Bato Ravages Of Time 7″ (Not For The Weak)
No, this isn’t that handsome presidential candidate dropout’s solo project (although that’s gotta be in the works, right?) – Bato is unrepentant Virginia Beach hardcore. The label is called Not For The Weak Records, for crying out loud! You better have a decent push-up count before heading into Ravages Of Time. Anyway, if you’re up to snuff, you will probably enjoy these seven tracks of by-the-books hardcore. They’re energetic and mosh-ready, and I’m kind of surprised they haven’t found a home with Beach Impediment just yet, based on their geographical proximity and the fact that Bato’s sound bears similarities to Wasted Time. At the very least, they don’t waste any time themselves, punching through these tracks with tight (but not technical) performances and a meaty presence. “Rot” is probably my favorite cut, but the whole thing makes me wanna take my shirt off just like vocalist Chris Taylor and clobber an inanimate object.

Buttechno Badtrip 2xLP (трип)
Listen, I’m not trying to say the name “Buttechno” out loud in public spaces, but as far as my hard-earned dollar goes, Badtrip is the best pure techno album of 2019. The template remains basically the same throughout these nine tracks, but it’s so catchy, raw, simple and satisfying… undiluted techno pleasure. Buttechno utilizes little more than raw drum machines, tweaked synth leads and brief vocal samples (all in the form of a droll, monosyllabic male voice through a crusty loudspeaker), and it makes me wonder why anyone intensively labors over modern sound design when they could bang heads and drip sweat over some basic analog gear such as this. It certainly feels closer to some form of humanity than the ice-cold artificial-intelligence vibes so many other producers are delivering – many of these tracks sound as though they’re edited on the fly, dials turned and fades pushed in real-time by Buttechno, choppy edits and/or mistakes included. Plus, it really doesn’t hurt that while listening, I’m picturing these songs as the property of dingy underground Moscow clubs where Buttechno resides, zombie-faced Russian youths decked out in Gosha Rubchinskiy and passing unfiltered cigarettes among each other. If opening cut “Bbbase” doesn’t get your motor running, I’m not sure we have anything left to discuss.

Ben Carey Antimatter LP (Hospital Hill)
Deep in some Sydney laboratory, Ben Carey is twiddling knobs on a massive wall of electronics suitable for an obsolete nuclear reactor, or at least that’s what it sound like he was doing to create the long pieces that comprise Antimatter. The two a-side cuts sound like Tod Dockstader tasked with repairing a fleet of androids: electronic burps and whizzes ring out against jumbles of wave-forms or the black nothingness of space. For as sparse as it can be, there’s some sort of musical conversation happening; either that or my brain is permanently damaged by listening to records such as this. The second side is filled entirely by a piece called “Networks Articulated”, which gives a nice glimpse into Carey’s particular frame of mind for this composition. Unlike the first two cuts, tones ring out here, eventually rippling into layered drones and humming with microscopic activity. I think I like “Networks Articulated” best, particularly when the ground starts to shake during its second half, but all of Antimatter is a pleasant study in primitive-modern electronic sound. Plus, it comes in one of the nicest Stoughton sleeves I’ve seen in a while, sturdy and tailored and ensuring that Antimatter is handled with the serious reverence it deserves.

C.I.A. Débutante The Landlord LP (Siltbreeze)
By my calculations, this is the sole Siltbreeze release of 2019, following only one in 2018, but I don’t attribute that to a lessening of the label’s activity so much as a heightened level of choosiness – selling records is harder than ever, so you might as well be extra considerate regarding one’s plan for doing so. Whatever the circumstance, I’m glad Siltbreeze decided to put out the full-length vinyl debut of C.I.A. Débutante, a duo featuring jack-of-all-trades Nathan Roche (whose records with Le Villejuif Underground still sound fantastic) and Paul Bonnet, a man whose resume is more mysterious. It’s fitting, because this is some mysterious music, to be filed next to your Vinyl On Demand sets of early ’80s tape-trader industrial. Weary mechanical rhythms are forced into rotation, distorted voices read ransom letters at a barely audible volume, telephone receivers are hacked and the dust on Roche’s speaker cones takes on a life of its own through these inscrutable tracks. I like when noise is mild and vaguely rhythmic, which could be said for much of The Landlord. In fact, I believe Siltbreeze described the album as “The Shadow Ring meets Cabaret Voltaire”, and while I wouldn’t disagree, I’d expound on that by clarifying that it’s easier to parse than The Shadow Ring and less danceable than Cabaret Voltaire, which is probably the best way to meld those two distant sonic points. A fine slab of post-modern industrial no matter how you slice it.

Crimson Ghostbusters Crimson Ghostbusters LP (no label)
You know those random mash-up t-shirts that have proliferated in the last few years, ones where it’s like Darth Vader quoting Breaking Bad for no reason, or Rick and Morty dressed like Pikachu (or vice versa)? Crimson Ghostbusters is the punk band version of that, a mash-up-for-mash-up’s-sake of Misfits songs and karaoke classics. Now, if I’m walking into O’Neal’s Pub and there’s a live band playing under a moldy Pabst Blue Ribbon banner, I’d love to hear them gleefully cover Cheap Trick, Slayer and The Misfits with their own silly lyrics, but that’s pretty much where my interest in this sort of thing begins and ends. I wasn’t into Schlong’s interpretation of West Side Story back in 1995, and while I may have enjoyed one of those “Punk Rock ’80s TV themes” compilation CDs back around that time (I didn’t say I did, I said I might have), there’s not a lot of substance for me on this record, not even the Marilyn-themed update of the Buggles’ classic “Video Killed The Radio Star” or the “American Nightmare”-themed take on Tom Petty’s “American Girl”. Those are real songs that happen on Crimson Ghostbusters, sure to delight dozens, maybe hundreds of other people, I’m just not one of them.

Carla dal Forno Look Up Sharp LP (Kallista)
Nothing turns the leaves from green to dark red quite like a new Carla dal Forno record. Look Up Sharp is her second full-length and the first on her newly minted Kallista imprint, and while it offers no musical surprises or deviations from her previously established formula, it’s great, probably her best one yet. If you’re not already familiar, you’re in for a treat: dal Forno plays this somber, ethereal (yes ethereal) form of skeletal, dubby post-punk: think of Crisis given a deep dream-pop rinse alongside the addition of gothic Lana Del Rey vocals and a subtle industrial-folksiness and you’ve got a rough sketch of dal Forno’s distinct musical world. This time around, the electronic elements are more prominent behind the bass guitar, drums and vocals, flushing these songs full of mood and intrigue in a more sophisticated way than her earlier recordings. She seems to be in full control of her sound at this point, no longer feeling out the process (which of course was wonderfully charming and great too, just in a different way), resulting in an album with a lot of crossover appeal, assuming it’s still possible to crossover from indie to mainstream (or if those two designations even continue to exist). My favorite part is that her lyrics seem to have gotten more hateful and bitter than ever, providing a sharp contrast to her soothing vocal delivery – she ends the song “So Much Better” with the line “I am so much better / than you” with an unflinching seriousness, and she’s probably the only artist around today who could get away with it. She is better than whoever “you” is, of that I have no doubt.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring All In Good Time LP (Castle Face)
With not a bang but a whisper, Eddy Current Suppression Ring sneak out a brand new album after a ten-year hiatus. Understatement has always been a key to their formula, and that’s never been more true than now on All In Good Time. Their lineup remains unchanged, as does their sound – it’s almost shocking how precisely Eddy Current-sounding Eddy Current are now, a decade after their last transmission. Danny Current’s simple punk rhythms are in place, Rob Solid bops along, Eddy Current jangles out his copywritten-so-don’t-copy-me guitar lines and Brendan Suppression squeaks along like a precious child experiencing wonderment for the first time. Whereas they went a little grander on their last two albums, with epics like “Rush To Relax” and crowd pleaser “Which Way To Go”, they dial the energy back a bit on All In Good Time, winding through these songs without the slightest sense of urgency. It works well with Suppression’s lyrics, which remain some of the most kindhearted punk lyrics ever written, heartwarming slices of inspiration to anyone feeling underappreciated or down in the dumps. On first listen, I was underwhelmed, but All In Good Time is a true grower, softly revealing its charm (of which there is plenty) through multiple listens – truly in line with the title’s message. Please, sweet Goddess above, tell me a United States tour is in the works!

Exek Some Beautiful Species Left LP (Anti Fade / Digital Regress)
Melbourne’s Exek continue to efficiently churn out new material and I’m not mad at ’em. I think their hazy, dubby post-punk is tops! Some Beautiful Species Left follows 2018’s Ahead Of Two Thoughts, and while the sonic properties and general tenor of both albums are undeniably similar, it seems to me that the group are loosening their grip a bit this time around, content to swirl outward, away from pop song-form and closer to misty dub versions. Some Beautiful Species Left opens with a few minutes of nothing more than hypnotic drums and spirals of guitar noise, helping the listening acclimate to Exek’s off-kilter equilibrium, as these songs softly shift around, a feeling similar to standing on a ferry instead of solid ground. It’s very nice, but I personally gravitate towards their catchier moments – “Lobbyist” has a precocious little chorus tucked away in there, which I could sing to you now if asked. Ahead Of Two Thoughts crammed in more of those repeatable, poppy moments, and it remains my favorite Exek record to date, but this one is a pleasantly menacing trip as well… I can’t blame them if they’re slightly more disoriented this time around, seeing as society continues its various self-harming habits around us.

Figure Eighter People’s Last Words Are Often Insignificant LP (Fuzz)
Figure Eighter are an Albany- / Philadelphia-based duo and they’re pushing some dreamy suburban ennui here on their first vinyl offering. It’s my understanding that they come from an indie-rock background (understandable), but the Figure Eighter I’m hearing here avoids drums and vocals to instead pursue fluttering melodies, drifting tones and an evocative sonic grandeur. I’m reminded of something on Constellation Records (minus the spoken-word samples of street preachers rattling off doomsday prophecies), Ian William Craig, The Caretaker, the noisy parts between songs on the earliest Merchandise recordings… maybe a little early Fennesz as well. It’s a little too busy or attention-grabbing to comfortably sit as the backing soundtrack to a film, but only barely. The second side introduces repetitive acoustic guitars, recalling the ghostly echoes of basement shows from years past, hinting at a song that is perpetually on its way but never fully arrives. Very enjoyable sounds, ripe for painful self-reflection, drifting off to sleep, or some combination of the two.

Giant Swan Giant Swan LP (Keck)
I recently learned that Bristol’s heavy techno duo Giant Swan named themselves after… a Blood Brothers song. What a world! I kinda love that these amped-up British bros are fans of sassy Y2K Southern Cali screamo, and I suppose it makes a little sense, as both Blood Brothers and Giant Swan know how to work combustible, jagged noise into their grooves. This is Giant Swan’s debut full-length, on their newly minted Keck label, and as far as techno full-lengths go, this one is a winner. They mix up the moods enough to keep things interesting without losing their intensity or power. You can practically hear their sweaty bodies banging into their messy tables of hardware on tracks like opener “55 Year Old Daughter”, with a vocal hook that sounds like it was violently shaken sideways before being served. “‘I’ As Proof” seems to split the difference between forward-thinking British techno and the horror-gaze of Health, leading nicely into the swirling industrial clank of “Pan Head”, which brings to mind massive vats of factory foodstuffs churned and pressed into bars on a human-free assembly line. Giant Swan can certainly hang with artists in a similar regional orbit, your Karenns and Bruces and Kowtons and such, but their visceral approach finds broader appeal with dance-floors that give way to mosh pits, fans of modern industrial and, well, at least a couple Blood Brothers devotees.

Gino And The Goons Off The Rails LP (Big Neck)
Quite a handful of records by Gino And The Goons have arrived in my mail over the past few years, and I consistently find myself put off by their visual aesthetic: hand-scrawled band name, maybe a skull or two drawn with the skill and precision of a distracted third grader, and that’s it. Good thing I have ears as well as eyes, then, as the music of Gino And The Goons on Off The Rails is really about as top-notch as you can get from modern-retro garage-punk. They certainly sound like truant high school smokers hanging out under the bleachers, and while I am fairly certain this group is all of legal adult age, their vibe is so convincing and their songs are so catchy that I find myself fully on board regardless. Nothing new is ventured here, but that’s fine with me, as they absolutely nail stupid-tough garage anthems like “Got No Friends”, wherein Gino laments, you guessed it, not having friends. (The band even chants the song title together, which leads me to wonder: are The Goons not each other’s friends? What an interesting form of solidarity.) Graphic designers they are not, but when it comes to couldn’t-care-less garage/punk/junk, Off The Rails is a fine modern specimen.

The Hiveminds The Hiveminds LP (Back To Beat)
Still kinda blows me away, the way that punk-inspired garage-rock has thrived and continues to thrive in Europe. I know it’s been a globally-embraced form of music for decades now, but there’s something about the European Union that nourishes decidedly throw-back garage bands. Good for them! Take The Hiveminds for example, a new Norwegian group who certainly sound like they’re all wearing matching suits, even if they’re not. Their sound is pleasantly predictable, standard-issue garage-rock with hand claps, tambourine, fuzzed guitars, guitar solos, vintage amplification, probably at least one pair of black sunglasses, too. At times I’m reminded of The Original Sins, but it’d almost be like saying one particular wave in the ocean reminds you of a different one – there is no beginning or end to the vast array of bands in this style. The Hiveminds don’t do wrong by their chosen major, and they have a nice crisp recording that benefits this debut (with a vocalist who could probably handle covers of The Hives, The Killers and The Walkmen with equally relative ease), but I’d only recommend The Hiveminds to dedicated fanatics of the style, the maniacs gifted with the mental facilities to truly savor and remember each individual garage-rock swell as they come coasting toward the shore.

K-6000 Bloodsport LP (100 Limousines)
Rugged and restless house here from someone (or something) called K-6000 on a label that comes from one of my least favorite named cities in America: Hamtramck, MI. You’ve gotta be at least a little adversarial to come from a place named Hamtramck, and the music of Bloodsport certainly fits the bill. I’m merely presuming that K-6000 is a local native of course, but I’m gonna go ahead with that presumption, particularly as these tracks remind me of other lonesome Midwestern techno savages like Snakepiss and Siobhan, wherein a skipping electrical current or lo-fi tape hiss are just as prominent as cut-up hip-hop breaks or a smooth house bass-line. There are nine tracks listed, but each side flows smoothly even as ideas rapidly change, occasionally calling to mind the creepy pastoral-industrial of Boards Of Canada and the crude electro-confusion of Actress. I’m particularly partial to the monotonous and imposing tones of “Yah Is Again Genesis”, but all of Bloodsport works well, sure to please seekers of adventurous and unfriendly techno and nearly-techno. Cool cover design too, reminiscent of something K. Leimer or Marc Barreca would’ve released in the mid-’80s, an era and scene that more and more people are eager to escape to, myself included.

Charlie McAlister I’m The World’s Richest Man LP (Almost Halloween Time / Tick Tock)
Underground folk artist Charlie McAlister sadly passed away in 2018, but not before touching the lives of many and leaving a deep trail of music, art, performance and creative works behind him. John Darnielle and Shepard Fairey both contributed to the accompanying notes for this posthumous album, if that’s a slight indication of the various lives he touched. Tick Tock and Almost Halloween Time did a nice job with this one, collecting his most recent recordings and packaging them up with a thick book of art and writing (mostly scribbled, but writing nonetheless). His musical approach reminds me of guys like Eugene Chadbourne, Dan Melchior and The Rebel, sharp contrarians who sit fearlessly in front of punk audiences with only an acoustic guitar to defend themselves. McAlister’s songs here also align pretty closely to the post-Y2K folk-punk sound that emanated from nutritional yeast-dusted basements across America, but there’s a twinkling charm and unpretentious fun inherent to McAlister’s music, making it significantly less annoying than, say, Mischief Brew or Defiance Ohio. Fun, at times silly, at times poignant music from a man who wasted no time making his wild creative ideas tangible in his brief Earthly stay.

Midland The Alchemy Of Circumstance EP 12″ (Graded)
I first encountered Midland some ten years ago (damn) on a collaborative 12″ with Ramadanman. Haven’t thought much about him since, that is until I stumbled upon this four-song 12″ packed to its round edge with sonic treats. The title track comes first and it’s the star, opening with some funky drum breaks that eventually step aside for a minimalist thump and the most wacked out R2D2 styles I’ve ever heard. I’m assuming this is what R2 would sound like absolutely munted on pills and staring at the psychedelic rave-ball that adorns this EP’s cover. Beautiful! It’s one of my favorite techno cuts of the year, no doubt, and three other gems follow. “Frequency FM” is a low-tempo spa treatment that’s both effervescent and elastic, the sort of thing I’d expect to hear Matthew Dear crooning over. “Play It As It Lays” returns to a more straightforward tech-house template with muscular arpeggios and well-placed whoops, and “Tortuga” guides the energy level down back down with some snuggly synth patterns. Really though, it’s all about that title track, a marvel of left-field techno precociousness and manic robot freakery.

Monokultur Monokultur LP (Ever/Never / Förlag För Fri Musik)
So glad to finally get my mitts on a copy of Monokultur’s debut LP, thanks to the powerful international alliance of Ever/Never and Förlag För Fri Musik. Monokultur are a Swedish duo, both of whom also are members of indie-punkers Skiftande Enheter, but I prefer them in Monokultur mode, where songs get smudged, riffs are repeated and bloops are bleeped. Throughout this self-titled album, I’m reminded of Siltbreeze artists like Factums and Teenage Panzerkorps in the way that industrial, gloomy pop is crusted with a thin layer of murky basement grime. In the case of Monokultur, this often results in something that sounds like a prehistoric Carla dal Forno demo, or Wooden Shjips under the tutelage of Amor Fati. It doesn’t feel as though these songs underwent much in the way of careful crafting prior to being recorded, which certainly works in Monokultur’s favor – dank DIY post-punk is often best when it plops out onto the floor without much forethought or planning. Got a cool melody on the bass? Let me fire up this second-hand drum machine to an appropriate tempo and slap some distorted guitar over top! If this sounds appealing to you, I recommend you start with the Schleimer K-esque “DÃ¥liga Nyheter” and travel onward from there; you won’t regret it!

Musk Animal Husbandry 7″ (Total Punk)
I had assumed a mouse had died somewhere near my singles, but nope, it was this Musk 7″ that I had misplaced for a couple weeks! I should’ve recognized its particular scent – hints of pink peppercorn and burnt plastic – but I’m glad to be spinning it now. “Animal Husbandry” is great, a meaty noise-rock jam where the bass propels the action and the guitar is so slathered in slap-back and distortion it might even cause the members of Confuse to raise an eyebrow. It hits quick, with the zest that might accompany a collaboration of Mayyors and Tropical Trash. You’d think they might need a breather on the flip, but “The Floor” is ugly honky-tonk noise akin to Stick Men With Rayguns’ “Satan Baby”, deep-frying a Cramps groove until it’s golden brown. Been a few years since the last Musk album, and by the tone of these two top-notch cuts I’d say we need a new one now more than ever.

Nameless Creations Upon God’s Call LP (Kill Your Parents)
Very cool debut here from Poland’s Nameless Creations on their charmingly-titled Kill Your Parents Records imprint. Their visual vibe jives with today’s Dais / Sacred Bones goth styles (the sole band member on the cover certainly resembles a typical Boy Harsher fan), but their music is firmly rooted in snarling, feral post-punk with only subtle goth undertones, much to my delight. They chocked this album full of spindly, noisy grooves, much of which reminds me of the first Christian Death album, The Birthday Party circa Junkyard, and, when it gets particularly unhinged, the untethered spazz-punk of Yugoslavia’s Sexa. Fans of early 45 Grave and The Leather Nun will surely have lots to enjoy here too, as would anyone who finds value in dirty, decrepit post-punk adorned with hairspray, eyeliner and fingerless gloves. Can’t imagine a better soundtrack to lurking in centuries-old Polish graveyards, that much is certain.

100 Flowers Fascist Groove Thang 7″ (Spacecase)
Woah… this is like that classic Twilight Zone trope where you wish for a million dollars and then the IRS shows up and takes it all away. Want some brand new, unreleased material from the great San Fran post-punkers 100 Flowers? Careful, it might end up being a supremely dorky cover of Heaven 17! I’m seriously scratching my head over this one: their take on “Fascist Groove Thang” sounds like what I’d imagine Paul McCartney’s Sirius XM station sounds like. Adult-contemporary pop-rock where one member wears a funny hat and sunglasses or something; just really heinous stuff. The flip is an inexplicable “remix” of the a-side, adding some electronic effects to the proceedings but overall pretty similar (if ultimately more tolerable, although I’m really just splitting hairs here). Who is this for? I can’t imagine any fans of 100 Flowers (let alone Urinals) finding much to enjoy here. What’s worst of all, I feel compelled to want a fascist groove thang after hearing this. Woof!

Program Show Me LP (Anti Fade)
Anti Fade Records has been on a tear in 2019 – fourteen new releases by my calculations! The label runs the gamut from indie to hardcore and new-wave, of which Program’s tuneful, easy-going indie-punk comfortably fits in. Show Me is about as cordial as electrified rock music gets; I can picture the band happily turning down the volume at the request of an aggrieved neighbor and then helping an elderly woman carry her groceries to her door. The artwork features photos of the group seated around a crackling fireplace, contemporary mullets on proud display, and you can’t help but wonder if they’ve had a bad day in their lives. Feels like lots of Australian rock bands convey this similar easy-breezy attitude, somewhere near the musical neighborhoods of The Go-Betweens, Possible Humans and The Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, paying unintentional homage to The Clean and R.E.M. with their spindly riffs and vulnerable vocals (reminiscent of The Zoltars’ Jared Leibowich). At this point, the returns on this style are diminishing for me, just based on the sheer quantity of bands playing harmless indie-rock such as this (particularly from Australia!), and Program don’t quite have the pizazz, songwriting prowess or distinctive character to grab my interest. I stand by my assumption that they are perfectly nice and friendly folks, though.

Psychic Void Skeleton Paradise 10″ (Vanilla Box)
Pretty sure Skeleton Paradise was the name of the haunted-house ride I walked briskly past at local carnivals as a kid, and now it’s also the name of Psychic Void’s vinyl debut. They’re from Windsor, Ontario and they’ve clearly soaked up a lot of the more popular hardcore-punk styles of the past ten years or so, which is what they’re spitting back here. It’s mostly fast and moody hardcore in line with Warthog and echo-laden Toxic State hardcore, but they also have electronic intros and chorus/flanger effects to recall the gothic fog machines of Lost Tribe, and a surprisingly silly tune called “Denim Daddy” that shares the spirit of Good Throb’s songbook. I’m a fan of all of those references – they’re certainly fertile soil for any new punk band – but I’m not hearing Psychic Void’s distinct voice in there, or anything that reaches the same level of those stylistic peers. Psychic Void are good, but the bar for even average hardcore is so high at this point that I can’t see myself returning to Skeleton Paradise much in the future, considering the wealth of contemporary options out there. If they’re able to locate a band called Psychic Faith and do a split LP, however, I may be convinced otherwise.

Quintron Erotomania 12″ (Mind Meld)
Much respect to living legend Quintron – he’s a New Orleans treasure, a true original who’s surely done more cool stuff in the past three decades than you or I. He probably won’t stop making music so long as he’s physically able to do so, and now the Total Punk-related Mind Meld label has caught him for a new 12″ of instrumentals. Erotomania focuses on tiki-bar exotica, instrumental lounge, Mardi Gras street party music and such. Very true to the heart and soul of Quintron’s formative influences… but not something I really would ever wanna listen to, if we’re keeping it 100. It’s just not for me, this sort of kooky, old-timey, Martin Denny-esque easy listening. He does jack it up a bit, like the last couple minutes of “Dixie Disaster” (those maddening edits are certainly my favorite part of Erotomania), but on the whole this EP plays too closely to sounds and styles that don’t personally resonate with my pair of ears. Not saying I can’t be convinced otherwise – maybe there is one traditional exotica record I need to hear for it to truly click – but for now I’ll sit this one out.

Rocket 808 Rocket 808 LP (12XU)
Rocket 808 debuted with a 7″ single on 12XU a few months ago, and it issued a clear mission statement: classic Link Wray-styled guitar over rudimentary, Suicide-esque drum-machine rhythms. This debut album offers no U-turns or diversions from the single’s template, as it features eight more tracks of that very same thing. Rocket 808 is the work of one John Schooley, and he sings on some tracks (lyrics like “my baby looks cute”) and leaves others instrumental, both strategies yielding similarly satisfying results. Certainly ripe for Quentin Tarantino’s plucking, the camera scanning past women’s feet dipping in and out of the pool at a rundown Southwestern motel the morning after a bloody shootout. Were Schooley able to wrangle Chris Isaak to lay down some spirited vocals over these tunes, I’d probably add Rocket 808 to my daily rotation, but for my particular tastes this album is mostly just a pleasant interlude, agreeable background noise but nothing that would ever steal the spotlight. It’d jazz up any classic car show by at least 10%, though!

The Shitdels Shape-Shift Faces LP (What’s For Breakfast?)
Quick complaint: this scatologically-themed garage-punk band released their album on what is clearly vomit-colored vinyl. It’s impressively barf-like, with spatter and chunks and not the same-old same-old Pirates Press color configuration, but it really should’ve gone to a Vomit Visions singles collection or something. Anyway, this group comes from Nashville, a fertile ground for roots rock exploration, and they play a nice n’ trashy form of garage-punk, buzzing like a virus-laden mosquito in a manner that recalls Cramps, Lamps and The Coachwhips (who I actually wish were called The Coachwhamps so I could’ve completed the rhyme). The vocals are essentially unintelligible, all slap-back reverb on a high-pitched quack, and the keyboard basically does the same thing on a different frequency, while the drummer favors the crash cymbal over the hi-hats and the guitarist loosely follows the rest of the group’s musical threads. Nothing particularly inspiring, but pretty decent overall; surely a fun time live, and if not, The Shitdels need to break-up immediately because this form of music is custom-tailored to being a fun live experience. One cannot coast by on a poop theme alone, take my word for it.

Mark Sultan I’m A Filthy Rat / Heart Attack 7″ (Slovenly)
I had assumed that Mark Sultan was one of the many distinguished garage-rock musicians who kept the surname of his earliest band even after making a name for himself elsewhere (y’know, like Jay Reatard and Mike Sniper and such), but I did my due diligence and it turns out he wasn’t a member of The Sultans, but rather did time in Les Sexareenos and The Spaceshits. There’s still time for him to change it to Mark Spaceshit, I suppose, but whatever the case, Mark Sultan has been a fount of garage-punk for decades now, and is showing no signs of slowing. This new two-song single, taken from the sessions of his Let Me Out album, are well done, revealing his sly charisma and knack for simple yet effective hooks. “I’m A Filthy Rat” lists off reasons why he’s a terrible human being to a slinky organ-led groove, whereas “Heart Attack” messily bops from side to side with lazy teenage angst, even if Sultan is closer in age to parents of teenagers than teenagers themselves. Nostalgic garage-rock tunes with all the trimmings, but performed with enough gusto and lack of polish that I find them endearing and enjoyable no matter how many similar songs were written before.

Sweet Knives I Don’t Wanna Die 2×7″ (Big Neck)
I’ve been pretty consistent through the years in my solidarity with the double 7″ EP format – so many good ones exist, and while it can be a pain to have to go through a 7″ boxset, two doesn’t strike me as an unreasonable amount of trouble. This one is pushing it, though, as it’s a handsome gatefold sleeve (with art by the immortal Timmy Vulgar) but each side opens inward rather than outward, decreasing the ease with which its handler can pull out the records. On the positive side, that might also result in the listener paying closer attention to these four songs, as unlike everything else in our phone-based world, they actually took a little effort to enjoy. And they’re pretty enjoyable! Coming together out of the ashes of The Lost Sounds, Sweet Knives ride through some melodic garage-punk with occasional synthetic overtones and a thick grungy vibe that wouldn’t be out of place alongside groups like Bully or The Breeders. Quite sweet indeed, although the group opted for a devil-winged mutant skull with a knife through it on the front cover, lest we think they’ve gone soft.

Under Attack Through The Blade 7″ (Iron Lung)
Here’s a new band with some familiar old names for anyone who’s been following DIY hardcore for the past couple decades: Richmond’s Under Attack features Mark Telfian of Hail Mary, Dave Witte of Discordance Axis and Municipal Waste, Jason Hodges of Suppression and apparent newcomer Alex Copeland (on vocals). Under Attack’s pedigree reads like a Deep Six Records compilation, so I was surprised to hear the relatively straightforward sounds of Through The Blade. Honestly, if I heard these tracks sight unseen and had to guess the label that released them, I would’ve proffered Youngblood before Iron Lung – this is fairly clean-cut aggressive hardcore that would appeal to fans of No Tolerance and Stand Off perhaps more than Pig Heart Transplant and Rakta. Witte doesn’t even resort to any of his trademarked blast-beats here, cementing the idea that Under Attack are traditional, no-frills hardcore with a back-to-basics approach. Pretty cool, but I’m hoping for an Iron Lung release that has more of a Back Ta Basics approach – surely some group of kids is starting a band that sounds like Fatnuts and Comin’ Correct and needs a solid label to take them to the next level?

Russ Waterhouse 1 Minute 2 Midnight LP (Drag City)
Sad to see Blues Control call it quits, but they gave us more than their fair share of great music (which continues to stand the test of time), and it seems both members are off on new sonic ventures, so I wish ’em the best. Russ Waterhouse is first out of the gate, with this pleasantly perplexing solo album, two side-long tracks that go deep into some unusual explorations. “Hopewell” follows a pulsing heartbeat for nearly twenty minutes, building at an unhurried pace through fields of twitches, glitches and intrusive industrial additives. It has that deep dark pacing of Suicide, but turns toward tweeting feedback tones and crushed noises, like a particularly heavy part of a Helm set elongated into a noisy meditation. Not what I expected, but I shouldn’t be surprised that Waterhouse is so adept at grinding industrial blues. “Too Many People” starts off with some middle-of-the-mall vérité (did Shots get loose in his studio?), but that leads the way to an aching electronic pulse – if “Hopewell” was a healthy checkup, “Too Many People” is the sound of a pacemaker groaning over its depleted battery. That pulse blooms over the next seventeen minutes like some sort of putrid alien egg, ugly synth tones vibrating against each other in a way that has me wondering why this came out on Drag City in 2019 instead of United Dairies in 1982. Definitely surprising how raw and industrial 1 Minute 2 Midnight is (particularly considering that the sharp, gold-embossed cover design is more suited to a fancy $80 candle than a noise record), but a most pleasant surprise indeed.

Werewolf Jones Werewolf Jones 7″ (It’s Trash)
I could’ve sworn Werewolf Jones was a Tracy Morgan character, but apparently it’s a downer punk band from everybody’s favorite Detroit (Michigan, USA), released by a label from nobody’s favorite London (the one in Ontario, Canada). They play very strained, frustrated punk with a fuzzy, dare-I-say-grungy thickness to their sound (check the Bleach-y bounce of “Falling Out”). The songs start and don’t dip or vary for their individual durations – I’m imagining each track’s waveform looking like a solid thick line – but that’s what they want to do, and I certainly have no intention of stopping them. The vocalist has a nice delivery, sounding like he’s gasping for air inside a padded cell, which gives these otherwise fairly basic tunes some added life. Definitely sounds like a local band that would’ve impressed me as a scrubby teenager in homemade punk clothes, so I appreciate Werewolf Jones giving me a taste of those pleasantly nostalgic vibes. If they’re out there playing shows in Ontario, I can only assume they are impressing current-day teenagers with their depressive punk attitude, and I salute all parties involved.