy is clearly an Artist with a capital A, and while that is very much not the world I inhabit, she clearly has developed her own keen view of reality and how real life can be transformed into thoughtful art. Take “Part One”, the first side of this two-track LP. It’s a fifteen minute recording of her on the bus (or subway, but I’m going with bus), wherein another passenger gripes, rants and converses as the hum of the vehicle rises and falls with each stop. If you pay full attention, you can follow some of the speaker’s sorrows, drug- or family-related, but it’s the shuttering hardware of the bus and tonal shift of the engine that really sucked me in. On the flip, there’s another long diatribe, this time coming from Losoncy herself over a skipping CD or frozen computer. She describes her take on art and creation in a long sprawl that is at once eloquent and seemingly improvised, as if she is forming her own ideas milliseconds before speaking them. I can’t imagine talking to no one for fifteen minutes about making music or art, so kudos to her! Perfect track to clear the room of anyone but the freakiest of thinkers. I’m sure Ian William Craig grinned his way through the whole thing.

Machine Woman When Lobster Comes Home 12″ (Technicolour)
Machine Woman keeps knocking me out with her masterful 12″ singles, and this new one for the Technicolour label is no exception. She’s always had a dry sense of humor (I desperately need to hear the cassette she released entitled Thank You Slipknot), but she turns it up here with the track names. I mean, it’s not since the heyday of Usurp Synapse and Neil Perry were we treated to such lengthy, ridiculous titles: “Camile From Ohm Makes Me Feel Loved”, “But It Was Like 30 Intros In A Row”, and “I Want To Fuck Tech House”. Tell me that last one shouldn’t be a bumper sticker! Her playfulness is evident in her productions too, as this is her most carefree 12″ yet. “Camile From Ohm” bumps hard, with a healthy mid-range squiggle and frequent deployment of the Mortal Kombat narrator declaring “fatality”. The “30 Intros” cut is even better, calling to mind peak Melchior Productions with woozy organ, melted vocal hooks and a particularly rusty hi-hat. “I Want To Fuck Tech House” seems to do just that, forcing what must’ve at one point been a standard techno cut into an impatient throb that one could only smoothly dance to if they insisted on it. It feels like she’s one step ahead of the rest of us, and I intend to continue following along.

The Monoliths The Monoliths LP (Mastermind)
Danish trio The Monoliths have been kicking around their idyllic city for a few years now, finally offering up their debut full-length. When I read the terms “Copenhagen” and “noisy punk” in the same context, there’s already a specific image in my head, and I have to say that it’s certainly not The Monoliths. But rather than the mysteriously menacing artistic grandeur of the Posh Isolation label, The Monoliths are kicking up a dusty mess of blue-collar, domestic-beer punk. Or maybe if The Monoliths are drinking Bud Light, it’s imported? I’m getting off topic, sorry. The Monoliths call to mind Feedtime, but also a large chunk of the Headache Records roster. I’m hearing Niblick Henbane and Limecell in particular… queue up Limecell’s “Marlboro Miles” next to any given track off The Monoliths and tell me those vocalists couldn’t be twin brothers. There might be an aesthetic connection to Watery Love too, but The Monoliths have much more of a ’90s street-punk sound than Watery Love’s lo-fi style. I’m honestly surprised at how much I enjoy The Monoliths’s take on it – their songs are simplistic and not particularly interesting, but it’s the vocalist’s frustrated yowling, in what seems to be an American accent, for which I have such an affinity. Frustrated, semi-drunken white guys yelling up a storm is a beautifully universal language, after all.

Neo Neos The Hammer Of Civilization 7″ (It’s Trash!)
At first I was a little annoyed at this band – who do they think they are, calling themselves the Neo Neos? I’m sure it’s entirely coincidental, but I’d feel the same way if a 7″ by Deeper Wound or Greenest Gang Green showed up. All it took was a couple spins to truly fall in love with this group, though, which doesn’t happen that often around here. So many modern punk bands are interchangeably great, but Neo Neos really have something special going on. Stupid, barely-coherent riffs; poorly-recorded drums; outrageous teenage-snot vocals, like the littlest nephew of Deep Wound’s Charlie Nakajima or a pre-teen Jeff McDonald; the thrilling amateurism of Maniax… it all comes together here for a stunning punk tableau. I’m hearing Count Vertigo and The Urinals as well, but Neo Neos are probably a little more self-aware, although it doesn’t work against them. They’ve got multiple speeds too, from mid-tempo despondency to blazing low-volume thrash ala the original Neos. It’s a crowded arena these days, when it comes to spiky little nuisance punk, but Neo Neos are a true cut above. It’s a keeper for sure, and I’m excited to forget it exists in a year or two, then find it again, scoff at the name once more, and get blown away all over again.

Pallas Pallas 12″ (Drop Medium)
Very cool seven-song debut EP from Atlanta’s Pallas care of the Drop Medium label (who constantly confuse me because “Designer Medium” is credited as the label on the cover, but alas). If Pallas was still fishing for a DIY record deal, I would’ve pointed them toward Sister Polygon, as this seems like the right kind of fit: way-cool post-punk with oddball delivery and dance-ready drumming written and performed by a group of not-all-dudes. Imagine Gauche’s jittery jams with Deerhoof’s time signatures and an Americanized Anika harmonizing like she’s got a publishing deal with 4AD. Or maybe if Grass Widow were as weed-centric as their name implied and they mellowed their minds before a studio sesh. Sounds like a good combo, right? Pallas certainly have it going on, with tricky songs that sound slick and an unassailably cool presentation. Discogs files it under post-punk, no wave and shoegaze simultaneously, and while that seems like a pretty sticky situation, Pallas dance across those distinct genres with pizazz.

Pandemix Scale Models Of Atrocities LP (Boss Tuneage)
Pandemix are a politically-charged punk band out of Boston, and the vibe suits them – tell me you couldn’t imagine seeing “Pandemix” written out in some cool bristly font along the butt-flap of a studded leather jacket. I’ve been hearing their name around for a while now, one of those “can’t miss” bands playing one of the many hardcore-punk fests happening in the Northeast US, and I’m pleased to have finally made their acquaintance here. Based on my assumptions, Scale Models Of Atrocities isn’t quite what I was expecting… just by the nature of today’s scene, I anticipated down-tuned street-punk riffs played at Bone Awl speed, raucous pogo-punk or even zany angular Devo worship, but Pandemix are far removed from any of that. Rather, they fit right in with the American political punk of the ’90s – I’m hearing Defiance and Aus Rotten in their mid-paced, anthemic sound, from the spoken-word intros to the dour melodies. Certainly the type of band I’d expect Slug & Lettuce to fawn over after an ABC No Rio matinee performance that Fleas & Lice headlined. It’s not a sound I was expecting to hear again anytime soon, and while it’s never been my personal favorite, Pandemix are rightful torchbearers, remaining steadfastly underground as other outspoken politi-punk peers seek larger audiences and studio budgets.

Prom Nite Dancing To This Beat LP (Barfbag)
Prom Nite are a new punk band outta Toronto, and they’re behaving like most new underground punk bands, releasing various tapes before stepping to vinyl. Dancing To This Beat is my first exposure, and I can see why a label as esteemed as “Barfbag Records” would jump on a band like Prom Nite, as they’ve really got the goods. They’ve got a great style, very slick and trashy, like Redd Kross’s streetwise swagger mixed with the inscrutable attitude of CCTV. Musically, I’m reminded of Warm Bodies and Joint D≠ without the hardcore influence, in that these groups zig and zag through these fast punk songs, twisting and turning in unexpected ways – it’s music that must take a bit of practicing to get down, no doubt. The vocals are great too, delivered in the same disinterested, too-cool tone of JJ Doll’s Sara Abruna. Prom Nite’s Anya (whose last name I couldn’t locate) doesn’t necessarily sing along to the rhythm – sure, she’ll do that, but she’s just as likely to lose herself in a stream of consciousness tirade that flows over the manic riffing. Very nice! She rarely raises her voice to a scream or yell, which adds a flair of personality that perma-shout vocalists lack. I’m impressed that so many newer punk bands are able to make such crafty, intricate punk music that is still undeniably punk and not something else, of which Prom Nite are a fine Canadian example.

The Rebel Poems With Water Trilogy LP (Monofonus Press)
The singular voice of The Rebel is something to be treasured. It’s the name Ben Wallers of The Country Teasers has been recording under since the early ’00s, leaving behind a trail of scattered singles, tapes, albums and CDs, collaborations and one-offs, inside jokes and studied compositions, the whole gamut. A discography such as this can be daunting to enter, so it’s with pleasure that I can assure you that Poems With Water Trilogy is a satisfying affair for obsessive fans and dabbling newcomers alike. A variety of modes are explored here: lightweight Casio pop, post-punk strummers, musique concrète, avant-garde spoken-word, nonsensical noise, and at least one track to prominently feature accordion. Wallers can turn a hook in the most unlikely of places – give the man an analog answering machine and he could hand you a finished album on one of those microcassettes the following morning. Lyrically, there seems to be a loose theme regarding misogyny, patriarchy, men and women, often delivered in crude and offensive terms. It’s pretty classic Rebel, a world unto himself, and while it might sound as though this album is a scattershot collection, it works great as an album (although you could also just drop the needle randomly and be entertained just the same). What else could you hope for from an artist whose logo is a swastika helplessly bent out of shape?

Red Wine And Sugar Dogs, Blood, Storms, Spiders LP (Index Clean)
Red Wine And Sugar are a curiously-named project out of Melbourne, Australia and this is their debut LP. Kind of a strange design, with the “song” lyrics emblazoned across the cover as though it were a misprinted inner sleeve, but the strange is certainly best suited for this duo. The similarity to The Shadow Ring is undeniable: these tracks are comprised of various thuds, ticks, beeps, crackles and other bits of sonic ephemera as a studio-deepened male voice recites eerie non sequiturs. “The only place sacred from interruption / Is the private toilet / Swallow them down whole, / Absent-mindedly and with little relish” is what you’ll hear this Australian-accented Frankenstein say as car doors slam shut and a synth’s “low battery” light begins to flash. The Shadow Ring influence is stark, but I love The Shadow Ring, and as there are so few groups taking such distinct influence, I find myself heartily enjoying Red Wine And Sugar too. It’s trickier than one might think to make this aesthetic compelling, but Red Wine And Sugar have located the right levels of madness, ludicrousness and po-faced seriousness to make it work and work well. Dogs, Blood, Storms, Spiders could sit at the same table as I’m Some Songs without any social disruption, I’d only hope someone would have the decency to record such a meeting to be used later as a manipulated field recording.

Rubber Mate Cha Boi / Hogtied 7″ (Total Punk)
How is it that Cleveland has so many aggro punk bands? And so many good ones, too? I swear there’s a new one reviewed here every month! It’s a decades-long phenomenon that is well-deserving of some extended think-pieces, but I can assure you that Rubber Mate will not be the ones writing them, as thinking is not their specialty. Nope, they’re another mutated mess that laughs in the face of standard songwriting practice, preferring a route that requires far less brain cells to complete. “Cha Boi” seems to be some sort of a song, in that there are a few different parts (and the bass playing is notably sprightly) but the vocals emanate from a bubbling witch’s cauldron, completely disregarding the music at hand. It’s like a less aggressive Dawn Of Humans and a less ear-piercing Exit Hippies, which is to say it’s great, of course. “Hogtied” is right on queue with its semi-inferred references to both pigs and BDSM (two hot topics for any purposely-grotesque punk band in 2017) and displays a stronger musicality, scuzzing up a Judas Priest progression for a couple minutes. The vocalist seems to actually acknowledge the song that the rest of the band is playing this time, but of course it could just be accidental. Not gonna lie, I wish I had three or four friends living close by that I could create such an interminable useless racket with myself. What’s rent like in Cleveland these days anyway?

Rut Attraction 7″ (Digital Regress)
Immediately, Rut’s Attraction spoke to me, with a big bold Nancy moshing on the cover, which is printed on the cheapest-grade copier paper available. Punk 7″ sleeves are supposed to be flimsy! Rut sound pretty good too, although easily spotted as a modern punk group, as they utilize classic mean breakdowns as main riffs, pogo-punk drumming with more floor-tom than hi-hat, and barked vocals that punctuate the melody with limited verbage. One song’s called “Control”, and you can rest assured that the chorus is the word “control” yelled four times in a row. Might be hard for a casual listener to differentiate between Rut and, say, C.H.E.W. and S.H.I.T., which would be made even more difficult if Rut ever make the switch to R.U.T. Still, there is nothing wrong with Rut’s hardcore-punk proceedings, and I’d fully expect their friends to fling into each other while they play, I just hope Attraction is the foundation upon which they build a more distinctive sound and/or personality.

Sheer Mag Need To Feel Your Love LP (Wilsuns Recording Company)
Sheer Mag are the closest thing we’ll get to a Rock’s Great New Hope in 2017, and as far as I’m concerned they’ve earned it. Self-releasing 7″s (and finally a debut album) in the face of widespread major-label interest, putting their left-wing politics front and center, and most important of all, writing great, memorable tunes that seamlessly fuse a variety of guitar-centric styles, capped off with a powerful vocalist. I’d been wondering when they’d step up to a full-length, and overall, Need To Feel Your Love delivers on their promise. They’ve still got their Thin Lizzy shuffle and AC/DC fist-pumps intact, but expand their sonic palate to include clear nods to Van Halen, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ratt, hell, even ABBA and The Jackson 5. It’s like they blended anything on a major label with a guitar from 1976 through 1985, purified the remains and cut it into twelve easily digestible servings. If you enjoyed Sheer Mag’s singles and hoped for an album, I can’t imagine you’re coming away disappointed here. I will say, however, that some moments of their denim n’ leather rocker cosplay get a bit much to take, particularly when paired up against their sincere, socially-concerned lyrics. It’s fairly clear Sheer Mag don’t actually hang out in the street smashing bottles and cranking shoulder-carried boomboxes while using cop cars as skate ramps, so when Christina Halladay shifts from that imagery to a description of the Stonewall riots or a brief biography of anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl, it feels a bit stilted. If anything, I’d want even more personal/political songs and less “we rock and roll in the streets tonite baby!” hokeyness, because the activism-minded tunes, although occasionally awkward, resonate as far more honest to Sheer Mag. Actually, if Andrew WK wrote an album railing against transphobia and capitalism in between brain-dead party anthems, I might dig it, so maybe it’s my issue, not theirs.

Shit Blimp Good-Natured Friends Of The Scene 7″ (Shit Blimp Inc. / Ryan’s Tasteful Nudes)
The band is called Shit Blimp and their ten-song EP is titled Good-Natured Friends Of The Scene. If you’re not at least slightly enamored by this record already, I’d have to wonder what we’d have in common! They’re yet another zonked-out hardcore-punk group from Cleveland, and none of these tracks exceed a minute in length, which works for me. They remind me a bit of Fat Day, in the way that their songs whiz by with a freewheeling attitude and a fidgety ADD mentality, as if they figured out how long most hardcore bands would play each individual part and then divided by three. The band and their presentation are overtly wacky (an insert photo reveals all three band members in dollar-store Zorro masks), but with the exception of “The Whisper Song” (I’ll let you figure out what they do there), the music isn’t silly at all, just frantic and unhinged. If you were planning to fill up a C90 with Cleveland’s greatest worst punk, I hope you can spare a few minutes for Shit Blimp’s inclusion.

Stave Black Hills 12″ (Standards & Practices)
This new Stave 12″ is the follow-up to the debut Standards & Practices release, the Talker 12″ recently reviewed in these pages. S&P have a great font and visual consistency already, and are keeping it tightly knit, as Stave is one half of Talker, Jon Krohn. Sonically speaking, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as Stave is more hard-edged industrial techno cross-fit, full of sternum-bruising percussive blasts and low rumbling bass. These four tracks are certainly meant to be played at high volume in large rooms with unfinished cement walls, chugging along as if Neo and Trinity are about to chase someone through the crowded dance-floor. Even the vinyl comes complete in a grey-ish swirl, as though it were formed from the materials left behind by various pipefitters and rebar workers out on site. “In/Human” is probably my favorite of the five tracks here, as it’s got a little extra grit in the mix alongside the cautionary moans of a synth. But really, you can’t go wrong with any of this stuff – just remember to tape up your fists before enjoying Black Hills as blisters will occur.

The Thingz Vault Of Tomorrow LP (Coffee Addict)
The Thingz are a garage-rock trio out of Long Beach, CA, and this is apparently their sixth full-length since 2011. So, if you check this record out after reading this review, and love it, there’s a wealth of material awaiting you! Their interests seem to fall in line with the classic garage-rock / punk aesthetic: B movies, comics (which is evident in Andrew Goldfarb’s excellent cover illustration), extreme coffee behavior, anything junky and harmlessly crude. They cover The Cramps’ “Human Fly” on here, for example. At best, their original tunes remind me of The Penetrators, perfectly dumb tunes that stomp and sizzle with customary riffs and primitive delivery. All three members share vocals, including presumably-married / or-are-they-siblings Mike Morris and Kim Morris. They vocalize more like cartoon renditions of punks than actual punks, if that makes any sense – I can’t help but imagine a Peter Bagge cartoon band when I hear The Thingz, with Kim occasionally veering into Edith Bunker territory. Nothing that hasn’t been done dozens of times before, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to be the one doing it. And with six albums to their name, clearly the appeal of being a proudly-nerdy garage band hasn’t lessened for The Thingz.

Tin Foil Tin Foil LP (Almost Ready)
The award for “best hair of the month” is unanimously handed to Tin Foil’s Alex Lovat – pure Johnny Ramone perfection, its curved symmetry is a true wonder to behold. Falling millimeters over his eyes, shining like a Garnier Fructis commercial even in lo-res monochrome, I swear, he could release a solo album of Chet Haze-style raps and my admiration wouldn’t falter. Anyway, time for me to think about Tin Foil’s debut LP instead, although seriously, with that hair can you blame me for getting off track? They’re a Detroit-based quartet, and they’re clearly in love with the sharpest, deepest rock music of the ’60s and ’70s, calling to mind Neil Young, Love and The Band, as well as certain more-recent artists who found similar inspiration, like The Lemonheads and Purling Hiss. Their songs are varied but strong, and they go down smooth and without agitation. I hear a lot of bands that attempt this style and end up sounding like a punk band trying on ill-fitting rocker costumes, but there’s no lingering scent of dilettantism here – Tin Foil clearly devoted themselves to this band, and this album. Now if only the other three guys stepped up their hair game, there would simply be no stopping them.

Wetware Salpinx 12″ (Bank)
Wetware is a new project comprised of Matthew Morandi (he of the very cool Jahiliyya Fields and Inhalants) and his friend and collaborator Roxy Farman. I read somewhere that this was their version of a “punk band”, but don’t be fooled like I was – Wetware has about as much in common with The Sex Pistols as actual intercourse with a glock. Rather, it falls somewhere on the more experimental side of industrial post-punk, where traditional song structures are ignored in favor of a looser, stranger design. Morandi’s beats and atonal accompaniment are continuous, knobs frequently tweaked, and Farman’s voice is almost fully unintelligible, morphed and edited as though it were another sine-wave and not the group’s front-person. At first, I kept wanting them to kick into some powerful industrial rager, like Youth Code covering Discharge or something, but Wetware only tease the idea of being heavy or anthemic. In the end, it makes me like them more, because these songs are truly demented, closest in relation to Hogg than any other modern group (or an early live Psychic TV bootleg if we’re looking into the past) and allowed plenty of room to sprawl out. Salpinx never throttles the listener for attention – even a track called “Fuck Them All” merely sways like drunken acid – but that’s the beauty of Wetware. They’re not the obnoxiously loud roommate who breaks your dishes, they’re the new mattress you bought that secretly off-gasses its toxic chemicals into the bedroom, ensuring a few weeks of unexplained headaches and misery.

White Suns Psychic Drift LP (Flenser)
Through the last decade, White Suns always seemed to push the confines of noise-rock to its outer limits, more eager to run off into uncharted territory than obey the genre’s familiar references. On this newest one, Psychic Drift, they forego the “rock” aspect of the equation entirely, but to simply call it “noise” would be incomplete. Rather, I’d say it sounds like a modern update of classic early industrial ala Throbbing Gristle or Thomas Leer & Robert Rental. It’s slow-building and methodical, disconcerting and cold, and feels as though it was built with a composer’s mindset, not that of a pedal-stomping / knob-twiddling noise artist. They’ll sit on an oozing bass frequency for a few minutes, skitter some ungrounded electric shocks over top, and eventually the vocalist (who is either Dana Matthiessen or Kevin Barry as White Suns are down to a duo) will recite some poetry deep in the mix, as if he’s just as confused as a performer as we are as listeners. I had assumed that my patience for ten-minute-plus slow-moving industrial noise tracks had run thin, but here I am flipping between sides of Psychic Drift with the satisfaction of someone who never heard this form of music before.

YC-CY Todestanz LP (X-Mist)
Swiss noise-rock is today’s special, care of YC-CY and X-Mist. They’re a relatively new group, playing a fairly well-defined sound (noise-rock in more of its streamlined, palatable form, not Unholy Swill or 25 Suaves or something like that), and as far as I’m concerned they have every right to do so. They’re quite Metz-y, but also reminiscent of progenitors like The VSS and Unwound. The drums carry each song on their back, as guitar and bass churn and chug along and the vocalist (I can’t locate any of their names, sorry vocalist) moans and groans in appropriate fashion. The guitar stands out a bit, as its distortion is particularly robotic – maybe some sort of ring modulation? Who knows, I’m a music critic not a scientist. YC-CY are the rare band in 2017 that cites The Festival Of Dead Deer as inspiration, and I gotta tip my hat to that as they were always one of the great overlooked groups from that whole Three One G / GSL explosion. Can you imagine a more perfect holiday than strolling down the sun-dappled cliffs of Geneva at dusk and stumbling into a centuries-old pub where YC-CY are clanging away in a darkened corner? I cannot.

Rob Noyes / Alexander split 7″ (C/Site Recordings)
Here’s a rare split 7″ offering of two solo acoustic guitarists. It’s so damn tasteful, at times I feel like I don’t even deserve to be in the same room as it, knowing the things I’ve done in my life. Rob Noyes came onto the scene last year with a limited LP featuring a fine Raymond Pettibon cover (that’s one way to ensure that your limited release grabs some attention), and he’s got a dazzling track here, gunning down meadows, alleys and jagged coasts like a Jack Rose LP on 45. There are six strings on his guitar and each one of them is singing, as if the entire instrument was vibrating on some frequency that’s so fast it seems slow, like a hummingbird. The preciously-named “Alexander” has a tough act to follow, and he wastes it with a slightly out-of-tune rendition of Dave Matthews Band’s “Ants Marching”. Just kidding! He offers a complex and sumptuous tune, full of unusual phrasing and a keen sense of pause, not a long leap from the master himself, John Fahey. Nice to know that in today’s age of information overload and the creeping inability to sit down and just do one simple thing by itself for an extended period of time, some people are still able to damn near master the acoustic guitar, offering up works both polished and humble.